Alongside organizing around the need for a fundamentally different approach to the City budget, I introduced amendments to specifically address income inequality and the needs of the most marginalized and oppressed communities in Seattle.
My amendments included allocating funds to raise 1,500 City workers to $15/hr, sustain a year-round women’s homeless shelter and expand services available at homeless encampments. In addition, I also introduced three “Statements of Legislative Intent” to explore the possibility of implementing a Millionaires Tax, prepare legislation for strengthening enforcement of Seattle’s labor laws like paid sick/safe leave and $15/hr, and to look into a $1 billion bond sale to build affordable housing in Seattle.
Despite resistance from the Mayor and conservative members on the Council, all of my amendments passed due to strong support from community organizations, social service providers and labor organizations. The full budget package will come before the City Council for a final vote on November 24th. See below for some of the media coverage of this victory and more details on my amendments.
Publicola: Sawant Accelerates $15 Pay for City Workers
“The council included an amendment sponsored by socialist city council member Kshama Sawant— seconded by lefty council member Mike O’Brien—on this year’s signature political issue for the mayor, the $15 minimum wage. Backing off a pledge he made in early January to raise the minimum wage for city workers to $15 this year, Mayor Ed Murray’s budget only raised low-wage city workers salaries to $11 next year and $13 in 2016.”
“The Sawant amendment made good on a promise made in January by newly elected Mayor Ed Murray to bring all city workers to $15 per hour by executive order. City unions and others, including Sawant, had been urging the city in recent months to follow through on that promise. The Mayor’s proposed 2015 budget had not included funding to raise the wages of the city’s lowest paid employees to $15 per hour.”
“‘I don’t think the budget overall,’ she said, ‘lives up, in any way, to being a moral document.’ To meet that standard in her view, Sawant said the budget would need to do more to address the needs of the city’s working class and most vulnerable residents, by putting greater emphasis on issues like affordable housing, mass transit and human services.”
“The council might also vote Friday to request that Murray’s office prepare legislation increasing the severity of all labor-law violations. ‘We need real penalties,’ said Councilmember Kshama Sawant. ‘When a worker steals from his or her boss, they lose their job and likely go to jail. Why don’t we treat labor-law violators the same?'”
“Tomorrow, the Sawant/O’Brien proposal to raise wages for city employees next year is expected to be offered as part of a ‘consent package’ for the council’s version of the budget. But the mayor’s office has been lobbying against it, according to sources at city hall.”
“The Seattle City Council on Friday approved about $14 million in changes to Mayor Ed Murray’s proposed budget, including fast-tracking a higher minimum wage for city employees and exploring a so-called ‘millionaires tax.'”
“This is the first time the city has set aside any dollars for transitional encampments,” said Sawant, who also cosponsored both of the homelessness amendments. “It outlines the basic things that the encampment needs. It’s a very humane thing to do, to provide the funding for homeless encampments… I feel like this is what we came here for: to actually organize a fight against income inequality.”
“The current increase in laws against feeding the homeless makes this proposal in Seattle even more daring, and makes its passage even more worth celebrating. Perhaps some other cities will see Seattle’s homeless WiFi proposal as an example, and we can work toward making things better for homeless people in all cities.”
“Councilmember Kshama Sawant wants a portion of the potential $100,000 set aside in the city’s proposed budget for Seattle’s homeless encampments to outfit tent cities with Internet access.”
Real Change: A wage deferred
“Councilmember Sawant, in a Budget Committee meeting, criticized the phase-in of the $15-an-hour minimum wage. ‘What was the rationale for giving the phase-in to big business? I opposed that strenuously,’ she said. ‘The gold standard is getting to $15 an hour as fast as possible. What is the argument that the city can make to continue to pay poverty wages?'”