March 15, Seattle
Photo: Rachel Freeman
Hundreds of people joined together on March 15 to march in support of a $15 per hour minimum wage for Seattle. Mobilized by the new organization 15 Now, marchers gathered at Judkins Park for a short pre-rally at 1:00 pm, then kicked off a three-mile march to Seattle Central Community College for a concluding rally.
Spirited chants of “Hold the burgers, hold the fries, I want my paycheck supersized!” and “What do we want? 15! When do we want it? Now!” rang out through the streets.
Organizations marching included the King Country Labor Council, SEIU 1199, AFSCME, Young Emerging Labor Leaders, the ANSWER Coalition, Casa Latina, Socialist Alternative and Party for Socialism and Liberation.
The concluding rally energized the crowd as speakers urged participants to turn out for a conference on April 26 to discuss and plan for a possible ballot initiative for a $15 minimum wage.
Recently elected Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant explained that she had introduced a bill to the council to raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 per hour, with no exceptions and no exclusions.
Since the proposal has been raised, the discourse of those opposed to raising the minimum wage has focused on trying to appear reasonable by expressing concern about small businesses and social service agencies that might not be able to pay a higher wage.
Sawant thus announced a change in the proposal that she said she hoped would “silence the crocodile tears” of the anti-$15 forces. The new proposal would raise the minimum wage to $15 on Jan. 1, 2015, for all big businesses, while small businesses and social service agencies would phase in the minimum wage over a three-year period, starting with $11. There would be no training wages, no “teen wages,” no tip credit exclusion (which is illegal under Washington state law) and no consideration of total compensation package items such as free or discounted meals or provision of bus passes.
The goal of 15 Now in announcing the new proposal is to answer the alleged concerns of those opposed to the $15 minimum wage, and either silence them or bring out into the open their real motivation, which is to protect capitalists’ ability to extract the maximum profit from workers.
The March for $15 was a good start. Many more people, especially low-wage workers, need to become involved in this struggle in order to win. Even passing a ballot initiative is no guarantee, as has been seen in Seattle’s neighboring city of Sea-Tac, where a successful ballot measure for $15 was overturned through the machinations of big businesses operating at the Sea-Tac airport. However, the stronger and more militant the grassroots struggle for income equality is, the more likely we are to be victorious.