Reflecting on the U.S. Minimum Wage Campaign from a Broader Perspective on Inequality 

I recently wrote a think piece with Inayat Sabhikhi exploring current efforts to address inequality through a broader lens of history, political contestation, and ideology. The central example we discussed is the Fight for $15 and One Fair Wage campaigns in the United States to increase the minimum wage and eliminate subminimum wages. In taking a broad perspective, the note draws significantly from the work of Thomas Piketty and his seminal work on the history of inequality (including my own reflections on his main ideas and their implications for reform efforts). Piketty focuses on how political movements, ideas and discourse have shaped trajectories of increasing inequality, as well as moments of progress towards a fairer distribution of wealth, income, and public services. In particular he demonstrates the success of class based organizing in reducing inequality over a broad period of time. We introduce the key elements of the organizing around minimum wage in the United States which has largely been along identity lines and demonstrates the stickiness of dominant ideologies for and against raising the minimum wage. Despite popular support, there is still strong resistance to the passage of a statutory raise in minimum wage. Finally, we conclude by raising questions for reflection for those engaged in the Fight for $15 and One Fair Wage campaign, as well as a final reflection on working to address inequality more generally.

The think piece can be found here.


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