After the Seattle city council unanimously passed an ordinance raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next few years, labor supporters in Seattle and around the country hailed it as a huge victory.
“The message is clear,” said the Seattle grassroots group 15 Now (15now.org). “We can take on big business and win! In Seattle alone, raising the minimum wage to $15 will put an additional $3 billion into the pockets of low-wage workers over the next decade.”
Kshana Sawant, the socialist who was elected to the city council last fall on a pledge to fight for the $15 an hour minimum wage, was exultant. “We did this,” she said. “Workers did this.” She added: “Fifteen in Seattle is just a beginning,” predicting that it “will inspire people all over the nation.”
The grassroots coalition Working Washington noted how fast this change came about. “When Seattle fast food workers with Working Washington first called for $15, many thought it was well out of reach — an impossible dream, not a realistic demand,” it said on its website, workingwa.org. “But the bold leadership of fast food workers, airport workers, grocery workers, and others transformed the public debate and changed what was possible. A year ago, $15 was just a number on fast food strikers’ picket signs. Today it’s set to become reality for 100,000 Seattle workers.”
The Service Employees International Union, which has supported the campaigns for a $15 minimum wage, also celebrated the win. “This landmark victory happened because fast food workers stood with janitors, nurses, hospital workers, child care workers and home care aides to fight for wages that boost the economy,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the SEIU. “They stuck together, went on strike, and made their voices heard. They spoke out to say that it's wrong that ordinary people work hard but live paycheck to paycheck so that irresponsible corporations can set new records for profits.” She added: “This victory in the Seattle shows the way for workers. . . . It is a huge step forward.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka echoed that sentiment, saying the vote by the Seattle city council “will go down in history as a milestone in the struggle to raise wages and ensure fair pay for all workers.”