Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Reason #2,312 why I love New York

Minimum wage increase. Granted, a 40 hour work week will now bring home a whopping $14, 872 (compared to the prior $10,712), but it's still better than before.

Blue Staters should focus on initiatives like these during the next 4 years -- locked out at the federal level, we need to build ourselves up in the states and locally. Initiatives like these serve three purposes: first, they show we're the folks who are going to improve people's lives; second, they promote cooperation between progressive groups and strengthen new groups; and third, they allow us to test different approaches to framing our issues.

The minimum wage campaign in NY did all three. Obviously, regardless of what Cato would have you believe, lots of hardworking people are going to do better as a result of the increase. Fighting for the increase strengthened local coalitions -- the Working Families Party, a political party supported by labor and community organizations, was the driving force behind this initiative. With an accomplishment like this under their belt, they are undeniably a political force to be reckoned with. Finally, progressives have been all over the news this week, dropping great lines like "It's a pretty good day for about a million people in the state who will have better food, be able to pay their rent, spend a little time with their children. These are family values."

So get local!

**Incidentally, the WFP is well worth checking out. (Full disclosure: I've got friends working there. But I used to vote WFP back in my political virginhood before I knew any of 'em, so I figure this isn't true pimping) It's a very effective third party, and has been able to take advantage of its ballot line to not only support progressive candidates, but also to pressure incumbents to take certain positions.

This has been possible because NY State has fusion, allowing candidates to be endorsed by multiple parties with votes from all parties counted toward their total. The upshot is that people don't have to throw away their votes to make a statement. For example, in NY State, the WFP can run Kerry on its line and progressives can vote their conscience by pulling for Kerry on the WFP line. The WFP thereby gains power not by acting as a spoiler, but by acting as an enabler -- it's a much better situation for all progressives to have Kerry win New York by a tight margin with WFP's votes making the difference, rather than by losing New York by a tight margin with WFP's votes making the difference. It's about the only way I've seen for a third party to actually be useful and relevant, as opposed to creating petulance and division among natural allies. Like, ahem, the Green Party's misadventures with Mr. Nader.**


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