Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant was arrested Wednesday night after she failed to disperse during a minimum wage protest outside of Alaska Airlines headquarters in city of SeaTac, Washington.
Sawant, a socialist activist and part-time economics professor, was one of four people arrested when they stayed in the middle of a street at the protest calling for a $15 minimum wage for all workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. According to the Seattle Times, the other people arrested were a cargo handler, a former airport worker and a church reverend.
The demonstration, which drew about 100 people, was organized after a year of mounting community frustration with Alaska Airlines, which tried to keep $15 minimum wage measure off the ballot in the first place, campaigned unsuccessfully to vote it down, and then sued in state court to block it from taking effect for thousands of airport workers, arguing that SeaTac doesn’t have the power to set a minimum wage. Just last week, their national airline lobby group filed a federal lawsuit too, claiming the Port of Seattle doesn’t have the power to set a minimum wages, either.
"The four who engaged in civil disobedience showed that workers and members of the SeaTac community are committed to do whatever it takes to stand up to ongoing efforts by highly profitable Alaska Airlines to rob SeaTac workers and their communities of the benefits of the landmark $15/hour minimum wage they won in last year’s election," the low-wage workers' advocacy group Working Washington said in a press release.
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Sawant spent about five hours in jail on Wednesday evening before making her $500 bail. Working Washington, a labor rights group in the state, covered the cost of bail for all four people arrested.
"This is about political leadership," Sawant told KIRO 7. "All the best activists in the past—and in the present—have put their lives on the line to fight for the rights of workers."