Hedrick Smith, Founder, ReclaimTheAmericanDream.org
The recent decision by Los Angeles to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, coming after the pioneer moves by SeaTac and Seattle for the $15 minimum, has national significance far beyond the powerful impact it will have on the incomes and lives of an estimated 400,000 workers in L.A.
For not only do the moves by Los Angeles, Seattle and SeaTac put pressure on the rest of California, New York, Chicago and other large U.S. cities to lift their low-wage workers, but action at the city level signals that the policy initiative is shifting away from Washington on some important issues. States and cities don’t want to wait any longer for our gridlocked national government. For example, on the minimum wage, 28 states are already ahead of the feds, with minimums above the federal level of $7.25 an hour.
On other issues, too, from fostering worker-friendly capitalism and addressing student debt to constitutional reform, public funding of political campaigns, and forcing dark money mega-donors out into the open, states from Colorado to Maine, Tennessee to California, Washington to Connecticut, Arizona to Minnesota have bypassed D.C. and acted on their own.
In a website called reclaimtheamericandream.org, we have pulled together striking examples of this new piecemeal of progressive change, with maps for you to see where your state stands, and inspiring models of successful reforms and close-up stories of how they were achieved.
- How California smoked out a Koch dark money network and then enacted the nation’s toughest campaign funding disclosure law.
- How Colorado won a 73% majority vote in a statewide referendum to roll back the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and restore the power of Congress and the states to regulate campaign funding and spending.
- How the little town of SeaTac created the amazingly diverse coalition of churches, mosques, unions, and community groups to pass the nation’s first $15 minimum wage.
- How public funding of state campaigns for governor, legislature and other high offices has altered the political culture in Maine and Connecticut.
- How a green friendly, worker friendly, community friendly B Corp named Etsy surprised Wall Street by taking an Initial Public Offering of its stock to the Nasdaq market, nearly doubling its price in one day, suggesting that even on Wall Street, investors like the idea of a company with a heart.
- How Republican Governor Bill Haslan of Tennessee, seeking to make his state more globally competitive, got his conservative legislature to fund tuition-free community college for any Tennessee high school graduate.
In short, change is happening – more widely than most Americans realize. Trouble is that when reforms happen somewhere, they often slip under the radar of the national media or they become a one-day story and then get forgotten.
What we’ve done on www.reclaimtheamericandream.org is to connect the dots, given you inspiring stories and calls for action, some ideas on how to get started, and good organizations to link up with. Please come take a look.