Councilmember Sawant Urges Solidarity with Striking Operating Engineers Local 302

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) released the following statement in solidarity with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 (which includes construction crane operators), whose members just voted to go on strike after rejecting the latest contract on the Western Washington Master Labor Agreement:

“After months of negotiations, members of Operating Engineers Local 302 have elected to go on strike in response to the nickel and diming intransigence of highly profitable contractors raking in millions off the workers’ labor.

“Everyday, members of the Operating Engineers are at work before sunrise, risking their lives to make construction possible. It’s important that we as working people stand in solidarity with them as they fight for a decent contract.

“Seattle has been the construction crane capital for three years running. The building boom in the city and region has made untold profits for corporations and wealth for billionaires. And yet the workers who operate those cranes and help create the profits are increasingly unable to afford to live in the very city they are building.

“Going on strike is not easy and requires courage, determination, and collective action. But we know workers can win victories when we get organized and fight together. Let’s remember when the Teamster Sand & Gravel Drivers went on strike last year after receiving a so-called “last, best, & final” offer from their union busting bosses, they were able to win substantial increases in compensation as well as language protecting their work because they were willing to fight for it.

“Compensation and overtime pay is a safety issue, especially on construction sites. If wages are low enough that workers are forced to work overtime, there’s no penalty for the bosses who push for more and more overtime to maintain accelerated schedules. Working massive overtime is dangerous, and the safety of every worker on a construction site is linked to the safety of all other workers at the site.

“Socialist Alternative and my Council Office support the operating engineers in all their demands:

  • A 15 percent pay increase over three years to at least keep up with rising living costs;
  • Double time – if the bosses attempt to take the eight hour day away from workers, it should cost them;
  • Paid parking – downtown parking costs around $20-$30 daily, and workers shouldn’t have to pay these exorbitant costs just to come to work.

“We wish the members of Local 302 the best in winning their demands. If they win, not only will their living conditions be improved, it will encourage other workers to also fight for their workplace rights and for an affordable city.”

 

 

 

Councilmember Sawant Stands in Solidarity with Seattle Educators Rallying for Strong Contract

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) issued the following statement in solidarity with educators in the Seattle Public School District who are organized with the Seattle Education Association (SEA). Members of SEA are fighting for pay raises commensurate with the city’s cost of living. They are also demanding the District take steps toward addressing racism in the school system, and include substitute teachers and support staff in healthcare coverage.

“As an elected representative of Seattle’s working people, a socialist, and a member of the American Federation of Teachers, I stand in solidarity with Seattle educators in their struggle for a strong contract.

“Seattle is absolutely unaffordable for our educators, and they are increasingly getting pushed out of the city. This is a crisis that must be addressed. Other school districts have offered contracts with 20 percent raises. It is only reasonable for Seattle Public Schools to at least match that, given the skyrocketing housing costs in Seattle.

“We need to fight institutional racism in every aspect of our society, including in our classrooms. SEA is fighting for Ethnic Studies at all grade levels, hiring more black educators, training staff in restorative justice practices, and building on their previous victory to expand race and equity teams. These are important steps toward a school district where black lives matter.

“SEA is fighting for regular working substitute educators and support staff to get healthcare coverage, which is a life and death issue for many hard-working subs.

“I want to urge Seattle Public Schools and the School Board to settle a strong contract with the union. If SEA is forced to strike, I will be joining them on the picket lines.

“This is a union fighting for all of our children. While Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump’s administration are attacking public education nationally, we are fortunate in Seattle to have a union like SEA standing up for educators, students, and families. We need to stand with them in promoting high-quality, fully-funded schools for all. Supporting SEA in winning a strong contract is an important component of building statewide and national mass movements to fight for public-sector unions against the Trump agenda, and to tax Wall Street to fully fund high-quality public education throughout the nation.

“Seattle Educators need our support now, so if you want to help them build strong schools, please join them today from 4 to 6pm outside the John Stanford Center at 3rd & Lander right near the SODO light rail station.”

Preserving the Showbox: Councilmember Sawant to Bring Resolution, Urges Community to Keep Fighting

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) responded to reports that the Showbox had been purchased by a corporate developer, who intended to build a high-rise apartment, with an open letter.

While the Vancouver-based Onni Group has signaled their intention to nominate the Showbox for landmark status, it remains unclear if that protection would be extended to the entire theater building, or just the facade, marquee or some other architectural feature.

In the letter, Sawant outlined her intentions to prepare a resolution for Council consideration, urging the Landmarks Preservation Board to preserve the Showbox (including its continued use as a music venue) as a landmark.  From the letter:

I have heard from many of you who are outraged to learn that a real estate developer intends to replace Seattle’s historic Showbox theater with a high-rise apartment building. This is yet another example of how development and construction decisions in Seattle are being driven primarily by whatever will make the quickest dollar for the largest for-profit developers, with little regard for the needs and desires of the rest of us.

Often it is affordable housing that we see demolished to make way for new luxury buildings that only the wealthy get to live in. In this case, it is a landmark of Seattle’s history and music that is on the chopping block. In both cases, Seattle is more and more becoming a playground for the rich, with little space for working people and for the culture that makes Seattle so unique.

