Voters in the Seattle suburb of SeaTac, Washington took on rising wealth inequalities at the ballot box Tuesday, likely passing a living wage measure that will boost the minimum wage of over 6,000 workers to $15 an hour.
"This shows that folks are fed up with the way the economy works and want to resolve it on a local level," said Stefan Moritz of Unite Here Local 8 in SeaTac in an interview with Common Dreams.
The measure—known as Proposition 1—will apply to workers in travel-related industries, including airport, hotel, car rental, parking lot workers—among them employees at the the airport McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Starbucks.
However, the minimum wage boost will exclude workers for small businesses, and unionized shops will have the option of overriding the minimum wage through a collective bargaining agreement. Yet, backers say the bill will raise standards for all workers.
The $15 minimum wage marks the second-highest in the United States and more than double the federal minimum wage, which is set at $7.25 an hour. This working-class town of 27,000 already had the state's hourly minimum wage of $9.19.
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The measure had an eight-point lead Tuesday night, with more votes expected to be tallied in coming days. While opponents have not yet conceded defeat, living wage backers insist their lead is too great to beat.
It is backed by a diverse coalition of worker and faith organizations, as well as Ethiopian, Filipino, and Somali community groups.
Proposition 1 passed despite vigorous opposition from big business and think tanks backed by the Koch brothers, in a town where the airport brings in heavy profits yet 31 percent of children live in poverty. It survived a lawsuit by Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association in an attempt to prevent the proposition from going on the ballot.
The apparent victory is accompanied by an overwhelming win in New Jersey that brings the state's minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour and guarantees in the state constitution that future increases will be tied to inflation.
"What the vote does is show that the public is fed up with waiting for someone else to fix the economy," siad Moritz. "This victory shows there is a movement building to bring real change for workers in this country."