Capitol Hill Community Post | Working people should support Sawant against Amazon’s candidate

From Mike Andrew, MLK Labor eboard member

Election Day is November 5. For working people in Seattle City Council District 3, the choice could not be clearer.

Kshama Sawant has been one of the most consistent fighters for working people and our unions to serve on the City Council. We are proud to support Councilmember Sawant’s re-election, along with the 15 unions and counting who have endorsed her campaign.

Against her is the candidate of the Chamber of Commerce, Egan Orion. Orion’s campaign coffers are flush with donations from a who’s who of corporate America, including big developers, corporate lobbyists, 15 Amazon executives from around the country, and a long list of businesses who have fought against pro-labor policies in Seattle like the $15/hour minimum wage.

Among those who’ve maxed out to Orion are real estate billionaire Martin Selig, who also gave the maximum donation of $5,600 to Donald Trump in 2016. This year Selig also gave the maximum donation to Ari Hoffman against Tammy Morales. Joining him is wealthy hotel chain owner Richard Hedreen, who has a long track record of union-busting.

In fact, corporate PACs and the super-rich are trying to buy our elections this year. In the August primaries, a candidate backed by the Chamber of Commerce made it through to the general election in every single district.

The Chamber’s PAC, CASE, propped up by unprecedented corporate funding for a Seattle City Council race, has made union sister and socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant their main target. Despite that, Sawant came in 15 points ahead of her closest opponent in the primary election.

Unfortunately, while Sawant has strong rank-and-file union support, some labor leaders supported one of her opponents. We understand there were differences in labor on the District 3 race in the primary, with some seeing Zachary DeWolf as a progressive alternative. But this general election is a fundamentally different race.

Progressive unions simply cannot support an out-and-out corporate candidate like Egan Orion. Orion is the first choice of the corporate elite, and out of all 55 City Council candidates in the crowded Seattle primary, he was the #1 recipient of corporate PAC money.

Last week, a new $200,000 donation from Amazon has brought their total PAC contribution up to $450,000. Altogether, three corporate PACs have amassed more than $1.7 million and counting, including half a million from a real estate lobby that wants to stop rent control at all costs. 

As we all know, he who pays the piper calls the tune. The long experience our movement has had with corporate-backed candidates has shown their election-year promises to be hollow. Orion says he will listen to everyone, but his actions, were he to be elected, would be guided by his corporate masters, not by our unions.

Orion has said unequivocally he does not support rent control, an urgently-needed public policy to stem the hemorrhaging of our city’s affordable housing. He’s not campaigning for any tax on big business. He has no viable plan to address the affordable housing crisis. He does not support a Green New Deal. 

Orion has also been remarkably dishonest about his PAC funding, with his campaign putting up posters saying “No Corporate PAC Money” after completely flip flopping on the issue. In fact, he applied to the Chamber’s CASE PAC for their financial backing, interviewed for it, and said he was “proud” to receive their endorsement (while addressing a business audience).

This kind of dishonesty stands in sharp contrast to Kshama Sawant’s highly principled approach to her council seat and complete rejection of all corporate cash.

We can’t let big business buy this election. They want a Seattle exclusively for them: a corporate tax haven and playground for the rich, where they reside in waterfront mansions with manicured lawns, while workers and people of color continue to be gentrified out of the city. 

A lot is at stake in this election. We need to build the fight for rent control and affordable housing, for a Green New Deal, and for taxing big business instead of working people. We need a proven fighter like Sawant who has shown time and again she will stand up for ordinary people and not bow down before business interests, including their ongoing attacks on labor and efforts to privatize the public sector.

All unions should now stand together and endorse Kshama Sawant against this corporate onslaught. 

Signed by,

David Parsons, President of UAW 4121, MLK Labor E Board member*
Paula Lukaszek, President of WFSE 1488, MLK Labor delegate*
Claude Burfect, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists*, MLK Labor E Board member*
David Yao, Vice President of Greater Seattle Area American Postal Workers
Mike Andrew, MLK Labor eboard member*, UAW 1981/National Writers Union
Kathy Yasi, Second Vice President of SEIU 925
Justin Vinson, MLK Labor delegate*, Seattle Education Association E Board member
Jonathan Rosenblum, UAW 1981/National Writers Union, author of Beyond $15
Tricia Coley, IBEW 46*
Annelie Day, UFCW 21*
Kathy Heffernan, SEIU 1199NW

* Personal capacity only

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