Only weeks after the victory in Seattle, San Francisco has now become the next major city to announce a proposal for a $15 minimum wage. With the backing of labor and the city supervisors, Mayor Lee announced the proposal which brings all workers to $15 by 2018, with no tip-penalty and no total compensation.
If it passes the vote in November, San Francisco will lead the country with the highest minimum wage in 2018, an immediate ripple effect the heroic walk-outs of fast-food workers across the nation and the grassroots victory in Seattle.
Building on the momentum of the Seattle movement, SEIU Local 1021 filed a ballot initiative for $15 back in April, in a move to pressure the political establishment and business to taken on San Francisco’s growing income inequality.
With median rents around $2,700/ month and 15% of the population living below the poverty line, the wealth gap in San Francisco is the fastest growing in the nation. Cities across California are negotiating a rise in the minimum wage, with Oakland considering $12.50, San Diego $13, and L.A. $15 for hotel workers. Richmond recently passed an increase to $13.
It was the threat of a strong $15 ballot initiative in Seattle which forced the Mayor and City Council to act so quickly. If the major labor unions involved in the negotiations had backed the initiative like in San Francisco, as 15 now always argued, the corporate loopholes and long phase-in could have been prevented. Stronger labor support for an initiative in Seattle would have been decisive in the balance of power between the movement on one side and business on the other.
But the battle is far from won in San Francisco. Big Business has already indicated how displeased they are. The head of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, Gwyneth Borden, said the deal was “an agreement between the mayor and labor. This is not what the business community has been talking about.”
If Seattle is an indication, business will fight tooth and nail to defeat or undermine the initiative in San Francisco. In Seattle, 15 Now never relied on the politicians who weren’t clearly on the side of working people and opposed to big business interests. The final vote in Seattle, showed, all but councilmember Sawant supported the big business loopholes in the end.
The victory in Seattle rested on organizing working people and mobilizing them into action building a powerful grassroots movement from below. Winning $15 in San Francisco against the ferocious resistance of big business will require the same bottom-up effort.