A FIGHT WE CAN WIN
15Now is building a movement of raised expectations. In the past year, low wage workers across the country have organized hundreds of powerful strikes and protests to demand a living wage of $15/hour. Workers don’t need to settle for what big business and politicians are offering.
We far outnumber the CEO’s and their paid-off politicians. If we get organized, we have the collective power to win a $15/hr minimum wage and a historic shift in the standard of living for all workers.
Last November, voters in SeaTac, WA, passed a $15/hr minimum wage referendum for airport and hotel workers, despite business spending millions in opposition. In Seattle, 15Now is organizing a mass campaign with overwhelming popular support. Seattle workers are on the verge of winning the highest city-wide minimum wage in the country.
We can do the same thing here. The fight to raise Minnesota’s minimum wage to $9.50 must be the beginning, not the end, of a wider movement to eradicate poverty and ensure all workers earn a living wage.
We don’t have to wait for state government to act. Popular pressure and workers organizing together can compel our city councils, the airport authority, colleges, and even corporations to raise up wages. As a starting point, 15Now MN is calling on Minneapolis City Council to apply all its powers, including expanding the living wage ordinance, to ensure every worker in the city receives a minimum of $15/hr. We’re urging the Mayor and City Council to publicly endorse national calls for a $15 minimum wage.
WILL WE CONTINUE TO PUT PROFITS OVER PEOPLE?
Minnesota is an extremely wealthy, productive state. We have more than enough to end poverty and pay all workers a living wage. Yet alongside the lavish profits enjoyed by the 19 Fortune 500 companies based in Minnesota – most in the metro area – nearly 25% of Minneapolis residents live in poverty.
Business is Booming…
- Corporate profits are at an all-time high while workers’ wages, as a percent of GDP, are at an all-time low.
- The CEO of Target – the City’s largest employer – Gregg Steinhafel is paid more than $10,000 per hour. (Forbes Magazine) Meanwhile, full-time janitors that Target depends on to clean its stores earn under $18,000 a year.
- The net worth of six Wal-Mart heirs equals the total net worth of the bottom 40% of the US population. (Economic Policy Institute)
- Over the last five years of economic “recovery,” 95% of the gains have gone to the wealthiest 1%. (Wall Street Journal)
…While Workers Are Falling Behind
- Over the past 12 years, median household income fell by $9,934 in the Twin Cities, a decline of 13.1%.(Minnesota2020 analysis based on US Census Data)
- Two-thirds of low wage workers are women.
(MN Dept. of Labor & Industry Report -pg. 9) Over a quarter of Minneapolis families are below poverty, two-thirds of those are headed by single women (US Census data compiled by Minneapolis Foundation)
- Housing is considered affordable when less than 30% of income is spent on rent. To afford a median rental in the Minneapolis, a worker would need to earn almost $16/hour. (Median rent determined by US Census ACS 2012 housing data , income calculation based on 40hr. week)
- Approximately three-quarters of minimum wage workers are age 20 or older. (http://www.bls.gov/cps/minwage2012tbls.htm#7)
A $15/hr minimum wage would do more to address the poverty crisis ravaging our communities than any other policy proposal on the table at the state or local level. According to U.S. Census data almost 34% of the workforce makes less than $15/hr. The time to act is now.
$22/hr: The 1968 Minimum Wage Between the end of World War II and 1968 – two of the most prosperous decades in US history – minimum wage kept pace with gains in workers’ productivity. Since 1968, the wealthiest 1% have taken nearly all the increase in productivity for themselves. If the minimum wage had kept up with productivity gains since 1968, it would be $21.72/hour.
WILL WE TOLERATE THESE INEQUITIES?
Minneapolis residents voted for a shakeup at City Hall with the promise of bold action to address some of the nation’s deepest racial inequities. Behind these statistics are countless stories from our neighbors who live with chronic stress, with dreams deferred, and with life chances constrained by systematic injustice.
- 23.7% of Minneapolis residents live in poverty. The rate is 13.2% for whites, but 48.1% for Blacks, 53.2% for American Indians, 34.5% for Asian-Americans, and 40.9% for Hispanic/Latinos.(City Of Minneapolis Disparities in Poverty)
- Minnesota consistently has some of the largest disparities in the nation. In the Minneapolis area black unemployment is typically three times the rate of white unemployment.
- Minnesota consistently ranks near the bottom in the US for rate of incarceration disparities between whites and people of color. In Minnesota, Blacks are more than 9 times more likely to be put behind bars than whites. 90% of juveniles in the Hennepin County Detention Center are youth of color. (The Sentencing Project)
Martin Luther King Jr said: “the problem of housing, education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.” A $15/hr minimum-wage must be the cornerstone policy of a wider effort to address systemic racism and inequities.
Workers of color are concentrated in low-wage jobs. Higher wages creates more consumer spending at neighborhood businesses, more local investment, and more job creation in impoverished communities. Above all else, creating living wage jobs is the key to reducing crime, stabilizing our schools and neighborhoods, and ensuring healthy families.
WHAT IS 15 NOW?
Last year, when fast food workers across the country went on strike, they called for $15/hr and a union. Now the movement is spreading to cities across the country around the call for a $15 minimum wage.
In November, a leader in the Fight for $15 in Seattle, Kshama Sawant, shocked the corporate elite by winning a City Council seat in Seattle as a Socialist Alternative candidate. Now the movement in Seattle is poised to be the first major US city to win $15/hr minimum wage.
15Now was initiated by Kshama Sawant, with the support of a growing number of unions and community groups, to spread the struggle nationally. Inspired by the the struggle in Seattle, 15Now is now in over 20 cities across the US. A victory in Seattle – or here in Minnesota – would open the floodgates for working people to demand $15/hour in cities across the country. But it will not happen automatically.
Big business will not let this pass without a fight, in Seattle or anywhere else. They will mobilize their resources to derail, delay, and dilute efforts to end the poverty wages that are the source of their profits.
The only way we can counter the power of Corporate America is by building powerful grassroots campaigns including community meetings, rallies, direct actions, and strikes. When we organize, we can win!