The $15 Movement walks in MLK's footsteps

“We get discouraged a lot as black people in America,” Martina, who works at McDonald’s, said to the gathered crowd at the culminating rally of the Martin Luther King Jr Seattle March. “But, I’m going to keep pushing for a $15 minimum wage because I can’t afford to go back to school on the wage right now. I want to get my BA and get a job that helps people.”

She continued.

“All of us are out here fighting for $15,” she said. “We can make it happen, if we don’t give up.”

The 31st annual Seattle Martin Luther King Jr Day March was focused squarely on King’s fight for economic justice - in Seattle, in 2014, that means the $15 movement.

Thousands of community members marched from Garfield High School to Westlake Park all united under the theme of the day “Rise Up. Restore the Dream.” The march was a continuation of Dr. King’s fight for economic opportunity and racial justice.

On the original “March on Washington” of the ten demands the protesters brought to to DC six of the ten demands were directly related to economic justice. One of the boldest demands was for a national minimum wage “that will give all Americans a decent standard of living.” ( By the way, the demand was for $2 an hour which adjusted from 1963 dollars to 2013 dollars is roughly $15 an hour.)

The crowd grew as we marched through Capitol Hill and downtown. Banners and hand held signs dotted the crowd as community organizations from a diverse collection of labor, faith and peace activists all marched together — united. News helicopters followed and local journalists jogged on the sidewalks trying to keep up with the brisk pace down to our ending point, Westlake Park.

Carlos, a student at Seattle Community College and a fast food striker, spoke at the culminating rally in Westlake Park.

“We need to get together,” he said. “If we want to make real, lasting change, we can’t do it alone. This movement about $15 an hour is real, is concrete. It’s a first step we have to take.”

“We may have differences,” he said. “We have differences, but we are all people, we all want good jobs and a chance to take care of our families. We can do this for ourselves, for our families, for everyone!”

From faith leaders and hip hop artists to fast food workers and city councilmembers, speaker after speaker talked about the need for Seattle to pass a $15 an hour minimum wage that would benefit everyone.

Newly elected Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant spoke to the crowd.

“This is more than a fight for $15,” she said. “It is about all of us, the people on the bottom, finally waking up. Let’s get out there and get this done.”