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Kshama Sawant’s inauguration a battle cry to ‘Tax Amazon’

Making her agenda crystal clear, Kshama Sawant’s Monday night inauguration to her third term on the Seattle City Council was also the launch of a new “Tax Amazon” movement in Seattle.

“We need a clear and fearless message that will inspire working people and community members to come out and get involved,” Sawant said in front of a packed crowd at the Central District’s Washington Hall. “We need a message that will sound as powerful in spirit for working people around the country, hence: Tax Amazon,” Sawant said.

Despite the freezing weather, supporters filled the 14th Ave venue to celebrate the decisive victory of the Socialist Alternative incumbent over Egan Orion in November. Orion was backed by an unprecedented $1.5 million in funding from Amazon, a “blatant attempt to buy City Hall.” The election backlash to the Amazon cash also helped Sawant secure key new allies — her fellow council members as the council’s two citywide representatives — Teresa Mosqueda and Lorena González embraced the Socialist Alternative leader and a slate of progressive candidates.

“Together we defeated the richest man in the world,” one of the emcees Eva Metz, Sawant’s campaign finance director, proudly declared.


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Monday night’s event featured speakers from labor organizers, activists groups, and unions, all calling for a fight against big corporations, and echoing solidarity among movements. The event lasted more than two hours, beginning with Sawant being sworn in by Kaylah Williams, speaking on behalf of Sara Nelson, the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA who was unable to attend due to illness.

Seattle lawyer, organizer, and People’s Party member Nikkita Oliver and Maurice Mitchell, national executive director of the Working Families Party, emphasized “people power” and a “mulit-racial populist movement” to make government answer to the people, not servile to corporations.

Susan Fitzgerald of Ireland’s Socialist Party congratulated Sawant, noting that her victory sent reverberations throughout the world, galvanizing people who are fighting for better working conditions everywhere. Big corporations have their billions, but workers’ movements have the people. Fitzgerald recounted some of her party’s wins for workers in Ireland, and noted that, “The essence of strike action is proof of the power that the working class can grind this whole entire system to a halt.”

John Burbank, executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, brought a compelling look at Amazon’s tax information. He noted that in 2018 Amazon doubled its profits to $11 billion, and got a federal tax rebate of $129 million. Despite the company’s staggering amount of tax breaks, Seattle taxpayers paid over $220 million for Amazon’s electric substation in South Lake Union.

In Sarah Nelson’s speech, read by Kaylah Williams, the AFA-CWA president conjured images of Seattle’s radical movements like the 1919 Seattle General Strike and 1999 WTO protests. Nelson advocated that “our real power is in solidarity,” and that “we must build a movement of working people-where the person next to you can be trusted to have your back.”

Sawant took to the podium among cheers and a standing ovation. In a “city that is deeply unequal, with historic and unprecedented degrees of inequality,” Sawant said raising a tax on Amazon would be used to build social housing, which is also a key component in a Green New Deal, along with funding education and infrastructure. She suggested raising the tax to “at least 200 to 500 million dollars annually with no sunset clause,” and clarified that Seattle’s Tax Amazon movement stands in solidarity with all Amazon workers everywhere trying to organize for better working conditions.

Two years ago, the council faced down public saber rattling from Amazon and architected an employee tax that passed in a compromise form to implement a $275 per full-time employee tax on companies reporting $20 million or greater in annual “taxable gross receipts.” That tax was to have begun in 2019. But seven on the nine council members reversed their support and joined Mayor Jenny Durkan in standing up against the new tax out of fear about the economic fallout and facing a reported wave of public opposition. But even as they voted to repeal it, Seattle City Council members at the time said that an employee hours tax was probably the city’s best route to creating an alternative, non-regressive revenue stream to combat Seattle’s affordability crisis.

Sawant, now with a new council, is “preparing legislation for an Amazon Tax in Seattle that the City Council can either pass as an ordinance, or it can be put on the ballot for a vote in November. Either way, our movement cannot just put our faith in City Hall and wait for them to act. Our movement needs to immediately prepare to fight a grassroots battle initiative.”

There are as of yet no drafts of the proposed legislation available but Sawant’s office says her proposal would would raise between $200 million and $500 million annually and would not have a so-called sunset clause that would end the tax after a set time that Mayor Durkan fought for in the previous rounds of the tax battle.

