FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Fight for $15 Finally Comes to Portland

by SHAMUS COOKE

Like the Occupy movement before it, the “fight for $15” came to Portland as a transplant. Portland activists watched events in Seattle with a skeptical eye, but Seattle’s “fantasy” of $15 was transformed into an emerging reality, now replete with the support of the Mayor and City Council who are working on a plan to implement the new minimum wage.  Meanwhile, an Oakland Mayoral candidate is campaigning on $15 an hour, while a citywide referendum in Chicago announced that 87 percent of voters are in favor of a $15 minimum wage.

Portland’s awkward silence on $15 was finally broken when Portland activist-professor Nicholas Caleb recently announced his candidacy for city council, his top platform plank being the $15 minimum wage.
In the same week Portland’s newly formed $15Now chapter performed their first action, and the Portland weekly magazine the Mercury further broadcast the buzz. Kshama Sawant’s Socialist Alternative group also endorsed Caleb, and even Portland folk singer David Rovicks contributed by writing a campaign song.
Caleb is running against long-standing incumbent and corporate Democrat Dan Saltzman, who is impressive by his complete absence of impressive qualities: 95 percent of Portlanders couldn’t pick Salztman out of a police lineup, even though he’s been “representing” them for well over a decade.
But Portland’s 1% know Saltzman intimately, and consider him a trusted friend and advocate, which is why he has over $100,000 in his campaign war chest, and can boast about NIKE and other big corporations being top campaign contributors.
The fight for $15 is a vitally important issue for the labor movement, since it has the potential to re-connect labor unions back to the community. Unions have been unable to connect with the broader community since they fear disconnecting themselves from the Democrats, who are strongly against any bold pro-worker policy like $15, against taxing the rich and corporations, and against other issues that would draw strong support from working people.
Many labor leaders remain terrified to tie their fate to the broader working class. It just seems safer, they reason, to maintain labor’s longstanding “partnership” with the Democrats. But this partnership now resembles domestic violence, with unions acting as the repeated victim.
This abusive relationship is one reason that Seattle unions wisely went “all in” for the “fight for $15.” SEIU is leading a coalition called “Working Washington” that is mobilizing its members and the community for $15 in Seattle. Now working people in Seattle see that labor unions are fighting for them, increasing the likelihood that the community will come to labor’s defense in the future.
San Francisco unions seem to be getting behind $15 too: the San Francisco Labor Council recently passed a resolution in favor of the $15 minimum. The resolution includes this important piece: “[the SF Labor Council will] help organize a broad-based coalition of unions and community allies to spearhead a campaign to bring the $15 minimum wage to San Francisco.”
The sinking living standards of tens of millions of people make the $15 minimum wage a truly combustible demand. If labor and community groups joined forces to make it a reality — as is happening in Seattle — the power and confidence of working people across the country would be invigorated, leading to a working class offensive that is decades overdue.

Shamus Cooke is an elected officer of SEIU 503. He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail