Socialist Alternative

Seattle Socialist Alternative 2016 Ballot Initiatives Recommendation

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IN 2016, Socialist Alternative is encouraging a vote for Jill Stein, Green Party candidate, for President.  Stein is the only candidate continuing the political revolution started by the Bernie Sanders campaign. Stein does not accept any corporate money, supports a $15 an hour minimum wage, single payer healthcare, free college, and an end to the racist war on drugs.  A strong vote for Stein would be an important step towards a new party of the 99%.  Vote Jill Stein for President.


The Stranger reports that a recent report found “[h]alf of all Seattle hotel workers surveyed report experiencing sexual harassment or assault on the job … incidents included being flashed, groped, and asked for sexual favors.” This initiative would require hotels with 60 or more rooms to install panic buttons in the rooms and ban patrons accused of sexual harassment or assault. It also importantly addresses the amount of space hotel workers have to clean, protects their jobs if the hotel changes ownership and mandates insurance coverage for low wage hotel employees. It shifts the balance of power between the hotel bosses and workers to the workers. We strongly support this initiative and urge you to vote yes on I-124.

Sound Transit, Proposition 1

Seattle has some of the worst traffic in the country and the biggest contribution we make to carbon emissions comes from transportation. This proposition addresses both issues. It would dramatically increase the reach of light rail, making it a much easier to use transit instead of cars. It would extend light rail to Ballard, West Seattle, Everett, Issaquah, Redmond, and Tacoma, reaching communities where many low income residents have migrated. We obviously need to plan for more residents and those plans should include making public transit the best option for transportation. We support this important investment in public transit and urge you to vote yes on Proposition 1.

However, the proposition relies too much for its funding on regressive taxes, especially the increase in the sales tax. It also adds to the tax burden of many struggling working and middle class families through increased property taxes and car tab fees. There are tens of thousands of millionaires in King County. Seattle area is also home to some of the profitable corporations in the world. To fund public transit (and other social services) we should be going where the wealth is, not forcing working families to pay ever increasing tax bills. But forcing working people to rely on a car for their daily commute, in a city and region lacking a backbone of viable rail and bus options, is also a kind of regressive tax, and without a more progressively funded option on offer and the dire need to expand public transit, we urge you to vote yes on Sound Transit Proposition 1.

I- 1433

This initiative would raise the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 over 4 years, giving over 730,000 low paid Washingtonian’s a badly needed pay raise. Initiative 1433 also provides paid sick and safe leave for all Washington workers. While Socialist Alternative stands for a $15 minimum wage, this initiative is nonetheless a big step in the right direction for hundreds of thousands of Washington workers. This is one of the best and most impactful measures for working people on this years ballot. We strongly urge you to vote yes on I-1433.

I – 1464

Last year Seattle voters passed the first initiative on campaign finance reform that provides voters with “democracy vouchers,” or four $25 vouchers to spend on local campaigns. This is meant to boost the voice of workers and low income residents who are unable to donate heavily to campaigns like the super wealthy.

Initiative 1464 spreads this model to the entire state and funds the effort by closing a tax loophole. Socialist Alternative supported the Honest Elections Seattle initiative last year and supports any effort that removes barriers to the political arena for working people. However, as with I-735 (see below), we do believe the most effective way we can combat the power of big business and the billionaire class is to run our own candidates and build a party that refuses to serve the interests of business. Bernie and Kshama proved this is possible locally and nationally. Still, this initiative can help reduce the power of big money over the political process. Vote yes on I-1464.

I – 1491

Mass shootings happen so frequently that many people are demanding a response and seeking ways to prevent future tragedies. This initiative takes into account that many victims of gun violence are partners of the shooter or are themselves at risk for committing suicide. It puts in place “Extreme Risk Protection Orders” (ERPOs) which would allow law enforcement officers, family, friends, or partners of those suspected to be at risk of committing gun violence to request an ERPO from a judge. This is similar to a restraining order, which is an important tool for women attempting to separate from violent and abusive relationships.

As socialists we understand that whether it’s mental illness, alienation, or extreme misogyny that motivates the shooter, clearly the problem is not just access to guns. The violence in US society is rooted in far deeper social forces. We support the right of communities to protect themselves from gun violence, including establishing reasonable gun regulations such as background checks. However, far more important is massive investment in social programs, jobs, and education to combat the rising anger, alienation, and hatred fueling so much of the gun violence. Fundamentally, we need a society organized to guarantee a high living standard and purposeful jobs for all – a society where the 99% own and control the resources, wealth, and technology and democratically plan how to meet the needs of all people. Vote yes on I-1491.

