Murray sworn in as 53rd mayor, Sawant extolls socialist principles during oath ceremony

Murray takes the oath from ambassador to China Gary Locke, on a Irish bible held by Murray’s husband, Michael Shiosaki (Image: Alex Garland)

Murray takes the oath from ambassador to China Gary Locke, on a Irish bible held by Murray’s husband, Michael Shiosaki (Image: Alex Garland)

Ed Murray was sworn into office as the 53rd mayor of Seattle Monday afternoon in the packed lobby of his new office at City Hall. But it was the Council’s newest member and her raucous supporters that stole the show.

Supporters of Kshama Sawant packed the house sporting red shirts and signs emblazoned with pro $15 an hour minimum wage messages.

Murray may take office as the first mayor from Capitol Hill. He’s definitely the first openly gay man to take the post. Sawant was the first socialist in nearly 100 years to be sworn into the City council.

Sawant and Murray gave vastly different speeches following their oaths. While Murray talked inclusiveness and good governance, potholes and police were far from Sawant’s mind as she spoke for nearly nine minutes on the ills of international capitalism and the dysfunction of the two-party system (see a transcript of her remarks below).

“I wear the badge of socialist with honor,” she said, thanking the some 100,000 people that voted her into office and driving home the point that socialists are far from the fringe in Seattle.

Sawant takes the oath of office from Washington State Labor Council Vice President Nicole Grant (Image: @Ed_Murray_Mayor)

Sawant takes the oath of office from Washington State Labor Council Vice President Nicole Grant (Image: @Ed_Murray_Mayor)

Sawant began her speech by raising a fist and ended it simply by saying “solidarity.”

Council members Mike O’Brien, Nick Licata and Sally Bagshaw were also sworn in at the ceremony. They earned some cheers in their own rights, but none as big as when they touched on raising the minimum wage. City Attorney Pete Holmes was also sworn into office and made several nods to the city and state’s historic end to marijuana prohibition.
 The 2014 crop of elected officials technically assumed office in December, but this was the day for pomp and circumstance.

Earlier in the day Murray spent some time on Capitol Hill attending noon mass at Seattle University’s Chapel of St. Ignatius. Murray, who frequently attends mass at the chapel, told CHS he didn’t want the entire day to be about ceremony. The mayor kicked off his inauguration day by volunteering at Mary’s Place women’s shelter.unnamed

Remarks given by Kshama Sawant following her swearing in:

My brothers and sisters,

Thank you for your presence here today.

This city has made glittering fortunes for the super wealthy and for the major corporations that dominate Seattle’s landscape. At the same time, the lives of working people, the unemployed and the poor grow more difficult by the day. The cost of housing skyrockets, and education and healthcare become inaccessible.

This is not unique to Seattle. Shamefully, in this, the richest country in human history, fifty million of our people – one in six – live in poverty. Around the world, billions do not have access to clean water and basic sanitation and children die every day from malnutrition.

This is the reality of international capitalism. This is the product of the gigantic casino of speculation created by the highway robbers on Wall Street. In this system the market is God, and everything is sacrificed on the altar of profit. Capitalism has failed the 99%.

 

Despite recent talk of economic growth, it has only been a recovery for the richest 1%, while the rest of us are falling ever farther behind.

 

In our country, Democratic and Republican politicians alike primarily serve the interests of big business. A completely dysfunctional Congress DOES manage to agree on one thing – regular increases in their already bloated salaries – yet at the same time allows the federal minimum wage to stagnate and fall farther and farther behind inflation. We have the obscene spectacle of the average corporate CEO getting seven thousand dollars an hour, while the lowest-paid workers are called presumptuous in their demand for just fifteen.

To begin to change all of this, we need organized mass movements of workers and young people, relying on their own independent strength.That is how we won unions, civil rights and LGBTQ rights.

 

Again, throughout the length and breadth of this land, working people are mobilizing for a decent and dignified life for themselves and their children. Look at the fast food workers movement, the campaigns of Walmart workers, and the heroic activism to stop the Keystone XL pipeline!

 

Right here in SeaTac, we have just witnessed the tremendous and victorious campaign for fifteen dollars an hour. At the same time, in Lorain County, Ohio, twenty-four candidates ran, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as ‘Independent Labor’ and were elected to their City Councils.

