During the big deal $15 minimum wage vote three weeks ago, 15Now supporters booed and hissed during the hearing when a batch of socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant's amendments—getting rid of the training wage provision, getting rid of the phase-in for big business, and eliminating tip credit in the equation—failed.
Sawant seconded the crowd by criticizing her council colleagues: "It's clear why big business does not want an immediate increase into fifteen dollars an hour, it's clear why they want a phase in. It's clear why I'm fighting to end the big business phase in. But why is it that the council is not fighting for workers like Hannah? Why is it that the council is representing the CEOs of the businesses that exploit workers like Hannah. I think workers need an answer."
And an even more direct criticism, she said: "I think the way that the amendments have gone also shows us that we need independent working class candidates."
The pointed criticisms drew a strong reaction from City Council member Bruce Harrell. "No one’s on the side of big business. That’s crap. That’s absolute crap," he told the crowd.
Here's an outtake from an article I'm working on for the magazine right now that, given Harrell's strong reaction at the hearing, surprised me.
Asked about Sawant's barbs, Harrell told me later:
I believe she spoke from her heart and she’s very compassionate about what she believes in. I respect that, and I took none of her remarks personally at all, and I didn’t feel personally offended by what she said. And when she takes the initiative to speak her mind like that, then I’m not a victim. It’s incumbent upon me to protect my position and protect my core beliefs. So I don’t need an apology from anybody if they are speaking truthfully from their heart.
Adding that as chair of the public safety committee, he's welcomed Sawant's tough questions during the Kathleen O'Toole police chief process, Harrell says: As chair, I give her the opportunity to speak as long as she likes— and make whatever points she likes. I think I’ve demonstrated to her that I’m willing to let her speak her mind when she brings value to the discussion."