Seattle's Passage of $15 Minimum Wage Inspires Similar Campaigns Nationwide

Posted June 17, 2015

MP3 Interview with Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Council member, conducted by Scott Harris


Kashama Sawant's election to the Seattle City Council in 2013 made history, as she was the first Socialist candidate elected in Seattle in 100 years. As a council member, she fought for and delivered on her campaign promise to make Seattle the first major American city to pass a $15/hour minimum wage. The former software engineer, originally from Mumbai, India, ran for office advocating increasing the minimum wage, taxing the rich and re-imposing a rent control ordinance. In her surprising victory, Sawant defeated Richard Conlin, a four-term Democratic council member and past president of the city council.

Sawant, who studied economics in North Carolina, moved to Seattle in 2006 and became involved with Socialist Alternative, a political party originally formed under the name Labor Militant in 1986. Before running for office, the activist helped organize the local Occupy Wall Street movement when it spread to Seattle in the fall of 2011.

The victory for a $15 minimum wage in Seattle has inspired activists in other cities across the country to push for their own $15 wage hike. San Francisco was the first city to pass a $15 minimum wage law after Seattle, where 77 percent of the city's voters approved a ballot measure on the question in November 2014. In Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest city, Mayor Eric Garcetti signed their $15 minimum wage law on June 13, where an estimated 600,000 workers will see pay increases over the next five years. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Kshama Sawant about the current campaign to bring the $15 minimum wage to cities across the nation and the larger issue of rising income inequality.

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