November 20, 2014 / 4:11 AM / 4 years ago

Seattle city council member arrested in wage-hike protest

SEATTLE, Nov 19 (Reuters) - A Seattle City Council member was among four people arrested late on Wednesday outside Alaska Airlines offices in the suburb of SeaTac during a protest over what organizers say was the carrier’s opposition to a voter-backed $15 minimum wage.

Kshama Sawant, who championed what she said were “anti-corporate” causes during her campaign last November, was among about 100 airport workers and community members at the rally, labor group Working Washington said in a statement.

The U.S. carrier has its primary hub at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, in SeaTac.

“After a year of Alaska’s lawsuits, delays, and political shenanigans, workers and community members have had enough,” Working Washington said in a statement.

The group said the four arrested were “engaged in civil disobedience” and had declined to follow police orders to clear a boulevard near the company offices.

Nine days earlier, Airlines for America, a trade group that represents major air carriers, including Alaska Air Group , sued the Port of Seattle to block planned pay increases for airport workers, arguing that wage hikes conflict with state and federal law and labor agreements.

“Alaska Airlines supports fair-wage jobs and voluntarily increased wages in April for more than 1,000 vendor employees at the airport, prior to the Port of Seattle taking action in this area,” the company said in a statement.

The suit marked the latest legal battle over efforts to better compensate workers in a state with the highest minimum wage in the country.

Voters in SeaTac approved an initiative last year, enacting a $15 minimum wage for many workers, but airport employees were later excluded by a court order.

Seattle is among several cities leading the way in a national push by Democrats and labor activists to raise wages well above the current federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.

In June, Seattle’s city council unanimously approved the $15 per hour minimum, marking the first time a major U.S. city committed to such a high base level of pay.

Images local broadcasters posted on Twitter showed Sawant with her hands clasped behind her back, leaning on a police car.

“It’s not about me. It’s about the workers who have been fighting for $15 per hour,” local media quoted her as saying. (Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Curtis Skinner and Ken Wills)

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