In a year with a record-breaking 56 candidates filing for Seattle’s City Council elections, we’re proud to announce that ours was the only campaign in the entire city to qualify for office by collecting signatures! With 3,500 signatures from voters in District 3, we collected almost 3 times the required number in 3 weeks time.
Some of our volunteers holding our stack of 3,500 filing petition signatures
To file for office, candidates in King County must either pay 1% of the elected position’s annual salary or collect a similar number of signatures from residents in their district. Most candidates pay the fee to run for office, but Kshama Sawant has always done so by collecting petition signatures. As an entirely grassroots campaign, we see collecting signatures as huge opportunity to talk to thousands of people in our district about how we can fight for the city working people in Seattle need.
Seattle’s City Councilmembers pay themselves $130,000/year, the second highest of any city in the country, while our city is increasingly becoming a playground for the rich. To stay accountable to working people in Seattle, Kshama Sawant accepts only an average worker’s wage, donating the rest of my salary to grassroots social movements.
Over 100 volunteers knocked on doors, canvassed on busy streets across Capitol Hill, and talked to our neighbors at parks in our District. But it was an easy task, because there is a deep hunger amongst working people in Seattle for the kinds of bold policies that Kshama champions, such as rent control and a tax on Amazon and big business to create thousands of affordable, socially-owned homes.
In April, Councilwoman Kshama Sawant introduced two measures for renters’ rights: 1) A comprehensive, citywide rent control ordinance without corporate loopholes; and 2) An economic evictions assistance ordinance, which is needed to immediately protect tenants against huge rent increases.
In addition to the 3,500 people our re-election campaign have already talked to about rent control to address Seattle’s sky high housing costs, Kshama’s Council Office staff have quickly collected another 1,500 signatures from people who have signed her petition for rent control. We plan to use this election year to launch an all out fight to pass rent control in Seattle and to overturn the state’s undemocratic ban.
While the real-estate lobby will try to whip up fears about rent control, just as big business spread propaganda against the $15 minimum wage, to many of the thousands of renters who signed up to get Kshama on the ballot rent control is a no-brainer. Greyson, one of our field organizers, reported how while doorknocking in the Central District wearing a “Re-Elect Kshama Sawant” t-shirt, someone ran up to ask how they could join the fight for rent control, because they’d heard about it from their friends. One supporter had a difficult time signing the filing fee petition, because they had been economically evicted and forced to move 3 times in the past year. When asked if they supported rent control for Seattle, they responded, “duh!” Others had questions about what kind of rent control we were fighting for, and enthusiastically signed to support our call for citywide policy without “vacancy decontrol” or other corporate loopholes.
Already, the Chamber’s corporate PAC (CASE) has amassed a war chest of over $700,000, $200,000 of that from Amazon alone. Like always, Kshama Sawant is not for sale: she doesn’t accept donations from business lobbyists, big developers, CEOs, or corporations. We need your help to stop Amazon and big business from buying this election. Please join our volunteer team and donate today.
Democrats Stand with Kshama Against the Chamber of Commerce PAC
Signed by the following members of the 37th LD Democratic Party:
Amy Hagopian | Claude Burfect | Janice Van Cleve | Hassan Diis | Kevin Allen | Joanna Cullen | Katherine Yasi | Abby Lawlor | David Loud | Gabe Meyer | Jonathan Rosenblum | Nancy Raiken | Mona Lee | Ellie Menzies | David West | Harvey Sadis | Harriett Cody | David Rader | Emma Chase | Justin Roll | Charles Davis
On Sunday the Seattle Times ran a feature article headlined Seattle’s Business Lobby Sees Opportunity to Unseat the City Council’s Progressive Majority. The article outlines the aggressive plans of Jeff Bezos and the Chamber of Commerce to unseat Kshama Sawant and Lisa Herbold, and win a City Council majority for big business.
Amazon has already donated $200,000 to the Chamber’s PAC, a corporate war chest now at $702,277 and expected to grow substantially in the weeks ahead. The article suggests Jeff Bezos is prepared to spend substantially more to expand his already outsized influence over City Hall.
We are concerned members of the Democratic Party’s 37th Legislative District, which will decide this coming Monday (May 20th, 2019) whom to support in the District 3 election. While Kshama is not a member of the Democratic Party herself (she’s with Socialist Alternative), we feel strongly that the 37th LD should stand in solidarity with her against Bezos’s bullying and the Chamber’s attempts to buy this election. As Kshama has emphasized from the beginning, what’s at stake in this election is who runs Seattle - Amazon and big business, or working people.
Sawant is trained as an economist and taught at Seattle University and SCC before winning a seat on city council in 2013. She has been at the forefront of building effective grassroots campaigns to push Seattle politics in a more progressive direction, benefitting working people, students, and seniors - of all political stripes. She’s helped to win a host of bread and butter victories for those normally at the margins of city politics, including the historic $15/hour minimum wage.
Her office worked with the indigenous community to end Columbus Day, and usher in the Indigenous People’s Day. Fighting alongside tenants, Kshama prevented 400% rent hikes at the Seattle Housing Authority, and won legislation mandating voter registration cards be included in tenant information packets by all landlords. The People’s Budget movement, in part initiated by her office, has won millions of dollars for affordable housing and social services. Throughout her five years in office, she and her staff have stood up for countless workers and renters facing abuse from corporate landlords and bosses.
While all this has been great news for most of us Seattleites, it’s made Kshama the target of a ferocious right-wing hate campaign. It’s exactly because Kshama has been so effective at winning progressive change that Seattle’s most powerful business leaders are so determined to drive her, and the movements she’s helped organize, out of City Hall.
To give one example, in 2016 Kshama’s office led the way to winning two landmark renters rights laws — a limit on move-in fees and a ban on rent increases in buildings with code violations. She also played an important role helping to win a law to curb widespread discriminatory practices in rental housing. This was despite the big landlord lobby group RHA spending $52,000 to oppose these vital protections for Seattle renters.
Referring to their failed efforts, now-retired RHA lobbyist Jamie Durkan (yes, he’s the Mayor’s brother) bitterly complained that, “Anybody who spends a dollar lobbying the Seattle City Council is wasting a dollar.” Durkan said other Councilmembers would “say all the right things in their offices, then they get out of the podium and it all goes south.” The lobbyist chalks up his failure to “Sawant’s army,” referring to the organized renters, working people, and community members who worked with Kshama’s office to finally have their voices heard and rights respected in City Hall.
Kshama also works hard on local, community issues. Just in recent months, Kshama has worked with seniors to save their homes at Halcyon Mobile Home Park from corporate developers, brought the Central District community together to demand a new Post Office, and organized hearings in City Hall with seniors and community activists to demand permanent community protection for the Central Area Senior Center and Byrd Barr Place, two vital institutions in our city. Kshama has been working to save small, immigrant-owned businesses in central Seattle, like Saba Ethiopian Cuisine, and has begun strategizing with small business owners on how to combat their displacement by fighting for commercial rent control.
Across the country, grassroots Democrats are standing up to the corrupting influence of corporate PACs and wealthy donors, over our Party and our democracy. We need to do the same here in Seattle. We did the right thing backing Kshama's 2015 re-election primary campaign, when both the 37th and 43rd LD Democrats voted for "no endorsement" (given that our rules don’t allow formally endorsing candidates who are not members of the Democratic Party).
Since we cannot endorse a candidate who is not part of the Democratic Party, please join us in voting “no endorsement” at the 37th District endorsement meeting on May 20. Thank you.
Solidarity with the over 7,500 (and growing) Amazon workers who have signed a letter standing up to Jeff Bezos and demanding a comprehensive climate change plan for the economy!
The letter is a response to Amazon’s “Shipment Zero” plan, which proposes a target to make half of Amazon’s shipments net zero by 2030 (and, unlike what the name implies, sets no date for reaching net zero climate emissions).
As the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned last year in their special report, we need to drastically reduce carbon emissions by 2030 in order to avert major climate change. As workers are exposing, Amazon’s plan doesn’t go nearly far enough. In fact, given Amazon’s rate of growth, reaching 50% net zero shipments by 2030 would actually translate to an increase in climate emissions!
The urgent action needed to address our looming climate crisis cannot be achieved on the basis of for-profit capitalism. We need a rapid shift away from fossil fuels, bringing the big U.S. energy corporations into democratic public ownership and retooling them for clean energy. That’s why Kshama Sawant is fighting for Seattle to be a real climate leader by becoming 100% renewable by 2030 through a Green New Deal for working people: tax big business and the rich to massively expand mass transit, making it free and fully electric, and create thousands of living wage union jobs through a major program for wind and solar energy and retrofitting homes to the highest energy standards.
Can you chip in $15 to join #TeamKshama in the fight for a Green New Deal in Seattle?
Across the country, tech workers are beginning to organize for workplace and social justice. Last year, 20,000 Google workers walked out internationally against sexual harassment after a report that company leadership had given a $90 million payout to a top executive pushed out over sexual misconduct. Through #TechWontBuildIt struggles, thousands of tech workers at Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have protested their companies’ use of their labor to strengthen the military and prison industrial complexes, including Google’s development of military drones, Amazon’s selling of facial recognition software to the police, and Microsoft's contracting with ICE. These struggles all point to the massive power that tech workers and all working people can unleash if they get organized and fight back.