I will do my utmost to represent the disenfranchised and the excluded, the poor and the oppressed – by fighting for a $15/hour minimum wage, affordable housing, and taxing the super-rich for a massive expansion of public transit and education. But my voice will be heard by those in power only if workers themselves shout their demands from the rooftops and organize en masse.

 

My colleagues and I in Socialist Alternative will stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who want to fight for a better world. But working people need a new political party, a mass organization of the working class, run by – and accountable to – themselves. A party that will struggle and campaign in their interest, and that will boldly advocate for alternatives to this crisis-ridden system.

Here in Seattle, political pundits are asking about me: will she compromise? Can she work with others? Of course, I will meet and discuss with representatives of the establishment. But when I do, I will bring the needs and aspirations of working-class people to every table I sit at, no matter who is seated across from me. And let me make one thing absolutely clear: There will be no backroom deals with corporations or their political servants. There will be no rotten sell-out of the people I represent.

 

I wear the badge of socialist with honor. To the nearly hundred thousand who voted for me, and to the hundreds of you who worked tirelessly on our campaign, I thank you. Let us continue.

 

The election of a socialist to the Council of a major city in the heartland of global capitalism has made waves around the world. We know because we have received messages of support from Europe, Latin America, Africa and from Asia. Those struggling for change have told us they have been inspired by our victory.

 

To all those prepared to resist the agenda of big business – in Seattle and nationwide – I appeal to you: get organized. Join with us in building a mass movement for economic and social justice, for democratic socialist change, whereby the resources of society can be harnessed, not for the greed of a small minority, but for the benefit of all people. Solidarity.

31 thoughts on “Murray sworn in as 53rd mayor, Sawant extolls socialist principles during oath ceremony

  1. So if I’m entitled to live in seattle and make $15 an hour for the simplest of jobs I might as Will drop out of school and start working at McDonald’s. Furthering my education would be a waste. And she’s making $117000 a year? I hope she’s planing on giving some back because we should all be equal

    • Scott, you are not entitled to such.

      Some of us hope to stop employers from taking advantage of those who have little choice but to work a job like that which you described. We hope to say, “If your business plan relies on paying people less than 15 dollars for an hour of work, you’ll have to take it outside of our city.”

      If you aspire to work in the vending machine atmosphere of a fast food chain, then yes, you probably should stop wasting your time in school and get to work. Hopefully, we will soon invite you to do that work in Seattle, where you will somewhat more likely to be able to support yourself with such a job without public assistance (so-called “entitlement programs”) taking up the slack.

      • Phil,
        How do you respond to concerns that forcing employers to pay their staff $15 an hour will hurt small business owners who cannot afford to pay their staff those wages? My relative runs a shop that employs 11 workers. Many of those workers choose to work there not because they have no other options but because they are looking for experience learning a skill right out of college and this is an entry level position for them.

        Currently they make around $10 an hour, which is all he can afford to pay them. If he were forced to increase their wages, this would cost his business over $1000 per week. He would have no choice but to either reduce staff, which would hurt production & hurt his business, or to turn these positions into unpaid internships, which would be incredibly difficult for the employees who want to work there to learn these skills to do so because they cannot afford to take an unpaid position.

        I ask, because this debate is always framed as “the little guy vs. big corporations,” but small business owners are the little guy, too.

        • Maggie, I respond by pointing out that any business plan that relies paying people less than the cost of living for their labor is a flawed one. And I understand that many businesses rely on this.

          I’m generally all for letting consenting adults engage in whatever transactions they like. But at some point, when we find that people are regularly being taken advantage of, I think it’s reasonable for us to step in to give the disadvantaged parties to those questionable transactions a hand.

          While you have provided a counter-example, I think that many people who are working for minimum wage are not clearly in consensual relationships with their employers. We have not created a framework that provides for practical alternatives under many circumstances.

          Economic disparity in this nation is obscene. We’ve let things slide too far, and the correction may be uncomfortable.

          • While the business plan may be flawed, the fact is that in this economy, many businesses HAVE to rely on this practice or they simply won’t exist. And then you will find yourself living in a city with even more Office Maxes and fast food joints replacing boutiques and your beloved indie bookstores, because those are the businesses that will survive.

            Most of these indie businesses employ college kids, who for decades have been working two jobs and living in shitty apartments with roommates. It’s part of being that age and it absolutely motivates you to work hard to get out. When I moved here 15 years ago I was making minimum wage, living in an efficiency apartment with a murphy bed, and I shared a bathroom with junkies who left their needles lying around.

