Minimum Wage Debate Heightens May Day Rhetoric | KUOW News and Information

Minimum Wage Debate Heightens May Day Rhetoric

May 2, 2014

The group 15 Now is seeking a ballot measure to raise Seattle’s minimum wage as quickly as possible, without the phase-ins of Mayor Ed Murray’s proposal.

That group’s name was evident on dozens of red signs at the traditional May Day rally for immigration reform. The signs made common cause with those marchers, calling for the wage hike and an end to deportations.

Eric Minor with Sustainable Wages Seattle wants no change to current wages.
Credit Amy Radil

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant was a featured speaker at the rally’s end.

Sawant was part of the mayor’s committee of business and labor groups, but said the resulting proposal takes too long to give workers the promised raise.  “I do not support phasing in for big business over four years, do you?” she asked to the crowd, which responded with a loud “no!" and boos.

Sawant said signature gathering for her ballot measure should go forward while the City Council considers the mayor’s proposal.

Meanwhile an opponent of raising the minimum wage tried to make his case as people gathered at a May Day concert at Seattle Central College on Capitol Hill.

Eric Minor is with a business coalition called Sustainable Wages Seattle, which advocates no change in the minimum wage. Minor said he owns a children’s clothing store in Gig Harbor and worries that the wage debate will spread there as well. He said his four employees would lose their jobs if the wage went to $15 an hour. 

“They’re not going to get $15 an hour, they’re going to get zero because the business is going to go out of business,” Minor said. “It’s a little bit naïve for the people to think you can raise it to whatever you want to and there won’t be any repercussions to it.”

Minor said he believes Seattle will lose locally owned small business if wages go up, while larger corporations will be able to pay the new wage.

As crowds dispersed from these events, an un-permitted march was getting started with a gathering at the Juvenile Detention Center on 12th and Alder in Seattle. Some members covered their faces with masks and bandanas. They vented frustration against police, prisons, politics and capitalism as they marched through downtown Seattle and into Belltown.  Seattle police accompanied the march, mostly on bikes.

A march billed as "anti-capitalist" roamed Seattle streets for hours; SPD arrested several marchers for throwing objects at police.
Credit Amy Radil

Marcher Robbie Abalos said he lives in Portland but has come to Seattle’s May Day protests for several years. He said he’s trying to advocate new ideas -- like Oregon’s program which allows students to go to college for free and pay back a small percentage of their future income.

“Simple common sense things that make living with money more manageable, so you don’t have capitalist casualties, people who fall between the cracks and can’t get up,” Abalos said.

Later during the march a scuffle broke out between marchers and costumed “superheros.” 

Police arrested several people for throwing objects at officers and said they recovered one gun.

At 6th and Battery police said one man was arrested for allegedly assaulting an officer. Police used pepper spray there to break up the crowd. The marathon march continued back to Capitol Hill.