Councilmember Nick Licata Statement in Support of Minimum Wage Ordinance

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City of Seattle

Councilmember Nick Licata  

Councilmember Nick Licata Statement in Support of Minimum Wage Ordinance

Final Speech As Delivered

SEATTLE – Councilmember Nick Licata delivered the following speech today in support of the Council’s adoption of a $15 per hour minimum wage:

Mario Savio once said, as he was being dragged away by the police for setting up a card table on a campus without a permit to provide civil rights pamphlets. "There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious-makes you so sick at heart-that you can’t take part. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working."

Savio said that 50 years ago, but it’s true today as well. That’s how the fast food workers acted exactly one year ago in Seattle when they walked off their jobs to be free from their exploitation. And that is a powerful word, filled with personal accusation. But it is not personal, it is a simple condition that has accompanied the growth of our market economy since the 1980’s. The consolidation of capital into fewer and fewer hands, has dramatically transformed the dynamics of this democracy.

Our citizens, and I’m not talking about legal status here, I’m talking about the basic relationship of people to their government, have seen – not only their wealth diminish but their political power as well. And with the decline of their influence over their government they have seen their wages stagnate while corporate profits have piled up ever higher. In fact, the three largest employers of low-wage workers have all seen large profit increases in the last few years and are all more profitable than they were before the Great Recession.

The legislation we pass today is just one small step to strike a fair and sustainable path toward our city’s and our nation’s prosperity. To those who have said that the sky will fall, I assure them – the sun will continue to rise. Except when there is daylight, we will see fewer people living hand to mouth.

And there is’ much more to be done! But I can think of no other city with better political and community leadership to passionately and pragmatically continue to close the income and wealth gap. And in doing so, Seattle will show what a true world class city is: A city where all the classes live in the same world – where they receive fair and livable compensation for an honest days’ work.

We have much to be proud of. We should celebrate; we should all celebrate, because we have made the world a little better for all of us, owners and workers alike. Thanks to all who have worked so hard to get us to today’s victory, a victory that will be heard around this nation.

We are here today thanks, first and foremost, to the fast food workers who walked off their jobs a year ago in Seattle and even before that across the nation. They risked their jobs to tum this nation around. To tum it from placing investor returns above the basic needs of our citizens.

However, to date, not one city has adopted $15 an hour – except Seattle. Others must follow. But it is not easy path to go down. As witnessed by how few are on it. It is also true, that the profits of the largest businesses have soared while worker wages have stagnated. In 1965, CEOs made 20.1 times the pay of the average worker. By 2012, that ratio was more than 10 times larger: CEOs made 273 times the pay of the average worker in 2012. As a result families are living on wages that are barely above the poverty level.

These are facts. And there are other facts – which we must face up to. We do not have magic wand. But we do have leaders. I have stood with the democratically elected leaders of over 10,000 organized Seattle laborers – in supporting the plan before us. I stood with them, because they struggled hard for every word in that agreement. They wanted much more. As did I; and as do many of you. I will continue to stand with them. I acknowledge their hard work. And I will work to duplicate their victory, in cities across the nation. And as such, I will not break ranks with them and I will continue to support what they have agreed to – in the plan as it is before us, neither water downed and nor altered.

[View in Council Newsroom]