Amazon warehouse workers have been getting organized to push for a union. Over the past few years, as Amazon’s workforce has more than doubled, workers across the country have exposed the horrific conditions for Amazon warehouse workers, including restricted bathroom breaks that have led to workers urinating in bottles, poverty wages forcing workers to rely on food stamps, and new, mandatory technological devices to closely track workplace movements.
We should be clear: Amazon’s decision last year to raise the minimum wage to $15 for all their workers last was not due to Jeff Bezos having a sudden benevolent change of heart. It was a concession to Amazon workers getting organized and to the momentum of movements like the nationwide fight for $15/hour and Seattle’s Tax Amazon struggle, led by hundreds of activists and Councilmember Sawant. Kshama Sawant strongly supports the right of all workers organizing to form a union. Unionized workplaces have higher wages and better working conditions than non-unionized workplaces, and unionization has been shown to be the most effective way to address gender and racial pay gaps.
Kshama Sawant has fearlessly fought against Jeff Bezos’ control of Seattle, while at the same time standing unwaveringly with Amazon workers. We’re proud that many tech workers are on #TeamKshama, joining us to fight for policies like rent control and a Green New Deal for Seattle.
Do you work in the tech industry? Join tech workers supporting Kshama Sawant this Saturday:
Tech Workers for Sawant: House Party & Meet and Greet
Saturday, 5/18 - 7pm
At Erik’s home in Capitol Hill - please RSVP to email@example.com for details.
Follow Tech Workers for Kshama Sawant on twitter for updates from tech workers supporting Kshama Sawant.
As a rank-and-file member of AFT 1789, Councilmember Kshama Sawant stands with the Seattle Education Association and all educators against the ongoing attempts by some Democratic state Legislators to undermine collective bargaining, force teacher pay cuts, and siphon public money away from our unionized district schools and towards non-union charter schools. Below is her letter to union members and allies.
Monday, April 22, 2019
Dear Seattle Educators:
As an educator, a rank-and-file union member of AFT Local 1789, a member of Socialist Alternative, and a Seattle City Councilmember, I stand with you in urging the state Legislature to restore democratic flexibility for local school levies. Educators are the best experts on what our schools need, and unions like the Seattle Education Association must have every opportunity to negotiate with school districts to fund additional teachers to reduce class sizes, and to fund other student needs such as librarians, school nurses, early learning, music, and art.
Shamefully, Legislators in Olympia, are going after educators and our unions, as part of the ongoing onslaught on public education. Earlier this month, the Senate Ways and Means Committee, under majority control of Democrats, inserted two poison pills into a school funding bill that would undermine collective bargaining, force pay cuts, and siphon public money away from our unionized district schools and towards non-union charter schools.
Charter Schools are being used as a way to defund district schools, and undermine the organized voice of educators, with the real goal of privatizing public education as a whole. If Washington state has charter schools, they should be unionized, and put under the democratic public control.
Rather than blaming public school teachers, and attempting to undermine union rights, the state Legislature should be taxing big business and the wealthy to fully fund public education.
I am disappointed, but not surprised, to see that the Washington Association of School Administrators and the Washington State School Directors Association (the statewide body representing school boards) have joined in support of these anti-worker, anti-public-education measures. The administrators and school board members behind this are simply following the Betsy DeVos playbook of starving public schools and attacking educators and their unions.
Unfortunately, the Seattle Public Schools administration and the Seattle School Board have completely failed to speak in opposition to what their state organizations are advocating.
For the last few years, we’ve heard establishment Democratic politicians ask voters to help them win a majority in Olympia. They claimed that once in the majority, they would stand with workers, students, and communities.
Now that the Democratic establishment controls the state House, Senate, and the Governor’s mansion, they have no excuse for failing to fight for the interests of working people and for public education. Unfortunately, as the WEA correctly pointed out,
“Now that our salaries are starting to catch up, some legislators are pointing fingers, and administrators are threatening layoffs. Instead, we believe they need to focus on a solution: removing legislative restrictions on local school levies.
Starting with the mighty strike action in West Virginia last year, followed by strikes in Arizona, Los Angeles, Denver, and Oakland, educators and our unions have demonstrated again and again that we have the power to defeat attacks on public education through independent grassroots organizing, working class politics, direct action and strikes.
