There is power in high hopes


A rubber tree plantation in Phuket, Thailand.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Last night during his speech in Laramire, Wyoming, Sen. Bernie Sanders brought up how real change happens in this country. It was an inspiring nod to #fightfor15, and worth reading if you missed it:

If we were here in this beautiful auditorium 5 years ago, not a long time from a historical perspective, [and] somebody would have jumped up and said, you know, I think a $7.25 federal minimum wage is a starvation wage and it has got to be raised to $15 an hour.

Now [if] somebody stood up 5 years ago and said that the person next to them would have said,

‘You’re nuts! Fifteen bucks an hour?! You want to more than double the minimum wage? You’re crazy! Maybe, maybe we get up to 8, 9 bucks an hour. But 15 bucks an hour? You’re dreaming too big.’

Sound familiar?

‘You are unrealistic. It can’t be done. Think smaller.’

But then, what happened is fast food workers, people working at McDonald’s, people working at Burger King, people working at Wendy’s, they went out on strike …

And they went out and said, ‘Fellow Americans, we can’t live on seven and a quarter an hour. We can’t live on 8 bucks an hour. You’ve got to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour.’

And they fought and they fought. And then suddenly a few years ago, Seattle, Washington — 15 bucks an hour. Los Angeles, San Francisco — 15 bucks an hour. Oregon — 15 bucks an hour. And in the last several weeks, in both California and New York, governors signed legislation for 15 bucks an hour.

What is my point? My point is, yes, that we can change the status quo when we think big and when we have a vision.

You can watch that part of the speech here [timestamp 18:50].

Zaid Jilani at The Intercept celebrates “Fight for 15” by rubbing some of the negativism in pundits’ faces, quoting those who said it couldn’t be done:

The hikes come as a direct result of organizing by thousands of people in the union-backed “Fight for 15” movement that kicked off in 2012 — organizing that was quickly decried by pundits and opponents as unrealistic and unlikely to ever succeed.

The Fight for 15 movement began when several hundred fast-food workers in New York City went on a brief strike to call for higher wages; by the next year, this movement had spread to dozens of cities, with workers going on miniature strikes and protest marches to call for a $15 an hour wage.

This innovative tactic — organizing workers with no union representation to go on flash strikes to call attention to their meager wages — raised eyebrows among many in the pundit class who attempted to downplay its power.

David Dayen tells Brad Friedman why this is what Joe Biden might call a BFD:

“1 in every 8 workers in America is a Californian. Under this proposal, over 33% of them are going to get a raise at some point along the way between now and 2022. And thereafter, because after 2022, the minimum wage gets tied to inflation, so it keeps going up.”

Yes, the federal minimum remains at $7.25 an hour for now, but that is because, as Sanders pointed out, real change comes from the bottom up, not the top down. So proud to know a few of the Fight for 15 organizers.

Showing my age, but a silly Frank Sinatra tune from the Kennedy era comes to mind.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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