Are Seattle and Washington state at the forefront of a progressive future, or will the Pacific Northwest become a liberal pariah in a forgotten corner of the country? Increasingly progressive policies could set Seattle up as a leader and role model for the nation, or could turn the Emerald City into an example of liberalism gone wrong.
On Monday, the Seattle City Council approved an increase in the city's minimum wage to $15, making Seattle's by far the highest minimum wage in the country (San Francisco has the second highest wage at $10.74). The council's unanimous decision requires large employers (those with more than 500 employees) to pay workers at least a $15 hourly wage by 2017 and allows smaller employers an additional two years to comply. The campaign to raise Seattle's minimum wage was led by Kshama Sawant, an outspoken socialist who was elected to the city council last year.
"No city or state has gone this far. We go into uncharted territory," said Council Member Sally Clark in support of the vote.
But Seattle, the most populous city in Washington state, holds the progressive torch in more arenas than just labor rights. Washington was not the first to legalize either marijuana or same-sex marriage, two touchstone liberal issues, but it is the only state that has legalized both.