Minimum Wage – Time to turn up the heat!

Minimum Wage – Time to turn up the heat!

The past few years have seen an increase in activity among low-wage workers. Many are demanding “$15 and a union.” As income inequality has increased, the number of workers forced to eke out a living at the minimum wage has grown.

The food preparation and restaurant industries are by far the largest pool of minimum wage workers, with more than 1.5 million employees. Other industries—such as sales, clerical, and warehousing—also employ hundreds of thousands of minimum wage workers. Many more workers subsist on wages above the minimum but well below well below $15 per hour.

Millions of workers would immediately see an increase in standard of living through an increased minimum wage. $15 is a minimum goal for working people to begin to achieve an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families. Anything less still leaves too many people below the poverty line.

The recent strikes by fast food workers for decent jobs and a living wage show the potential for struggle across the spectrum of low-wage industries. The retail giant Walmart has also been the target of worker organizing. Even the President acknowledges that the minimum wage, as it currently stands, is inadequate. Obama and the Democrats say they want to raise the minimum to an insulting $10.10 per hour. With this promise, they seek, in part, to neutralize the movement for $15.

Of course, the bosses claim that raising the minimum wage will destroy job creation. This is contradicted by the facts. In cities where the minimum has been increased unemployment has decreased.

While individual unions, like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), have done a commendable job, the whole labor movement should make the $15 minimum a centerpiece of a united organizing campaign. There is a rising tide of working-class militancy in the U.S. Minimum wage campaigns are sprouting up across the country, and $15 an hour has been enacted in Seattle. Now is the time to strike while the iron is hot! Unions have the resources and organization to build and lead these movements to win concrete gains for the working class.

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