Socialist Alternative and Kshama Sawant made history in 2013 and 2015 by winning and retaining a seat on Seattle City Council as an independent socialist. This showed that openings exist for socialists to run serious and effective campaigns outside the Democratic Party to challenge the corporate agenda dominating local and national politics.
As Amazon and other major corporations continue to try to dictate the priorities of the Seattle City Council, the Kshama Sawant reelection campaign poses the question: Who runs Seattle? Jeff Bezos or ordinary working people?
In just five years serving on the city council, Sawant and Socialist Alternative have shown what an independent fighter for working people can do. We’ve worked alongside countless activists and grassroots organizations to win major victories for working and oppressed people in Seattle that were previously dismissed as “unrealistic.” The most well known of these is the $15 an hour minimum wage, which subsequently spread to cities and states across the country and became a central plank in Bernie Sanders’ campaign platform. Additional victories include:
- An “anti-slumlord law” preventing landlords from increasing rents when their properties have outstanding code violations;
- A cap on move-in fees;
- Halting proposed 400% rent hikes for low-income families in public housing;
- Winning city funding for an annual Indigenous People’s Day celebration to replace Columbus Day;
- Saving a women’s shelter and other homeless services from being cut from the city’s budget, and many more.
The political establishment puts the interests of wealthy corporate donors above the needs of ordinary people. From Trump and Congress through state and local legislatures, the corporations and their lobbyists maintain a direct line of communication and control over establishment politicians of both parties. Seattle Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan accepted a whopping $350,000 from Amazon during her 2017 campaign. Then, when housing activists fought and won a tax on Amazon, the corporate giant blatantly blackmailed the city, threatening to shut down construction on a major downtown property. The mayor, with the help of an informal “kitchen cabinet” of corporate lobbyists, organized a shockingly speedy process to repeal the tax on Amazon and other big businesses. Nearly a year later, they have yet to find any replacement funding for affordable housing.
Kshama has been the only elected official consistently standing up against these “business-as-usual” practices and making sure ordinary people have the opportunity to fight to defend themselves against the predatory interests of Amazon, the big developers, and other corporate kingpins in Seattle. Even having one voice for ordinary people in city hall has helped push Seattle politics to the left. It is vital for working people nationwide to reelect this fighter against the billionaire class.
Right now, ordinary people across the country are continuing to get organized, fight back, and win, showing the immense power of mass working class revolt. A fightback in New York City helped defeat a rotten deal with Amazon. In West Virginia, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Denver, teachers are reviving the strike as a weapon to deal critical blows to Republican and Democratic lawmakers funded by the same billionaires profiting from the systematic defunding, privatization, and charterization of public schools. While the primary strength of our movements is in the streets and workplaces, we have to fight in the electoral and government arenas as well.
Reelecting Kshama Sawant in 2019 would be a powerful boost for everyone fighting back against corporate control over all aspects of our lives. When people see the impact a genuine fighter for working class interests can have in elected office, it raises confidence in what is possible and provides a blueprint that movements in other parts of the country can follow.
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