What seemed impossible just a few short years ago is now on the lips of the entire country.
A $15 an hour minimum wage.
Here’s what the naysayers are saying:
It would be bad for the economy. People will lose their jobs. Small businesses will shut their doors. Big companies won’t move to and will leave Chicago. It’s unrealistic: a $15 an hour minimum wage is more than the market can bear. And my favorite: If the minimum wage is that high, workers will lose the incentive to work hard.
But what do these kinds of arguments against a completely doable and just wage really amount to—arguments that a lot of us, even the most revolutionary minded of us, often have a hard time overcoming because we are literally drowning in them from birth?
While all of these arguments rely on partial truths about humanity handed down to us by the billionaires on high, that doesn’t change the fact that what they really amount to is a command issued to the vast majority of us that we must get down our knees and bow our heads and accept the dictatorship of a tiny capitalist class over the economy, over wages, over jobs, over prices, over production priorities and more.
The truth: we are being robbed. The CEOs don’t create the wealth. Low wage workers, and workers in general, are making mountains of money for a tiny minority of society. In return, millions of people get a tiny or empty share of the pie. The divide between the rich and the poor is staggering and overwhelming so many of us.
Considering that technology means that less and less labor is required and that new jobs are increasingly low wage, a $15 an hour minimum wage is an absolute necessity. How else will tens of millions of people overcome poverty? It simply won’t happen under capitalism unless a living wage is established for everyone—the for-profit capitalist system simply cannot do it left to its own devices.
My opinion: No one should be making under $20 an hour. (If minimum wage kept pace with productivity since 1968, it would be over $20.) No one should go without a job, free healthcare, free education and much more. Not for one single day.
If we raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour it will not be the end of the world. It will not bring the capitalist system to its knees. It will,
however, be a substantial victory for working and poor people. A lot of people who yesterday had to apply for assistance even though they have a full time job, or two jobs, will be released from that unnecessary humiliation. They will be released from completely unnecessary hardship.
There’s more than enough money to make $15 an hour a reality in Chicago. The 2012 GDP, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, was $571 billion. That’s more than enough money to eradicate poverty in a city of 3 million people and a metro area of 9 million.
And most importantly: $15 an hour is on the table because workers have reacted to the recent economic crisis and the increased hardship with a great deal of anger. In this atmosphere, low wage workers have taken to the street and raised up the banners for a living wage and a vast section of poor and working people have said, “Yes!” in response.
Again, what seemed impossible just a few short years ago is now on the lips of the entire country.
Seattle has it. The Mayor has backed it in San Francisco. In a non-binding ballot referendum the people of Chicago backed it. Mayor 1% and Governor Quinn and President Obama have been forced to favor a raise in the minimum wage in order for the Democratic Party to be successful in upcoming elections in the face of growing anger at the politicians and Wall Street.
Mayor Emanuel has organized a minimum wage working group to put together a proposal for raising the minimum wage. Emanuel has come out for $10.10 an hour. That’s still poverty wages.
The chances that this group, with some Alderman and prominent business organizations involved, will propose $15 an hour
seems extremely remote. We shouldn’t leave it up to them.
We can win $15 an hour here in Chicago. Let’s fight for it together. I’m running for city council under the slogan, “Jobs for All and $15/hr!” Check out the campaign here.