We stand in solidarity with striking teachers in the Oakland Education Association as they fight against privatization, school closures, and the attacks on public education!
Across the country, and here in Seattle, teachers are spearheading the fight to defend public schools. Last year, in the face of a decades-long assault on public education, tens of thousands of teachers took historic action, demonstrating that strikes work! With West Virginia teachers leading the way, more workers went on strike or organized work stoppages than in any year since 1986, with teachers leading the largest struggles.
We should be clear, the crisis in funding for public education is entirely manufactured by the billionaire-backed corporate “reform” agenda: underfunding and closing public schools, privatization through non-union charter schools, and weakening teachers unions. Here in Washington state, the Gates Foundation and billionaires like Jeff Bezos have poured in millions — first to ram through their privatization agenda with charter school legislation (which squeaked by at 50.69%-49.31%, after having been roundly rejected by voters 3 times at the ballot), then to prop up non-union charter schools in spite of them being ruled unconstitutional in state court.
In the state that's home to the two richest people in the world, there is no reason we should not have high-quality, free public education for all and high living standards for educators and staff. But instead of taxing big business and the rich to fund our schools, the corporate politicians in Olympia have granted Boeing an eye-popping $12 BILLION in subsidies, including $8.7 billion in 2013 — the biggest corporate handout in U.S. history.
Unfortunately, a $40 million deficit is currently projected for our Seattle public schools, even with the recently passed education levies. At the same time, our educators and staff are underpaid and increasingly being priced out of Seattle.
We need to tax corporations and the rich to fully fund high-quality public education; stop the privatization of education and the corporate “reform” agenda; dramatically reduce class sizes; establish tuition-free college education for all; support teachers and students campaigning against high-stakes testing and racial disparities; expand anti-bullying efforts; fund free breakfast and lunch programs; and fight for higher wages for our educators so they can afford to live in the neighborhoods where they teach.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant and our grassroots campaign will stand with the SEA educators’ union in their fight this year for a decent contract and quality education for all. As a rank-and-file member herself of the local teachers union, AFT 1789, Kshama proudly walked the picket line with the SEA during their strike in 2015.
We need more elected representatives like Kshama who will use their positions to stand unwaveringly with workers and the labor movement. During the 2015 strike, in addition to walking the picket line, Kshama used every avenue she could to support the courageous members of SEA, including holding a community rally in City Council chambers to build support for the strike, leading the way on a landmark City Council resolution in solidarity with the striking educators, and donating twice from her Solidarity Fund.
Congratulations to all the working people in New York City who defeated a $3 billion corporate handout to Amazon, showing that grassroots movements can win powerful victories against big business! Shoutout also to the Tax Amazon movement in Seattle, which despite the shameful betrayal of Democratic politicians in City Hall, showed that working people in cities across the country should get organized and build a united fightback!
Just today, it was also revealed that Amazon, the world’s fastest growing corporation led by the world’s richest billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos, didn’t pay a cent in federal taxes last year, just like it didn’t in 2017! Amazon nearly doubled its profits to an eye-popping $11.2 billion last year, from $5.6 billion in 2017. It’s the second year in a row the corporation completely dodged the 21% tax rate corporations are supposed to pay (which is already outrageously low thanks to Trump’s corporate tax cuts). In fact, Amazon reported a federal income tax rebate of $129 million, meaning their 2018 tax rate was negative 1%. In other words, our taxes as working people subsidized Amazon’s billionaires.
That’s on top of the fact that, under the most regressive tax structure in the entire country, Amazon has been free from any Washington state income tax. In fact, before the HQ2 announcement, Amazon had already received a staggering $1.61 billion in subsidies from state and local governments to build its empire.
Nowhere is the failure and rottenness of neoliberal, “trickle down” economics more apparent than right here in Amazon’s home city, Seattle. The world’s two richest billionaires live here in King County, yet Seattle’s homeless population is one of the highest per capita in the nation. The crisis gets worse every year, despite the fact Seattle has been the national leader in the number of construction cranes three years running. Seattle now has more unsheltered people than New York City, a city 12 times our size, while at the same time, nearly one in ten apartments sit vacant.
Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos makes enough money every day to pay all the back rent owed by every Seattle resident who faced eviction in 2017!
We can’t have a genuine conversation about building the society working families need without talking about taxing corporations and the rich. But we know that big business will spend big to defend their corporate handouts, and try to defeat our movement and kick me out - a councilmember who can’t be bought. In fact, Amazon alone spend an unbelievable $350,000 in 2017 to buy their mayor, Jenny Durkan, who then led the shameful charge to repeal the Amazon Tax last year that would have funded hundreds of affordable homes every year.
Over the last six years as your city councilmember, I’ve seen firsthand the corrosive effects of corporate power and lobbyists in the back rooms of City Hall. Never had this been more clear than last summer, when 7 of the 9 councilmembers caved to the pressure of massive corporations like Amazon, who opposed even the most modest tax to help address the affordable housing and homelessness crisis. Jeff Bezos threatened 7,000 construction 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.
Last year’s Tax Amazon struggle showed how far Amazon and big business are prepared to go when their lavish profits are under threat. We need more, not fewer, working-class representatives who will stand up to corporate bullying, and boldly use their position to fight alongside movements to tax corporations and the rich, even if that means making powerful enemies among Seattle’s billionaire elites.
We need to Tax Amazon and big business for a massive expansion of social housing - tens of thousands of units of social housing to bring down sky-high rents and provide a public alternative to the broken private market. Taxing big business will also allow for a Green New Deal in Seattle - a green public works program which can create thousands of family-wage union jobs for workers, expand public transit and make it free at the point of use and fully electric, and make Seattle a real leader on climate by becoming 100% renewable by 2030.
As climate change makes previously “once-in-a-lifetime” extreme weather commonplace, Seattle’s 2019 snowstorms have battered working-class people with longer, more dangerous commutes; missed hours; and rising childcare costs from school closures. But no group is hit harder than Seattle’s homeless population, who face a literal life-or-death situation and are eight times more likely to die of hypothermia in King County. Tragically, an unsheltered man in Seattle, Derek Johnson, was found dead Thursday morning due to exposure — because without shelter, people die.
Inequality is stark in Seattle. Our city has been the national leader in the number of construction cranes three years running and nearly one in 10 apartments sit vacant, while at the same time, Seattle’s homeless population is one of the highest per capita in the nation. The crisis gets worse every year. Between 2012 and 2018, homeless deaths more than doubled, disproportionately people of color. Seattle now has more unsheltered people than New York City, a city 12 times our size.
The crisis of affordable housing in Seattle, along with weak tenant rights laws, has helped lead to an epidemic of evictions, which often lead to homelessness. On average, one District 3 resident is evicted from their home every other day, and our neighborhoods of First Hill, Capitol Hill, and the Central District see some of the highest rates of eviction in the city. This crisis is entirely preventable: three of four people evicted reported that they could pay all or some portion of the rent owed if a reasonable payment plan was offered. At the same time, the total amount of back rent owed by everyone facing eviction in 2017 was a little under $1 million, less than Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos makes in a single day.
Over three years ago, former mayor Ed Murray declared a “state of emergency” over our homelessness crisis. That same year, ignoring calls from Councilmember Kshama Sawant and community activists, the City Council majority and Mayor Murray approved a budget allocating less than 1% of the city’s budget towards addressing the crisis, $10 million under what the Seattle Human Services Coalition recommended as a bare minimum to address the emergency. This type of approach from the political establishment has only continued, as we saw with the shameful repeal of the Amazon Tax last year.
The establishment’s complete failure to address our housing affordability and homelessness crisis has forced City employees and community providers to fill the gap with gravely insufficient resources. That’s why Mayor Durkan’s approach to selecting a new director for Seattle’s Human Services Department, which provides a vital social safety net in our city, is scandalous.
