SeaTac, Washington. Have you heard of it? Unless you’re from the area, you probably only know the town from its most well-known business: the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, also known as Sea-Tac.
But on Tuesday, the working class suburb of SeaTac put its name on the map in a big way. By a narrow margin, they sent a proposition to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour on track to victory.
For the more than 6,500 full- and part-time employees at the Sea-Tac Airport, this is welcome news. From servers and cooks at airport restaurants to the baggage handlers and other airline employees, many Sea-Tac workers are forced by necessity to work two low-wage jobs, and very few can afford to take off work when they get sick.
And they aren’t earning low wages because they aren’t doing their jobs — quite the opposite. 33 million travelers spent a whopping $180 million at the airport last year. Alaska Airlines, headquartered at Sea-Tac, has posted record profits. The Anthony’s restaurant at Sea-Tac is the top-grossing airport restaurant in North America. They have more than earned a raise.
It’s worth noting too that minimum wage increases have not hampered business in other airport cities like Albuquerque, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, or Santa Fe.
Yet, this was a heated, expensive battle. In the town of 25,000 people, spending on both sides equaled approximately $300 per likely voter. The National Restaurant Association threw in $50,000 opposing the measure, on top of $60,000 spent by its Washington affiliate. Two of the biggest forces involved in the race will come as no surprise: ALEC and the Koch Brothers.
If you want a good indication of how much is truly riding on SeaTac’s $15 an hour minimum wage initiative, you need look no further than who is fighting it: The ultra-conservative billionaire Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)…Two of our nation’s most powerful right-wing political forces are joining together to fight and kill the $15 an hour minimum wage movement in tiny SeaTac before it has an opportunity to take root.
The Kochs and their allies understand that when the town of SeaTac experiences an economic boom from this wage increase, which Puget Sound Sage estimates at $54 million, it will only invigorate efforts to raise the wage in other cities and towns, or even nationally.
The Chamber of Commerce, National Restaurant Association, right-wing think tanks, and the billionaires that make up the so-called business community that opposes wage increases, sick days ordinances, and improvements for workers at every turn, is running out of excuses to keep saying “No.” The SeaTac vote is another chink their well-funded armor.