Public education is under grave threat from Republicans and the Trump administration, but we have also seen a decades-long assault on public education by both Republicans and the right wing, and pro-privatization, anti-union establishment Democrats as well. I stand with you in the fight for full public school funding and local levy flexibility.
Olympia needs independent elected representatives who are truly accountable to working people and oppressed communities, not politicians from both major parties that claim to support us, but once in office, shamefully work with big business to undermine the needs of ordinary people, collective bargaining, and public education.
Seattle’s affordable housing crisis is among the worst in the entire country. 1 in 10 units sit vacant, while working people, small businesses, people of color, and LGBTQ people are being rapidly gentrified out of our city. With rent averaging over two thousand dollars a month, Seattle urgently needs rent control to stop Seattle’s out-of-control rent hikes!
That’s why this week, Councilwoman Kshama Sawant introduced two measures: 1) A comprehensive, citywide rent control ordinance without corporate loopholes; and 2) An economic evictions assistance ordinance, which is needed to immediately protect tenants against huge rent increases.
The movement for rent control is growing across the country. Earlier this year, working people and tenant’s rights activists won a major victory in Oregon, becoming the first state in the country to enact statewide rent control, and a rent control bill is now moving forward in Colorado. Under Oregon’s new law, it’s now illegal for a landlord to increase a tenant’s rent by more than 7% a year. The law also sets limits on how much rent can be increased between leases, removing the incentive to evict tenants in order to jack up rents.
This victory would not have been possible without tireless organizing from renters and tenant’s rights organizations, who have been fighting for rent control for years. It shows that when we fight, we can win.
Here in Seattle, and across the country, the for-profit housing market has failed us. Our city has been the national leader in the number of construction cranes three years running, yet sky-high housing costs and weak tenant’s rights laws have combined to lead to an epidemic of gentrification and evictions. On average, one of our neighbors in District 3 is evicted every other day.
In Washington state, rent control measures were blocked at the state legislature in response to grassroots tenant organizing in the 1980’s. The real estate lobby succeeded in passing a law in Olympia that banned cities like Seattle from doing anything to regulate skyrocketing rents.
But as Kshama said at this week’s press conference: “We have two choices. One, just sit on our hands and expect that some day, in the distant future, the Democratic establishment will gather the courage to break from the real estate lobby and finally stand with us. We’ve done that kind of waiting for 40 years. Or we can begin the fight here.”
Passing a comprehensive, citywide rent control ordinance in Seattle would create huge pressure for the state legislature to finally lift the undemocratic state ban on rent regulation. Democrats now control the State House, State Senate and governor’s mansion. There is no excuse for further inaction. The time to for rent control is now.
Just this week, news broke that Amazon has already dumped $200,000 to the Chamber of Commerce’s corporate PAC, CASE. The PAC now sits on a war chest of over $500,000. These big business interests have fought tooth-and-nail against all of our movements, from the $15 minimum wage to last year’s Tax Amazon struggle. We know that corporate interests like these and the real-estate lobby will spend big this year to try to defeat Kshama Sawant and our movement to make Seattle affordable for all.
Corporate politicians make lots of big promises to try to win votes, but you can’t serve two bosses: big business and working people. We can’t address rampant inequality without standing up to Amazon, which has paid no taxes for the past two years and is headed up by Jeff Bezos, the richest man in human history. And we can’t address Seattle’s out-of-control rent costs without standing up to the big landlords and wealthy developers who are raking in record profits.
We will only win rent control with your help. Please chip in today to build the movement to win.
What’s at stake in this year’s elections is who runs Seattle: Amazon and big business, or working people. And already, Amazon has begun to weigh in. The Seattle Times reported this week that Amazon dumped a whopping $200,000 into the Chamber of Commerce’s corporate PAC, CASE.
The Chamber of Commerce’s corporate PAC now has a war chest of almost $500,000. But this is just a start. “It’s a big deal contribution, let’s not sugarcoat it,” said one Seattle political insider quoted in the Seattle Times. “When a company like Amazon makes a statement like that, other businesses peg the amount they give to that, which bodes well for CASE.”
We can expect a relentless corporate onslaught this year against Kshama Sawant, who has been fighting fearlessly to Tax Amazon and has spearheaded a series of major victories for working people in Seattle which have angered big business.
Can you chip in $15 today to beat back the corporate PAC?
As CASE’s Executive Director, Markham McIntyre, explained: “They’re the city’s largest employer...they’re really focused on supporting candidates who are accountable.” Of course what big business means by this is candidates and politicians who are “accountable” to them. Councilmember Kshama Sawant has proven over and over that you can’t serve two bosses: elected officials cannot be accountable to working people and to corporate giants like Amazon at the same time.