Community members and HSD workers have come forward to Councilmember Sawant’s office to express deep concerns about the Mayor trying to force through this appointment without even having conducted a search for the position, let alone one that was inclusive of the impacted communities, human service providers, and department staff. That’s why Councilmember Sawant is introducing a resolution which, if passed by the City Council, would return the nomination to the Mayor’s office and call for an open, transparent, and inclusive director search and nomination. Join Councilmember Sawant, community members, and Human Service Department workers at City Hall on Wednesday, February 20 at 6pm, and read her response to a letter from Mayor Durkan.
Please join us on Sunday, March 10, to kick off the grassroots campaign to re-elect Kshama Sawant, the councilmember money can’t buy!
When: Sunday, March 10, 4-7pm
Where: Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (104 17th Ave S) — Grand Rehearsal Hall
$15 donation suggested at the door. No one turned away for lack of funds. Appetizers, beer and wine will be served.Read more
Our voices matter: Demand that Mayor Durkan be accountable to the community and human services workers!
Please join community members, human service workers and providers, and Councilmember Kshama Sawant on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 6:00pm, as the Human Services Committee takes up the resolution directing how the City of Seattle will select its next Human Services Department director. Republished below is Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s letter to Mayor Jenny Durkan, calling on the mayor to involve city workers, the community, and human service providers in an open, transparent, and inclusive candidate search for a permanent director of the Human Services Department.
February 7, 2019
Dear Mayor Durkan,
Thank you for your letter describing your decision to nominate Mr. Jason Johnson to direct the City of Seattle Human Services Department (HSD). I am writing to respond to some of your assertions, and to recommend steps that you can take to nominate – after which the Council can confirm – a permanent Director with the support and confidence of affected communities.
In response to the considerable public testimony from HSD employees and members of the PROTEC17 union, human service providers, and community members, my office has brought forward a resolution that recommends an inclusive search to find the next HSD Director, and that the search itself reflect the principles of the Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) agreed upon by the City of Seattle. The resolution will be discussed at the City Council’s Human Services, Equitable Development, and Renters Rights Committee, which I chair, on Tuesday February 12 at 6:00PM in chambers. I urge that a representative from your office join us at the table to answer questions and to listen.
Seattle faces a huge and growing housing affordability and homelessness crisis. The for-profit market has no solution, and the city urgently needs a major expansion of high-quality publicly-owned affordable housing. We also need to fully fund social services. Neither is possible without taxing big business and the wealthy. However, because the political establishment, starting with your office, has utterly failed to do that, it forces City employees and community providers to tackle this crisis with gravely insufficient resources. It’s especially vital in this context that the permanent HSD Director be selected with the full engagement of staff, human service providers, and community members.
Regardless of what one thinks about Mr. Johnson’s qualifications, it’s quite clear that your office has failed to use an inclusive approach to candidate search. Indeed, it appears you have not conducted any search at all. That is a disservice to HSD workers, human service providers, and to the most vulnerable in our community.
My office has been asking you for public community engagement in the nomination of a future HSD Director for the past year. On March 23, 2018, Ted Virdone from my office emailed your Director of Legislative Affairs, inquiring:
“People are asking us about the appointment process for the new HSD Director. Have you had a chance to get any information about that? We would love to have someone from the Mayor’s Office brief the Human Services, Equitable Development, and Renter Rights committee about the intended process at some point before Director Lester’s last day.”
Your refusal to involve the public and key community and workforce representatives in any meaningful search has resulted in a nomination beset with community outrage. Last week the members of the HSD Change Team and caucuses wrote to Council to inform us that in 2018:
“Deputy Mayor Shefali Ranganathan, representing the Mayor’s Office, stated to staff at an HSD division meeting, there would be an inclusive process for the selection of the permanent Director. Many in the department had confidence that that type of process would take place. Instead, staff learned Mayor Durkan made the decision to directly appoint our interim Director into a permanent position—foregoing an inclusive process that many believed would take place.”
If you have reviewed the Seattle Channel video of the January 24 meeting of the Human Services, Equitable Development, and Renters Rights committee, you will have observed a room overflowing with the people who do extraordinary work every day to make human services available in Seattle. You will have seen that 34 of 35 speakers testified against moving Mr. Johnson’s nomination forward at this time, and in favor of an open, transparent, and inclusive approach that incorporates RSJI principles to searching for the future HSD Director. It is unfortunate that your office declined to send a representative to the committee.
