Pro-labor, minimum wage march through Capitol Hill ends with peaceful arrests


(Images: Alex Garland)


Several hundred people peacefully marched from downtown through the streets of Capitol Hill and into a Seattle University building Wednesday afternoon as part of a national day of action to support a $15 an hour minimum wage.


In Seattle, where a $15 minimum wage is already on the books, demonstrators also coalesced around local labor fights.

To protest the Seattle U administration’s opposition to adjunct faculty forming a union, a group of professors and students sat down in the intersection of 12th and Madison for about 30 minutes before police calmly took them into custody one by one. Organizers from the group Working Washington say 21 people were arrested in all.

Ben Stork, a Seattle U adjunct film studies instructor, said contingent and part-time faculty are responsible for the majority of teaching at the university but have little to no job security semester to semester. Stork was one of the 21 arrested on Capitol Hill.

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Beyond a $15 minimum wage march will culminate at Seattle U Wednesday

Activists celebrated the implementation of Seattle's minimum wage law last month. (Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

Activists celebrated the implementation of Seattle’s minimum wage law last month on Capitol Hill. (Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

Activists that helped push through last year’s $15 an hour minimum wage law in Seattle say they’ve only just begun.

On Wednesday, organizers with the group Working Washington are planning a march —  billed $15 is Just the Beginning — from downtown up to Capitol Hill. A rally at Occidental Park is slated to start at 2 PM, followed by a march that will wind through Capitol Hill to a permitted demonstration at Cal Anderson Park, culminating in a rally and teach-in at Seattle University.

Less clear is the path that the minimum wage fight will take from here. Seattle’s $15 law, which went into effect April 1st, phases in over seven years and sets a schedule for increases to follow into 2025. A bill to implement a statewide $12 an hour minimum wage died in committee earlier this month in Olympia.

Minimum wage demonstrations on Wednesday are being planned in a handful of other cities across the state. Here’s the schedule of events for Seattle:

2:00 pm: Occidental Park (S Main St & Occidental Ave S). Action at nearby corporate location
3:00 pm: Westlake Park (4th Ave & Pine St). Action and nearby corporate location
3:30 pm: Cal Anderson Park (1635 11th Ave). Homecare workers and others will rally at Cal Anderson before joining the main group coming up from Westlake
4:00 pm: Seattle University (12th & Marion, Chapel of St Ignatius Reflecting Pool). Teach-in and more to send clear message: $15 is just the beginning. Inequality ends with us.

In other protest news, a small group of Seattle Central College students took part in the #ShutDownA14 national day of protest over recent high profile police shootings of unarmed minorities. Organized by the by the Seattle affiliate of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, the group marched through the streets from SCC to join a rally in Westlake Park.

Mayor set to announce $15 minimum wage plan — with or without consensus — UPDATE: No deal

Demonstrators surrounded City Hall Wednesday (Image: Working Washington)

Demonstrators surrounded City Hall Wednesday (Image: Working Washington)

UPDATE: There was a self-imposed deadline but no deal Thursday at Seattle’s City Hall. With no proposal of his own to offer, Mayor Ed Murray said at a Thursday press conference he still wanted to give his committee more time to hammer out a path to $15.

“A majority of the committee has agreed to a proposal but I don’t believe we have a good cross section of businesses and non-profits to make it viable,” he said. Continue reading

Stranger publisher: Seattle can ‘raise the minimum wage and keep our independent business alive’

The 15 Now organization's District 3 group met for the first time on Saturday at Caffe Vita (Image via 15 Now on Facebook)

The 15 Now organization’s District 3 group met for the first time on Saturday at Caffe Vita (Image via 15 Now on Facebook)

Last week, CHS reported on the national drive to address income inequality arriving on our Capitol Hill as Senator Patty Murray spoke about an increase in the federal minimum wage at the Capitol Hill headquarters of local Seattle ice cream chain, Molly Moon’s. The local inequality debate has also been underway as a contest of words — and increasingly, actions to organize — with a push for a $15 minimum in Seattle driven by City Council member Kshama Sawant and a more moderate support for the ideal from Mayor Ed Murray who has promised community-forged recommendations by April for raising the minimum.

As several Capitol Hill business owners and representatives from area organizations met in a closed door session last week with the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce to begin discussing strategies for shaping the climb to a $15 minimum wage in the city, one of the neighborhood’s most prominent business leaders — and publisher of the Seattle media outlet that has thus far been the biggest champion of Sawant and the $15/hour wage — has thrown his $0.02 in with a call for a phased-in approach that protects Seattle’s “small, independent businesses.

Here’s what Stranger publisher Tim Keck — inspired, apparently, by this Seattle Times essay, of all things — had to say Monday morning about raising the minimum wage in his city:

It would be a huge loss to the city if we lost local, independently owned businesses that can’t absorb a 60 percent wage hike the way that chain businesses can. We can raise the minimum wage and keep our independent business alive if we do this correctly. Small and independent businesses need time to manage the financial impact of a wage increase as large as this. Otherwise, big chains who can leverage their labor and supplies nationally and internationally will have an unfair advantage.

We have questions out to Keck about the timing of his post and what ideas he would like to see discussed by the Mayor’s income inequality task force. UPDATE 12:50 PM: Keck tells us the minimum wage debate is “the city’s most important issue” and to watch for more rounded coverage from his paper:

The minimum wage topic is the city’s most important issue and The Stranger is going to be weighing in from many different perspectives. This is a big deal and there needs to be a big discussion. Personally, I’m optimistic. I think people see the need for an increase in the minimum wage while preserving small business.

In the meanwhile, CHS is talking with neighborhood businesses about the best ways to get to the higher wage in Seattle without permanently damaging the small and local economy. Here are some of the early ideas we heard when we talked with food and drink business owners about the debate late last year. In addition to concepts like tip credit, some are pointing to solutions that helped smooth the way for paid sick leave in the city as a model for reaching a $15 minimum wage in Seattle. If you would like to talk with us about the wage, drop us a line.