            I think we need to be looking at other solutions such as rent control, increased low income housing, and making businesses that gross over a certain amount pay a higher minimum wage. Then people will have options.

          • I think Maggie’s point is well taken, and that what she predicts will in fact come true if a $15/hr minimum wage is enacted. It is almost a certainty that many small businesses will be adversely affected, or even go under.

            Fortunately we now have a wise and somewhat-cautious Mayor. He has convened a panel to advise him on this issue, and it is made up of both business and labor interests, so it should offer a balanced assessment.

          • It has simply never happened before in any observable way. Rises in the minimum wage have not put businesses under or employees out of work. It’s a recurring right wing talking point, and a fear stoked in small business owners (who are used as the smokescreen for the desires of big business), but it’s fiction.

        • QNetter, I’m a registered democrat who has never voted Republican, and we are talking about an increase of $5.68 per employee, not your standard historically under $1 amount, so I’m not sure you have a comparable source to make this claim (if you do, I’d love to see the link).

          To state that this won’t have a huge impact in this economy on small businesses in Seattle who are already closing because they are unable to pay the exhorbitant rents in the city is a joke. If you have six employees who work 30 hours per week, you’re talking about $1,022 per week. My relative already forgoes paying himself so he can can pay his staff. I asked him what he felt about this proposal and it scares the hell out of him because he can’t afford it. So there’s one example.

      • So, what happens when people are are “over qualified” and working for more than $15 but less than they should earn, start saying, “screw it, why work that hard for $2/hr more?”. Then semi-skilled or higher-skilled workers start competing with unskilled workers for the $15/hr jobs, and force them out of their jobs. It’s not going to have a “ripple effect” upwards and result in higher-skilled jobs paying more. Pretty soon you’d have to put wage controls on everything.

        • “Pretty soon you’d have to put wage controls on everything.”

          Yes, that would be one of the goals of socialist. They don’t see the problem with it or the other issues you, Maggie and others point out.

        • “So, what happens when people are are “over qualified” and working for more than $15 but less than they should earn, start saying, “screw it, why work that hard for $2/hr more?”.”

          Really??… Since when does America pay wages in proportion to how hard the work is? As someone fitting your hypothetical person (I have a business degree and have been doing a Ph.D. while working a variety of $16-18/hr jobs), I can tell you there is no way I’d ever go back to the amount of hard work and strain involved in most minimum wage jobs – even if they paid more than what I could find with my skills.

          • Exactly. People act as though paychecks were somehow tied to productivity instead of the absolute lowest rate that employers can get away with in the market. We’re paid according to what everyone else is being paid, not what we’re actually worth to a company.

    • If businesses can’t afford to pay people $15/hr to do mindless jobs, at least this will spur innovation in creating robots/technology that can do these jobs instead. I look forward to the day when I can go order some fast food and not have to deal with any workers.

        • I suppose you feel cotton should be picked by hand because it would employ more people than machine picked cotton.

          A machine picked cotton device manned by a single person can produce more than a human by hand in a year. Oh the unemployment!

          • Funny enough, that was an argument against the automated cotton picker into the 1950′s. Some of the early machines could pick the same amount as 40 workers per hour.

    • I think Scott has a real point. There are plenty of college graduates working at jobs which pay less than $15/hr, or at most a little more than that. Why should they spend years in college, sometimes at great expense and increasing debt, when they can avoid all that and make just as much at a low-skill, low-stress job?

      • There’s a fallacy here. The raising of the minimum wage not only puts upward pressure on wages in the 20-30% of the salary scale above it, it also in turn puts enough more money into the economy as to make that sustainable.

      • Bob, are you arguing that we should allow employment at poverty-level wages as an incentive for people to spend years of their lives on costly post-secondary education?

        Your premise that low wages mean low stress on the job is flawed.

        • No, Phil, I am not arguing that. I am in favor of a modest increase in our minimum wage, but not a 60% increase all at once. And it is reality that one of the reasons people seek a college degree is so that they might have the possibility of a higher income compared to an unskilled worker, even though there is no guarantee. If all workers made at least $15/hr, and if some college-educated people made about the same or somewhat more, then that just doesn’t seem very fair. Wages should be at least roughly proportional to one’s educational background, and of course to their experience.

          I do apologize that I implied minimum wage jobs equate to low stress….that is obviously not true, at least in some cases.

  2. Pingback: 15 Now launch rally Sunday to push ‘a real $15 minimum wage’ | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

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