Teachers, Students, and Community Fight for $15 and More
3:00 Rally and March on Tuesday November 10th at City College near Park and B
By Jim Miller
For progressives it is the worst of times and the best of times. As I noted on Labor Day, the American labor movement faces an existential crisis in the form of a looming Supreme Court decision that may essentially make the whole country “right to work” as the trend toward greater income inequality continues unabated.
Our sitting Democratic President has made pushing a terrible neoliberal trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, one of his legacy items, and the news on climate change seems to get worse by the day as our leaders bicker over half measures.
On the right, the Presidential campaign has brought back a resurgence of ugly xenophobia and promises to further undermine hard-won civil and women’s rights while simultaneously pledging to enact yet more plutocratic policies. In response, many in labor and on the Democratic side of the aisle are predictably and fearfully rallying around Hillary Clinton as the surest firewall against the election of a reactionary President.
Still, amidst all the gloom and handwringing, the insurgent Bernie Sanders campaign has revealed a widespread thirst for an overtly left politics that makes the battle against the billionaire class a central rallying cry. Sanders has forced Clinton to tack to the left on multiple issues and has had a genuinely transformative impact on the national political discourse by unashamedly bringing democratic socialism to the stage.
Recently Harold Meyerson noted that Bernie Sanders’s campaign represented “the largest specifically left mobilization—and by ‘specifically left’ I mean it demands major changes in the distribution of income and wealth and major reforms to U.S. capitalism—that the nation has seen in at least half a century.”
The challenge for those supporting Sanders’s uphill battle, according to Meyerson, is to make sure that the energy it is creating helps form an enduring left movement that survives past his candidacy. As he notes:
The programmatic substance of such a movement isn’t hard to arrive at. Steeply progressive taxation that could make college and retirement more affordable and rebuild our now second-rate infrastructure, legislation mandating more worker voice and power in their companies, a faster shift away from fossil fuels, greater protection for reproductive rights, reforming police practices, granting legal status to undocumented immigrants, regulating drug prices, reining in the banks — the causes are already there. But forging a movement from a campaign, and building it in tandem with the many progressive constituencies that for any number of reasons have not flocked to Sanders’s standard and are not likely to — that’s the hard part. Devilishly hard.
One of the places where some of this hard work is being done is the Fight for $15 campaign that is now venturing further afield from its central bread and butter economic demand to embrace a whole range of issues that affect the majority of American workers. Thus the mobilization for tomorrow’s National Day of Action invites us to “be a part of this historic movement to end income inequality and lift our voices for racial justice” as well as demanding increased access to higher education, a fix for our broken criminal justice system, immigration reform, climate justice, and stopping the TPP.
Surely, this is a dizzying menu of issues but the idea is that we need a movement of working people in America that will fight not just for basic economic justice but also for a more equitable society. Hence, the hope is that we move from the Fight for $15 to community power by uniting our intersecting communities and issues and coming to see that we are all in this together.
And there are real tangible wins to be had in the next year with a chance to give San Diego a raise to $11.50 an hour this June and perhaps another leap to a statewide $15 minimum wage in November. There will also quite likely be an opportunity to extend Proposition 30’s taxes on top earners to help make college more affordable. Both locally and statewide, California can continue to push the envelope with climate justice. Beyond that, there is a whole world to be won if we can do the devilishly hard work of movement building that Meyerson mentions.
Please come join me Tuesday, November 10th, with my fellow teachers, staff, students, workers, and community members at City College near the corner of Park and B at 3:00 PM for a brief rally and march to the main Fight for $15 event at 4:30 in Civic Center Plaza.