Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s statement on City Light CEO salary


Councilmember Kshama Sawant

Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s statement on City Light CEO salary

SEATTLECity Councilmember Kshama Sawant issued the following statement regarding the Mayor’s announcement he would not raise the salary of Seattle City Light CEO, Jorge Carrasco:

"In the face of increasing controversy and public outrage, Mayor Murray has decided not to give Jorge Carrasco a raise ‘at this time.’ This striking reversal is the outcome of strong public pressure on the City’s political establishment and a sign of the disgust working people feel about executive excess. The lowest paid workers in Seattle must wait years to achieve even a basic living wage, while a massive raise of up to $120,000 a year was being considered for the highest-paid city employee.

"This reversal is also a direct result of having a socialist elected representative, without which this issue would have been business-as-usual in City Hall. I first brought this issue to attention in committee, and I thank Councilmember Nick Licata for joining me to vote No in Full Council.

"My opposition to Carrasco’s salary increase does not imply any support for right-wing rhetoric against the public sector. In fact, working people need to defiantly oppose corporate politicians who condone and promote Wall-Street-style CEO salaries within the public sector. Salaries of all City employees need to be capped at no more than $150,000, and all City workers should be brought up to at least $15/hour immediately. While the City pays me $117,000 as a Councilmember, I keep only $40,000 a year and use the rest to build social justice movements.

"Furthermore, the argument made by Councilmembers that this salary increase to Carrasco was motivated by the need to retain ‘talent’ is belied by the recent revelations of blatant CEO image-polishing and the copper thefts from City Light.

"This development is yet another example of how having even one independent, working-class fighter in an otherwise thoroughly corporatized political environment can succeed in holding the establishment accountable. Imagine what would be possible if we had more independent left candidates, not just in Seattle, but statewide and nationally."

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Councilmember Kshama Sawant Statement in Support of Minimum Wage Ordinance


Councilmember Kshama Sawant

Councilmember Kshama Sawant Statement in Support of Minimum Wage Ordinance

Final Speech As Delivered

SEATTLECouncilmember Kshama Sawant delivered the following speech today in support of the Council’s adoption of a $15 per hour minimum wage:

A half century ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for a living wage at the March on Washington, where a quarter of a million people, mostly black workers, demanded their rights. They called for $2 per hour. In today’s dollars, that is the same number we have just won – Dr. King and his movement had launched the first fight for 15, at the same time they fought against the brutal racism of Jim Crow.

With this vote, Seattle will become the first major city in the U.S. to win a $15 per hour minimum wage.

Our victory comes less than six months after the launch of 15 Now, after the election of the first socialist to the city council in 100 years. We built on the work of labor in SeaTac, on the growing movement of the fast food workers which began in New York one year before. We worked alongside organized labor in Seattle, which campaigned continuously for 15.

We forced the city establishment to lift the wages of 100,000 low wage workers in Seattle – to transfer $3 billion from business to workers at the bottom of the wage scale over the next 10 years.

We did this. Workers did this.

Today’s first victory for 15 will inspire people all over the nation.

We need to recognize what happened here in Seattle that led us to this point.

15 was not won at the bargaining table as a so-called "sensible compromise" between labor and business. It was not the result of the generosity of corporations or their Democratic Party representatives in government.

What was voted on in the city council was a reflection of what workers and the labor movement won on the street over this last year.

In 15 Now, groups of workers and activists met weekly, held mass conferences and debates, organized rallies, and engaged thousands of people around the city about the need for a living wage. We won the public debate – in a recent poll 74% of voters now support 15. We defeated the arguments of business in the corporate media.

Let this be our guide. At every stage of the struggle, corporations and their representatives have sought to undermine our efforts. And future victories will also depend on the organization of working people fighting for our interests.

This is also why we need an alternative to the two parties representing business. Despite the Democratic Party posing as a progressive alternative to the Republicans – we can see here in Seattle how it was only with the election of a socialist that the establishment was forced to pass real gains for workers. We need many more independent and socialist candidates to turn the tide against corporate politics.

Our victory is not complete, but we have fought until the last day, the last hour, against all the loopholes demanded by business. I thank those councilmembers who voted for my pro-worker amendments.

