Working Washington rightly dinged me for this:
If I were gonna divvy up credit for Seattle's $15 minimum wage, I'd award 70% of it Kshama Sawant, who made the fight for $15 the centerpiece of her first campaign, and 40% to Ed Murray, who, as a good Democrat, has always supported efforts to raise the minimum wage but got religion on $15 after Sawant's victory. (I know that adds up to 110% but 1. math is hard and 2. awarding Sawant less than 70% of the credit seemed unfair and I felt Murray deserved more than 30% of the credit.)
That was in my SECB-bucking Slog post yesterday endorsing Brady Piñero Walkinshaw. I was attempting to divide up the "elected officials" share of the credit for $15—pushing back against Pramila Jayapal's attempts to claim all of the credit—but I failed to make that clear in my post. My apologies to the fast-food strikers!
You know what makes it worse? I knew better. This appeared later in my post yesterday...
Howard Wright, who served as co-chair of the Murray's Income Inequality Advisory Committee (the task force's official name), praised Jayapal before clarifying both her role and the scale of her contribution. “There was a committee of 24, upon which she served,” said Wright, “but a smaller working group created the final draft and presented it to the larger committee. Pramila did not serve on that smaller working group.” When I asked Wright if knew Jayapal was out there claiming credit for Seattle’s $15 minimum wage—sole credit for all the work done by the committee, Murray and his staff, Sawant and her staff, and activists and labor organizers—he said he had. “I have heard her say that live,” said Wright. “It raised my eyebrows."
Those activists and labor organizers should've come first on that list—so another unforced error. But, hey, I did manage to get it right in much higher profile spot back in December. NYT opinion columnist Charles Blow invited me and a few others to list 2015's "biggest social justice stories" in one of his year-end columns. On my list: Black Lives Matter, Obergefell, Caitlyn Jenner, the GOP primary, and...
The fight for the $15 minimum wage. Thousands of fast-food workers revive the labor movement by taking the streets to demand a fairer wage—and a bigger share of the profits their labor generates for giant corporations.
So I fumbled credit allocation on Slog yesterday, where I appeared to give all the credit to two elected officials, but I did manage to get it right on the op-ed pages of the New York Times!
Last word goes to David Rolf:
Hi Dan –
We disagree about Pramila v. Brady. They’re both good progressive candidates. She’s by far the better organizer, and with a longer history on social and economic justice struggles in particular. That’s why I’m supporting her. But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing because you got it wrong assigning primary credit for Seattle’s historic $15 victory to any elected official.
When it comes to Seattle’s minimum wage, if we’re adding up percentages I’d start with giving the vast majority of the credit to the fast food workers and airport workers who had the courage to walk off the job demanding $15 and a union, and who campaigned to pass Seatac Prop 1 by 77 votes. Without them, nothing else could’ve happened.
Then I’d give credit in some order to a) the unions who staffed and financed the effort, and negotiated with politicians and businesses; b) supportive community groups who helped the chorus grow; c) the media outlets who actually covered the campaign so the public was aware of it; d) the elected leaders and candidates who supported the effort; and e) the business groups (in Seattle, not Seatac) who chose to negotiate rather than obstruct.
I looked, and I couldn’t find any U.S. politician or political party with a single tweet, post, public comment, survey response, or quote supporting $15 until after the first fast food strike occurred in Brooklyn in 2012. During Seattle's first fast food strike in May 2013, mayoral candidates Ed Murray, Mike McGinn and Peter Steinbrueck all participated in events supporting the strike. So did King County officials Dow Constantine, Rod Dembowski, Larry Gossett, and Joe McDermott; City officials and candidates Richard Conlin, Nick Licata, Mike O’Brien, and Kshama Sawant; and state officials Frank Chopp, Jessyn Farrell, David Frockt, and Joe Fitzgibbon among many others. Kshama was the only council candidate to make $15 the centerpiece of her campaign, and that’s clearly why she won. But I suspect she’d be the first to say she was following the lead of the workers themselves.
Anna Minard, writing for the Stranger, said it best:
A lot of people deserve credit for getting the $15 minimum wage from the streets to City Hall….But most of all, a bunch of people who work for terrible wages, and who have little power in a world that strives to disempower them, decided to take enormous personal risks and walk off the job, walk in a picket line, sit in the street, even get arrested. Congratulations to them, though the fight’s not over yet. The fact that this debate has happened at all is thanks to low-wage workers fighting back.
And nearly a year earlier, before anyone outside of the Seattle media market had heard of any of our local politicians, and two months before the SeaTac vote, the New York Times wrote about the national wave of fast food strikes this way: "The (civil rights) marchers had it right 50 years ago. The fast food strikers have it right today."
Thanks for listening.
President, SEIU 775
Author of The Fight for Fifteen: The Right Wage for a Working America
Co-Chair, Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee, 2014