The group primarily behind the movement to increase Seattle’s minimum wage, 15 Now, had planned to fight the seven-year timeline for the wage hike. But 15 Now organizing director Jess Spear told KIRO Radio plans have changed.
Activist groups, including 15 Now, had said phasing in the $15 minimum wage would be too slow of a process and had threatened to take the issue to voters.
But now, said Spear, “We’re not going to try to move forward and win at the ballot when we’ve already won at the (Seattle) City Council.”
15 Now wants to move forward and expand their efforts nationally. “There are 14 different 15 Now chapters across the country that are looking to build on this victory.”
As other communities in Washington submit proposals for a wage increase, 15 Now is preparing for the fight.
“We know there is a city councilmember in Burien who is going to be addressing a $15 an hour minimum wage for discussion in the city council there. We have a chapter in Bellingham where Western Washington University employees just won $15. We also have new University of Washington employees (who) are fighting for $15 an hour minimum wage,” said Spear. “So there are a lot of different ways we can spread this both in Washington state and nationally.”
Spear hopes the group learns from its mistakes in Seattle, which led to a watered down version of the bill. In particular, 15 Now is unhappy with the training wage addendum that allows employers to skirt the minimum wage law.
“Training wage just got slipped in at the last minute and a delay got added as well,” said Spear. “We’re very upset about the training wages because it’s a way for an industry that has a high (turnover) rate, like retail or fast food, to really churn and burn workers.”
Looking ahead, Spear said she plans to challenge Democratic State House Speaker Frank Chopp, saying he’s too conservative and therefore, vulnerable.
“He’s completely to the right of his district on a lot of different issues, whether it’s transportation or education funding. He led the way to giving Boeing that $8.7 billion tax handout,” Spear said.
She will be listed on the ballot as a Socialist – a label she sees as an advantage, not a handicap.
“People aren’t sure whether a Socialist would be more effective than a Democrat and I think we’ve shown both of those things to be false. Kshama Sawant was elected, she beat a 16-year incumbent. Then she went on to successfully lead a $15 minimum wage movement and get it passed in record time, showing just how effective it is, not to just have one Socialist on the City Council,” said Spear. “I think that type of fighting spirit is something people want to see in Olympia, as well.”