Working Washington Executive Director Sejal Parikh made the following remarks at a mayoral press conference to celebrate the arrival of the $15 minimum wage for tens of thousands of Seattle workers:
Just three and a half years ago in May 2013, Caroline Durocher launched the Seattle fast food strikes by walking out on the late-night shift at the Ballard Taco Bell.
The rest of her shift soon followed.
Then the rest of the city.
We’re here today because these workers walked out on strike, and walked into history.
It was an act of power by these workers who had been disrespected, underpaid, and overlooked.
A strike is a powerful thing.
Martina Phelps described walking out on strike as “the ultimate ‘I got you.’ — a way of showing the manager at “You guys don’t have the power anymore, it’s out of your hands, honey.”
For Michele Dean the strikes were a way to tell her boss that “what they do is not acceptable.”
By walking out on strike, fast food workers proved that they could rise up, demand change, and be listened to. They proved they were not alone. They proved that they are powerful.
And they won.
But let’s be clear: that win wouldn’t have happened in just any city. That win happened due to the strong progressive leadership of Mayor Ed Murray and the rest of the Seattle City Council that got us to the first citywide $15 minimum wage.
That’s what we’re here to celebrate today as workers across begin seeing $15/hour in their paychecks.
We’re hearing from workers that they’re now going to be able to go back to school, make a trip to the grocery store instead of the food bank, and go to the movies.
When workers rise up to demand better, we can change history.
It’s also something to remember in today’s political climate.
We know we could face threats from DC. We don’t know really know what could be on the horizon. But Seattle can be an example for the rest of the nation that another world is possible.
Workers are powerful. We can change history. And we can win.