In a post on the Daily Weekly today, Seattle Weekly reporter Matt Driscoll writes about his change of heart on the $15 minimum wage. "We all have moments we’re not particularly proud of," he starts. "For me, one surrounds an issue that’s front and center in this year’s election: the debate over a $15 an hour minimum wage."
He's referring to a blog post he wrote on May 30, when fast-food workers in Seattle were first striking. On the workers' demands for a higher wage and the right to organize without retaliation, he wrote, "Presumably, this right to organize goes beyond smoking out the walk-in freezer." Then he called "toiling in poverty" an "unquestioned bummer" and said that $15 was "a bit steep." Yeesh.
But! His post today nicely details an evolution on the matter, the kind you go through when you read a lot and think a lot and talk to a lot of people. It would be hard (though not impossible, some people are heartless) to talk to all the fast-food employees organizing with Good Jobs Seattle and listen to their stories and come out of it thinking they're full of shit. They're working their asses off, both at their thankless jobs and then at organizing for better pay and working conditions. And they're right. They do deserve better. I continue to be impressed every time I talk to these workers—charming, thoughtful Caroline Durocher, who we've written about repeatedly. Or serious and moving Carlos Hernandez, whose firing from a Subway after his involvement in the strikes has led to federal labor charges and numerous pickets.
They're young people being radicalized by their own mistreatment, and I hope they all continue to kick ass.
Back to Driscoll, who continues:
In hindsight, my reaction was understandable – and probably not uncommon. My first job was at a McDonald’s in Federal Way, making $5 an hour taking the orders of hungry (and often moderately terrible) people heading to Costco or Wild Waves. It was one of the most thankless and exhausting jobs I’ve ever had. But as a 16-year-old high school student entering the workforce – an economic status that most of my coworkers shared - I considered it a rite of passage. I considered the par for the capitalist course. Why should I have been making enough to support a family when I was still in high school my only real qualification for the job was an ability to legibly fill out an application? I was a skill-less kid, after all. I was the kind of person who should have a low-paying job.
But things have changed, and my initial reaction to the demand for $15 an hour for fast-food workers failed to take this into account. As has been well-reported at this point, the fast-food worker of today is not the fast-food worker of the past. More and more, today’s burger flippers are not just skill-less kids.
It's great to be this public about transformations of thought. We all have 'em. Go read the whole thing.