15 Now Seattle’s Response to Mayor Murray’s Proposal

“Who had a quick jump to a $15 wage on their radar a year ago?”
Jonathan Martin, Seattle Times

May Day
The movement for $15 an hour has come a long way in the last year. Brave fast-food workers walking off the job, supported by their communities, put $15 on the map. The election pledge of Kshama Sawant to fight for $15 and the launch of 15 Now have galvanized the struggle in Seattle and across the US. May Day saw a huge step forward, when Mayor Murray, under the pressure of this movement, announced a plan to give all workers in Seattle a minimum of $15.

Through protests, demonstrations, rallies, and campaigning, all those involved have made 15 a key demand, and one that, at the moment, even big business cannot openly oppose.

Mayor Murray quickly set up an “Income Inequality Advisory Committee,” but stacked it with a majority of business representatives. Nevertheless, the pressure from below, the pressure from our grassroots movement, was so overwhelming that the committee’s recommendation includes significant steps to improve working people’s lives.

The fact that we have made it so far is because of our effort in the streets, not the negotiations in City Hall. It is because business felt pressured from our movement that every single worker in Seattle will see a raise on January 1, 2015.

But we have not won yet. The mayor’s proposal needs to be discussed, significantly improved and voted on by the council members before we can rightly celebrate this as our victory. If we let up the pressure, if business feels that there is space for more backroom deals to take back what they’ve been forced to offer, they will seize the opportunity. It is important that we fight to keep working people’s voice in the room, and pressure the council not to side with business against workers.

15 Now demands the following corrections for the mayor’s recommendation:

  1.  no phase in for big businesses
  2.  no tip penalty, no health care deduction
  3.  a real $15, not a decade long phase-in

The mayor’s proposal shows how businesses are attempting to undermine a real $15. Big businesses (over 500 employees nationally), even those making billions in profits like McDonald’s, are allowed 3 to 4 years of gradual steps to $15. These companies have the money; Starbucks CEO makes $9,000 an hour. But baristas and others will have to suffer 3 more years of poverty wages before they get $15. If workers also get healthcare, business is given a four-year phase in to $15; effectively penalizing those who have healthcare by setting a lower minimum wage bar for 4 years.

For those working for a company with less than 500 employees, the wait is agonizingly longer (up to 7 years!) and for the first five years includes a lower minimum wage for those with healthcare plans and/or receive some tips, even though having a healthcare plan doesn’t make the rent cheaper!

During his election campaign, Mayor Murray said that he supported the fight for 15. This proposal, while a step forward for working people, does not seriously take into consideration the precarious situation in which workers are living. Fortunately, Mayor Murray’s proposal isn’t the only option for working people to support.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant has proposed an immediate raise to $15 for big business. Businesses will less than 250 employees and all nonprofits are given the protection of a 3-year phase in. A cost of living adjustment is added every year of the phase in so the value of $15 is not lost along the way. There is no penalizing workers for their tips or healthcare. By 2018 all workers, regardless of industry or size of business, will get a minimum of $15 plus the cost of living adjustment.

Until an ordinance is passed, we need to keep the pressure on the council for them to take up Councilmember Sawant’s proposal. The first public opportunity is on Monday May 5, at 2pm, where 15 Now is calling for supporters to tell the council directly what they think.

On May 7, protesters will demand that Sea-Tac proposition 1 is fully implemented. Seattle 15 Now will join this protest and urge all supporters to attend. On May 13, a public hearing at Rainier Beach High School offers an opportunity for the community to voice their concerns with the Mayor’s proposal.  May 15 will see fast food workers internationally come out in a day of action for $15 and a union; in Seattle this will be another chance to press the case for $15 as soon as possible.

15 Now is also maintaining the Charter Amendment as a back up. We are preparing in our communities, through action groups, to gather 50,000 signatures to put a real $15 on the ballot if the council does not deliver. We urge all of our supporters to get organized in an action group and prepare to collect signatures.

It is public pressure, spearheaded by 15 Now, that has got us this far. We need to push for every step that brings 15 closer, and fight every step away from a real $15.

Join us in building this fight. Get involved in your local action group. Donate to $15 Now today, and help prepare to bring a real $15 not only to Seattle, but across the USA.