by: Natasha Chen Updated:
At an organizing event and rally for a $15-per-hour minimum wage, Councilmember Kshama Sawant emphasized the movement should not accept any watered-down version of the wage increase.
“I’m throwing down the gauntlet,” Sawant said, declaring herself the first politician to support a true $15-per-hour rate.
She and other rally speakers cautioned against politicians and businesses who say they support a minimun wage increase but want loopholes and exemptions.
As Sawant expressed in an exclusive interview with KIRO 7 last week, she continues to oppose exemptions for certain businesses, counting tips as part of the minimum wage, or including benefits like vacation or sick time as part of the minimum wage.
Still, Sawant pumped up the crowd by assuring them they have the momentum. She compared the energy to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
“Denver was stunned. That is how it must feel for big business in the fight for $15 at this moment,” she said.
Speakers and participants included people who said they need a higher wage.
“I work full time at a restaurant at $10.90 an hour. And I can’t afford to move out of my parents’ house,” said Sarah Scott.
But others who make more were there too.
Baba Kofi Weusi Jana, who has a doctorate, teaches computer science classes. He can only find part-time work even though he makes $60 an hour when he’s in the classroom.
Jana said setting a $15 minimum wage is better for everyone.
“We’re trying to set a minimum, where people who work full-time … can actually take care of a family and not be poor,” Jana said.
He said he and his college-educated wife must both work in order to make mortgage payments. Yet they still require public assistance.
Jana brought his children to the rally so they could see how communities organize.
The 15 Now group divided the crowd into voting districts. They said these groups may later need to go door-to-door to ask for signatures if they push for a ballot initiative.
The ballot initiative will come if the mayor’s committee on this issue does not move quickly.
Sawant’s comments to the crowd did not inspire much confidence in quick action.
Talking about the mayor’s committee, Sawant said, “The Seattle City Council has set up another committee whose sole goings on is to follow what’s going on with that first committee, and then the first committee has set up sub-committees to carry out the work of the committee. We’re going to need another committee just to keep up with the definitions of these committees.”