As minimum wage ballot initiatives and legislative action sweep the country — as the people take back their power and use it to make sure hardworking friends and family can afford their basic needs — it will become increasingly clear that action on raising the national minimum wage cannot wait.
At some point in the not-too-distant future, some combination of legislative influencers will realize that if they don’t act on the dire need to raise the federal wage, it will act on them.
Victories at the local and state level will translate into more power for this growing movement. Business types will clue into the need for more customers with more disposable income in a 70% consumer economy. Political pressure will be such that lawmakers of both parties will be forced to act or lose their seats. And finally, finally, the National Retail Federation and the National Restaurant Association — the representatives of the industries that pay low wages as a matter of doctrine — will see that even millions of lobbying dollars cannot stop the future.
That’s when things will get interesting. It will be time to play Let’s Make a Deal.
Sometime soon — maybe 2017, maybe 2018 — the GOP will have to come to terms with the Fight for $15 and its momentum. Otherwise stay-at-home, mid-term voters could turn out and cost them seats. Swing and even conservative voters will wake up to the moral embarrassment of $7.25 an hour
At that point, lawmakers — particular Democrats — will have to make a decision. Should they cave at $8 an hour, $9 an hour? Should they trade a higher number in return for no indexing? Or should they hold the line?
Political strategists will consider the terms. What should the deal look like? High enough to shield politicians from the accusations of economic immorality and civic negligence, but low enough that the corporate donors will keep the money coming, bankrolling status – quo policies that profit the wealthy and hollow out the middle class?
Politicians will have much to lose. Four out of 10 working Americans currently making less than $15 an hour will have much to gain.
Democrats in particular will have to prove who they are. Are they with working people, or against them? Are they the champions of working people or hopeless sellouts?
Their funders and political allies should demand they hold the line. Hold the line. Hold the line. Absolutely no deal below $15 an hour. Indexed.
Do. Not. Punt.