Activists marched 14 miles from SeaTac to Seattle City Hall Thursday to symbolically bring the fight for a $15 minimum wage from one arena of victory to what could perhaps be the effort’s next battleground.
The Seattle Times reports that City Council member-elect Kshama Sawant is planning a push for the $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle as one of her first legislative efforts in 2014:
Sawant said she plans to introduce a minimum-wage ordinance to the council as her first order of business in January and will try to create a council affordability committee. She supports Murray’s efforts to start a dialogue with labor and business but isn’t interested in a long process.
“I look forward to working with the City Council and the mayor to pass a $15-an-hour minimum-wage ordinance,” Sawant said. “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. Seattle’s average rent rose faster than any other city in the country last year. Workers simply can’t afford to wait any longer for $15 an hour.”
SeaTac voters narrowly approved a bump to a $15 minimum and “some paid sick days for about 6,500 workers at Seattle-Tacoma International airport and related businesses” in November’s election. “Alaska Airlines and others have filed a lawsuit in county court challenging the initiative,” KING TV reports.
In Seattle, the minimum wage will increase to $9.32 per hour beginning January 1, 2014 with the rest of the state. While Washington leads the nation with the highest minimum wage, local municipalities such as San Francisco weigh in above the $10 mark. A move to $15 in Seattle would, of course, blow that away.
Mayor-elect Ed Murray has said he would support a $15 minimum wage in the city and wants to avoid a costly initiative process but sorting out exactly how it would be implemented and what kinds of businesses it would and would not apply to is yet to be spoken about publicly. Returning City Council members have been mostly supportive of the raise for thousands of workers in Seattle but have also been beyond cautious in that support.
Sawant, on the hand, made the issue a centerpiece of her campaign and stunning victory over 16-year incumbent Richard Conlin this fall.
CHS is currently talking with local business owners about possible impact from a raised minimum wage. So far, we’ve heard a more nuanced set of messages than you might expect with some predicting armageddon and others lauding the effort. We’ll have more on that soon — if you’d like to be part of the discussion, let us know at CHS@capitolhillseattle.com. Of course, you can also speak up in comments below.