Washington state voters approve wage hike, send Jayapal to Congress
Pramila Jayapal was elected to Congress by voters in Washington's 7th District on November 8th. | pramilaforcongress.com

SEATTLE – The election to the U.S. House of Representatives Nov. 8 of Indian American Pramila Jayapal was greeted with joy here in Seattle and across the Evergreen State. She is a grassroots community activist in Seattle who spearheaded the defense of undocumented immigrants.

Endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Jayapal has denounced Trump’s plan to deport 11 million immigrants. Currently a member of the Washington state legislature from Seattle, Jayapal also strongly supported Seattle’s campaign to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15. She is the first woman of Indian background elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Even before being sworn into office, Jayapal is already on the offensive against the Trump agenda with strong denunciations of his selections of Steve Bannon and Sen. Jeff Sessions for key roles in his administration.

Voters in Washington state also cast their ballots November 8 to increase the state minimum wage to $13.50 an hour by the year 2020. Already, Washington has the nation’s highest minimum wage at $9.47 per hour and voters in Seattle and SeaTac have approved measures to raise their minimum wage to $15 over the next few years. The Federal Minimum wage remains stuck at $7.25 per hour because the Republican majority House and Senate has blocked President Obama’s measures to increase it.

Initiative 1433, the official name of Washington’s ballot initiative, also indexes the minimum wage to inflation and requires employers to provide paid sick leave – all measures rejected by Donald Trump who claims that wages in the U.S. are “too high.”

Voters also approved increases in the minimum wage in Arizona and Maine, underlining that issues of economic justice reach across the partisan divide. A weakness in the Democratic Party’s strategy was its failure to campaign strongly enough in every state and region for an increase in the minimum wage and for other economic issues like affordable health care and tuition-free higher education at public universities.

Voters also approved in a 70 percent landslide Initiative 1491 that allows police and family members to take firearms away from an individual who may be suicidal or homicidal. The National Rifle Association attacked the measure even though Washington has suffered several tragic mass shootings in recent years by deranged individuals armed with assault rifles and handguns. Only 7 of the state’s 39 counties voted down he gun control measure.

In another landslide, voters approved Initiative 735 instructing the state legislature to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling that “corporations are people and money is speech.”

Initiative 735 passed in every region of Washington state with enormous landslide support in Western Washington and majority support as well in Republican dominated parts of the state like Spokane, Wenatchee, Yakima, the Tri-Cities (Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick). Only a handful of sparsely populated counties in Eastern Washington voted down I-735.

The infamous Citizens United ruling of 2010 swept aside all limits on how much money corporations can contribute to candidates and nullified requirements that these corporations and wealthy individuals publicly disclose their contributions.

A torrent of secret cash flooded into election campaigns, mostly to right-wing extremist Republicans – a corruption of the nation’s political system which was on full display in this election cycle. Washington is the 18th state to approve a ballot initiative demanding a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling. Similar measures to overturn Citizens United were also approved by landslide margins in Ohio, Wisconsin, and California on November 8th.

An army of volunteers collected many hundreds of thousands of signatures to put these initiatives on the ballot – WAmend for I-735, Raise Up Washington for I-1433, and the Alliance for Gun Responsibility for I-1491. Many of these volunteers put their personal lives on hold  to get these measures on the ballot and push them to victory. They worked hard to collect signatures in “red” and “blue” counties in support of living wage jobs, an end to gun violence, and a political system that can’t be bought by the billionaires.

Washington state voters also cast their ballots decisively against Trump for president. Clinton received 54.6 percent of the vote to Trump’s 38 percent.

It reflected a nationwide trend in which Hillary Clinton won a majority of the popular vote despite Trump winning the Electoral College vote. Clinton’s lead nationwide as of this writing is more than 1.7 million votes, a number which continues to grow wider because as the uncounted votes are mostly in California, Oregon, and Washington – states that went heavily for Clinton.

When coupled with the fact that only about half the eligible voters cast ballots, it means that Trump will take office with only a quarter or less of the eligible vote, clearly no mandate for his vendetta against immigrants, unions, Muslims, women, African Americans, Latinos, and the LGBT community. Nor does a majority support his pro-billionaire, pro-Wall Street, trickle down economic policies.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray convened a news conference hours after Trump’s unexpected victory to announce that he will join in defense of Seattle’s “Sanctuary City” program. He vowed to continue providing sanctuary for the city’s tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the face of Trump threats to deport them.

As he spoke, thousands of demonstrators marched through Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Portland, Oregon, and other cities across the nation chanting “Not My President.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler is a national political correspondent for the People's World and member of its editorial collective.

He has been a reporter and editor for the working-class press for 43 years. He lives with his wife Joyce in Baltimore, Md., and in Sequim, Wash.

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