As organized labor attempts to reinvent itself in an effort to reverse its decline, many in the union movement are looking to Washington State—Seattle's paid sick leave ordinance and SeaTac's $15 an hour minimum wage initiative, for example—as a model of what is possible. Or at least, so says our nation's paper of record:
Many within labor are looking to Washington State as a model because of all the union community activity there. Unions, women’s groups, immigrant organizations and faith groups — joined by retiree and gay groups — successfully pushed Seattle’s City Council to enact a 2011 law requiring paid sick days. Labor in turn played a major role in persuading the state legislature to enact a same-sex marriage law and then in defeating a referendum aimed at overturning the law.
In recent months, Washington’s unions have worked with black ministers to fight foreclosures and find jobs for former prisoners. A Teamsters local is providing legal services and lobbying muscle to Seattle’s taxi drivers. Unions and MomsRising are pressing Tacoma’s City Council to enact a paid sick days law.
... Unions and community groups have joined forces to try to create the nation’s highest minimum wage through a referendum in SeaTac, a community south of Seattle. The proposal would establish a $15-an-hour minimum wage — more than twice the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum — for 6,500 workers at Sea-Tac International Airport and its nearby hotels and car rental agencies. The $15 wage would be 63 percent higher than Washington’s $9.19-an-hour minimum, already the highest state minimum wage.
I'm not sure most people in our local media fully understand the connection between Seattle's paid sick leave ordinance, SeaTac's "Good Jobs Initiative," the fast food strikes, Mayor Mike McGinn's stand against a West Seattle Whole Foods, and various other local labor actions. We could be witnessing history unfold, in our own back yards—either an important stage in the rebirth of America's labor movement, or perhaps the final death-rattle before the total victory of a capital.
Whatever the end result, these events are connected. For example, Seattle's paid sick leave ordinance helped inspired the initiative in SeaTac, which in addition to a $15 an hour minimum wage, mandates paid sick leave as well. And a victory in SeaTac will inevitably boost efforts for a higher minimum wage in Seattle. Meanwhile, the fast food strikes have helped to keep the plight of low-wage workers in front of voters and politicians in SeaTac, Seattle, and throughout the region. And of course these fast food strikers would be some of the main beneficiaries of ordinances that raise the minimum wage.
It is a very exciting time.