The fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage is moving from SeaTac to Seattle today – literally.
As part of an organized national movement calling for an increased minimum wage, rallies and walk-outs are scheduled today across the country. Locally, supporters will march from SeaTac to Seattle, starting at 9 a.m. and arriving at Seattle City Hall around 4:30 p.m.
With SeaTac’s Prop 1 appearing victorious (there’s still a recount and court challenges to contend with), meaning a $15 an hour minimum wage for certain airport, hospitality, rental car and service industry workers around the airport is likely on its way to the city, Seattle is widely assumed to be the next battleground. Newly elected City Councilmember Kshama Sawant – a socialist, in case you’ve been living under a rock – is expected to lead the charge. She’s scheduled to speak at City Hall once marchers arrive this afternoon. She explained her vision to Seattle Weekly last month.
According to Sawant, she intends to introduce a city ordinance once she takes office that will force the City Council to grapple with the issue, and says she also has her sights on drafting a ballot initiative that will put the question to voters, similar to Prop 1 in SeaTac. “They’re two mechanisms, and we have to be ready with the initiative because we don’t know how the ordinance process is going to go,” she told Seattle Weekly. “We definitely think there is huge momentum, so we want to get it done next year one way or the other.”
How will her Council colleagues react? “It’s not clear yet how it’s going to be because those conversations still need to happen,” she said last month. “I have no doubt that everybody in city government understands how much momentum there is for it on the ground.”
The real question is how a $15 an hour minimum wage would work in Seattle, and it’s a question that doesn’t have exact answers yet. It’s clear Sawant wants a $15 an hour minimum wage to be across the board, and not limited to certain employment sectors like SeaTac’s Prop 1. Newly elected mayor Ed Murray, meanwhile, supports the idea of a $15 an hour minimum wage, but is predictably calling for a much slower and measured implementation, one that will include (likely exhaustive) discussions with business leaders about how to do it and would likely take years.
On the campaign trail Sawant touted a plan where increased taxes on large corporations would help subsidize small local businesses that can prove through an independent audit they can’t afford to pay such wages. Sawant Campaign Political Director Phillip Locker told Seattle Weekly in November that the details of Sawant’s ultimate $15 an hour minimum wage proposal are still being worked out, with talks ongoing with various “allies.” He says there have been a number of ideas floated, including adjusting business and occupation taxes for small and large companies to help small businesses pay for an increased minimum wage, and efforts to reduce “skyrocketing” rents for small businesses that might help offset the additional costs. One thing that Locker says is certain is Sawant isn’t interested in “phasing in” an increased minimum wage over a number of years; if passed, she wants the new minimum wage to go into effect quickly.
“I look forward to working with the city council and the mayor to pass a $15 an hour minimum wage ordinance. However, if corporate resistance results in the ordinance getting watered down or not passing in 2014, then we will need to place an initiative on the 2014 ballot,” Sawant said in a press released distributed Wednesday. “Seattle’s average rent rose faster than any other city in the country last year. Workers simply can’t afford to wait any longer. We need $15 now.”
According to Good Jobs Seattle, the organization that’s behind today’s march, the exact location of the march as it progresses will be live-streamed at goodjobsseattle.org.
Here’s an estimated look at the march’s schedule:
9:00 - brief program at SeaTac Hilton Conference Center, 17620 International Blvd, SeaTac
9:30 - march departs, heading north on International Blvd
10:30 - marchers pass Abu Bakr Mosque, 14101 International Blvd, Tukwila
11:40 - marchers enter Seattle city limits (Boeing Access Rd & MLK)
12:00 - marchers reach MLK Way S & S Henderson St
1:00 - lunch en route - northwest corner of Brighton Playfield (6000 39th Ave S)
1:20 - march continues
2:30 - Marchers reach Rainier & MLK
4:00 - Supporters gathered at Hing Hay Park (423 Maynard Ave S) join march at Jackson & Maynard
4:30 - Rally at City Hall (600 4th Ave)