Minimum Wage Struggle in Seattle: Victory of the Working Class

On June 2nd Seattle, a city in United States, struck a blow against rising inequality, when its city council unanimously adopted a city wide minimum wage of $15 per hour, the highest minimum wage in the United States.

The dramatic change in public policy was a result of continuous activism of working class and youth in Seattle and other cities, the role of different political activists and groupings over last 5 years and partly the result of changes brought about by November 2012 municipal elections of Seattle, where a leftist candidate Kshama Sawant won the election and Seattle saw the victory of socialist after almost a century.

We can see the growing frustration of working people, unable to survive on the minimum wages in the face of the rising inequality in society. Since the recession, which started in 2009, low wage work has made up an increasingly large share of new jobs in U.S economy, according to a new study from the Alliance For a Just Society. As per the study, in the beginning of 2009, this percentage was 36.6 % , which shot up to 39.5 % in the year 2012. Hence the number of low wage workers which itself in the year of 2009 was more than 11 crores, saw rise by 3.6 million, where median paid jobs reduced by 4 million. The study defines the boundary of low wage worker as $15 per hour or less, however in reality a huge section of low wage workers, who are composed of fast food workers, workers in restaurant, cashiers , dishwashers,

hostesses, amusement park attendants, and farm workers earn much less than $15 per hour. The average salary of food preparation and serving workers, who are the fourth largest workforce in the US, numbering almost 3 million, is $8.71 per hour, or $18000 per year.

The survival with this salary is increasingly becoming more and more difficult. Many of the lowest-paying jobs were once seen as the domain of younger workers who were first starting out in the work world, but increasingly these positions are survival jobs for midcareer folk who have been downsized, said Randall Hansen, a workplace expert with Quintessential Careers. Low-wage jobs have always been part of the economic landscape, but wages have been suppressed for many years now. Interesting when the economic recovery is said to happen, only a small percentage of median income or high income job increases, but majority of low income jobs remain as it is, and the conditions of the workforce also remain the same. Attempt to protest or form a union often faces retaliation from the management. Big giants like MacDonalds, PizzaHut, Burger King and other monopolies make huge profit at the expense of cheap labor. Needless to say all governments so far served the interests of this Big and Monopoly capital and economic recession and recovery terminology are defined by looking at the best interests of these greedy sharks. Barack Obama had proposed a reform of $10.10 per hour minimum wage as opposed to the national minimum wage of $7.25, and this was blocked by his own party, the Democrats. The proposal does not make Obama a pro people President, because in his time police harassment of the migrant workers and striking workers increased by 2.5 percent.

Migrant workers, who mostly come from Latin America, arose from time to time mostly in the year of 2010 against the ongoing exploitation, for the legalization of the immigrants, for wage hike and against harassment by police and the ruling class. All the established parties like Democrats and
Republicans, the puppet trade union AFL-CIO, NGOs, tried to control the movement, but the movement spread considerably.