Working together with the labor and progressive movements we have gotten more done for working people than many corporate politicians have accomplished in decades.
Together we passed a truly historic $15 minimum wage, only six months after I took office. This will lift up 100,000 low paid workers, 25% of Seattle’s workforce, adding an estimated $2.5 billion to their paychecks over the next 10 years. While not being everything we wanted, our victory has helped inspire a growing movement for $15 in cities and states across the country.
When the Seattle Housing Authority announced a plan for a 400% rent hike for low income housing units I helped to forge an alliance of tenants and community organizations to campaign against this outrageous proposal.
East African community leader, Ubah Warsame:
We fought back and made it impossible for the Seattle Housing Authority, the Mayor, and the City Council to ignore us. Kshama Sawant was with us every step of the way. We need more elected officials like her, willing to take a stand against insane rent hikes.
When the Mayor brought forward his proposal for the city budget I refused to go along with another business-as-usual budget that did not allocate the necessary resources to end skyrocketing rents, reverse the growth in homelessness, or adequately fund social services. I believe the city's budget should prioritize the needs of working and middle class people, not big corporate interests. We need to find the needed revenue by taxing the rich and big business, and demanding adequate support from the state and federal government.
During the City budget discussions I brought together a broad coalition of unions, affordable housing advocates, and progressive organizations to demand a People’s Budget which succeeded in winning a number of significant improvements, including millions in increased funding for social services.
Paul Bigman, a member of the Martin Luther King County Jr. Labor Council Executive Board:
The coalition of labor and community activists that Kshama helped to bring together won a host of improvements in the City budget - $1.6 million in raises for low-paid City of Seattle workers, stronger enforcement of labor laws, and funding for a year-round low-barrier women’s homeless shelter. Kshama was also key in helping us to finally win funding for basic services for the city’s growing homeless encampments after years of needless delays.
I was also able to pass resolutions for the City Council to investigate creating a Millionaires Tax and building thousands of high quality city-owned housing units.
Indigenous activists had longed demanded that the City celebrate Indigenous People’s Day on the day celebrated federally as Columbus Day. After my election indigenous activists reached out to my office asking for help establishing Indigenous People’s Day. Together we put this issue of cultural respect in the public spotlight and finally succeeded in winning passage of Indigenous People’s Day in Seattle, highlighting the genocide unleashed by colonialism and the need to fight against the continued poverty and marginalization of indigenous communities.
As chair of the City Council committee which oversees City Light (the publicly owned Seattle electrical utility) I led the way in defeating an scandalous proposal to further increase the already excessive pay for the City Light CEO. I also stood up against rate hikes on renters, homeowners, and small businesses while opposing subsides for giant corporations like Boeing.
Working with other councilmembers I helped pass progressive legislation increasing Metro funding, beginning a universal pre-K program, priority hire, and supporting “linkage fees” (developer fees) to help fund affordable housing.
This Fall, I held a community meeting to support Seattle teachers, which led to a City Council resolution in support of their courageous strike.
Our movement forced the Seattle City Council to take action on affordable housing, and to pass a rent control resolution demanding Olympia lift the undemocratic ban.
Along with Councilmember O’Brien, I led the City Council opposition to Shell’s failed attempt to use Seattle as a base for arctic drilling.
As a councilmember I have worked to put a spotlight on, and help support struggles against, regressive taxation, rising rents, climate change, restrictions on civil liberties, and the school-to-prison pipeline.