I – 1501

The ballot language discusses protecting the identity of the elderly, but this initiative is mainly about protecting strong unions in Washington. The right-wing pro-market “Freedom Foundation” is working to undermine home healthcare aids unionized in SEIU 775. Because these home care workers are public employees their information is accessible to the public, including the anti-union “Freedom Foundation” that has used this information to wage a campaign to try to get homecare workers to leave their union. Ensuring the homecare workers can collectively bargain for good wages and benefits is essential to their ability to provide quality care for elderly people. Vote yes on 1501.

I – 732

Climate change is happening at a rate far exceeding what scientists predicted. Clearly, bold action is needed and it’s needed now.  This initiative, proposed by Carbon Washington which organized hundreds of volunteers across the state to collect over 300,000 signatures, puts a tax on carbon emissions. Essentially, it’s a market regulation meant to punish industries that emit the most carbon pollution by making them pay a fee ($25/ton), and as such encourage them to lessen that pollution.

To help offset the possible rate increases that will be passed on to consumers for heating, electricity, etc the initiative reduces the sales tax (by 1%) and funds the Working Families Tax Rebate (something that was passed previously but never funded!), which would provide a tax rebate to low income families, which are disproportionately communities of color. Nearly 500,000 low income Washington families will receive up to $1,500 in rebates. The initiative would also effectively eliminate the B&O (building and occupation) tax for manufacturers. Socialist Alternative supports these steps towards making Washington’s tax structure less regressive, with the exception of the elimination of the B&O tax for manufaturers. Rather than eliminate this corporate tax, it would have been far better to maintain it for medium and large corporations while increasing the exemption from small businesses.

To address climate change much, much more is needed (like a WWII scale retooling and restructuring of the economy away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies and energy efficiency). We agree with those in the labor and environmental movement who believe this initiative is flawed because it offers no increase in funding for clean renewable energy or public transit, and that such programs should be targeted towards investing in communities of color most impacted by climate change. The initiative authors mistakenly aimed to make it revenue neutral (the taxes collected are used to fund the tax reductions and rebate) to appeal to conservative voters, rather than using the increased revenue to fund green jobs and a just transition for communities of color and all the workers whose jobs are threatened by reducing our use of fossil fuels, as Socialist Alternative stands for.

There is also some debate about whether it really will be revenue neutral. A major concern is that companies like Boeing will end up benefiting from the tax breaks and pay even less in taxes. This is a severe flaw. Given the urgent need to fund education, housing and climate justice, this is more than an oversight – it significantly undermines the positive aspects of this initiative. Furthermore, this initiative was not politically well prepared; its leaders did not succeed in building a broad coalition with labor, key leaders in communities of color, or even a number of key environmental organizations.  

However, despite these significant shortcomings, this initiative would still be a step forward for climate change legislation in the US. A victory would levy a tax on carbon polluters and help low income families. A victory for I-732 does not diminish the possibility of winning stronger regulations, massive investment in green jobs and a just transition, and direct assistance to communities hit hardest. While I-732 has serious limitations, on balance we believe it is a step forward by instituting a tax on carbon polluters. Vote Yes on I-732 and build a movement for climate justice and to tax the super rich and corporations.

I – 735

The movement to get money out of politics, to overturn Citizens United, to tell the Supreme Court that they were wrong, that corporations are not people and we workers want more control over the democratic process, is gaining support and growing stronger. Passing I-735 would add to this momentum.

We also can and must demand candidates who claim to represent working people and the left refuse corporate money and influence and instead raise their funds from workers and activists. Bernie Sanders campaign raised over $200 million in donations from everyday people, and not a dime from big businesses. Kshama Sawant proved it here in Seattle by raising a record $460,000 in 2015.

While passing I-735 would be an important political victory, we should be clear that money has always influenced politics in capitalist society. The 1% dominates mainly by owning and controlling the wealth and resources in society, but they use this influence to control the political system.

Vote Yes on I-735 and let’s keep building towards a new party of the 99% that is completely free of corporate money and influence and runs candidates who fight unambiguously for us.

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