After decades of dormancy, the labor movement seems to be finally stirring. And yet sadly this political awakening seems not to have yet reached the workers of the North Country.
Just in the past year, the Washington city of SeaTac raised it’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, and other locales are considering similar measures. Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant, running as an open opponent of capitalism, won a city-wide election to join the Seattle City Council. Fast food strikes planned across the country and the world for May 15, by which time we will have gone to press, are expected to be the largest in history.
But where is this newfound class-consciousness in upstate New York? It’s not as if we’re lacking the requisite ingredients. We can see cavernous wealth disparity all around us. Nearby Franklin is the second poorest county in New York state. In Lake Placid, a supposed winter wonderland, the Cascade Acres trailer park is situated just a few minutes drive from the lavish Mirror Lake Inn.
In what is perhaps an indication to which the exploitation of workers is not on our political leaders’ radar, few of the local politicians who we discussed the issue with spoke with confidence regarding the level of government at which the minimum wage for public and private workers could be raised.
Lewis supervisor David Blades said he didn’t believe he had the power to raise the minimum wage at the town level, but even if he did, he likely wouldn’t support it. “I probably would not support a raise, but then again I might.”
Essex County Attorney Daniel Manning said he didn’t believe the minimum wage could be adjusted at the town or county level, but he wasn’t sure.
“I have no idea,” Manning said. “It’s not anything that’s ever occurred to me.”