Wednesday, May 7, 2014

$15Now becomes $15 Later. (maybe)

By Facts For Working People

Facts For Working People has been very supportive of the  $15 now movement and the successes the group has had in Seattle with the election of Kshama Sawant to the Seattle City Council.  Sawant is an open socialist, a member of Socialist Alternative, the organization largely responsible for these developments.
FFWP also pointed out, (see: $15 Now and the struggle to build the movement.) that as the movement grows it faces dangers on all sides, from within and from without in the form of the counter offensive by big business.  $15 now and Socialist Alternative made a mistake in insisting on clauses in their campaign’s proposal for Seattle’s $15 an hour minimum wage ballot initiative that allowed a phase in for small business (small business being under 250 FT employees) and an opt out clause for union members in the hotel industry. The latter is a concession to the labor officialdom.*
In response to Kshama Sawant’s election and the movement for $15, Seattle mayor Ed Murray has
Murrays plan
introduced a minimum wage proposal of his own.  This plan, backed by business and the council’s “income inequality committee” that business dominates, is an attempt to derail and split the movement for a $15 an hour minimum wage.  Under Murray’s proposal, according to $15Now’s latest bulletin: Businesses under 500 employees get 4-7 years to phase-in $15; this could be significantly reduced, to 3 years, without harming small business.  Workers at businesses with less than 500 employees who receive healthcare or tips will be paid a lower minimum wage than other workers for 10 years under Mayor Murray's plan.”
And while $15 Now supporters pointed out the weaknesses of the mayor’s proposal at last Wednesday council meeting, the criticism was muted as they highlighted how good
the proposal as it stands is. "Don't lose your nerve.” one speaker told the council, urging board members not to water down what is already a pro-business proposal as if these councilors are the last line of defense for low waged workers.
$15 Now and Socialist Alternative are orienting too much towards the labor officialdom as opposed to the ranks of the trade union movement. That appeared obvious at the $15 Now conference in Seattle on April 26th.
This confirms our worries. It is clear that SA is seeking to line up with the less right wing of the union bureaucracy and the liberal elements in general rather than sticking to their 15Now demand, (actually this is a false demand now, it would be more accurate to call it 15 Not Now). The idea is not to pressure the Democrats or a council controlled by representatives from one of the two capitalist parties but to keep fighting for the alternative, a $15.00 minimum for all now. 
Our position is that the working class should be mobilized to lead the movement through a mass direct action campaign for $15Now. (FFWP actually calls for a higher minimum wage but we would not risk dividing the movement by making an issue of this in this campaign.)  The movement must give emphasis to the demand for equality in the workplace for women, and reach out to the small business and community business by explaining to them that we will fight for a reduction in the amounts they pay in rents to landlords, interest to banks, fees to utilities and fight for a national health care system rather than force small community business to bear that burden for their few employees.

There must be an appeal to the rank and file in the unions to build caucuses to fight for this, appeal to community organizations and students and workers in the schools and colleges to build causes for this also. This would put the working class in the leadership of the movement. From this position of leadership we should then appeal to the small and community businesses to support this leadership of the working class and $15Now demand of the working class, and in return for this, the working class will fight with small community business to free themselves from the clutches of the corporations, insurance companies and landlords.

We have to make it clear that our movement believes and will fight for shifting the present burdens that small and community businesses are forced to bear on to the corporations that exploit them rather than on to the shoulders of the workers that work for them.

Small businesses and community businesses have many costs. The approach of $15 Now and Socialist Alternative as it is now is to reduce these costs by reducing the income of workers, or not increasing the income of workers to a $15.00 minimum now rather than fighting to make big business pay. It is a bad mistake to approach this as making concessions to small and community businesses. This approach will not win over these elements, but it will over a period undermine the movement of workers and youth. 

The importance of mass direct action as a central tactic of this movement is twofold. $15NOW cannot be won without it. It is mass direct action that will mobilize and enthuse the best of the youth and workers. It is mass direct action for $15 now that will expose the false policies, the team concept policies, the concessionary policies, of the union leaders and liberal elements.

Was this not what signature gathering for a ballot initiative was about as opposed to pressuring elected representatives of big business to throw us a few crumbs from the table?  $15 Now was never initiated to be simply a pressure group as far as Facts For Working People understands it. What the
action groups were intended to do was be the impetus for a mass
mobilization of workers across the city. No such mobilization
has occurred as far as we can tell, or was attempted in a meaningful way

For some of us supporters of this blog who are former members of Socialist Alternative and the CWI, we have witnessed these errors before when we were involved in the movement toward a Labor Party started by Tony Mazzochi from the old Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers’ Union.  The Taffe/Walsh faction in Labor Militant (the SA before it was SA), made the same mistake. They had become too close to the left bureaucracy in LPA and were going along with the Labor Party simply being a pressure group on the Democrats.  It died a slow death.

It’s not too late for $15 Now and Socialist Alternative to change course.  The danger is that the pressures Kshama Sawant and the movement is coming under from elements within the movement, liberals and the slightly more progressive labor officialdom who are wed to labor management cooperation through the Team Concept, and from without in the form of Ed Murray’s attempt to undermine it by appearing to offer some concessions, could ensure the movement’s decline.

* In the original post it read "restaurant" industry. This error was brought to our attention and we meant hotel industry, which is the term we have added after the error was brought to our attention.

1 comment:

Gray0005 said...

There are real debates and questions that arise from Seattle, but this article only serves to confuse the actual questions faced on the ground, and replaces them with weird conspiratorial critiques of SA. The blog should be be renamed from "Facts for Working People" to "Facts for Sectarians". It took me like three minutes to find examples of SA and Kshama trying to do what this author of this article criticizes them for not doing.

Here is Kshama Sawant trying to address the concerns of small business:, literally laying out tax breaks and subsidies, which the author says she did not do:

Here is SA criticizing labor leaders and their strategy, not defending it (read last section)

Here is SA calling for a mass campaign:

Here is SA reaching out to women workers over the issue of tip credit:

Oh yea, and the "CBO concession to the labor leadership", which this article claims was orchestrated by SA and fails utterly to explain the rationale behind it, was adopted by a 15 Now mass meeting open to the public in Seattle by a majority vote. I was there. After hearing genuine democratic debate and discussion, I voted in favor of Unite Here's opt out because I thought it was best for the movement, not because I like labor leaders and their treacherous strategy.

Here are some questions I have for the author:

1) 15 Now and SA tried to reach out to rank-and-file union members throughout the campaign through mass meetings, endorsement processes, and neighborhood action groups. Given the state of the labor movement, and 15 Now's relatively new character, HOW does the author suggest 15 Now could have done outreach differently or more effectively?

2) Many workers hold confused consciousness around small business, making a differentiation between small business and corporations. This is evident through five minutes of conversation with actual working people. In addition, it became clear that big business was fully prepared to use genuine consciousness around small business to de-rail the movement. HOW does the author suggest 15 Now could have won a mass public debate on its own?