Occupy Movement Set the Stage for a Minimum Wage Increase

Occupy Tampa
An Occupy Tampa protester in October 2011. Photo: Brendan Conley.

At the height of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration and subsequent worldwide Occupy movement in the fall of 2011, the protesters were often criticized for not having clear demands or goals. However, the movement made income inequality a central part of the political conversation, and that has had lasting effects.

As Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research points out in a U.S. News & World Report article, the movement forced politicians to take a stand on income inequality and helped create a political atmosphere in which the current push to raise the minimum wage has a good chance of success. A minimum wage hike is long overdue and would be a crucial step in addressing income disparity in the United States.

Too often, street protests are dismissed because they do not have immediate effects, and later political changes are seen as the initiative of benevolent politicians. However, throughout history, demonstrations have been a vital part of the democratic process, changing the political conversation and putting the powerful on notice.