The RSJI-related concerns are captured clearly in a letter from an HSD worker to City Council:
“The RSJI cannot remain something that is only implemented when convenient for those in power.”
The letter from your office objects at length to no official confirmation hearing being scheduled. My office has, of course, prioritized outreach to community members to get their input, and to make my committee meetings accessible to them. Since you announced the nomination of Mr. Johnson, my staff and I have met with dozens of HSD workers and their union PROTEC17, along with human service providers and their organization, the Seattle Human Services Coalition (SHSC).
As you know, the SHSC, representing 180 human service providers in Seattle, wrote council on January 15, 2019 to say,
“The Seattle Human Services Coalition urges the Seattle City Council to return the nomination to Mayor Durkan and request a full search process that includes integral participation of human service providers, program participants, HSD employees, and other public partners.”
Your approach for HSD Director nomination stands in striking contrast to the nomination of Mr. Sam Zimbabwe as the Director of SDOT. As the recent press release from your office announced:
“In May, Mayor Durkan announced a search committee that included nearly a dozen business, transportation, labor, and community leaders. The search for a new Director of SDOT also included an extensive community outreach process. After conducting interviews with applicants, the Search Committee submitted their recommendations for finalists to Mayor Durkan, who interviewed the finalists earlier this month.”
My resolution urges you to convene a search committee that includes representatives of non-profit human services providers, individuals who have or are experiencing homelessness and other clients of HSD, and representatives of HSD employees selected by PROTEC17 and the HSD Change Team and Caucuses.
Then, in line with the search committee’s recommendations, you would send a nomination to Council for confirmation, and Council could proceed to consider the confirmation of that nominee with the confidence that the individual had been recommended by a search committee that represented Seattle’s impacted communities.
I urge you to listen to the HSD workers and their union, the community, and the human service providers and support this approach. Your concurrence would make clear to the public that you agree to support and include them in this decision. Please let my office know if you will be concurring, and we will amend the resolution to reflect your support. And I hope we’ll have a representative from your office at the February 12 committee.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant, Seattle District 3
The last five years have been the warmest on record. We’re seeing an alarming regularity of extreme weather events, from wildfires across Washington State and in California, to a new normal of “once-in-a-lifetime” storms super-charged by global warming, to the recent polar vortex. With a climate change denier in the White House who has filled his cabinet with fossil fuel interests, we need immediate action to address the climate crisis.
The idea of a Green New Deal, which was formally introduced this week by democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is a crucial step in the right direction. Unfortunately, Nancy Pelosi struck down calls for a select committee on climate change to propose a Green New Deal, replacing it with a toothless committee. She even ridiculed the idea of it, referring to it as “the green dream, or whatever they call it.”
It will take building powerful movements to win a Green New Deal in Seattle and nationwide.
Here in Seattle, we need to lead on the environment and clean energy. We should create our own aggressive targets to make Seattle 100% renewable by 2030. Traffic gridlock in Seattle is the 9th worst of any city in the country —we need to develop a world-class, fully-electric mass transit system, free at point of use, to provide a viable alternative to reliance on car-based transit. This must be financed by taxing the rich, not with regressive tolls on city streets or in the new tunnel. We need a major green public works program which can create thousands of family wage union jobs for Seattle workers through a major expansion of clean energy, free energy conservation retrofitting in homes and apartments, and repair of broken and increasingly unsafe public infrastructure. Let’s fully electrify our working waterfront, for port worker safety and a sustainable environment.
Just last week, 45,000 students walked out of classes in Belgium to protest climate change, and students across the world, including in the U.S., are building for a major climate strike on March 15. We need elected officials who aren’t bought off by Big Oil, and who use their positions to stand with movements fighting the fossil fuel industry, like Kshama did during the successful struggles to block access of a Shell oil rig to the Seattle Port and to divest Seattle from Dakota Access Pipeline-investor Wells Fargo.
