If Hillary Clinton’s stance on the minimum wage is any indicator, the Democratic party can expect a leader who specializes in the party’s greatest talent: capitulation.
For well over a year now, a national labor-led movement has been pushing to raise the wage of low-paid workers across America to $15 an hour. The movement has been more successful than one ever would have imagined. Several cities have in fact raised pay for some or all workers to that level; last week, New York state announced plans to raise fast food worker pay to $15 an hour over several years.
A nice thing, but one which raises the obvious question: why just raise wages in a single industry? (The real answer in this case is “that industry waged the best PR campaign for itself, which is not a wise way to set policy.”) If we believe that some low-wage workers deserve a $15 an hour minimum wage, we should believe that all low-wage workers do. We believe, in other words, in a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour. The minimum wage is at its heart a philosophical and moral issue: we choose to throw a wrench into the workings of the hallowed free market because we believe that there is a level of poverty that is unconscionable for working people to suffer in our country. One could reasonably argue for some slight variations—for example, a $15 an hour minimum wage that is indexed to the cost of living in a particular state—but fundamentally, Democrats who believe it’s good for fast food workers to get paid this much are obligated to extend that wage to everyone else.
And if Democrats don’t fight for this, I assure you that no one else will.
Bernie Sanders, the lone true progressive in the Democratic presidential race, supports a $15 an hour federal minimum wage. And Hillary Clinton? The face of the Democratic Party? The front-runner? The presumptive nominee? Yesterday—after a meeting with labor leaders!—Hillary voiced her support for a $12 an hour federal minimum wage bill that has been introduced as a sort of quasi-moderate counterweight to the $15 an hour movement. In order to be sure to have it both ways, she also voiced support for the municipal efforts happening across America that set wages higher. Why $12 an hour for America’s poorest workers, instead of $15?
“Let’s not just do it for the sake of having a higher number out there,” Hillary said, “let’s actually get behind a proposal that has a chance of succeeding.”
Certainly, the $15 an hour wage for the working class has no chance of succeeding if the Democratic presidential candidate does not support it.