cover image The Fight for Fifteen: The Right Wage for a Working America

The Fight for Fifteen: The Right Wage for a Working America

David Rolf. New Press, $17.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-62097-113-0

In this look at the minimum wage debate, perhaps the key line is “Low wages are a choice.” Rolf, president of Service Employees International Union 775, makes a compelling, if at times incomplete, case that they are the wrong choice. The book begins by quickly highlighting successful demands by workers to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Ongoing movements in Seattle and SeaTac, Wash., are heavily detailed, as are historic moments such as the WTO protests in 1999 and waitress and organizer Alice Lord’s successful efforts at passing a 10-hour workday law for women in Seattle in 1901. Rolf examines activism across a variety of service professions, including janitors and home health aides. He also shows how the job market has changed, often for the worse: less job security, less employer transparency, and fewer benefits and protections, coupled with more demanding work. Rolf successfully addresses many arguments against higher minimum wages, though the amount of detail can be overwhelming. Rolf acknowledges that a higher minimum wage is only the beginning of a more equitable economy, but a chapter on other important issues, including race, gender, campaign finance, and the prison-industrial complex, feels rushed. Despite these flaws, the book will appeal to anyone looking to know more about the workings of modern-day labor movements and the stories of their members. (Apr.)