Major Breakthrough to Raise Minimum Wage to $15/hr in Seattle Sends Strong Signal Nationwide

by Community Change | May 1, 2014 2:23 pm

For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 1, 2014
Contact: Donna De La Cruz,
[email protected], (202) 339-9331

Momentum for Bold Increases in Wages and Working Conditions Growing Across the Country

(WASHINGTON)—The city of Seattle’s compromise deal announced today to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour reflects the growing grassroots movement nationwide to boost wages.

“Today is a major breakthrough for millions of American struggling to break out of the trap of low-wages,” said Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change.  “Seattle’s move toward a $15 an hour minimum wage is a bold example of the momentum we are seeing across the country to address income inequality. Those at the very top – the ones hoarding all the riches – have built a system in which their wealth is created by people who are paid meager wages under despairing rules and conditions. Wall Street, big banks, corporate CEOS and many of the wealthiest members of our society reap huge rewards because they pay poverty wages. Fights across America for higher wages, better working conditions and benefits are about building an economy that creates prosperity for all, especially the 106 million Americans who live at or near the federal poverty line.”

Community organizations such as OneAmerica and Washington Community Action Network, and labor unions including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) have been critical in the fight to address income inequality. Pramila Jayapal, Distinguished Taconic Fellow with the Center for Community Change, is the founder of OneAmerica and was on Mayor Ed Murray’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee regarding the minimum wage issue.

“These organizations are successful because they give real power and a strong voice to the people who are working hard but still struggling to make it in America,” Bhargava said. “This win in Seattle is a huge victory for a nascent but growing movement and the Center for Community Change will continue to work with groups who are battling for higher wages, better work hours and fair benefits in Seattle and every community across America,” Bhargava said.

Pina Orsillo Belgrano, 58, is a single mother from Seattle who works in the hotel industry after losing her job in the recession. She has been struggling to save her home from foreclosure while keeping her son enrolled at the University of Washington. Belgrano said: “I lost my job in the recession and, even with a bachelor’s degree and decades of experience, the only work I could find was a low-wage job in the hotel industry. A raise to $15 an hour would mean that I could save my home.”

The Seattle decision comes a day after Republican U.S. Senators blocked a vote on raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour event though the bill had enough support to pass.  Although the fight to increase the minimum wage is stalling in Congress, more cities and states are carrying the banner for working families. To date, 21 states have minimum wage levels higher than $7.25 an hour and 29 others are considering increases thanks to the work of many groups in these states who continue to advocate for a fair minimum wage.

“For those working to keep people trapped in poverty, whether they are in the US Congress, part of the vast lobbying arm of Wall Street or simply a mouthpiece in America’s corporate-owned media, the message is clear: working people are rising, speaking with a common voice and they will not be denied their basic right to be paid what they have rightfully earned,” said Rich Stolz, Executive Director of OneAmerica.

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