Heads up, big business! Labor unions are taking nothing for granted and are rallying around Kshama Sawant as her Seattle City Council campaign gears up. On Wednesday, Feb. 18, over 40 union activists packed into a Seattle Labor Temple hall to discuss the challenges working people face and what we need to do to re-elect Councilmember Sawant this autumn.
“Kshama supports worker issues, like livable wages, paid sick leave, and trying to make Seattle an affordable place to live for everyone, especially low-wage workers,” said Paula Lukaszek, a plumber at the University of Washington and President of the Washington Federation of State Employees, Local 1488.
Other workers pointed out the work that lies ahead for us. A union sister from the building trades spoke about rampant wage theft on construction sites. A firefighter said that emergency call volumes are “off the charts;” the Fire Department needs more resources to meet the public need. Lukaszek pointed out that the University of Washington is still resisting paying all workers on campus at least $15/hour. And an SEIU 925 representative spoke about how adjunct faculty members are fighting for union recognition at Seattle University.
We’re better positioned for these fights with Sawant’s continued leadership on the city council. But we know that big business and their political allies will spare no expense trying to unseat Sawant. After all, she led the fight, along with unions, to raise Seattle’s minimum wage to the highest in the nation - $15/hour. One union activist pointed out that Kshama's re-election will have national implications because it will test whether we can get our own independent working-class candidates re-elected without corporate cash.
“Kshama is the best advocate for Labor, and we need to strongly support her re-election,” said Ian Gordon, Business Manager for Laborers Local 1239, one of the early unions to endorse Sawant’s re-election bid. “We can't lose the most dynamic voice for labor we have on the City Council. We can't allow a return to business as usual.”
Union activists are lining up endorsements and have pledged to raise money for Sawant’s grassroots campaign. In addition to Laborers 1239, the King County Building Trades Council, IBEW Local 46 and Operating Engineers Local 609 have already officially endorsed. Other unions are planning early endorsements in the coming weeks.
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- Jonathan Rosenblum