Seattle's first big demonstration for a $15 an hour minimum wage is tomorrow, March 15, at 1 p.m. in Judkins Park. You should go.
The mayor's Income Inequality Advisory Committee is currently hashing out a proposal for raising the minimum wage, and the mayor is expected to hand down that proposal to the city council this spring. The proposal will either be robust (a bill that would guarantee $15 to all workers as soon as possible) or weak (a bill that would that exempt whole classes of workers and contains so many loopholes that it's gutless). Here's a list of the leading exemptions on the table.
Many members of the mayor's committee are business lobbyists who actually funded the mayor's campaign last year. For example, committee member and Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce CEO Maud Daudon maxed out $700 to Mayor Ed Murray's campaign in 2013, according to reports filed with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission. Seattle Hotel Association president David Watkins also maxed out $700 to Murray's campaign and sits on this committee. Committee member and Tutta Bella owner Joe Fugere, too, maxed out $700 to Murray's election campaign and gave another $100 to an independent PAC supporting Murray. Fugere gave another $250 this year to Murray's "office funds," the elections reports show. Meanwhile, committee member and Ivar's CEO Bob Donegan contributed $333 to Murray's election campaign, and committee members Dave Meinert, Craig Dawson, Ronald Wilkowski also gave generously to Murray's campaign.
It's a no-brainer to say that the strongest resistance to raising Seattle's minimum wage are business owners and business associations presidents—who gave money to elect the mayor and now sit on the mayor's panel crafting that very policy on the minimum wage (undoubtedly a policy that favors businesses). To be fair, I trust that many of these business leaders want to give workers a fair shake, and union activists who support the $15 an hour wage sit on the committee, too.
Still, the truth is simple: The mayor's committee doesn't strongly represent workers.
POLLING BY EMC RESEARCH, JAN 2014
No minimum-wage or low-wage workers serve on the committee at all; their interests are represented by labor advocates and city council member Kshama Sawant.
But this march, being organized by 15Now, does represent workers. This march sends a message to the committee and lawmakers that they need to craft a solid ordinance that that creates a $15-an-hour minimum wage for as many people as possible, as soon as possible. If they don't, if they pass a weak bill, workers and activists will eclipse it on the ballot this November with a robust initiative. It would be a brutal ballot fight that the mayor and council would be wise to avoid. Polling we reported on last month shows a stunning 68 percent of Seattle voters support a $15 wage without exemptions. So let's avoid that ballot fight by going to the march and pressing city hall to pass the strongest, doable wage law possible.
WHEN: 1 p.m., Saturday, March 15.
WHERE: Folks meet in Judkins Park in the Central District at 1 p.m. and head up to Seattle Central Community College on Capitol Hill. Here's the march route.