Big developers have immense power in Washington state, but one possible point of leverage are Seattle’s landmark preservation laws. Because the Showbox has so much historic value, the Landmarks Preservation Board should agree to landmark it if they hear from a large enough community of people. However, the board often preserves only the outside of buildings, and in this case we need the Board to also preserve the music venue inside.

Sawant further indicated that while nominations to preserve the Showbox as a landmark can be initiated by filling out a form, the nominations are only one step, and will most likely not be enough.

“…The Showbox theater should not only be preserved on the outside, but also be maintained as a music venue,” wrote Sawant.  “In fact, the Onni Group, the corporation threatening the Showbox, has indicated they plan to nominate the building to the Landmarks Preservation Board. As a mega development corporation, Onni will no doubt hope that the Board will decide not to preserve any part of the building that will conflict with their multi-million-dollar development plans. We obviously hope, on the other hand, that Board will not just preserve the facade, but enable Seattle’s music community to continue to function at the venue. There are undoubtedly other locations where upscale apartments could be built, although what our city really needs is affordable housing.”

Sawant signaled her intent to prepare a City Council resolution by Monday, August 6 urging the Landmarks Preservation Board to preserve the Showbox inside and outside, and invited emails in support to be sent to the preservation board via email: sarah.sodt@seattle.gov.

Sawant Congratulates “Tax Amazon” Movement Urges Attendance at Monday’s City Council Public Hearing

SEATTLE – Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) congratulated the Tax Amazon movement in Seattle for having put decisive pressure on the City Council and the Mayor’s office with the demand to tax big businesses like Amazon to fund affordable housing and homeless services and address the unprecedented housing crisis in Seattle.

“Our Tax Amazon campaign this year, building on the Housing for All, Affordable Housing Alliance, and People’s Budget struggles last fall, has already demonstrated how a fighting movement can wrest victories from the political establishment. During her election campaign last year, Mayor Durkan openly opposed the Employee Hours Tax (EHT), while Amazon gave her campaign $350,000. But earlier this week, in a letter leaked to the media, Durkan has tacitly supported the EHT. Councilmember Gonzalez, who voted no on a similar bill just last November, under pressure from our movement is now co-sponsoring this legislation,” Councilmember Sawant said.

“While our fight is far from over, the introduction of this ordinance is itself a major victory for the Tax Amazon struggle and the affordable housing movement. This is only half of the $150 million/year demanded by our movement, but it would nonetheless be a historic achievement if passed. But we must be clear, big business remains fiercely opposed to the EHT, and will be looking for weaknesses in our movement to undermine the bill in any way possible, from dramatically reducing the tax down from $75 million, to cutting big loopholes in the substance of the legislation,” Sawant added.

The Councilmember continued, “It will be absolutely essential to continue building our Affordable Housing Alliance to exert pressure on the City Council over the coming months and ensure the passage of the strongest EHT we can win. That is why it is critical that hundreds of us come to the rally and public hearing on Monday April 23 at City Hall Plaza at 5:00PM,” she urged.

“While we celebrate this major step forward, there is still one month left before the legislation will be voted on. Already this legislation is only half what our movement is demanding! We will continue fighting for a $150M EHT, because that is what is needed to begin addressing the scale of the housing crisis in our city, and because big businesses can certainly afford to pay – it is pocket change to Amazon.

“I congratulate our movement on pushing the needle so far on this issue in such a short amount of time – just last fall, the majority of the City Council had no intention of passing a tax on big business. In a matter of months, an organized campaign of hundreds of activists has managed to force it into the spotlight, and now we appear to be poised to win the biggest concrete housing victory in Seattle in decades,” Sawant said.

“Not only would the likely passage of an EHT in Seattle allow us to build hundreds of units of affordable housing per year and raise the confidence of the local left and housing movement, it could very well have a ripple effect to other cities, like our victory on the $15/hour minimum wage. Already, our struggle has caught the attention of working people in the cities that have been “short-listed” for Amazon’s HQ2. The housing crisis is a national phenomenon, and the bold socialist policies we are fighting for here in Seattle will be of great interest to housing activists nationwide,” the Councilmember added.

Councilmember Sawant to Hold Hearing to End Cuts to Women’s Homeless Services and Advocate for Big Business Tax to Fund Publicly-Owned Affordable Housing

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) will host a Council meeting tonight at 6:00 p.m. in City Hall Chambers to discuss recent cuts to women’s shelters and homeless services after the Seattle Human Services Department recently rebid their homeless services contracts. Sawant and committee members will engage directly with providers from the Women’s Housing, Equality, and Enhancement League (WHEEL) and the Women’s Referral Center, and learn what the cuts will mean for women’s lives. Councilmembers will also be joined by organizers from Real Change. Councilmember Sawant will also announce her intention to identify funding to reverse the budget cuts, and will call on those present to fight for an urgent progressive business tax to raise $150-$200 million a year to rapidly create thousands of units of publicly-owned permanent affordable housing.

WHAT:
Human Services, Equitable Development, and Renter Rights Committee on cuts to women’s shelters & homeless services

WHERE:
Seattle City Hall
Council Chambers, Second Floor
600 Fourth Ave., Seattle 98104

WHEN:
Monday, February 12
6:00 p.m.

WHO:
Councilmember Kshama Sawant
Women’s Housing, Equality, and Enhancement League (WHEEL)
Women’s Referral Center
Real Change
Councilmembers

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