How’d Seattle Do It?

by Paul Bigman

Bigman pic

Seattle grocery workers claimed attention with their strike-countdown clock. As they beat concessions, other area workers were winning a $15 wage and electing a socialist to city council. What’s in Seattle’s water? Photo: Vote Sawant.

Is there something in the water in Seattle?

The area has seen dramatic actions by and on behalf of workers in the past few months: defeat of concessions at major grocery chains, Boeing workers’ big “no” vote on concessions, a $15 minimum wage voted in for airport workers, and election of a socialist to city council—a candidate who made a city $15 minimum the centerpiece of her campaign.

Activists are hoping what’s happened here has implications far beyond the Puget Sound.

“We may be ahead of some areas, but we’re not unique,” predicted Dave Freiboth, head of Seattle’s county labor council. “This kind of change is coming nationally.”

In October, two hours before a regional grocery strike would have jumped off, 30,000 Food and Commercial Workers and Teamsters won a contract that defeated onerous health care concessions, and more, that had been forced on their co-workers in other states.

A few weeks later, Boeing Machinists (IAM) turned down an extortionist demand to freeze pension contributions for current workers, abandon defined-benefit pensions for new hires, and pay new hires $21,000 below current workers. Boeing had demanded an eight-year contract extension to keep work on the 777X airplane in Washington. Despite extraordinary intervention by the IAM International, the 31,000 Boeing workers voted “no” two to one. Continue reading