We need a new party for working people that will fight to stop climate change. We need to take the big energy corporations into democratic public ownership and re-tool them for clean energy and mass transit. The fossil-fuel reliant capitalist system has failed to address the urgent climate crisis – we need a democratic socialist green economy that bases itself on the needs of people and the planet.
In his State of the Union address last night, Trump said that “America will never be a socialist country.” We, along with millions of American workers, completely disagree. Since 2013, when Councilmember Kshama Sawant was elected as the first socialist member of the Seattle City Council in a century, the hunger for an alternative to pro-corporate, pro-capitalist politics has only grown. A recent Gallup poll found that less than half of young Americans view capitalism positively, down 20% since the beginning of the 2008 financial collapse.
In 2016, Bernie Sanders’ democratic socialist presidential campaign had a profound impact on the political discussion in the U.S. Since then, the Democratic Socialists of America has grown nearly tenfold and last fall, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib were elected as self-identified socialists to the U.S. Congress.
American workers and young people are rising up against corporate politics and capitalism. In the three years since Trump’s election, we’ve seen the biggest days of action in U.S. history. From the women’s marches, to the airport shutdowns against Trump’s anti-Muslim ban, to a resurgence in labor struggle with the #RedforEd movement, we’ve proven over and over again: when working people get organized, we can beat back racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-worker attacks.
With Trump calling in his speech for increased “bipartisanship” to fund his racist border wall, we should be clear about what really caused Trump to retreat on the government shutdown and what type of approach will be needed to stop his attacks. Under pressure from below, the Democrats refused to accept his demand for wall funding, but they were in no way prepared to mobilize the forces needed to win that fight. Ultimately, it was the threat of working-class action from TSA workers and air traffic controllers that forced Trump’s hand.
We also can’t forget: last year, when DACA was under attack, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer said they would consider billions in funding for a border wall in exchange for protecting Dreamers. And while it’s positive that Democrats pushed back this time, we should be clear that fighting Trump can’t mean throwing one section of the working class under the bus to protect another. This actually feeds into Trump’s “divide and rule” agenda.
Instead, what’s required is building movements alongside working people against the Billionaire in Chief. That’s why Kshama Sawant called for the need to resist Trump from day one, and her organization, Socialist Alternative, organized protests that helped bring out hundreds of thousands of people immediately after his election. That's why we worked alongside other activists to organize mass nonviolent civil disobedience at SeaTac against Trump's racist Muslim ban, with 5,000 people shutting down the airport and helping to block the ban.
In the era of Trump, we need elected officials who will build fighting movements against Trump’s bigoted, billionaire-backed agenda to defend those in the crosshairs of his attacks.
Last night, Trump bragged about the state of the economy, pointing to raises in wages and conveniently leaving out the fact that one of the only reasons for raises amongst the lowest paid workers was our successful struggle for the $15 minimum wage – spearheaded by Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative right here in Seattle in 2014.
Trump also claimed credit for a “massive tax cut for working families.” In reality, his tax plan overwhelmingly benefits the super rich and gives major handouts to corporations and his billionaire buddies while slashing social programs. In a world where six billionaires have accumulated as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, these tax cuts make the super rich even richer at the expense of growing hardship for working people.
Nowhere is the failure of “trickle-down economics” more apparent than right here in Seattle. The world’s two richest billionaires live in King County at the same time that working people, small businesses, people of color, and LGBTQ people are being rapidly gentrified out of our city. Our transportation systems, schools, healthcare, and other vital social services have long been at the breaking point, while Amazon threatened to take away 7,000 jobs over a small tax on big business only last year.
We stand with other socialist politicians like NYC’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in calling for a 70% tax rate on the super rich nationally, and we think we need bold action to eliminate these gross inequalities right here in Seattle. Our city has been the national leader in the number of construction cranes three years running, yet the crisis of affordable housing in Seattle remains among the worst in the country, with the average rent now over two thousand dollars a month.
We need rent control and a massive expansion of social housing – paid for by taxing Amazon and big business – to provide an alternative to the broken private development system.