Last year, Jeff Bezos threatened 7,000 jobs to try to defeat the Amazon Tax, then applied intensive backroom pressure to force its repeal a month after it was unanimously passed by the City Council — and just a few weeks ago, he announced that he’s moving the jobs anyway! We need more, not fewer, working-class representatives like Kshama who will stand up to corporate bullying. But to stop Amazon and big business from buying this year’s elections, we need your help.
Corporate executives can flood hundreds of thousands of dollars into a corporate PAC overnight. Even $200,000 is just a drop in the bucket for Amazon: Jeff Bezos alone makes that back in less than 2 minutes! As always, Kshama Sawant is not for sale to big business, corporate lobbyists, and CEOs. This campaign is funded entirely on tremendous sacrifice from lots of working people, and we’re proud to say that over 1,000 people have already chipped in.
Every donation, from $5 to $500, adds up. Please dig deep today and donate to re-elect Kshama Sawant.
Kshama Sawant, a rank-and-file member of AFT1789, has been one of the most consistent fighters for working people and unions to ever sit on the Seattle City Council. Over 50 union members came out to Sunday’s Labor for Sawant rally, where we heard exciting news — three more unions have endorsed our re-election campaign!
We’re proud to announce that WFSE 1488, WFSE 3488, and APWU Local 28 have joined the Operating Engineers Local 609 and the National Women’s Political Caucus on #TeamKshama. Leaders from these locals explained how Kshama Sawant represents a fundamentally different approach from most politicians, and why their union locals are endorsing her this year.
Join labor in the fight to re-elect Kshama Sawant! Sign up to donate $15/month until election day.
David Yao, Vice President of the Greater Seattle Area Postal Workers Union (APWU), explained why their union unanimously voted to endorse Kshama Sawant: “I’m really happy that there is someone on our City Council who is not willing to go along to get along, who is willing to build a real movement for affordable housing.” District 3 is currently a “post-office desert,” meaning there is hardly a public service post office for residents to use, only private companies. After hearing from community members and post office union members, Councilmember Kshama Sawant has been organizing alongside the APWU to bring a public post office back to D3. Please join #TeamKshama and Councilmember Sawant on May 2 for a community speakout to win back a Central District post office.
Paula Lukaszek, President of WFSE 1488, spoke about why the issues that Kshama is fighting for, like making Seattle affordable to everyone, are key issues for labor: “Rent control is really important to most of my members. We keep getting kicked out of Seattle and we can’t afford to live here. We really support this initiative and labor needs to support Kshama Sawant.”Representing 2,000 workers from dozens of occupational categories, Local 1488 of the Washington Federation of State Employees (AFSCME Council 28) has the third largest membership amongst campus unions at the University of Washington. During our historic struggle for 15 Now, WFSE 1488 set a powerful example of how to fight unapologetically for workers’ rights, joining the struggle early and donating $20,000 to the movement.
John Frazier, President of WFSE 3488 at Harborview Medical Center, said: “I have been in Seattle for some time now, and I have never met someone who will stand with you like Councilmember Kshama Sawant.” Kshama was proud to stand in solidarity with laundry workers represented by WFSE 3488 during their courageous strike against the UW administration last winter.
Matt Maley, a teacher and member of the Seattle Educators Association, explained: “When NOVA was facing cuts, it was Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s office which helped students organize a walkout and gave them space in City Hall. But even more importantly than all the individual labor actions that Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative have helped with is her approach. Building movements of working people is what differentiates her from the rest of the council.”
Annelie Day, a member of UFCW Local 21, talked about the importance of re-electing a consistent fighter for working people as we’re seeing a wave of revolt nationwide, including the historic Stop and Shop strike that her union sisters and brothers are leading in New England: “We need people in office who will walk picket lines with us and do more than just give lip service. Kshama Sawant is one of the most consistent fighters for working people and unions to ever sit on the council.”
David Parsons, President of UAW 4121, spoke about how it will take thousands of people getting organized in order to defeat the corporate political establishment and re-elect Kshama Sawant: “The reason I think that Kshama Sawant is going to win is not because of Kshama, but because of all of us...she challenges us to do what we do best, organize.”
As Kshama explained, while big business and the corporate media will try to smear our record, standing fully on the side of working people also means standing up to their bosses: “We’re not being divisive, sisters and brothers. Capitalism is creating these divisions. We need to go to the doors over the next six months to remind people: this is not about bringing big business to the table — big business owns the table! This is about fighting for our rights. If we were ineffective, as the corporate media likes to say, why would big business go to such great lengths to get us out of office.
