In Seattle, Socialist city councilmember Kshama Sawant is coming under fire — and that fusillade is coming from unions.
According to My Northwest, rumors are flying that Sawant might eschew seeking reelection after her support of a failed head tax plan triggered a battle with union members. Other rumors hint that she’s looking for a successor. At one rally for the head tax, union construction workers shouted Sawant down after Amazon announced it had stopped a building project in Seattle.
Amazon’s announcement shouldn’t have been surprising considering the head tax was designed to target big businesses in the city. In mid-May, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously for a head tax on the city’s largest employers; the tax would have been $275 per employee per year on for-profit companies that grossed at least $20 million per year in the city. Amazon would have been faced with a tax of roughly $10 million per year.
But in mid-June, Seattle's city council voted to repeal the head tax.
Pete Lamb, senior business agent for Teamsters Local 174, confirmed the anger among members toward Sawant. He told My Northwest, “There were definitely concerns in regards to Sawant. … We were against the head tax from the very beginning. We do definitely believe that her position on [the head tax] … we didn’t agree. We definitely feel that we should have focused on a regional solution. It’s easy to demonize and go after; it’s a lot more difficult to find solutions and so we were definitely not in alignment on that issue.”
Lamb continued, “What I would say in general about the city council … they need to take a little more broad look about how the communication takes place in regards to labor organizations. Whether it’s the building trades or the Teamsters, we were caught off guard by what was being pushed forward and we had hundreds, if not thousands of workers that were … negatively impacted with the shutdown of the building for Amazon. I do think that they definitely need to take a look in regards to solutions-based policies and maybe having more seats at the table.”
It wasn’t just union members who were up in arms about the proposed head tax; a Seattle City Council head tax survey found few businesses supported the idea.
My Northwest notes:
When respondents were asked if they’d support a $500 tax on businesses with gross receipts above $20 million, 80 percent of the near 500 business respondents held a negative view. When asked if they’d support a $300 head tax on businesses making over $5 million gross, 86.9 percent opposed. In fact, they tested a total of six different head tax ideas, changing either the tax per employee or the gross the business makes, and each time it was overwhelmingly opposed.
The polls didn’t change when non-business owners were asked. Strategies 360 found staggering opposition to the head tax and a pricey poll commissioned by head tax supporters showed results that were just as dismal.