City council member Kshama Sawant announced today that she's created a "solidarity fund" to hold the two-thirds of her $117,000 salary she plans to give away "to help build social justice movements."
Sawant said that $15,000 of that will go to the campaign to increase Seattle's minimum wage to $15 an hour; another $500 will go to Puget Sound Sage, one of the groups fighting for a higher minimum wage. The recipients of the remainder remain to be determined.
Simultaneously (and in parallel to her efforts on behalf of a potential minimum-wage ballot measure), Sawant is serving on a group appointed by Mayor Ed Murray to come up with a city proposal to increase the minimum wage; that proposal would not have to go to the ballot.
Philip Locker, the spokesman for Socialist Alternative (the party to which Sawant belongs) says Sawant will be "making personal donations" to a new bank account "distinct from her personal finances" to fund the causes she decides to support. Asked whether Sawant's relatively paltry take-home pay of around $40,000 a year is enough to live on in Seattle, Locker says, "It's luxurious pay compared to the minimum wage. It definitely shows why [even] $15 is not enough."
Locker, who continues to advise Sawant despite not being on the city payroll, says that (despite other council staffers' description of him as a "fixture" at city hall) he has only been at the council member's office around three times since she took office in January. Between mid-January and last week, Locker signed in at the council's front desk two times.