News just broke that Amazon poured $200,000 into the Chamber of Commerce’s corporate PAC, CASE. We can’t let big business buy this election. As always, Kshama Sawant is not for sale and only accepts the average wage of worker in District 3, donating the rest of the $130,000/year City Council pays themselves towards supporting social movements and workplace struggles. Please join labor in the fight to re-elect Kshama Sawant: sign up to donate $15/month until election day, or chip in a one time donation.
Chateau apartment resident and housing justice activist Renee Holmes
Republished below is the latest article from Socialist Alternative about the fight for Social Housing.
Movements of working people and renters, not greedy capitalists, will solve Seattle’s housing crisis.
The affordable housing crisis in the U.S. continues to reach new heights. Nearly 50 percent of all renters are cost-burdened, half a million people are homeless, and tents line the streets of many major cities. Here in Seattle, we see an extreme version of this human tragedy playing out daily. Even as the city tumbles off an affordable housing cliff, Seattle’s establishment politicians – all Democrats – continue promoting corporate developers and supply-side arguments, maintaining the primacy of for-profit development and landlordism.
Following the successful fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage, it was clear that the movements of ordinary people in Seattle would turn to the question of housing affordability and homelessness. In a concerted strategy to shut down public discourse on renters rights, developer impact fees, rent control, and taxing big business to fund social housing, successive Democratic mayors and city councilmembers teamed up with corporate developers in a so-called “grand bargain” that vetoed all of these public policy solutions to address the crisis, and went to war against the city’s housing activists, socialists, and renters. The climax thus far of this offensive was the repeal of the Amazon Tax last summer by Mayor Durkan and most of the city council.
In the past decade of Seattle’s piping-hot real estate market, billions of dollars of private profit have been made in a construction frenzy that has earned Seattle the distinction of being “the crane capital of the U.S.” for four years running. Of an estimated 31,000 new market-rate apartments opened from 2008-2017, 92 percent were luxury units. Rents have soared more than 75 percent since 2011 to an average of $2,136 per month – completely unaffordable to the average working class household.
A 2017 city report found 86.5 percent of eviction filings were for nonpayment of rent, 52.3 percent of which were one month or less behind. Women and people of color were hit hardest – 81 percent of eviction filings for $100 or less in unpaid rent were against women and 51.7 percent were against people of color, with black renters experiencing eviction filings at a rate 4.5 times higher than others.
Affordable Housing and Renters Rights Victories
Despite concerted opposition from most of city hall, Seattle’s affordable housing movement – including socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant, has won important victories. Kshama and Socialist Alternative played a key role in pushing the city council to pass a resolution calling for the state ban on rent control to be lifted; blocking the construction of a $160 million police precinct and winning $29 million for publicly-owned affordable housing; as well as several landmark tenant rights bills.
But while the affordable housing movement in Seattle has won some important battles, our movement still has a war to win.
A recent meeting of Councilmember Sawant’s Renters Rights committee featured tenants at the Chateau apartments in Seattle’s Central District, which has for decades housed working-class and low-income families, elderly and disabled community members, and Section 8 voucher holders. The tenants are facing eviction and displacement after their building was purchased by Cadence, a $185 million development company which plans to demolish the affordable building at the end of the year to make way for smaller, higher-end apartments.
Renee Holmes, whose 88-year-old aunt Mother Gordon has lived at Chateau for nearly four decades, told the rally of more than 130 community members and housing activists “Our family came from Arkansas in the forties and settled in this area. This is the only area we [African Americans] were allowed to live in. Why does she have to leave? Why do we have to be uprooted from our communities?” Another tenant, Roselle Johnson, is the primary caregiver for her nearby elderly parents, “They depend on me. If Cadence is going to move us out, I don’t know where I’m going to live. Who’s going to help my parents?”
Tens of thousands more working people, especially from communities of color, have faced similarly dire circumstances in recent years.
Tax Big Business to Build Social Housing!
A recent Sightline Institute report titled, “Why’s the Rent So High for New Apartments in Seattle?” explains things from the for-profit lens of the private developer, stating, “the fundamental link between the cost of an apartment and its rent is the yield required by investors. No one’s going to sink a pile of money into an apartment building unless it can reliably deliver a cash flow that makes the investment worthwhile compared with other options such as the stock market.”
According to the report, as of a few years ago, investors typically expected a yield-on-cost of 5.8 percent. For a 2 percent profit, rent on a $2,200 apartment could be cut in half to $1,100! The report then notes, “In rapidly growing Seattle, billions of dollars flow into apartment construction annually, mostly supplied by giant institutional investors that seek to maximize returns, not social benefits. Are there people or institutions with billions of dollars to invest who are willing to accept dramatically lower returns? It seems unlikely.”