“I was asked why I was linking my inauguration to the launch to Tax Amazon,” Sawant said Monday night. “I said my council office belongs to the people and the movement, and what better way to demonstrate that by combining the events.”

Wanting to “strike while the iron is hot,” Sawant is organizing a Tax Amazon Action Conference scheduled for January 25th at Washington Hall.

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48 thoughts on “Kshama Sawant’s inauguration a battle cry to ‘Tax Amazon’

  1. Seattle: Tax Amazon!
    Other cities: C’mon down!
    Amazon to Seattle: See ya!

    Not to say that whatever abuses Amazon metes out on the populace should go unchallenged, but the City of Seattle is projected to take in close to $1.4 Billion from all it’s taxes, mainly property, sales and business. WTF are they doing with all that money?

    Some, few people, just hate the idea of taxation completely. But most of us don’t hate taxation, we just want the government to use our money responsibly. Seattle government has never demonstrated this ability, and Sawant can’t find her economic rear-end with both hands.

    No matter who is named in any legislation as the ones being taxed, only two segments of the population pay any tax, ever: Employees and customers. If you can show any company that did not, eventually, pass the cost of taxes off to their employees and customers, I’ll vote for Bernie.

    The homeless problems in Seattle and the rest of the USA can be traced 100% to the actions of government. The first source of homelessness is the lack of universal medical care – because most people who are homeless lose their net worth trying to pay major medical bills, most of which would not have become major if they had low-cost or fully-funded basic medical care to start with. The other group of homeless people are substance addicts, who cannot afford treatment.

    The next source of homelessness is the capitulation of cities, states and counties to builder’s lobbies. Governments let builders throw up giant McMansion complexes without requiring them to upgrade the infrastructure and public necessities and amenities to go with them, including schools, parks, transit, neighborhood groceries and local clinic facilities. People live in sterile neighborhoods that they can only reach by car, limiting who can live there. Even though overt redlining is illegal (on paper), covert redlining through how and where new developments are built still goes on.

    Rounding out the top three on the list of how government policies help create and exacerbate homelessness is lack of free post-secondary education. Anybody who pays attention already knows that everyone benefits when more people in society have higher levels of education.
    Educated people are better citizens in every way.
    What else needs to be said?

    But these are not flashy, mob-agitating solutions. Getting people to pump their fists and blame evil corporations for all the veils of the world distracts them from the failing of politicians to do their job, knuckle down and solve hard problems.

    • Here here.

      I was so irritated when Orion lost.

      I was equally irritated that he was the candidate because Orion was an awful candidate.

      Sawant won because she’s assembled what is looking more and more like a cult…and she was lucky to have a nincompoop as an opponent.

    • Spike your comment is basically a recitation of the tired, hyperbolic Dori Monson/right-wing talking points constantly popping up in almost every article that mentions Sawant:

      The voters have spoken and chosen a Council that rightfully acknowledges big tech and Amazon as major factors in the rise in homelessness and lack of affordable housing for everyone else that isn’t an overpaid tech worker. If big tech chooses to turn Seattle into their personal campus at the expense of everyone else they need to pay for the repercussions. I will welcome any legislation that encourages this.

      • “Spike your comment is basically a recitation of the tired, hyperbolic Dori Monson/right-wing talking points…”
        WTF???

        Free college is a Dori talking point?
        Free medical is a Dori talking point?
        Making the builders pay their fair share is a Dori talking point?

        Are you really that binary of a thinker, that either someone is for Sawant, or they’re for Trump?

    • Spike I agree with you on the solutions, but the core obstacle to seeing those solutions realized is not that politicians lack intelligence or work ethic. The MO of American politicians is to win elections with corporate cash and then quietly put those corporate interests above the broader good of the working people–it’s how they get and keep their jobs.

      Convincing them otherwise takes a large and outspoken movement which makes the maintenance of the status quo impossible. If you don’t agree, I’d ask you to point to any significant political progress in America that didn’t involve building a vocal and oppositional grassroots movement. While community rallies that ring a defiant tone might strike you as unseemly, they’re core to building a movement with a fighting chance at progress

      • @TurnCalAndersonIntoADogPark

        Your points are valid, in the general sense.

