Poverty-wage workers name Alaska CEO Brad Tilden as "Person of the Year" for accidentally sparking $15 movement

Working Washington honors airline executive for accidentally inspiring workers in SeaTac, Seattle, and beyond to fight for $15

In a first for the airline industry, Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden is being honored… for an accident.

Tilden has been named Working Washington's 2014 Person of the Year for accidentally helping spark a nationwide movement for $15 and the right to organize — by trying anything and everything to block poverty-wage airport workers from winning better wages and working conditions.

There are a few happy accidents in every corporate executive's story, but none have lived it quite like Tilden and Alaska Air Group. Alaska's relentless opposition to good jobs at our airport took them stumbling down a path that dramatically raised the stakes for workers, accidentally sparking a groundbreaking movement against income inequality.

That's why Brad Tilden was the clear choice for Working Washington's 2014 Person of the Year.

Alaska Airlines has banked record profits quarter after quarter, but under Tilden's leadership, Alaska still refused to encourage its contractors to raise wages or respect workers’ right to organize. With that path blocked, workers and community supporters instead took $15/hour to the ballot — and won. That victory in SeaTac proved to the country that $15 was more than a number on a picket sign — it's an issue that can carry elections. And that gave new strength to the movement that went on to make history by winning $15 for Seattle and taking root from coast to coast. 

For that, we all owe a debt to Person of the Year Brad Tilden.

"In Seattle and in Sea-Tac we have attempted something that seemed unattainable," said Socrates Bravo, a Sea-Tac ramp worker who recently engaged in civil disobedience outside Alaska Airlines headquarters. "We are shifting the power from the CEO's to the workers. The fight at Sea-Tac airport that spread to Seattle is not just about receiving $15/hr. minimum wage. It's about fairness, dignity and respect. It allows a voice to the voiceless. It allows us to live a life. Not having to decide between keeping the lights on or to eat at night. Not having to decide to whether or not we can give our children school clothes or pay the rent on time. As parents we just want to give our children an opportunity to live a better life than we lived. We can do this if we all work together and stand up and fight."

Just this year, the $15 movement has grown nationwide to include 10 different airports, homecare workers, and fast food workers in Seattle, Bellevue, Kent, Aberdeen, Olympia, across the state, and across the country.

And Tilden continues to inspire. With a new airline industry lawsuit in Federal Court that could seek to overturn every wage standard at every airport across the country, who knows what kind of movement he'll inspire in the year ahead?