Bellevue police prepare to arrest eight minimum wage activists blocking a downtown intersection. 
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Bellevue police prepare to arrest eight minimum wage activists blocking a downtown intersection.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Deborah Wang

Labor Activists Take Minimum Wage Fight To Bellevue

Labor activists are targeting the city of Bellevue in the battle for a $15 an hour minimum wage.

Yesterday they marched from Seattle across the I-90 bridge, and staged a protest that stopped traffic in downtown Bellevue.

The day-long march ended with about 100 people gathering at a downtown Jack In The Box. There, eight people entered a busy intersection, sat down and locked arms.

Most were fast food workers from around the region.

“I want this to lead to us not being considered third class citizens, that we are not worthy of a livable wage,” said Asher Rosebrook, an employee of Jimmy Johns.

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Bellevue police moved in and arrested all eight. They were led willingly into a waiting van, as the rest of the crowd cheered them on.

The march, which was organized by the group Working Washington, was meant to be the beginning of an effort by labor activists to bring the minimum wage movement to cities around Seattle.

Seattle’s Socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant was there. She was one of the leaders of the effort to raise Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

She said that while Bellevue may be different politically from Seattle, there are enough low wage workers there to start a movement.

“Bellevue is full of wealthy people here but Bellevue is also full of people who are struggling. And it’s important to share that message, when you organize you can win,” Sawant said.

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The spectacle of a noisy march through Bellevue’s downtown and activists being arrested was clearly novel to some residents.

Bob Gunevick and his wife came to watch. He was a Democratic activist in the city back when it was Republican. But he says the city has really changed, and he thinks the $15 an movement has a fighting chance here.

“People don’t realize (Bellevue) is becoming more liberal. Democrats have been winning the last six, seven, eight years in the legislature. The liberal thing is crossing the lake,” said Gunevick.

Seattle’s new minimum wage law mandates wages rise to $15 an hour over a 3-7 year period. The first increase takes place in April 2015.