Since the private for-profit developers are clearly incapable of building housing that’s affordable to working people, we need to fund public programs to build and manage the affordable housing necessary to meet the needs of residents – also called social housing. By cutting out the developers’ profits from the equation it’s possible to build massive numbers of homes in an extremely short amount of time.
Several real-world examples demonstrate the huge potential of public investment in social housing. An article in The Nation notes that massive public investments in social housing were critical components of New York City’s efforts to address past affordable housing shortages: “Between the mid-1930s and 1970s, New York City saw an average of approximately 12,500 units of government-subsidized, below-market housing built each year…In the peak years of the 1950s and 1960s, as many as 20,000 units were built.” These social housing programs provided critical affordable housing to working people on a mass scale. Sadly, decades of attacks both on social housing and rent control have largely erased those gains.
A recent report from the People’s Policy Project, featured in Mother Jones “makes the case for a massive experiment in affordable, government-sponsored ‘social housing’ along the lines of housing built in countries like Finland and Sweden and cities like Vienna, Austria.” To address housing shortages in Sweden in the mid-sixties, the Social Democratic government built one million affordable homes in just 10 years. In Vienna, 60 percent of the population lives in social housing. While establishment politicians will immediately raise prohibitive costs as the main reason not to pursue social housing, the article notes that building 10 million units nationwide “could be covered by undoing the recent corporate tax cut signed by President Donald Trump.”
Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative argue that it’s possible for Seattle and the U.S. as a whole to solve it’s affordable housing crisis, but only if workers and renters join forces to build a movement independent of developers, landlords, and corporate politicians to fight for social housing, rent control, and other socialist policies that put the needs of ordinary people and our communities over developer profits. Renee Holmes summed it up well at the Renters Rights committee, “This is our city. It’s our neighborhood. And we will fight for the right to live here.”
Another victory! Last week, the latest ethics complaints against Kshama Sawant, related to her role as a member of Socialist Alternative, were both thrown out. The complaints include allegations that she has misused her position by being democratically accountable to members of Socialist Alternative, and that the organization was trying to influence her decisions by paying for her travel to attend political events.
The attacks insinuate that Kshama is some sort of puppet whose votes are dictated by Socialist Alternative. This couldn’t be further from the truth: Kshama Sawant has helped to build and to lead Socialist Alternative, and while she is proudly democratically accountable within her working class organization she has also argued through its democratic structures for the political decisions she has taken while in office. Kshama has always been open about the fact that she runs for office as a candidate of Socialist Alternative, which has a proud tradition of democratic decision making and is made up of ordinary people fighting for workers and oppressed communities.
As The Stranger described the initial story from the SCC insight which prefaced the complaints: “People who dislike Sawant took this story as hard evidence of Sawant being mind-controlled by shadowy socialists and unaccountable to the voters of her own district. People who like Sawant laughed at idiots who were surprised that a member of a socialist party shares her power with other members of that party.”
Wayne Barnett, the head of the Ethics and Elections office, dismissed the accountability complaints, writing: “Fundamentally, I believe that elected officials are free to structure their decision-making processes as they wish, subject to the will of the voters every four years. Campaigns are won and lost based on voters’ estimations of whose interests elected officials are serving and whose interests they are not.”
In terms of travel assistance, Barnett also rejected the charges, finding that Socialist Alternative has a regular policy of partially or fully compensating members for travel to political events: “I do not find a persuasive case that there is any nexus between the travel expenses and the organization’s desire to influence Socialist Alternative’s actions. The history of payments for the Councilmember and others to travel lends additional support to my conclusion that these are customary expenses for Socialist Alternative to cover for its members, and not an effort to influence Councilmember Sawant’s official actions.
We should be clear, the real complaint from Seattle’s political establishment is that Kshama answers to working people, not to big business. To the political establishment, there is no worse crime. As Kshama wrote in response to the initial SCC insight attacks: “I plead guilty – to being a democratically accountable socialist elected representative, and not a corporate politician.”
Most politicians make election-year promises to working people, then promptly betray them once elected. When socialists like Kshama run for office, they do so in order to fight for the interests of working people.
This is a stark contrast to the corporate politicians in Seattle, who take their marching orders from Amazon and business lobbyists. For instance, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, whose election was bought with $350,000 from Amazon, was reported to hold court with an informal kitchen cabinet consisting of lobbyists for corporate clients such as Comcast, Lyft, and Airbnb.
