SOCIALIST WILLING TO COMPROMISE Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant announced at a rally on March 15 that she supports phasing in a $15 minimum wage for small businesses over three years (while implementing a $15 minimum wage for large corporations right away). In doing so, the socialist was also telegraphing the framework for a potential city initiative—an initiative that amounts to a political threat. That threat goes like this: If Sawant's fellow council members pass a weaker ordinance on their own, with too many compromises, activists will try passing a more robust law on the fall ballot.
But accepting a phased-in approach to a higher wage was also a new tack for Sawant. She is a leader of the group 15 Now, which has advocated to raise the wage, well, now. The week before, Sawant dodged questions about supporting a gradual implementation.
However, Sawant says remaining silent about details of implementing the higher wage was costing her ground in a growing debate that has pitted workers against tiny businesses concerned about sinking under the new expenses. She wants to focus on massive, profitable corporations that can afford to raise wages while also "drawing a line" against major compromises. "Right now, the debate is moving in the direction of total compensation and tip credit," says Sawant, referring to proposals from certain business leaders to allow health care, tips, and other benefits to count toward part of their employees' $15 wage. "That is a bad direction."
But how would Sawant's proposal distinguish a large business from a tiny one? Sawant says it is too early to say, but she must decide soon. On March 18, Jess Spear, the organizing director of 15 Now, told the city council that her group intends to file language for a $15-an-hour minimum wage ballot measure around April 1. (DOMINIC HOLDEN)
TRAGIC HELICOPTER CRASH KILLS TWO A KOMO news helicopter fell and exploded near the Space Needle on March 18, killing pilot Gary Pfitzner and longtime cameraman Bill Strothman. According to KOMO, Richard Newman, 38, was in his car when the helicopter fell on top of it and he "suffered burns on his lower back and arm, covering up to 20 percent of his body." As The Stranger went to press, he was in the ICU at Harborview Medical Center awaiting surgery. Strothman earned 13 Emmy Awards over the course of his career, and his son Dan is also a photojournalist at KOMO. There is no word yet regarding the cause of the accident, but an investigation is pending. (DANIELLE HENDERSON)