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Kshama Sawant: Seattle Councilmember Year in Review

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Let’s Build the Fightback in 2017

Dear fellow activists,

We are at the end of an incredible year of upheavals. A right-wing anti-worker bigot has been elected President. Donald Trump’s cabinet is a who’s who of multi-billionaires with long records of hostility towards workers, the labor movement, women’s rights, and the planet.

But this was also the year in which millions of millennials, rejecting the status quo of inequality, racism, and war, were energized into action by Bernie Sanders’ call for a political revolution against the billionaire class. It was the year of the heroic movement at Standing Rock, which won a historic victory against Big Oil for environmental and indigenous rights.

It was the year when our movement in Seattle won $29 million for affordable housing, and made great strides towards a citywide Tenants’ Bill of Rights by passing the Carl Haglund Law and a move-in fee payment plan that will ease the unjust burden on Seattle’s renters. We closed a corporate tax handout for hedge fund managers, redirecting $2 million annually of the City’s public dollars to social services. And we restored funding to the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, a proven alternative to incarceration, that the Mayor cut from his budget.

Our movement fought alongside REI workers in their struggle for fair wages and decent hours — a struggle that continues. We marched and picketed with students and teachers at the University of Washington, Seattle Central, Green River College, and Seattle University. We stood with the labor movement in calling out the exploitative practices of Amazon contractors, and advancing the Uber Drivers’ unionization campaign. We brought together community advocates, parents, labor, and small business to form the groundwork for a real movement on paid family leave in the year to come. And for the first time that we know of in Seattle, we organized a summit to hear the concerns of struggling small businesses, many owned by women, immigrants, and people of color, and began a conversation with them on the need for commercial rent control and taxing big business.

None of the inspiring victories would have been won without the dedicated and selfless work of ordinary people rising to meet the need for real change. We organized town halls, built organizing coalitions, marched, did standouts, gave public testimony, joined rallies, put up posters, and moved endorsements in our community organizations. Thank you for making 2016 a year to remember. When we fight, we win!

The year ahead will be challenging — a year of struggle. We cannot, as Hillary Clinton suggested, “give Trump a chance,” or as Obama said, believe that “Trump’s success is our success.” It is true that Trump does not have the mandate of the majority of Americans. But his election has emboldened the right wing, and we cannot be complacent. History demands that we immediately begin building mass peaceful resistance to Trump’s anti-worker, misogynist, anti-immigrant, and racist agenda.

Our movements have to be built independent of the corporate parties that, despite their differences, serve the same corporate Wall Street masters. The 2016 election results, including the votes that were not cast, were primarily a rejection of the status quo of corporate politics. The election outcome is a reminder that we cannot successfully fight right-wing populism with corporate-establishment politics. We will stop Trump with working-class solidarity among the 99%, by building unified movements to address economic inequality, racial injustice, and gender discrimination. Nationally, we can cut across support for the right by demanding taxes on the billionaire class, corporations, and Wall Street to fund free education and a massive green jobs program to end unemployment while rapidly transitioning to sustainable, 100% renewable energy infrastructure.

That’s why I appeal to you to join me in building massive peaceful protests in Seattle on Inauguration Day weekend in January as a first step in building the resistance against Trump.

Tomorrow, all minimum wage workers in Washington State get a raise, and many big businesses in Seattle will finally pay $15 an hour! Not sure if you’re getting a fair wage? Ask the Office of Labor Standards here.

I wish you a very happy new year! Happy holidays, and see you again in January for a re-energized struggle for social justice!

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