A decade or two ago, unions looked like they were on the way out. Downsizing, off-shoring, the rise of a technical class awash in money and prone to individualism—none of it bode well for old-school organizing. But look what’s happened in and around Seattle over the past year. Against all odds, a huge minimum-wage hike passed first in Sea-Tac and then in Seattle. While some see socialist Kshama Sawant as the face of the $15-an-hour movement, SEIU 775 President David Rolf played a much larger, hands-on role. He was a leader in Sea-Tac’s Proposition 1 campaign and then co-chaired the advisory committee to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray that produced a delicate compromise between business and labor interests. He comes across as thoughtful and reasonable, which is undoubtedly why CEOs and politicians feel as if they can deal with him. And he’s obviously got one heck of a tactical sense.
Read all of our picks for People & Places, and explore the rest of this year’s edition of Best of Seattle.