        Sawant is not an ethical person, however, like Dr. King, or the Standing Rock Sioux, or Harvey Milk – all people she would >like< to be compared favorably with, of course.

        You do make one false claim, though. I never said rallies and revolution in and of themselves, were unseemly. I have consistently claimed, based on what I see of her behavior, that Sawant is using the plight of the poor and downtrodden to put forward her own personal agenda. She doesn't care, but she takes advantage of people who do, like yourself.

  2. You know…while I do agree that the large corporations headquartered in Seattle need to pay more and do more to help maintain this city’s livability…this woman is ridiculous.

    Also, do these people not realize that this aggressive stance threatens to kill the goose that laid the golden egg?

    Seattle was a garbage s*$&t town before tech arrived and made this place wealthy and desirable.

    Amazon is already moving employees elsewhere, and while that is more a reflection of its expansion as a business at present, in the long term this aggressive, anti-Amazon (and anti-corporate) stance means Amazon will just start locating more and more of its employees elsewhere.

    Ditto for other corporations.

    In this, Sawant is a net negative for our city as a whole.

    Thankfully, she is a lone voice on the council and can thus be isolated.

    On another note, was it really that hard (apparently it was) to find a decent candidate to run against her in last year’s election?

    Orion was a joke, and Amazon really messed up with its “Ooooh, here’s a large, last-minute donation”.

    But why oh why was there not a compelling opponent? It CAN’T be that hard to find someone, anyone to displace Kshama “I’m Just Biding My Time Until I Can Take Pramila Jayapal’s Place in Congress” Sawant.

    So irritated that she won.

    • Thanks…could not have said it better. I wish this woman would concern herself with our district’s local problems…start by fixing our horrendous streets, or by lobbying for regulation/rent forgiveness to fill the still empty store fronts in several of the new buildings, or how about learning from other big cities about how to attack the homeless crisis (like Ms. Durkan ties to do).

      • Just curious— this “regulation/rent forgiveness”— where should that money come from, to pay the bills & loans that developers took out to finance the buildings? There are an awful lot of highly paid tech employees that are renters, and they don’t move into ever-more expensive apartments every time they get a fat raise. That means an increasingly smaller % of their fat paychecks goes to rent. In other words, the more money they make the less proportionally they pay their fair share. Just like everyone complains about the tech businesses themselves. You do realize, right, that the Seattle area’s success at luring away tech workers from tech hubs like the Bay Area, NY, or Chicago has a lot to do with no state income tax? So they don’t have the same share of tax burden as they did where they came from. These same renters vote “yes” on every tax levy because the effect on their rent is diluted the larger the bldg they live in.
        It’s tire though— Sawant’s game plan will eventually result in killing the goose with the golden egg. And then all those tech companies will move and take all those renting techies with them.

    • If this statement is true:
      “I’m Just Biding My Time Until I Can Take Pramila Jayapal’s Place in Congress”
      then we should help her move on as quickly as possible. She can wag her jaw on the talking heads shows, along with her right-wing co-conspirators.

      Just my opinion after many years of studying economics and politics, but I think that “socialist” policies work better at a national level, where costs and benefits are spread over the entire country, while the aim of local politics should be to help local businesses thrive, since small businesses are the most creative and most nimble parts of the economy.

    • “Seattle was a garbage S*$&t town…before tech arrived and made this place wealthy and desirable.”

      These comments are indicative of the class warfare going on in this City that got Sawant elected so THANK YOU and thanks for showing the truly disgusting and hateful indifference of the pro-corporate class in this City is alive and well.

      The majority of voters fully support Head Tax 2.0 along with broad support from City Council. You’re laughably uniformed to say Sawant is a ‘lone voice’ and it fills me with joy that you seethe everyday over Sawant.

      • “it fills me with joy that you seethe everyday over Sawant.”

        …and, there it is.

        The real feelings of Sawantophiles: Hate everyone who disagrees with us.

        Her policies are not designed to help anyone, but to harm those she and her supporters have decided are “evil.”

        As many have pointed out: Sawantophiles are no different than Trumpistas in this regard. If you disagree with them, you should be shouted down, disenfranchised and sanctioned in every way.

