Corporate Politicians Feeling the Heat

Ty Moore, 15 Now National Coordinator


New chapters of 15 Now, the movement we initiated in Seattle last January, have formed in over 20 cities nationwide. Alongside the fast-food strikes and other fight for $15 campaigners, 15 Now is at the cutting edge of a wider movement combating income inequality in America.

The victory for a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle would not have been possible without 15 Now. Our win in Seattle opened the floodgates nationwide. Workers’ confidence, expectations, and political power are growing. Everywhere, big-business mayors and city leaders are haunted by the specter of $15 as they face mounting pressure to follow Seattle’s lead.

This summer, left trade unionists in San Francisco struck a deal with their mayor for a $15 an hour minimum wage after threatening their own ballot initiative – the same tactic 15 Now used to win in Seattle. Then in Chicago, after 21 of the 50 Aldermen declared in favor of $15, reflecting the popular pressure of workers there, 1% Mayor Rahm Emanuel moved to cut across the budding movement by promising a $13 an hour minimum wage. Facing similar pressures, Governor Cuomo has promised to support legislation that would open the door to $13 in New York City.

Finally, Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti joined the chorus, calling for $13 after labor and several city councilors introduced a proposal for $15. As an August 29 Time article pointed out, the calls for $13 in the nation’s three largest cities fall short of “the now iconic $15 demand of low-wage workers everywhere… For who, on that cold November day two years ago [when fast-food strikers first demanded $15], could have envisioned that a proposal to raise the minimum wage in America’s second-largest city to more than $13 – a nearly 50% increase over three years – would not only be taken seriously but would strike some as being too modest?”

From Pittsburgh to Tampa Bay, from Madison to Tucson, 15 Now chapters are energetically building to transform workers’ growing anger – and their growing confidence – into a force for political change. But the fight looks different in different places.

Like many across the country, Oregon 15 Now chapters are fighting to overturn state “pre-emption” laws, big government bans taking away the autonomy of cities to set their own wage levels. Oregon 15 Now chapters have won important union support for their campaign, including a resolution passed by the 55,000-strong SEIU 503 statewide convention.

In Philadelphia, 15 Now has established three neighborhood action groups and is campaigning with campus workers and students to get Temple and U-Penn to ensure all campus workers get a living wage. Meanwhile, in the Roxbury neighborhood in Boston, 15 Now gathered enough signatures to put a ballot referendum for $15 to voters in November. In Minneapolis, pressure from 15 Now pushed several city council members to back a minimum wage hike, and 1,000 airport workers signed our petition for a $15 an hour minimum wage at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport (MSP).

Like the call for the 8-hour workday helped to inspire the early American labor movement, the fight for $15 is emerging as a battle cry for today’s generation of low-wage workers. Within this wider struggle, 15 Now is the only national force open to all workers to join and democratically control. As a socialist, I know that building a mass movement is the only way to defeat big business and their politicians. So I appeal to you: Join 15 Now and together let’s turn this unequal, corporate-controlled system upside down!