We’ll come back to the questions of tip penalty, the long-phase in, the training wage.

What was lost through corporate loopholes is a reminder to us that outcomes are determined by the balance of forces. It is a reminder that we need to continue to build an even more powerful movement. A movement strong enough to overcome the counterattacks from business. A movement that goes on from 15 to win further gains to address the stunning income inequality workers face – a movement that will fight for rent control, taxes on millionaires & big developers, and full funding for all public services.

I appeal to all workers to join the movement. The attempts of business to undermine 15 will continue, well after this vote today. They may submit legal challenges, they may challenge at the ballot, they may wait for their moment to make the "temporary" tip penalty permanent.

But today’s message is clear: If we organize as workers, with a socialist strategy, we can tackle the chasm of income inequality and social injustice.

15 in Seattle is just a beginning. We have an entire world to win.


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City Council Approves $15/hour Minimum Wage in Seattle


Councilmember Sally J. Clark
Council President Tim Burgess
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw
Councilmember Jean Godden
Councilmember Bruce Harrell
Councilmember Nick Licata
Councilmember Mike O’Brien
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen
Councilmember Kshama Sawant

City Council Approves $15/hour Minimum Wage in Seattle
Historic vote addresses income inequality

SEATTLESeattle City Council unanimously approved the adoption of a $15 per hour minimum wage today, making Seattle the first major city in America to take such an action to address income inequality. Beginning April 1, 2015, the legislation will phase-in a $15 per hour minimum wage annually over 3 to 7 years, depending on employer size.

“Today we answer President Obama’s call and the moral call to address the plight of low wage workers,” said Councilmember Sally J. Clark, chair of the City Council’s Select Committee on the Minimum Wage and Income Inequality. “Seattle’s new law puts low wage workers on a path to $15 and does it in a way that respects Seattle’s love for local businesses and world-leading innovation.”

Twenty-four percent of Seattle workers earn hourly wages of $15 per hour or less, and approximately 13.6 percent of the Seattle community lives below the federal poverty level, according to a University of Washington study. Washington State’s minimum wage is currently $9.32 per hour. Effective April 1, 2015, the minimum wage in Seattle will be $10.00 or $11.00 per hour depending on employer size. A chart illustrating the subsequent annual minimum wage increase based on employer size is available here.

“With inaction at the state and national levels, it’s time for cities to demonstrate bold and necessary leadership to address income inequality,” said Council President Tim Burgess. “Seattle has found a workable and careful compromise that recognizes both the harm caused by stagnant wages and the harm to local businesses should we move forward too quickly.”

Mayor Ed Murray forwarded a proposal to the City Council after it had been developed by a stakeholder group, which included representatives of Seattle’s business, labor and non-profit communities and three councilmembers. The Seattle City Council, reviewed relevant studies, held public forums for feedback, hosted industry-specific discussions, considered the Mayor’s proposal and heard thousands of community comments over the first half of 2014.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said, “In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, ‘The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.’ Today, we have made true progress so people can work and live in our city.”

“Today is an unprecedented step forward for working families in Seattle,” said Councilmember Jean Godden. “Especially for women who tend to make up more than half of low wage workers, a higher minimum wage is a powerful tool to reduce income inequality based on gender.”

“This is a historic moment: the culmination of workers banding together over a year ago to raise the national debate on income inequality. Seattle listened and today, we are acting to help workers earn a living wage,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell. “This is one of the most important race and social justice-related legislation enacted, most positively impacting people of color, women and immigrants. We must continue working with small businesses and the ethnic minority community to support their growth and help them succeed.”

“Council’s next critical step is to legislate the enforcement of this new law with the creation of an Office of Labor Standards Enforcement,” said Councilmember Nick Licata. “Responsible businesses who follow the law must not be at a competitive disadvantage with those businesses not administering fair labor practices.”

“I am honored to cast my vote today in support of the tens of thousands of working people in Seattle who are about to get a much needed raise,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “Almost a year ago to the day, I escorted fast food workers back to their jobs to ensure they would not face retaliation for striking for better pay, and thanks to the movement they started we are making history today.”

“This legislation sends a message heard around the world: Seattle wants to stop the race to the bottom in wages and that we deplore the growth in income inequality and the widening gap between the rich and the poor,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen.