      • Oh no the person that wants to turn Seattle into an exclusive playground for the weathly is being disenfranchised! Cry me a river snowflake.

      • “Oh no the person that wants to turn Seattle into an exclusive playground for the wealthy is being disenfranchised! Cry me a river snowflake.”

        Again, it’s the personal attacks from Swant-worshippers that show their true intent.

        This has nothing to do with solving the homeless problem for you. It’s all about trying to get some kind of “revenge” for others being richer than you.

  3. One of the posters says, “build city owned housing.”

    Not necessarily a bad idea. There are places where government-controlled housing works for the tenants and the community as a whole.

    This, however, is Seattle.

    Think about all of the projects Seattle has tried to implement and how much they have cost the citizens, not just in money, but in stress, ill-will, disruptions and pain.

    If it were someone other than Sawant leading this, it would have some semblance of benefit. The biggest problem, as I noted before, is that Sawant doesn’t treat her election victory as a chance to work with everyone in Seattle, but as her mandate to punish those who disagree with her. And, from many (not all, to be sure) of the comments of her supporters, they feel the same.

  4. Seattle: Tax Amazon!
    Other cities: C’mon down!
    Amazon to Seattle: See ya!
    Real Seattle: Oh good, you got the message!

    Seattle was great before Amazon. Frankly, we are better without them if they don’t want to be good neighbors.

    Naive purebred capitalists never really understand that economic growth isn’t actually synonymous with prosperity.

    Seattle doesn’t need Amazon.

    • “Naive purebred capitalists never really understand that economic growth isn’t actually synonymous with prosperity.”

      True.

      However, everything you want is paid for with real money, earned by employees of capitalist companies, from the sole-prop to the mega-corp.

      If you have a plan to solve the homeless problem without taxing the capitalists you hate – since they won’t be here to tax – please tell us what it is.

      This is not a rhetorical question. I really want to know. Whenever I ask for actual ideas from Sawant-fans, no one ever has anything to say. All we get are chants and rants.

      • Socialists grow money on special trees the rest of us aren’t privy to, obviously.

        Back in the day, the Left valued work and a dedication to working. Now, they value mooching off others’ ideas, innovations and hard work. And getting stoned.

      • Possibly true.
        What metrics are you using to measure “better”?

        And, do you have any proof that an Amazon-free Seattle would have evolved any differently between 1994 and today?

        Harry Turtledove is a pretty famous alternate history writer. His fiction is based in fact – he consults with experts to create alternate histories that could have been realities, but for the “want of a nail.”

        Do you have information that would show that, without Amazon, no other corp would have started up to build on the educated and innovative workforce of Seattle-area to create an online marketing behemoth?

  5. Sounds like a bunch of poors complaining about everything once again.

    Sawant is a joke and none of the “change” she promotes will ever work or be adopted at any level of scale. She’s annoying, but at the end of the day she’s just a city council member and will have a relatively small affect on anything that really matters.

    The really fortunate thing (for all of the sane people who live in Seattle) is that the city is surrounded by a pretty conservative base throughout the rest of WA state. That helps to keep things balanced overall so that the ultra-liberal policies that all the Seattle weirdos want to push can only go so far.

    • 1. Talking about a “bunch of poors” while homeless people and children sleep outside in the middle of a snow storm perfectly encapsulates the willful ignorance and lack of compassion the rich have for anyone but themselves.

      2. As far as the “change” Sawant” promotes, the post election mandate for progressive changes are very real and will be adopted full stop. Only someone living deeply in denial would believe otherwise.

      3. The conservatives outside of Seattle have zero impact on what legislation is passed or how it is voted on by our City Council. Those don’t vote here but I’m sure they’d embrace your tiny mind.

      4. Stick to commenting on Dori Monson articles sport. You’re outside of your echo chamber here.

      • 1. I’m helping the homeless directly. I’m talking about the lame poors who have homes and internet access and complain on this blog every day.

        2. LOL @ “will be adopted full stop”. That’s cute and delusional.

        3. The city council is a joke. I’m thankful that lawmakers that really matter have a much more balanced view of reality.

        4. Legit no idea who Dori Monson is but sure

      • I’m not even 40 bruh so neither a boomer nor going anywhere soon. Will be here to dominate ya’ll haters for the foreseeable future!

