Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant said Thursday that even though she spent five hours in jail the previous night, after a protest outside Alaska Airlines headquarters in SeaTac, her push to raise the minimum wage for airport workers to $15 will continue.
Speaking from her office, Sawant said “last night’s action was really inspiring for everybody.”
“We have to keep up the pressure,” Sawant said. “We’ve seen how big business has been on the offensive against workers rights. We need to defend our victories and fight for $15 an hour for all workers.”
Sawant was booked into the South Correctional Entity Regional Jail in Des Moines at 5:37 p.m. for investigation of disorderly conduct and released at 10:29 p.m., according to jail staff. SeaTac police arrested the council member and three others — a cargo handler, a former airport worker and a church pastor — because they were standing in the roadway.
The arrests were the culmination of a protest organized by Working Washington, which has been pushing for a higher minimum wage. On Wednesday night, about 100 Seattle-Tacoma International Airport workers and supporters gathered in SeaTac. The protesters then walked across International Boulevard and chanted in front of Alaska Airlines headquarters. Sawant and the three others were arrested after police told the group that anyone not on the sidewalk would be taken into custody.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Sawant said it was her “obligation as a public servant” to exercise civil disobedience and risk arrest.
“This is how you show political leadership,” she said on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Sawant said she has received an outpouring of support across social media.
“What we’re doing is helping people combat this idea you can either be a legislator or be an activist — you can do both.”
A SeaTac referendum, known as Proposition 1, which took effect earlier this year, raised the minimum wage in that city to $15 an hour. However, a judge handling a lawsuit filed last year by Proposition 1 opponents, including Alaska Airlines, ruled that it did not apply to airport workers because the municipal ordinance could not be enforced at the airport, which is operated by the Port of Seattle.
Port of Seattle Commissioners voted in July to raise the minimum wage for Port workers who require security badges to $11.22 an hour in January and $13 by 2017. Last week, Airlines for America, a trade organization composed of major airlines, sued the Port in federal court, saying the new minimum wage was forcing airlines to comply with requirements that conflict with labor agreements. Raises already given to 1,000 vendor employees before the Port vote will remain in place regardless of the ruling, Alaska Airlines said.