• Minimum wage leader's next campaign

    By: Essex Porter

    Updated:

    Kshama Sawant ignited the higher wage movement -- when she won election to the Seattle City Council with $15 an hour at the center of her campaign -- then kept the pressure on until it became law.

    In an interview, she called it an historic victory.

    “Not only because it will be a tangible and substantial improvement in the standards of living, but because of what it represents: when you fight you win.”

    It’s victory that could spread statewide. In Olympia Monday, the state Senate heard public testimony on the $12 minimum that the House has already passed.

     “I have talked to at least three business owners in Pullman, however, that this would be the tipping point that would cause them to close," said Pullman restaurant owner JoReen Brinkman.

    There are many critics in Seattle, too. Some believe $15 an hour is too much for jobs like fast food cook.

    “I just feel like it's a sense of entitlement almost. People feel they deserve $15 an hour when they don't have $15 worth of skills,” said social worker Shannon McClain.

    Sawant says all workers must fight for higher wages together.

    “We all agree no matter what our education attainment, if we contribute to society, then we deserve a living wage,” she said.

    But she is scornful of Ivar's Restaurants plan to pay servers at the sit-down restaurants $15 immediately -- but tell customers to stop tipping servers.

    “If you are (in) solidarity with workers and you want to leave tips, go to restaurants that allow you to leave tips. Let's show Ivar's a lesson,” said Sawant.

    Sawant says she’s tackling housing costs next, with a proposal to exempt cities like Seattle from the statewide ban on rent control and use a billion dollars in bonds to build affordable housing.

    “Look at the city, the rent is out of control.”

    Sawant has scheduled a big public hearing on affordable housing for Thursday, April 23, at Seattle City Hall.

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