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Wage-ing Justice in SeaTac


Here’s David Sirota’s piece on one town’s struggle for higher wages and the wrath it inspired from far-away billionaires.

A small, job-intensive municipality of 26,000 launches a $15-per-hour minimum wage initiative. This invites the full-on wrath of the Koch brothers, who have calculated what is at stake in even the smallest manifestations of the wage struggle.

This kind of captive-industry populism no doubt strikes special fear in the hearts of fossil fuel titans like the Koch Brothers who – not coincidentally – helped fund the opposition campaign in SeaTac. They really don’t want municipalities to suddenly realize how much potential power the public has over any captive industry, because the Koch’s own wealth is almost completely immobile and therefore it is almost completely captive. If SeaTac’s captive-industry populism inspired, say, oil-patch localities to start assessing higher severance taxes or if it prompted, say, Chicago to start assessing environmental levies at the city’s strategically located ports, Koch Industries’ captive status would give the conglomerate little choice but to cough up the dough. So rather than let the idea of captive industry populism build any momentum anywhere, the Kochs would prefer to crush it in small towns like SeaTac before it gains any traction at all.

In a democracy, wage laws are an attempt to democratize the economy. If businesses don’t like them, they can leave–of course, they may not want to leave prime locations like SeaTac, so they get to make the choice. Those who call for local autonomy, states’ rights, decentralization, should support this, right? 

But the Kochs prefer a different kind of centralization.

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