Yesterday was the last Full Council meeting of 2015 and it was jam packed: 52 agenda items, 3 ½ hours of deliberations.
We started with a resolution expressing our support for Seattle’s Muslim community in the wake of increasing anti-Muslim hate rhetoric and violence. The City of Seattle welcomes and affirms our Muslim residents, both native born and immigrant, and recognizes the enormous value they add to the cultural and economic life of this city. When we respond from fear, we respond from weakness. We all want our community to be safe, but fear does not lead to safety.
The Council then passed landmark legislation that allows drivers of for-hire vehicles to collectively join together and negotiate better working conditions, making Seattle the first city to take this step. We must continue to find ways to protect workers in the new gig economy where the traditional employer-employee relationship is less prevalent.
We approved a thick bill (146 pages) improving and standardizing the enforcement processes for our local labor standards. We debated nuances while updating the Council’s rules and procedures. We made a small change to our business licenses that allows us to more easily revoke these for unlawful businesses. We designated the P-I Globe as a landmark and we created a new Arts & Cultural District in the Central Area.
It was a full, productive meeting. It was also the final Full Council meeting of three of my colleagues, Nick Licata, Jean Godden, and Tom Rasmussen. Between the three of them, we are saying goodbye to 42 years of collective service on the Council. As we get excited about the incoming councilmembers, I will miss the wisdom, dedication, friendship, and passion for service of my exiting colleagues.
This month I joined Councilmembers Godden and Harrell for Brian Callanan's City Inside/Out Seattle Channel Show. We talked about minimum wage enforcement, filling the Council vacancy, encampments, and other topics. You can watch below:
The City Council today passed a resolution I sponsored supporting workers across the country calling for a $15 minimum wage and the right to organize, as part of a national mobilization on April 15th.
I’ve copied the text of the resolution below:
A RESOLUTION supporting the establishment of a dignified and robust wage for employees performing work in cities across America, as part of a national mobilization on April 15th to promote higher wages for all working families.
WHEREAS, United States President Barack Obama has called addressing income inequality the “the defining issue of our time;” and
WHEREAS, the noted economist Thomas Piketty wrote in his landmark book Capital in the 21st Century, the need to act on income inequality is profound: “real wages for most US workers have increased little if at all since the early 1970s, but wages for the top one percent of earners have risen 165 percent, and wages for the top 0.1 percent have risen 362 percent;” and
WHEREAS, millions of low wage workers struggle to meet their families’ most basic needs, urban living is increasingly unaffordable for so many citizens, and the hollowing-out of the middle class strikes at the core of who we are as a community – dedicated to democratic principles and economic advancement and opportunity; and
WHEREAS, a women and people of color are over-represented in low wage jobs, and a higher minimum wage is a powerful tool to reduce race and gender income disparities;
WHEREAS, many workers cannot fully participate in their community’s civic life or pursue the myriad educational, cultural, and recreational opportunities that constitute a flourishing life because they struggle to meet their households’ most basic needs; and
WHEREAS, minimum wage laws promote the general welfare, health, and prosperity of citizens by ensuring that workers can better support and care for their families and fully participate in civic, cultural, and economic life; and
WHEREAS, corporations have a responsibility to treat their employees with respect and workers have a moral right to live in dignity, but approximately 52 percent of the families of front-line fast food workers are enrolled in public assistance programs, which costs taxpayers approximately $7 billion a year; and
WHEREAS, the fast food industry had revenues of approximately $232 billion in 2014 and the top 7 fast food companies earned annual profits in 2012 of approximately $7 billion and distributed $7.7 billion in dividends and stock buybacks; and
WHEREAS, the growth of low-wage jobs extends beyond fast food and retail into sectors like healthcare and child care, where home care workers and child care teachers that care for our most vulnerable can’t make ends meet; and academia, where adjunct professors too often earn poverty wages with no benefits despite having advanced degrees; NOW THEREFORE
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SEATTLE THAT:
The Seattle City Council supports workers across the country who are calling for a wage of $15 per hour and the right to organize. We urge employers, from fast food chains to universities, to respond to the challenge of rising income inequality by raising wages significantly so as to ensure broadly shared prosperity that permits employees to obtain basic necessities like affordable housing, health care, and education and to give their families a dignified life.
On February 19 2015, I attended a pretrial rally in defense of workers and fellow organizers who are standing up to Alaska Airlines and the corporation’s refusal to follow the law and pay workers the $15/hour minimum wage SeaTac voters approved more than fifteen months ago. I was proud to stand and speak with my fellow “jail mates,” Reverend John Helmiere and airport worker Socrates Bravo. Check out video and text of my speech below.
Transcript of Speech as Delivered
Sisters and Brothers,
Thank you for being here. I also thank members of the media for being here, for covering this very important working class issue.
As we all know, Alaska Airlines already made their case to the people of SeaTac, and they lost.
This was a democratic vote by a majority of the people.
Alaska Airlines alone spent over $100,000 to try and convince voters not to approve the $15/hour minimum wage, but, in the end, the people of SeaTac correctly voted for $15/hour in November 2013.
Now, it is now February 2015 – 15 months since the people voted for it – and still Alaska Airlines refuses to pay its workers.
They are blocking the democratic will of SeaTac voters to protect their big profits. Denying a pay raise to hundreds of airport workers and their families, as Claudia mentioned: people who are not only struggling for their own needs, but struggling for their families, for their children. This is an inter-generational poverty issue.
Alaska Airlines should be on trial, not us! They should be on trial for blocking voter’s decisions, and paying poverty wages, not the workers and activists who stood up to Alaska Airline’s criminal violation of our rights!
We did precisely what the SeaTac’s courts should have done!
When will Alaska CEO Brad Tilden going be arrested for breaking the law passed by the people? When is his pre-trial going to be? Do the courts have an answer on that?
Let’s be clear about what today’s court appearance is about:
Despite what the courts may say, despite what Alaska Airlines may say, this is not about disorderly conduct.
Does anyone truly believe that a hard working baggage handler, a pastor – a leader of the faith community – and a City Councilmember, are not able to conduct ourselves appropriately in public?
This is not about disorderly conduct, this is about the minimum wage.
This is about worker rights.
This is about Alaska Airlines, a company that has brags about raking in $571 million in profits last year. It is making these profits off of the backs of low-wage workers.
This is about the workers who do all the work to make this world run, and who are falling ever farther behind, not because they are not working hard enough or smart enough, but because companies like Alaska Airlines think they can buy elections and ignore the laws that they weren’t able to buy.
So I am proud to stand here today with all of you, with the Reverend John Helmiere, with Socrates Bravo, and with every other worker and activist who, in all these years, have joined this struggle, because together we have the power to defeat even the intransigence of Alaska Airlines.
And let’s make not of the fact that we are winning!
Workers won the vote in SeaTac.
We won the minimum wage struggle in Seattle.
Since then, we won in San Francisco where they overwhelming passed a $15/hr minimum wage last election and the 15 Now campaign is gaining ground in many cities, like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis.
We have a Delta worker for Minneapolis, Kip Hedges, as a testament to how much our struggle is going.
We know what side of history Alaska Airlines will find itself in.
We are on the right side of history, but we also know that without our fight, without our struggle, we would never win our rights.
Thank you for coming out to support the minimum wage in SeaTac today and for all the effort you have put into this struggle.