Don't Let Seattle Become a Playground for the Rich

I believe Seattle should be a city in which all people can afford to live and thrive – not a corporate tax haven or playground for the rich. As a socialist, union member, and elected representative of Seattle’s working people, I have always fought alongside workers in their struggles for better wages, living conditions and social services. High quality health care, housing and education should be guaranteed human rights, not privileges for the few. We need to reverse the city’s regressive tax system and make big developers and super-wealthy pay to fully fund the housing and services we urgently need.

Seattle is in the midst of one of the worst affordability crises in its history, with housing prices through the roof and the highest level of homelessness per capita in the country. Amazon and other big corporations in Seattle make billions of dollars in profit annually, yet pay little to nothing in taxes. Ordinary people face gentrification from our city at the same time we shoulder the overwhelming burden of taxation for the services we desperately need. 

We cannot allow Seattle to become a playground for the rich.

But big businesses are determined to defend their super profits and keep this city a corporate tax haven. They want to put a stop to the kind of progressive victories Councilmember Kshama Sawant and our movements have won, and push City Hall to the right – to rollback historic victories like the Move In Fees law and even the $15 minimum wage. 

This year we’ve seen unprecedented corporate spending, with over $4 million in four corporate PACs, to try to buy the elections, with Kshama the main target.

In order to address the crises facing Seattle, we need funding to: create tens of thousands of high quality publicly-owned social homes; expand homeless services and tiny house villages; massively expand public transit; fully fund education; build high-speed municipal broadband; and win a Green New Deal to take on the climate crisis. 

Seattle has the most regressive taxation in the country. To generate the funding necessary for these programs we need to turn the tables on this broken system. It is time for big business and wealthy developers to pay their fair share for the housing and services we need. 

Many corporate politicians will say they agree we need more funding, but they say different things to different audiences. They tell us they support expanding public transit, but then say to the Chamber of Commerce “first we need to get our fiscal house in order.” They say they’re pro-union but have a long line of union-busting businesses giving maximum donations to their campaigns. How are we as workers supposed to trust a politician to represent us when they are being richly funded by anti-worker, big business interests? Corporate-backed candidates like Egan Orion, Mark Solomon and Alex Pederson have the full support of Amazon and the real estate lobby precisely because the super rich know they will reliably represent their interests. And they know socialists like Kshama Sawant will not.

Working people make this city run, and we should have the final word over what happens in Seattle, not the corporate elite. In her tenure on the City Council, Kshama Sawant has always made it clear she stands exclusively on the side of working and middle class people, small businesses, and oppressed communities, NOT big business. 

As always, Kshama’s election campaigns don’t take a dime in donations or support from corporations, CEOs, corporate lobbyists, or big developers. In order to stay accountable, Kshama only takes home the average wage of a District 3 resident, donating half her salary to social movements and workers’ struggles.

As we saw with the $15 an hour minimum wage, winning the things we need, like rent control and a Green New Deal, will take grassroots struggle and building united mass movements for change. And we cannot rely on establishment politicians – we need to elect our own representatives. We saw with last year’s Amazon Tax repeal how even well-meaning politicians did not stand by workers under pressure from corporate lobbyists.

Kshama has always supported the struggle of all workers who are fighting for a better life for themselves and their families. When working people stand together in solidarity, everyone benefits. Unions in particular are a key way that working people can exercise our power in the most undemocratic place in society - the corporate workplace.We stand with all workers in their struggles for better conditions, wages, and for a union. We stand against the race to the bottom by big corporations, who seek to maximize profits at our expense – on the job, in the for-profit housing market, and through seeking to privatize or eliminate public services and resources. We need to unite and fight back.

As a rank and file member of the American Federation of Teachers Local 1789, Kshama is proud to have the endorsements of 20 unions. She has stood on picket lines and in solidarity with Seattle teachers, school bus drivers, EMTs, Amazon workers, REI workers, workers at Frye Art Museum, Uber and Lyft drivers, and many more. Kshama has used her council office to support workers’ struggles in every way possible and will continue to do so.

Kshama has always been a strong supporter of small businesses, who are more and more being driven out of the city by large corporate chains. This is particularly true of immigrant and people of color owned small businesses that are being displaced from our historic neighborhoods. Recently, my office has fought alongside several businesses in the International District facing gentrification. We have an on-going campaign in solidarity with Saba Ethiopian Restaurant in their struggle to win full relocation assistance

Small businesses face many of the same challenges of affordability and inequality as workers. That’s why I support commercial rent control to help small businesses stay in their historic locations and continue to be cultural mainstays in the life of the city. I’m proud to count among my campaign endorsers progressive small business owners like Shirley Henderson and Sharon Blyth-Moss, co-owners of District 3’s Squirrel Chops Cafe, Alex Kostelnik of 20/20 Cycle, and Saba Tekle of Saba Ethiopian Cuisine.

  • Tax the rich not working people. No to regressive taxation! Pass a capital gains tax, a progressive income tax, and other progressive taxes on big business and the rich to fund housing and services, and to preserve cultural spaces and public parks. Bring back the Amazon Tax.
  • Stop union-busting! Union rights for all workers. Support all efforts of workers to unionize in Seattle. No to the New Seasons grocery store chain and its attempt to bust union jobs for grocery workers! Fight the privatization of Sound Transit buses and bring school bus service and emergency ambulance services into full public ownership, maintaining union jobs and benefits.
  • Stand with #TechWontBuildIt. Solidarity with tech workers using their power to fight against militarism and growing anti-democratic surveillance policies.
  • Defend and extend public education. Public education in our city and state is criminally underfunded. We need to fully fund education by taxing big business. Stand with teachers in Seattle and nationally for quality jobs and schools that work for all. Reject attempts to privatize public education in Seattle. We need to unionize charter schools and bring them under democratic public control.
  • No to gentrification. We need rent control and a major expansion of high quality, city-owned social housing. Tax big business, not working and middle class homeowners who are trying to maintain their homes in Seattle.
  • Unplug Comcast! Build municipal broadband. For working people, access to high quality internet is no longer a special commodity – it is a necessity for everyday life. But wealthy companies like Comcast create virtual monopolies on this essential service, setting outrageous prices to maximize their profits. Municipal broadband will make high quality, high speed internet affordable to every Seattleite, along with expanding public-sector union jobs and wages.
  • Healthcare is a human right. Like AOC and Bernie Sanders, I support Medicare for All, a publicly-run, universal healthcare system. As Sanders has pointed out, 500,000 people go into bankruptcy every year because of medical debt. In fact, a 2018 study showed that 40% of Americans couldn’t afford an unexpected emergency expense of $400. The for-profit healthcare system is a disaster and people are fed up with profit being put before human lives. Even the majority of ordinary Republican voters say healthcare should not be big business!
  • Stop the gentrification of small businesses. We need commercial rent control to help small businesses stave off economic eviction so they can continue to serve the community.
  • We need a massive investment in city infrastructure. The state of our city streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure is in such disrepair that it is causing financial and physical harm. We need to tax large corporations and big developers to create funds for road repair, to build sidewalks in neighborhoods without them, to expand public parks,  and many other initiatives. All of these things will improve the lives of ordinary people throughout the city while creating thousands of well paying, unionized jobs for Seattle workers.

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