Three weeks ago, SeaTac, Washington made national headlines when their residents voted on a $15.00 minimum wage for workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The measure led by 8% on election night, with only absentee ballots uncounted, so supporters were reasonably optimistic it would finally pass. Assured as victory seemed, the voting tally was not official until last night. Out of 6,000 votes cast, it passed by a very narrow 77 votes.
This close vote is subject to a recount if opponents so choose — provided they pay for it. As expected, the captains of local business are already decrying this measure crouched in terms of re-distribution and unfairness. Don Stork, speaking on behalf of the measure’s opposition arm Common Sense SeaTac, used a pick-pocket metaphor:
“This is a pretend solution to a really serious national economic problem. It is taking money from one pocket and putting it in another.”
Get him a fainting couch, quickly. The mob is out of control, what with their demands for a living wage. What is his ‘real’ solution? The usual ‘business knows best’ bromides ring hollow and the status quo is obviously not working. The “really serious national economic problem” is declining sub-par wages, taxpayer subsidies of ‘free market’ corporations, the bleeding of jobs overseas, and the lack of consumer demand commiserate with these ills.
Personal debt, generally accrued through consumer credit, student loans, and mortgages, is at a dangerously high level, and a chief outlet for demand where none is to be had from earned income. It was not too long ago when the crushing amount of personal debt exacted a public cost.
Continuing to take money from the pockets of underpaid labor and putting it into the pockets of usurious creditors is the worst “pretend solution” imaginable. Keeping wages below a livable standard makes the risk of that injurious cycle repeating itself very real.
In this era of record profits, roof-busting stock prices, and increasing dependence upon safety net programs, isn’t it far past time that workers asserted themselves and pursued a better price for their labor? Taxpayers who demand fiscal responsibility have a voice here. Do they want their taxes to continue subsidizing low wages via SNAP, or is the status quo delivered by the likes of Don Stork acceptable? SeaTac and a growing number of localities are beginning to answer these questions in favor of responsible hard-working Americans everywhere, through the bullhorn of the ballot box.