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From The Socialist newspaper, 4 June 2014

Workers can win

Victory for $15 campaign in Seattle

15 Now has won a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle

15 Now has won a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle   (Click to enlarge)

"We did this. Workers did this. Today's first victory for $15 will inspire people all over the nation," said socialist Seattle city councillor Kshama Sawant.

She was speaking after the 2 June meeting of the city council which voted to adopt a minimum wage of more than double the federal US rate. $15 an hour (about 9) will raise 100,000 low-paid workers in the city out of poverty.

What's the difference between Seattle and the other cities in the US where workers have also been fighting heroic battles demanding $15? Mass campaigning built support for $15 and elected Kshama, a member of Socialist Alternative (co-thinkers of the Socialist Party in the US) last November. This was a turning point.

A Guardian website article reports: "Kshama Sawant, the only socialist city councillor in the US, whose election campaign last year became a driving force behind the minimum wage legislation in Seattle, hailed the vote at a boisterous meeting before a packed council chamber as a 'historic victory' for working people."

Kshama exposed and opposed how big business weakened the legislation but she voted for $15. She said: "We'll come back to the questions of tip penalty, the long-phase in, the training wage. What was lost through corporate loopholes is a reminder to us that outcomes are determined by the balance of forces... we need to continue to build an even more powerful movement strong enough to overcome the counterattacks from business."

And Kshama explains: "My organisation, Socialist Alternative, was the backbone to this struggle. We have provided analysis and strategy, first to win this important seat in City Hall for a socialist and then immediately to turn it into a tool for organising."

The 15 Now campaign set up by Kshama and Socialist Alternative established neighbourhood committees across the city which organised rallies and meetings. Fast food workers had protests and strikes demanding $15. Kshama pointed out: "This was not won at the negotiating table, it's not a result of the generosity of the Democratic Party - it is a reflection of what workers won on the streets."

The historic victory in Seattle shows what can be achieved when workers fight back. It shows the strength given to a movement when representatives of that movement are elected to political office and use their position to drive home its aims. This should be an inspiration, not just to workers in Seattle and the US, but to working class and poor people, socialists and trade unionists internationally.

As Kshama said after the vote: "$15 in Seattle is just a beginning. We have an entire world to win."

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In The Socialist 4 June 2014:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Workers can win: Victory for $15 campaign in Seattle

Enough of 'all the same' capitalist politics!

TUSC: Next steps building political voice for workers

Inclusive capitalism? You're having a laugh!

Children handed poverty "life sentence"

Them & Us


International socialist news and analysis

US: How Seattle won a $15 minimum wage

Ireland: Electoral surge against austerity


Socialist Party workplace news

"Enough is enough!" - 1.5m could strike over pay

NHS: We demand a living wage!

Come to NSSN conference!

Unite conference: Fighting policies needed

UCU: Members losing patience with leadership

PCS-Unite merger: Will it strengthen our fightback?

Leeds unions prepare for action

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Bakers' Union interview: "We can stop race to bottom"

Stevenage: March against the far-right, racist EDL

Rhydyfelin library occupied by protesters


Readers' comments

NHS: Night shift and a cold rage


Building the Socialist Party

Why I joined the Socialist Party

Plan now for the fundraising collectathon

'Join the socialists' week of action

Successful building in east London

Rapid recruitment in Plymouth


 

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