Now that the $15 minimum wage for airport-related workers has been upheld by King County Elections, attention turns to Seattle, where hundreds of fast-food workers and other supporters of the higher minimum rallied last week with lit-up signs emblazoned "15."
Their hero, socialist city council member-elect Kshama Sawant, spoke to elated cheers and applause, yelling hoarsely after a day of marching, "We can't wait for a few years because the rent is due now!" "What I don’t want to do is just basically have an excuse to create a march. If I’m marching, I want to know where I’m going."–Seattle city council member Nick Licata
Sawant's rallying cry may be tempered, however, by the reality of politics at city hall, where even her closest ally, council member Mike O'Brien, hedged on the question of whether he supports an immediate, citywide increase to a $15 minimum with no exceptions ("Are you guys ready to have a conversation in the city about what a fair wage is?" he stopped short at the rally, drawing yells of "$15!").
Another likely Sawant ally, former commune dweller Nick Licata, who used to be the Kshama Sawant of the council, dropped by the rally only briefly, begging off due to a family obligation.
We asked Licata what he thought of the $15 demand, and whether $15 was reasonable right away. Here's his somewhat equivocal answer.
Yeah, why not? I’m in favor of it. Let’s get to 15.
But whatever we can get to, I don’t want to be boxed in by a slogan. My goal is to work with the community to get there, not to be the sole drummer in the parade. Look at Washington D.C, what they just did. [The Washington, D.C. city council just unanimously endorsed increasing the district's minimum wage to $11.50 an hour]. They basically increased their minimum wage 40 percent by 2016. If we did the same thing, we’d end up with 13.20 or something of that sort.
Other cities are struggling with this very same issue, and the more cities that increase the minimum wage the better it’s going to be for the country, because we need to do it on a federal level. And if Seattle can get a $15 minimum wage passed, that’s going to help the nation.
What I don’t want to do is just basically have an excuse to create a march. If I’m marching, I want to know where I’m going.