(The following was originally published in, In These Times.)
Jess Spear was at socialist candidate Kshama Sawant’s elbow when Sawant announced her plans to oust incumbent Seattle city councilman Richard Conlin in 2013. And, as volunteer coordinator for the campaign, she was there again when Sawant gave her victory speech eight months later, becoming the first socialist elected in a major US city in decades. But on May 21 of this year, the roles were reversed. With Sawant at her elbow, Spear announced her own socialist campaign for Washington State Representative.
Spear, a climate scientist by trade, spoke with Working In These Times about how she helped win a $15 minimum wage for workers in Seattle, which passed by city ordinance on June 2, as well as about the challenge she’s mounting against Democratic Speaker of Washington’s State House, Frank Chopp and why union support will be critical to her campaign.
How were you involved in winning a $15 an hour minimum wage for Seattle workers? What are the next steps if you win this coming election?
I was the organizing director for 15 Now, and I was involved with getting people active in pressuring city officials, pressuring the mayor’s committee to really deliver for workers. We had a week of action in March where people did different things like banner drops along highways and ride buses in order to talk to people about 15 Now. That culminated with the March for 15 on March 15.
We have 15 Now chapters in 17 other cities or states. There’s movement already in the New York City council, there’s a number of Chicago aldermen that are pushing 15 forward, there’s a ballot initiative in San Francisco for 15. So we’re already seeing movement on a national scale. We think it’s important to spread 15 Now nationally and use the same type of grassroots movement building nationally to really push these different cities to adopt a $15 an hour minimum wage.
Yes! It! Does!
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