John Reimann's personal blog

Conversation in a Seattle Coffee Shop

A friend of mine and I were sitting in a coffee/tea shop in Seattle this morning when a pleasant young couple with a baby sat down next to us. After playing with the baby for a few minutes I got to talking with the (young) mother. I asked her what she thought of Kshama Sawant.

“I admire her passion and integrity,” she said. “It’s something that has disappeared from politics. But sometimes I worry that she might be trying to move too far too fast. Of course, maybe that’s something I’m getting from the media.”

I asked if she was referring to the issue of 15 Now. “Yes. I worry that if they pass that kind of minimum wage, that prices would go up.”

“Well, some businesses might try to raise their prices initially,” I said. “But pretty soon they’d run into what the Wall St. Journal calls ‘price resistance.’ Then they’d have to drop their prices back down and take a cut in their profits. As for those businesses that would be able to keep their prices up: They’d have raised their prices anyway, since that’s what they’re in business for – to maximize their profits.”

She agreed. “But wouldn’t some go out of business?”

“Maybe some would,” I said, “but a Wall St. Journal article published the results of a survey they did in the San Jose-Santa Clara California area a year after they raised the minimum wage there. They found that the number of minimum wage jobs had actually increased more than they had in the state overall. The thing is this: I’m sure there are some small businesses that could have survived if they’d have been allowed to pay their workers $5 per hour. So should we drop the minimum wage to that for them? Or how about three? There’s no limit once you start down that road.”

This registered with her. “Look,” I continued, “the basic thing is, you know how hard it is to get by nowadays, and it’s not just high school kids working minimum wage jobs anymore. In this country, with all this wealth, it’s just not right that anybody should have to survive on less than $15 per hour, even as a single person, never mind some single parent, for instance. Even 15 isn’t enough.”

She agreed. Upon my asking, she said she was a social worker who worked for the VA.

“I’m sure you could use a raise. And if you went for one, I’m sure you’d be told that the VA can’t afford it. They all say that. But if you wouldn’t want to accept that, then how about for somebody who’s only making minimum wage?”

It took all of about ten minutes to convince her that a $15 per hour minimum wage for all was justified, and it was as easy as falling off a log. I’m sure that as she becomes victim to all the corporate propaganda that this will have an influence. But it goes to show how a serious campaign for 15 now for all workers could easily win over the great majority in Seattle.

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