By Grace McGee
On Monday, January 20, Seattle’s annual event to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. drew approximately 5,000 marchers. The entire demonstration was flooded with 15 Now (http://www.15now.org) picket signs demanding a $15/hour minimum wage.
Marchers wearing red 15 Now shirts and carrying signs reading “Because the Rent Won’t Wait” and “End Poverty Wages”, did not escape the attention of the local press. The Seattle Times called the fight for a $15 a “burgeoning movement” and noted that people “turned out in droves Monday at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, peppering the crowd at Garfield High School with its red signs, T-shirts and banners.” The impressive turnout and show of support for 15 Now only adds to the mounting body of evidence that Seattle workers and youth are ready to take action to fight for a living wage.
Seattle’s socialist City Councilor, Kshama Sawant, “electrified” (Examiner.com) the crowd at the Westlake Park rally following the march as she boldly called upon members of the crowd to begin organizing in their own neighborhoods to fight for $15, and reminded the political and business establishment that “we’re not going away until we get what we want.”
In another sign of the powerful momentum for passing $15 in 2014 two other City councilors (Bruce Harrell and Mike O’Brien) marched with the 15 Now contingent, and council member Nick Licata sent his support from out of town.
While the march occurs annually to honor the legacy of civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr., there are few more appropriate backdrops on which to highlight the struggle for a living wage. Later in his life, Dr. King viewed growing income inequality and poverty as the greatest barrier to true equality and full civil rights. He himself championed a $2/hour minimum wage, the equivalent (after adjusting for inflation) of a $15/hour minimum wage today.
And like 15 Now, King recognized that grassroots organizing in neighborhoods and workplaces in order to build a mass movement is the only way to win concessions from and challenge the establishment.
Additionally, much like the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s originated in the South but quickly ignited the rest of the nation, the groundswell of support at the march and rally yesterday indicates the potentiality for 15 Now to grow beyond the city of Seattle. In fact, many marchers who approached 15 Now organizers indicated their desire to see the movement grow statewide and beyond. If the movement in Seattle can continue to gain momentum, and activists, young people, and workers seriously take up this fight, 15 Now could quickly become a national movement.
Organizing Toward a Week of Action
Of course, while Monday’s march and rally were inspiring and demonstrated the growing support for a $15/hour minimum wage, the struggle has just begun. Actually winning the Fight for 15 will require the active participation of thousands.
On Saturday, February 15th at 2pm, 15 Now and Kshama Sawant will be holding a day of organizing, education, and music to raise the Fight for 15 to the next level. The focus of February 15 will be to educate and train hundreds of activists to go out and begin building Neighborhood and Campus Action Groups throughout every part of Seattle as part of building for a week of action from March 7 to 15th and a massive demonstration on May 1 that could develop into a nation-wide mobilization for $15.
Join 15 Now to launch a group in your neighborhood and build the Fight for 15!
See more pictures at: https://twitter.com/FifteenNow/media