“This is a victory for our movement – it shows the power of working people when we organize and fight for our rights,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant. “It will inspire millions of people all over the nation to build on this historic step forward. Fifteen in Seattle is just the beginning.”

The legislation will take effect thirty days after Mayor Ed Murray signs the legislation into law. Seattle has a population of approximately 634,535 in 2012, according to the United States Census and is approximately 84 square miles in land area.

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Sawant says, “Big businesses need to be exposed. They are hiding behind small businesses in the debate on $15/hr.”


Councilmember Kshama Sawant

Sawant says, "Big businesses need to be exposed. They are hiding behind small businesses in the debate on $15/hr."

SEATTLECouncilmember Kshama Sawant offered the following statement in response to favorable reactions to her proposal of a new specific policy direction for $15/hour minimum wage. The proposal was announced as part of her speech last Saturday, March 15th:

"It’s been said before, but worth re-stating: we need a full minimum of $15/hour for all of Seattle’s workers. Small nonprofits that provide essential human services have been struggling with stagnant government funding. The best path is to tax the rich and big businesses to ensure that human services are fully funded, and the employees of micro businesses and human service nonprofits also get a full $15/hour.

"Conversations and newspaper columns have brought up carve-outs like tip credit, total compensation, training wages and teenage wages, which are completely contrary to the interests of workers. Big businesses have not shown their faces in the debate, and they are glad as long as they can hide behind small businesses.

"The Mayor has expressed concerns about ‘very small businesses’. If the concern is about small businesses, then I would assume Mayor Murray agrees with me that big businesses can pay $15/hour now.

"To help the Mayor’s Advisory Committee begin to make some progress, I have proposed we separate out the issue of how to implement the $15/hour minimum wage for big businesses versus non-profits and small businesses. I am proposing that big business pay $15/hour starting January 1, 2015, with a yearly cost of living increase and no tip credit, no total compensation, no teenage wages and no training wages.

"Economic studies show that small local businesses benefit from higher wages to workers, who are also consumers. To make progress, however, I am proposing a three-year phase-in for small businesses and human service providers, starting with an $11/hour minimum wage on January 1, 2015 and increasing up to $15/hour in three years with a yearly cost of living increase.

"Offering a phase-in to small businesses will force the discussion to focus on big businesses. People should not forget, though, that the cost of living for workers is no different regardless of the size of the company.

"My proposal has been sent to the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee. I have asked them to discuss it as the main agenda item at their next meeting on March 26th. I welcome the call by the grassroots campaign 15 Now for workers to come together on April 26th to review the progress by the Mayor’s committee. This is an example of working class activism and democracy that I hope will spread throughout the country.”

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Sawant, Godden Recognize Women’s History Month


Councilmember Kshama Sawant
Councilmember Jean Godden

Sawant, Godden Recognize Women’s History Month
Fight for Economic Opportunities, Reduce the Gender Gap

SEATTLE — Councilmember Kshama Sawant and Councilmember Jean Godden issued the following statement regarding Women’s History Month observed in March and the celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8. The Councilmembers salute all the women who struggle and have struggled for women’s rights around the globe, and the fight to reduce the gender gap to provide economic opportunities for women:

"Every gain for women’s rights was won through struggle. Our fight for a $15/hour minimum wage in Seattle is fundamentally a fight for women’s rights," said Sawant. "Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women and one in five are mothers. Women are nearly two thirds of tipped workers and we must fight for a living wage for all workers, not based on the generosity of others."

Sawant cited the findings of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United: "Lowering the minimum wage for tipped workers is essentially creating legalized gender inequity in the restaurant industry and allowing a tip penalty would exacerbate the gender wage gap. Working women and people of color need $15/hour without tip penalties and we need it now."

The Restaurant Opportunities Center United also points out that female servers are paid 68 percent of the wage received by males, whereas African American women workers are making only 60 percent of what their male counterparts earn."A higher minimum wage is a powerful tool towards reducing income disparity between women and men," says Councilmember Godden (chair of the Council Committee overseeing Gender Equity. "Our city wants to be the best at bridging this gap; right now we have one of the worst gender wage gaps in the country."

[View in Council Newsroom]