by: Essex Porter Updated:SEATTLE, Wash. —
Seattle's annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr Day was tied to the fight for $15 an hour minimum wage.
King is best known for his quest to end racial discrimination, but he was killed in Memphis in 1968 while supporting garbage workers who had gone on strike for higher pay.
So this year, the crowd of marchers slowed when passing people backing a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage in Seattle.
Newly elected Socialist city councilmember Kshama Sawant was elected on this issue and leads the organization called 15 Now.
“This struggle is about putting the political and business establishment on notice,” Sawant told a crowd at Westlake Park, “telling them that we will not be oppressed any more.
The idea is to keep the pressure on Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council to establish a $15 an hour minimum wage this year. Murray spoke with us after attending a rally before the march. “We want to help workers, we don't want to hurt business. So we have to figure out where that place is that we can do both,” Murray said.
In the crowd, there were mixed feelings about emphasizing the minimum wage during this year’s King Day celebration, “I don't know if it should be a big emphasis here,” one woman said. “But I think it needs to be looked at and really thought about.”
Supporters point out that that King was pushing for $2 dollar an hour minimum wage in 1963. Accounting for inflation, that’s a little more than $15 an hour today.