      • CD James

        Your hatred for anyone who doesn’t worship your goddess puts you in the same totalitarian camp as all your Trump loving friends.

  6. Rally speaker John Burbank might as well be working for a disinformation outfit like Breitbart considering the lies he tells:

    “He noted that in 2018 Amazon doubled its profits to $11 billion, and got a federal tax rebate of $129 million.”

    Amazon got a big tax break for two reasons: 1) Trump tax cuts, brought to you by leftist Jill Stein voters and disgruntled Bernie Sanders voters; and, 2) Amazon re-invests 100% of profits in R & D (jobs & innovation) rather than help pay for the U.S. War Machine (which takes up 70% of discretionary federal funds) Kinda kinda ironic that all these anti-war activists believe Amazon should be pumping more cash into Trump’s military, especially at this time in history.

    “Despite the company’s staggering amount of tax breaks, Seattle taxpayers paid over $220 million for Amazon’s electric substation in South Lake Union.”

    Here are the facts: the Denny substation was envisioned in 2003 and proposed by Seattle City Light in 2005. It wasn’t until 2007 that Amazon announced it would move from Beacon Hill to SLU. If people figured out they were being lied to by these Socialists, they probably wouldn’t hate companies like Amazon so much.

    Like Trump and his far-right minions, Sawant and her ilk use lies and distortions to gaslight their reactionary ideologue masses. Unlike the religious right MAGA cult, educated leftists should know better.

      • Nah.

        The way we are taught history makes it seem like there were these big events that changed the social paradigm. That’s not how things happened, no matter what they were.

        The way history really plays out is that change happens gradually, but once on the other side, people finally notice that things have changed and look for some watershed event to claim is the cause.

        Just like when you see your little nieces after 5 years and are shocked how much taller they are.

        The change to a more pluralistic, inclusive and rationalistic society has been going on for a long time – long before Sawant ever showed up – and will continue to plod along. Sawant, like other politicians, just ran to the front of the parade to pretend she is leading it.

      • Poor girl. You think you’re some kind of new, amazing butterfly that non one has seen before.

        Real humans have been fighting for the rights of the oppressed long before you were even born. There’s nothing new and exciting about Sawant, she just seems that way to people who are ignorant of history.

        You keep acting like I don’t want things to get better for everyone. The people who really care about others are willing to work with those who don’t match up with their intellectual purity tests.

        I’ve given you a list of things that need to change, you’ve never said what was wrong with my list.

        Sawant isn’t some magic fairy who’s going to wave her wand and grant your wishes. It takes real effort to change things. Sawant doesn’t have the gumption to make it happen. Do you?

  7. “Susan Fitzgerald of Ireland’s Socialist Party congratulated Sawant, noting that her victory sent reverberations throughout the world, galvanizing people who are fighting for better working conditions everywhere.”

    This is hogwash. No one outside of Seattle has ever heard of Sawant. Delusions of grandeur.

    • Sigh, not aligning with Sawant =/= “republican”

      Amazing how the political optics in the city have changed over the last decade, with a size-able chunk of Seattle shifting from Obama progressivism to Sawant socialism. Those of us that didn’t shift went from being viewed as progressives in 2008 to being viewed as centrists/“right-wing”/whatever boogeyman in 2020.

      Keep the name calling and the divisive language coming if ya like but realize you’ll be limiting your electability, leading your “revolution” to a few members on couple city councils and a house seat our two before it hits a wall.

  8. I am a Democrat and am not rich. The business tax proposed a few years ago would have also affected lower income people like me who work in downtown Seattle, NOT just rich people. I work at a medium-sized company whose gross profits would have made us eligible to be taxed. But our net profits are WAY less than our gross. If the tax would have went into effect, my company would have had to stop giving cost of living raises, lay off employees, or move out of Seattle entirely. So, I am glad it didn’t pass.

    I feel the homeless crisis is in part caused by all the freedom the homeless have in Seattle. They come here because the city government welcomes them with open arms, and then they want to tax the heck out of honest working people due to the “crisis” that was largely by government policies. I’m not against helping others in need, but this is ridiculous.

  9. I see no upside to driving money out of town. When I’m on unemployment thanks to this woman, at least I’ll get some source of warmth by burning her tax flyers.

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