By Logan Swan
The Tax Amazon movement and Seattle’s working class won a historic victory on Monday, July 6. Following a three year struggle against the richest man in the world – Jeff Bezos – and his political establishment, we’ve won a tax on big business in the Seattle City Council that will raise an estimated $210-240 million a year, creating tens of thousands of green union jobs by building permanently affordable social housing.
This victory was entirely due to the power of our movement and our threat to take the Amazon Tax to the ballot if the City Council failed to act. This offensive win is a historic example of the power of class struggle, and it could not come at a better time. Cities and states across the country are pushing extreme austerity budgets in response to the pandemic-triggered budget shortfalls as we enter into another deep crisis of capitalism.
We’ve seen the ruling class attempting to again offload the costs of their recession onto working people as they did during the Great Recession of 2008-09, where big business got bailed out and workers got sold out. While trillions get pumped into Wall Street, we’ve only gotten a one-time check that doesn’t even cover half of your average Seattle rent, and the extra money on unemployment benefits is set to run out at the end of the month even though unemployment is at record highs. It doesn’t have to be like this, and our victory in Seattle illuminates that.
I am a union ironworker and member of Socialist Alternative and I think that this pitched battle against Amazon, Jeff Bezos, and Seattle’s billionaire class has rich lessons for working people across the country. This article is an attempt at highlighting the most important lessons of this victory so that workers across the country can put up similar fights.
The Amazon Tax win runs completely counter to what the ruling class wants. Instead of playing defense against austerity, we went on the offense to force big business to pay for a major expansion of affordable housing and public services. Now, we need to spread the momentum from our victory across the country. Our rallying cry everywhere must be: say NO to underfunded housing, education, social services, and austerity! Tax big business and the rich, not working people!
How Did We Get There?
Round one: In 2018, we launched the Tax Amazon movement, demanding that the big businesses which have long used Seattle as a corporate tax haven instead pay to fund affordable housing. Seattle has some of the nation’s fastest rising rents. It has been the site of shockingly rapid gentrification that has emptied out entire districts of working class people, particularly in the Central District and Capitol Hill areas, neighborhoods that were historically the home of Black and LGBTQ communities.
Socialist Alternative and our City Council Office of Kshama Sawant built a coalition of community groups and labor organizations to take up the campaign and build pressure on the City Council to pass a progressive tax on the largest companies in the city.
As a rank-and-file union ironworker, I wanted to be put to work building housing regular people can actually afford to live in, instead of the luxury condos and apartments that private developers are profiting from now. Too often these sit vacant as working people are pushed out to longer and longer commutes or into the streets. As a socialist, I understood that in order to address the failure of the private market to provide affordable housing it will mean taking on the bosses and taxing big business to build permanently affordable public housing instead […]