Big business is used to getting their way and pressuring politicians to block overwhelmingly popular progressive legislation. They hate that Kshama can’t be bought and has instead used her position to open up City Hall to working people, building movements to win $15/hr, pass landmark renters’ rights legislation, and organize a People’s Budget each year to fight for the city we need.
Despite Barnett’s decisive dismissal, the decision could well be appealed to the Commission of the Office of Ethics and Elections. Currently, a defamation lawsuit against Kshama, which was also recently thrown out, is being appealed to higher courts. That suit attacks Kshama for calling the death of Che Taylor, an unarmed black man, at the hands of two police office officers for what it was: a brutal murder. At root, the political establishment is furious about Kshama fighting alongside the anti-police brutality movement and calling for key reforms like a democratically elected community oversight board with full powers over the police. Kshama was also the only Seattle city councilmember to vote against the rollback of accountability passed through last year’s city-police union contract.
Ever since our historic victory of $15/hr, big business and the political establishment have attempted to use every possible avenue to try to weaken our movements and discredit Kshama. Each time, they have failed. So far, every lawsuit and every SEEC complaint has been dismissed.
But we should also be clear: the legal system is not the friend of working people. Time and time again, the court system has been wielded as yet another weapon to attack the rights of workers, people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community and defend the “rights” of corporations when all else fails. Landmark cases like Brown v. Board of Education (ending racial segregation in schools), Roe v. Wade (legalizing abortion), and Obergefell v. Hodges (legalizing gay marriage) were the result of powerful struggles which created immense pressure for change, and did not come about because of the benevolence of judges or courts.
We should in no way be surprised by these attacks. In an election year when big business is fiercely determined to get progressives and socialists out of City Hall, we should expect more of the same – whether it’s through PACs, the corporate media, new ethics complaints, or the courts. That’s why we must keep building movements to fight for real gains for working people, and we need to have Kshama’s back.
We need more, not fewer, representatives like Kshama who are anchored to a democratic grassroots base, which is critical to withstanding the massive pressures from the corporate establishment. It was exactly this lack of an anchor that led seven of the nine Seattle City Councilmembers to bend to Jeff Bezos’ bullying and betray working people by repealing the Amazon Tax, which they had originally passed unanimously.
This is why Kshama and Socialist Alternative have consistently argued for building a broader political party for working people in this country, to unite our social movements, unions, and community groups together and boldly fight for progressive change, completely independent of corporate money. Such a working people’s party would need to have real internal democratic structures to decide which candidates to run, to debate and decide on a common program and, unlike the Democratic Party, to actually hold those candidates accountable to that program – including their votes – once in office.
As Kshama wrote: “I wear the badge of socialist with honor. I will continue to fight unambiguously and relentlessly to win gains for Seattle workers and for an alternative to this rotten and corrupt system, while fiercely opposing all efforts of big business to give marching orders in this city.”
We’re excited to announce that Kshama Sawant has received the first union endorsement of any District 3 candidate!
We’re proud to have the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 609 on #TeamKshama. Representing over 700 workers, IUOE Local 609 is the oldest and largest union local of non-teaching employees of K-12 public schools in Washington State.
As a proud member of AFT 1789, Kshama Sawant has been a consistent fighter for working people and unions on the Seattle City Council. She worked alongside labor to spearhead the fight for the historic $15 minimum wage. Since then, she has led movements to win millions for affordable housing and new renters’ rights laws while standing steadfast and walking the picket lines with union workers: from the SEA strike of 2015 to the SEIU 1199NW strike at Harborview in 2016 to the Teamsters 174 bus drivers and UAW 4121 strikes last year.
35 labor organizations endorsed Kshama during her 2015 re-election campaign. Already, union leaders and rank-and-file members are joining our powerful grassroots campaign. Save the date:
- David Parsons, President UAW 4121*
- Paula Lukaszek, President WFSE 1488*
- John Frazier, WFSE 3488*
- Kathy Heffernan, SEIU 1199NW*
- Salvador Castillo, WFSE 1488*
- Jonathan Rosenblum, UAW 1981*
- Robby Stern
*For identification purposes only
We need your help to meet an urgent deadline!
To defeat Amazon and the corporate political establishment, we will need to build the strongest grassroots campaign in Seattle. We’ve already raised $74,000 without taking a penny from big business, corporations, CEOs, business lobbyists, or big developers. We need to raise another $6,000 by Friday to meet our goal of raising $80,000, in order to:
- Print tens of thousands of flyers and knock on every door in Kshama’s district
- Rent a campaign office — a growing challenge as rents continue to skyrocket in District 3
- Hire field organizers, all paid at least $15/hr