On The March - 13 miles for $15

Fast food workers and community allies went on the march for $15 from the victory in SeaTac all the way to Seattle City Hall - literally, 13+ miles. These are our stories. Mile 1: We start our march on the corner of 176th and International Blvd after a launch rally, more like a launch party in the SeaTac Hilton. Every news station is outside in a scrum snapping photos and video as we start our 13 mile epic march to Seattle for $15 an hour.

Mile 2: Media cameras go to live feeds with reporters having to shout into their microphones to be heard over chants and cheers of our crowd. We paused briefly and thanked an early supporter of the $15 movement in SeaTac, Olive Express. They are a small business that was out front backing the SeaTac Good Jobs Initiative from the get go.

We cheered. youtubescreencapThen, as we passed the big fast food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King we let them know that we expect profitable corporations to pay better than poverty wages.

Mile 3: We stopped briefly at Abubakr Islamic Center in Tukwila, an important base of support for the $15 movement. There board member Abdi talks to the crowd with a few prepared remarks.

“Peace be upon you, we support you 100%. We will fight with you for better wages and justice for the low wage workers. We are in this together.”

Also, news crews snagged a few more interviews with workers including a Spanish language interview on Univision.

Mile 4: We stomped down International Boulevard picking up our pace. The next few miles were a little lacking in scenery, but our chants and music and tons of supportive honks and kept our spirits high.

Mile 5: We launched our “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit answering questions with chilled fingers making the typing difficult as we continued to march in sub freezing weather. Also, City Council Elect Kshama Sawant joins the march about this time (she ended up marching the rest of the way with us).

Mile 6: We crossed onto Boeing Access Road over I-5. As we turned onto MLK we had officially crossed into Seattle.

Mile 7: Dallas, a fast food worker while hoofing it up Martin Luther King Ave captured the spirit of the march so far. “It’s simple,” he said. “If you make enough noise someone is going to HAVE to listen. Let’s keep making noise!”

Mile 8: Even though the temperature continues to drop, we march on for $15: singing, chanting and if the music warrants it, dancing in the street as we make our way up Martin Luther King Blvd. Lots of folks came out of their homes and waved as we passed - like a parade. One guy even stood by with a sign that said, simply “Thank you.”

Mile 9: We stopped at Brighton Park for lunch...ahead of schedule! News media from KING 5 to Al Jazeera set up cameras there and got a few more interviews as we all rested our feet and warmed our hands. One of the most impressive things about the marchers was their endurance. There were senior citizens who kept the pace marching alongside the children of fast food workers who would run ahead and then circle back to their parents. We set off again after everyone had a bite to eat and spirits were high as we took the street over again on our way North.

Mile 10: After we turned from MLK to Rainer, we piled into a Wendy’s completely filling it in support of better pay for poverty-wage workers. The workers looked so happy we were there, giving us smiles and thumbs-up as we chanted and explained what our movement was all about. A few were even wearing Strike Poverty buttons in support!

“We are here in support of you Wendy’s workers!” We yelled. The managers ran into the back.

Mile 11: As we crept up on our 13 mile march goal we started talking about the day and what we thought was the next steps. Ethan, a fast food worker put it into perspective.

“We deserve to be paid living wages. We’re the ones who make these big corporations all this wealth, all these profits. We are going to fight until we get fairly compensated. This is just the beginning.”

Throughout the day cars and trucks honked in support and even a Sound Transit train engineer pulled down on the whistle as he passed us.

Mile 12: We marched down Jackson until we got to Hing Hay Park in the heart of the International District. We stopped there as more people joined the group swelling our numbers. Some folks weren’t able to take time off to march the whole day, so we had set up the park as a nice rendezvous point.

We had to hand out more signs as more folks showed up. Our picket signs which simply read “On the March, Strike Poverty” were not simple. They had a huge 15 cut out of the front that lit up. Yeah. Lit. Up.

Mile 13: As we marched up 4th Avenue the sun started to set. We cranked up the noise as commuters waiting for buses looked up from their cell phones and cheered us, waved or pumped their fists as we passed.

We arrived at Seattle City Hall and quickly filled up the lower staging area right next to the grand stairs. We set up a stage with two long vertical banners that had the same message as our pickets (now lit up) and heard from both fast food workers and elected officials.

We had done it. We had marched 13+ miles from SeaTac all the way to Seattle City Hall for $15 an hour. We could have walked another 13 miles we were so pumped up.

Some Seattle City Council-members not only showed their support throughout the day by tweeting about our march and the economic uplift $15 an hour would have on our communities, but they also brought out and served us hot coffee, tea and cider. After marching 13 miles in temperatures that never eclipsed 32 degrees, it was appreciated.

After City Council-member Mike O’Brien — a strong ally of the our movement since the first fast food strike — offered his support, wild applause greeted City Council-member Elect Kshama Sawant.

She waited for the crowd to quiet down and then got right to the heart of the matter.“We have the momentum,” she said. “We will seize this moment, but let us be honest. This will be hard. We will get to $15 an hour and workers will get the respect they deserve. Yes, this will be a hard fight – but we will win!”

We’re going to see to that.

But here’s what really put it all into relief.

Martina, a fast food worker, who couldn’t get the smile off of her face, waved to the cheering crowd.

“This $15/hr is going to be great for me,” she said. “This will change my life, but it will also be really good for everyone else too. We will all do better!”