Lessons from the SeaTac Living Wage Victory

By Samantha Ponting

On April 23, SeaTac airport worker Socrates Bravo and community organizer Claudia Alexandra Paras spoke to delegates of Organize BC’s Canroots 2016 Conference about the massive referendum victory that forced the small US city of SeaTac into implementing a $15 living wage –adjusted for inflation – for its 6,000 airport and hotel workers.

Supporters of the SeaTac $15 Living Wage campaign stuff a city council meeting in 2013.
Supporters of the SeaTac $15 Living Wage campaign stuff a city council meeting in 2013.

Known as “Proposition 1,” the ballot initiative passed with a 77 vote margin when residents of SeaTac cast their votes in November, 2013.

The successful campaign, which brought together low-wage workers, faith-based groups, and small business owners, was a milestone for propelling forward the national narrative on low-income work and the right to a living wage.

With two-thirds of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport workers eligible for food stamps, the campaign highlighted some of the realities facing the working poor, and demanded change.

The campaign faced numerous attacks, including a legal challenge from Alaska Airlines, which refused to adhere to the vote. In 2015, the Stand reported that Alaska Airlines has made more than 2 billion in net profits since 2005. Alaska Airlines has since been forced to issue back-pay to its workers.

In addition to launching Proposition 1, workers ran successful union drives to achieve targeted gains.

RankandFile spoke with Paras about the campaign, which has many lessons to offer its neighbours north of the 49th parallel.

[audio:http://rankandfile.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/InterviewSeaTacfinal.mp3|titles=”First class airport, poverty-class jobs]

Claudia Alexandra Paras is a Deputy Director at Puget Sound Sage, a Seattle-based economic justice organization that engages in community organizing, research and policy work.

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