With unprecedented environmental disasters becoming the new norm and climate change getting worse, Trump’s fossil fuel friendly approach – boasting about how the US has ramped up up production of coal and natural gas – will impact working people hardest. That’s why we’re fighting for a Green New Deal with a just transition for all fossil fuel workers – to make Seattle 100% renewable by 2025, with a free, world-class mass transit system in Seattle.
Because unlike Trump and the billionaire class, we know that a socialist America and a socialist world is possible. The fight for a different kind of society, based on the needs of working people and the environment, is one of the many reasons you should join the grassroots movement to re-elect Kshama Sawant.
NYC’s socialist representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez fights for policies that would hugely benefit working-class people, like a 70% tax on the billionaire class to fund a Green New Deal and Medicare for All. These demands are overwhelmingly popular (even among many rank-and-file Republicans), but AOC’s advocacy for them has already earned her the ire of the Democratic establishment.
Just yesterday, The Hill reported that corporate Democrats are already making plans to oust AOC. One Democratic lawmaker said that he is urging New York Democrats to “find her a primary opponent and make her a one-term congressperson.”
The fact that Trump is in the White House and Republican leaders are eager to carry out his bigoted, billionaire-backed agenda makes it even more outrageous that the Democratic Party establishment is setting its sights on defeating working-class fighters like AOC.
We need to stand with AOC against the attacks of the corporate Democrats.
But I’m not surprised by this reaction by Democratic Party leaders. Seattle is a city run from top to bottom by the Democratic Party, which is tied by a thousand threads to corporate interests and big developers to the back rooms of City Hall. Rarely have the links between big business and the Democratic Party establishment been more clear than last summer, when 7 of the 8 Democratic Party councilmembers caved to the pressure of massive corporations like Amazon, whose billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos opposed even the modest-sized Amazon Tax to help address the affordable housing crisis.
There are very important differences between the Democratic and Republican Parties, but they also have one key thing in common: loyalty to Wall Street, and opposition to elected officials like AOC, Bernie, and myself.
Fighting unapologetically for working people means making powerful enemies, and the political establishment sees our re-election campaign this year in Seattle as a key priority to get the socialists out of City Hall. Big business will spend huge amounts of corporate cash to try to bring back business-as-usual in Seattle politics.Read more
Did you see that the struggle of Halcyon residents to save their homes from corporate development made front-page news in the Seattle Times today?
Two months ago, the 85 seniors who have been living at the Halcyon Mobile Home Park in north Seattle -- many for 25 years, investing their life savings into their homes -- learned some alarming news. The trustees of their property -- corporate executives of US Bank -- had put their mobile home park up for sale, marketed as a “development opportunity.”
This “opportunity” for a profit-driven, corporate developer could mean a death sentence for the Halcyon residents: eviction, destruction of their long-time community, and potential homelessness.
As Halcyon resident Renee Heggem, a retired bartender and member of UniteHere Local 8 who had been homeless for years before moving into Halcyon, testified: “For 7 years I’ve had the security without worry...and now they’re going to take it away.”
How did Halcyon residents respond to this blatant corporate power grab? They organized, fought back, and reached out to Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s office -- and just today, fighting alongside Kshama’s office, Halcyon residents won a major victory!
Under pressure from their movement, City Council unanimously passed the legislation introduced by Councilmember Sawant, to set a moratorium for one year on mobile home park redevelopment.
Our struggles, from the $15 minimum wage and victories for renters’ rights, to the fight to #SaveTheShowbox, have all focused on one key question: Who runs Seattle? Corporate developers, big business, and Amazon, or ordinary working people?
While Halcyon residents won a huge victory today, their fight is not over. Halcyon residents need a permanent solution, like a zoning change to enshrine protection of their homes into laws.
As Seattle increasingly becomes a playground for the rich, it’s more important than ever to have representatives like Kshama who will use their offices to bring the voices of ordinary people into City Hall.
This also means refusing donations from the corporate developers and CEOs who rake in profits at the expense of working people and the oppressed.