$15 minimum wage wins narrow victory; battle continues on many fronts

Updated:

Loading

SEATAC, Wash. - Workers in SeaTac celebrated a victory in the battle for a better paycheck, but a hand recount has been requested by opponents and several big companies say they'll keep up the fight to keep workers from making nearly six more dollars an hour.

The initiative to create a $15 an hour minimum wage in the City of SeaTac was certified by King County Election officials on Tuesday with a 77-vote lead. But the group opposing Proposition 1, Common Sense SeaTac, has requested a recount and is pursuing a lawsuit against the measure.

“When an election is this close, everyone should be assured the outcome is as certain as possible,” said Scott Ostrander, co-chair of Common Sense SeaTac.  “If there’s one thing we all learned from the 2004 recounts of the governor’s race, counting ballots has a margin of error like any other human endeavor.  And we learned, too, recounts can change the result.  So we are asking for a hand count of the ballots to get the most accurate possible count.”

Airport workers know the fight is far from over, but held a victory celebration at the airport Tuesday morning.

“It will allow me just to work one job spend more time at home with my wife, go back and be able to finish my education hopefully,” said Ahmed Jama. Jama said he works 16 hours a day holding down two jobs at the airport, but that neither pay more than $10.05 an hour.

If it withstands a recount and legal action, the $15 an hour minimum wage requirement takes effect in the City of SeaTac on Jan. 1. It covers workers for the major companies in the transportation and hospitality industry.

By citizen initiative, Washington already has the highest minimum wage in the nation at $9.19 an hour, $19,115 a year. The new SeaTac minimum wage of $15 an hour adds up to $31,200 dollars a year – a 63% percent.

Service Employees International Union Local 775 spent a million dollars on the election and sees it as a launching pad.

“This is a great first step but SeaTac is only one city in a large region,” union president David Rolf told celebrating workers.

New Socialist Seattle City Councilmember-elect Kshama Sawant has called for mass demonstrations to help her push a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle. Now, organizers of the SeaTac initiative have announced plans for a 12-mile march between SeaTac and Seattle City Hall next Thursday.

They’ll find support from Mayor-elect Ed Murray, who has said he’d like to reach $15 an hour by the end of his first term.

“I think I can bring business along but it is going to be a process.”

Want to talk about the news of the day? Watch free streaming video on the KIRO 7 mobile app and iPad app, and join us here on Facebook.