Six candidates for mayor of Seattle pulled green, circular stickers off of a small sheet. Each sticker represented $25 of a monthly budget, and the candidates had to stick them on an oversized poster board to show how they would make ends meet on the same amount of money a full-time minimum wage worker takes home per month — about $1200.
Try as they might, none of them could make it work without skipping bills, assuming they had no families, or as one candidate suggested, taking a second job on the side. And we only made them deal with the basics — stuff like housing, food, transportation, and child care.
This was how we began our Low-wage Workers Mayoral Town Hall, co-hosted by people who work in fast food and other fast-growing low-wage industries.
Our forum also included an education for candidates, in the form of a presentation by Lori Pfingst of the Budget & Policy Center about the rapid growth of low-wage jobs, income inequality, and other important economic trends.
The education continued with a panel of workers who shared their stories and got to ask the candidates the kinds of direct questions that they don’t normally have to answer:
Alfonso, who works at Taco Del Mar asked how the candidates would support workers struggling to make ends meet.
Tracie, from Safeway asked about how the candidates would keep low road employers like Walmart and Whole Foods from breaking down standards workers have already won.
Kellie, a child care provider asked what steps they would take to raise the pay and professionalism of early child education.
Aaron, who works at Burger King asked how the candidates would protect workers from wage theft, cut hours and pushing health care costs onto the public (employers cutting hours to get out of providing health care).
It’s rare that candidates for mayor have to answer questions directly from workers, but that’s exactly what happened on Saturday. And it only happened because the the enormous public support for the fast food strike showed these candidates for mayor that they needed to be ready to explain their plans to address the issues facing low-wage workers, just like they’re expected to have plans on other major issues like education and transportation.
So how did the candidates do? The forum was recorded by the Seattle Channel, so you’ll be able to watch and decide for yourself. KING-5 and some other media outlets also were there for to hear how the candidates responded to these issues — you can check out what they had to say about it right here.
Here’s something else that stood out. In their closing statements the candidates had to say what they’d do to lift up low-wage workers, and explain how they made their minimum-wage budgets.
One shook his head and stated “I’m assuming I’m a single person, with no kids, no significant other and am living outside of Seattle. Otherwise, I just can’t see this working. This, this is real. This was tough.”