The Long March (for a $15 minimum wage in Seattle)
On December 5th 2013 over 100 activists marched 13.1 miles from Sea-Tac to the Seattle city hall to lobby lawmakers for a city wide $15 minimum wage:
Temperatures were near freezing for most of the morning. They gathered at the hilton next to Sea-Tac airport, getting some breakfast, hot food and some videos about the campaign for initiative 1 in Sea-Tac providing for a $15 minimum wage. I interviewed two fast food workers, one making minimum wage and the other a little over it. The first was a college student working part time to help pay for rent that’s currently being paid by his parents, and the second was just trying to survive while commuting over three bus transfers to his job in Seattle.
The march included a PA on a truck in front of us playing a mix of pop music and some classic rock (they really liked Queen). Organizers led chants of “what do we want? $15! when do we want it? now!” and “Get up! Fight! Stand up! Fight! March on! Fight! Fifteen! Fight! Seattle! Fight!”. Behind the marchers was a chartered bus for people physically unable to continue, or needing a restroom. Later they stopped at a park to eat lunch and I interviewed a retired lady marching with the group. She mentioned that “People want to live … and all this friction and stuff that you see going on, it’s because of poverty”. After that I brought out my energy bars for a food break after the 8 miles we’d marched and found them almost frozen solid. My legs, which had felt reasonably normal just minutes before felt like rubber after sitting down for 5 minutes. And we still had another 5 miles to go.
After that the protesters marched to a Wendy’s in south Seattle, where they received applause from the local workers. They spoke about the billions of dollars that fast food companies make every year and said that it’s not fair for them to pay their workers as little as they can. I could see hope in the eyes of the workers behind the counter.
Wrapping up the march the protesters marched to the International district, and stopping for a few minutes before completing their journey at Seattle city hall. They chanted, before bringing up several fast food workers and future and current city council members. Council member elect Kshama Sawant mentioned that “if we can’t pay our bills over years, then we can’t wait years for our wages to increase”. Mike O’Brien said that “you can’t support a family on $9.19 an hour”. Buoyed by their success with initiative 1, activists cheered their long march of the day as well as their success in November. But as a recent court ruling on 12/27/2013 against applying initiative 1 for airport workers in Sea-Tac, workers and activists are finding their road is much longer than they’d hoped after their victory at the polls.