Thousands of marchers wound their way through Seattle Thursday afternoon to advocate for worker and immigrant’s rights — and to protest Mayor Ed Murray’s brand new proposal for a $15/hour minimum wage phased-in over seven years.
“Every year of a phase-in is yet another year a worker has to live in poverty!” Socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant, said in her speech at the culmination of the march at Westlake Park. Sawant was elected to the City Council last fall on a $15/hour minimum wage platform, and is a major endorser of 15 Now, an organization fighting for higher minimum wages across the nation.
May 1st, otherwise known as May Day, has been a day to advocate for worker’s rights since 1866, when labor unions fought for the 8-hour work day.
The peaceful march began outside St. Mary’s Church in the Judkins Park neighborhood and kicked off with a performance from Aztec dancers who continued on to lead the marchers all the way to Westlake Park in Downtown Seattle.
Along the way, the crowd chanted a mixture of Spanish and English phrases, in particular “Sí se puede!” a popular rallying cry at immigrant-centric rallies and protests meaning “Yes we can!”
Aztec dancers from Danza Ce Atl Tonalli lead the May Day marchers (Video by Seth Halleran).
The march was organized by El Comité, a Seattle based Latino organization focused on immigration reform and social justice issues.
Upon arriving at Westlake Park, the crowd was greeted by Reverend Dr. Leslie D. Braxton, Senior Pastor of the New Beginnings Christian Fellowship in Renton.
“Today we need to demand that President Obama use his executive authority to immediately desist all deportations!” said Braxton, receiving cheers of support from the crowd.
Many in the crowds carried signs declaring “Ni Una Mas” (Not One More) in reference to this plea for ending immigrant discrimination and deportations.
“No more separation of families! We don’t want our kids to be put up for adoption!” said Vicky Cubillos of El Comité
With Hispanics and Latinos making up 6.6% of Seattle’s population, and eight million undocumented immigrants making up 5.2% of the national workforce, it’s clear that immigrants have become deeply rooted in the fabric of the U.S. — and here in the Northwest.
“We’re at the point where immigrants are a crucial part of our economy,” said Sarah Knispel of 15 Now. “I think it’s time for people to wake up and accept that.”
The Seattle City Council will be meeting this Monday for an initial review of the Mayor’s minimum wage proposal.