Kshama Sawant – 15 Months Later, Alaska Airlines is Still Refusing to Pay $15/hr

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.

Solidarity!

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