As part of an ongoing full court press by fast food workers to secure a minimum wage increase to $15 in Seattle, a group of workers held meetings with City Council members today.
They were sanguine, but vague about most of their meetings: "Every conversation with Councilmembers today has been positive and engaging," a bland press release declared.
However, contrast that to the topline of their press release, where they singled out one council member, Mike O'Brien, for being in their corner.
In response to their two questions—1) Will you support a $15 minimum wage for Seattle? and 2) Will you join us outside a big burger outlet to Boycott "McPoverty" on February 20th?—the press release from Working Washigton, a group partially funded by the main group driving the $15 minimum wage campaign, the Service Employees International Union, announced:
In a meeting with poverty-wage fast food workers this morning, Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien said: "I do and I will support a $15 minimum wage, and I will stand with you in a boycott of McPoverty."
We have a call out to O'Brien, a former CFO at the Stokes Lawrence law firm, to ask him what put him firmly in the $15 camp; when we checked in with him at a December $15 minimum wage rally—where he was the only council member to address the crowd besides $15 minimum wage leader Kshama Sawant, and where he was heckled for not locking into the $15 mantra—he told us he was still "waiting to figure all that out."
"I also want to be clear, I’m open to how we get there. In addition to meeting with fast food workers, I am also meeting with restaurateurs, small business owners and non-profits in Seattle because I want to find a path that works for them too."—Mike O'Brien
UPDATE: O'Brien tells PubliCola:
"We had a great meeting with the fast food workers today. They talked to me about how hard it is to live on the current minimum wage and shared why it is so critical for them to get a meaningful raise. They talked about struggling to support themselves, let alone their families. They talked of wanting to go back to school, but not having enough to pay their utility and grocery bills. And, to that point, they talked a lot about how, even though they are working hard and taking as many hours as they can get—it’s notoriously hard to get a full 40-hour work week working in fast food—they still have to rely on public assistance to make ends meet—subsidized housing, utilities, health care, food stamps. So yes, I am standing with these workers to call for a raise to $15 to give them a better chance to provide for their families, to save enough to go back to school, and to be able to afford to live in Seattle. We cannot continue to push poverty to the suburbs, and I think raising the minimum wage is an important part of keeping Seattle affordable.
"So I support $15, but I also want to be clear, I’m open to how we get there. In addition to meeting with fast food workers, I am also meeting with restaurateurs, small business owners and non-profits in Seattle because I want to find a path that works for them too.
"I am looking forward to the mayor’s task force recommendations in May and for Council to start digging in more. I think Mayor Murray has done a good job of setting the table with voices from all sides and yet who all agree that the current minimum wage isn’t enough to live on in Seattle. We have a lot of tough questions to answer in order to make this work—from how long we take to get to $15 to how we handle tips and other compensation to whether we include any exemptions for small businesses, non-profits or collective bargaining agreements—but I am confident we can get there."
We also have a message out to Working Washington for more details on their meetings with the other council members.
Photos by Josh Feit.