With a massive labor strike at fast food chain restaurants rocking Seattle Burger Kings, Subways, and Chipotles today, we asked the mayoral candidates their positions on the strike, also known as "Strike Poverty."
We got responses from Mayor Mike McGinn, state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill), and former City Council member Peter Steinbrueck.
Here's what they said.
Seattle believes in shared prosperity for all of our workers, including those in the fast food industry. Too many of them are being left behind even as Seattle's economy thrives. I support their organizing effort because our neighbors who work these jobs deserve to earn a living wage that can support their families and help them join a strong middle class.
Throughout my career in public service, I have supported the right of workers to organize. So I was very concerned to learn this afternoon that some workers at a fast food restaurant in my home district were threatened with being fired because of their participation in today's effort. When I learned of the situation, I placed a call to the manager of the restaurant and asked him to not retaliate against these low income workers who are acting peacefully to seek better wages and working conditions, and I will be joining fast food workers at their rally later this afternoon.
Steinbrueck was on his way to a meeting and responded briefly through his campaign spokeswoman Kathy Mulady, who said Steinbrueck "supports the fast food workers and supports the livable wage campaign."
Beyond quotes, the candidates' labor cred is currently playing out as they fight for labor endorsements. And there's been some news on that front this week. The Seattle Building & Construction Trades Council, a politically active, 20,000 strong hard-hat worker union, had been "poised to endorse Tim Burgess," Executive Secretary Lee Newgent told PubliCola, "but then he goes and drops out ... we didn't see that coming."
Instead, they endorsed Bruce Harrell two weeks ago and followed up with a Murray endorsement this past week.
Newgent says the union likes Harrell's social justice message. But after the sole Harrell endorsement, some members pointed to Murray's 94 percent lifetime record in the legislature supporting labor, and they decided, at the following weekly Tuesaday meeting, to "re-visit" the race and endorse him too. (Both endorsements were unanimous.)
As for McGinn, whom the union stood shoulder to shoulder with backing the NBA stadium deal, Newgent simply said: "There's just not a lot of support for McGinn among the members."
Meanwhile, Newgent says the union "doesn't see eye to eye with Steinbrueck."
McGinn has gotten the nod from UNITE HERE Local 8 (which represents hotel and food service workers) and the Laborers Local 1239, which represents public employees in King County (and had endorsed Burgess).
Meanwhile, the International Longshore Workers Unions, Locals 19 and 52 and Sailors’ Union of the Pacific (which represents marine firemen, oilers, watertenders, and wipers) have endorsed Peter Steinbrueck.
And the King County Corrections Guild, which represents King County corrections officers and sergeants, has endorsed Bruce Harrell.
Big potential labor endorsements that are still outstanding include the King County Labor Council (which is currently meeting with candidates) the Service Employees International Union 775 (which is currently evaluating candidates and will make any primary election endorsements in mid-June), the Teamsters, the Machinists, and the United Food and Commercial Workers.
As for our "Strike Poverty" question, naturally, we also heard back from Socialist Workers Party candidate Mary Martin this time (she's typically hard to get a hold of), whose answers at a recent mayoral forum were variations of "Replace capitalism"; "stand with international workers" and "Read the Militant."
Today's strike, in other words, put Martin's main issue at center stage—and in the bourgeois media like PubliCola, no less (now that we're owned by Seattle Met)! We have not yet heard back from City Council member Bruce Harrell, nor longshot candidates Kate Martin or Charlie Staadecker.
Socialist Mary Martin's response:
I back the strike 100 percent. Fast food workers, temporary workers, even full-time workers, are making minimium wage or barely above, and it’s not possible to pay for an apartment, a car, medical bills, or take care of a family on that.
I think that all the wages need to be increased. I’m not willing to cap it at $15. What we call for, as you may know, is a massive, federally funded works program to put people to work at union-scale wages, with workers' control of safety, and to build the things that we need.
This is not only in Seattle. These fast food workers gone out in Chicago and New York and they’ve won the support of poeple. … And it’s an example for other workers that you can organize and fight.