On Friday night, the Democratic platform committee voted in favor of an amendment calling for a $15 minimum wage, a significant victory for Bernie Sanders and labor activists across the United States.
The amendment, put forward by Nina Turner, also calls for the minimum to be indexed to inflation, language that was previously resisted by Hillary Clinton’s delegates.
“An early draft of the party platform carried language more consistent with Mrs. Clinton’s position,” reports the Wall Street Journal. It said that ‘Americans should earn at least $15 an hour’ but didn’t explicitly call for a federal minimum wage of $15.”
But thanks to pressure placed on the Clinton campaign and other Democrats opposed to the $15 minimum, language expressing solidarity with the Fight for $15 movement is now present in the Democratic platform.
“If it were not for the Sanders campaign, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” said Cornel West, a civil rights activist and delegate chosen by Bernie Sanders to represent his campaign on the platform drafting committee. “We don’t want window dressing in talking about working people.”
Since his campaign for the presidency began, Bernie Sanders has expressed the urgent necessity of giving American workers a significant raise in the midst of soaring income inequality and startling concentration of wealth at the very top.
The slogan he has adopted is a compelling one.
“Nobody who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty,” are the words that appear on the landing page of his campaign website, and they are words Sanders frequently utilizes on the campaign trail to highlight the persistence of starvation wages paid by companies that rake in extraordinary profits year after year.
“A few years ago,” Sanders said after the passage of the amendment, “the fight for $15 was considered radical. Today, it is a cornerstone of the Democratic Party. Now let’s make it the law.”
Sanders emphasizes that, while it is a step in the right direction, it’s little more than a symbolic victory — a significant one, but not one that will have material effects until it makes its way through the legislative process, where resistance is certain.
Bernie Sanders scores a victory in Democratic party platform with amendment calling for a $15 minimum wage. https://t.co/re7kYFTTMS— The Associated Press (@AP) July 9, 2016
Also, as the Wall Street Journal notes, “Party platforms aren’t binding. Should she win in November, Mrs. Clinton wouldn’t be obligated to follow the platform’s guidance. But the platform has gotten considerable attention because Mr. Sanders has suggested that his support for Mrs. Clinton hinges on her willingness to embrace more liberal policy positions.”
But this victory reflects the impact the Sanders campaign has had on the national conversation. Viewed as a campaign to be dismissed early on, Sanders has used his tremendous grassroots appeal to his advantage, garnering widespread enthusiasm on social media and among the young, and, at the very end of the primary process, the effort put in by millions is beginning to bear fruit.
Sanders has frequently faced antagonism from the leadership of the Democratic Party, some of which appeared in headlines recently after it was reported that House Democrats booed the Vermont senator at a private meeting.
But as the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent notes, these boos are far less substantial than the impact Sanders has had on American politics in a remarkably short period of time.
“Sanders’s movement,” Sargent argues, “is succeeding.”
“That doesn’t necessarily mean that it will continue to succeed. We don’t know whether it will meaningfully impact Clinton’s presidency, should she win. We don’t know if it will transform itself into a vehicle that can successfully advance its causes in Congress or on the level of the states, or produce any major policy victories down the road. That remains to be seen. But right now, it actually is succeeding, in a way that bears some preliminary parallels to previous progressive movements throughout American history.”
[Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]