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Sawant Credits ‘Our Fighting Grassroots 15 Now Movement and Union Members’ As City Minimum Wage Rises To $17.27/Hour

‘This is welcome news to tens of thousands of workers, but we are not resting one bit. We are building a struggle to win strong rent control and an increase in the Amazon tax to fund affordable housing and the Green New Deal’

SEATTLE – Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee, celebrated the announcement this week that the Seattle minimum wage will be rising on Jan. 1 to $17.27/hour for most workers.

“Tens of thousands of Seattle workers, disproportionately women and people of color, will be getting another raise in January, thanks to our fighting grassroots 15 Now movement and union members eight years ago that demanded and won a $15 minimum wage with annual inflation increases,” Sawant said. 

Seattle’s minimum wage rises annually based on the $15 minimum wage law that City Council passed in early 2014 following a historic grassroots struggle. Seattle was the first major city in the US to adopt a $15 minimum wage, coming right after the $15/hour initiative victory by SeaTac Airport workers in 2013.

Under the law, Seattle wages rise every year according to inflation. The new minimum wage will be $2.78/hour higher than the 2022 Washington state minimum wage of $14.49/hour, and it is $10.02/hour higher than the federal minimum wage, which has stagnated at $7.25/hour for the last 12 years.

“Let’s remember that back in January 2014, when we first launched our 15 Now campaign, the political establishment fiercely opposed us,” Sawant recalled. “Because of the movement’s strength, and following the SeaTac workers, who won their historic initiative in November 2013, the political establishment and the big business interests they represent were forced to concede on $15. But they tried to drag their feet and create exemptions and loopholes. It was only when 15 Now prepared to file a citizens initiative that the Democrats on the Council agreed to vote for a $15 minimum wage. And we made sure that the law had annual inflation adjustments, so that workers would get regular increases.”

Credit for this historic victory, and for the increase tens of thousands of Seattle workers will get in January, must go to the workers, many labor unions, Socialist Alternative, and community activists, Sawant noted. “Our $15 minimum wage victory was also a racial and gender justice victory, because we know that women and people of color, and especially immigrants, are forced to take low and minimum wage jobs,” she said.

“This is welcome news to tens of thousands of workers, but we are not resting one bit. We are building a struggle to win strong rent control and an increase in the Amazon tax to fund affordable housing and the Green New Deal,” Sawant noted. Wealthy inequality in Seattle today has reached staggering proportions, a product of the capitalist system. Jeff Bezos is worth $198 billion, and yet tens of thousands of Seattle workers, including many Amazon employees, are being economically pushed out of Seattle.

Sawant noted that average home prices in Seattle last month were an astonishing $875,000, an increase of 9.5 percent over just the last year and more than double the average price of a decade ago. The median two-bedroom apartment in Seattle now rents for $2,170, with price hikes driven largely by corporate landlords.

“This is why as our movement fights for wage increases, and whether in City Hall or on the picket line, we also have to fight for affordable, social housing,” Sawant said. 

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