Los Angeles Goes to $15 Minimum Wage

Robert Borosage

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

– Frederick Douglass

Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to raise the minimum wage of workers in America’s second largest city to $15 an hour. The minimum will rise in increments, reaching $15 in 2020.

In a city where 46 percent of workers now earn less than $15 an hour, the effects will be profound. And similar hikes are likely to sweep across cities in California and elsewhere.

There is a lesson here that we should never forget. This dramatic change comes only because workers organized to demand it. This is a dramatic victory for the Fight for $15 movement, the courageous low-wage workers who put their jobs on the line to demand simple justice.

A $15 minimum wage had little support from political leaders (Sen. Bernie Sanders a rare exception). It had little support from progressive economists who were more comfortable defending a raise to $10.10 or to $12. Needless to say, even corporations moving to raise their minimums never considered moving to this level.

This is entirely a victory for workers, the movement that fought for $15, and the unions and community organizations that supported them. This is a tribute to their demand, and to their struggle.

As Douglass stated, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”

Fight for $15 plowed the ground, provided the thunder and lightning, and issued an awful roar. We salute the workers and organizers who fought against the odds to make the City of Angels and America better.

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