Response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address
Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative, Seattle City Council
Tuesday January 28, 2014
Tonight, President Obama talked about the deepening inequality.
But that is a testament of his own presidency. A presidency that has betrayed the hopes of tens of millions of people who voted for him out of a genuine desire for fundamental change away from corporate politics and war mongering.
Poverty is at record-high numbers - 95% of the gains in productivity during the so-called recovery have gone to the top 1%.
The president’s focus on income inequality was an admission of the failure of his policies.
An admission forced by rallies, demonstrations, and strikes by fast food and low wage workers demanding a minimum wage of $15. It has been forced by the outrage over the widening gulf between the super-rich and those of us working to create this wealth in society.
While the criminals on Wall Street are bailed out, courageous whistleblowers like Edward Snowden are hunted down and the unconstitutional acts he exposed are allowed to continue.
When: Saturday, February 15th, 2pm
Where: SEIU 775 Headquarters (215 Columbia Street; Seattle, WA 98104)
Facebook event here
Join 15 Now to launch a group in your neighborhood to educate, mobilize and help raise the Fight for 15 to the
The Fight for 15 in Seattle has been gathering momentum, but winning $15/hour will require the active participation of thousands. Big Business will not let a $15 minimum wage pass without a fight. They will mobilize their resources to derail, delay, and dilute efforts to end the poverty wages that are the source of their profits.
The only way we counter the power of Corporate America is by building a massive grassroots campaign with local neighborhood and campus action groups, town hall meetings, mass rallies, and strikes.
Please join us on February 15 as we prepare the next steps in the Fight for 15.
Come to the rally before the march at 10:30, wear your red "fight for $15" shirt (you can get one at the rally). After the rally come to the big $15 NOW banners at 23rd and Jefferson in front of Ezell's: help us set up a visible, loud and powerful contribution to this year's MLK rally and march for $15 in 2014!
By Joe Higgins, TD (member of Irish parliament), Socialist Party (CWI Ireland)
Who would have imagined that in a major American city, at a post election inauguration ceremony attended by 1,000 people, a new, directly elected Mayor and other members of the City Council would be completely eclipsed by the response of the attendance to a Socialist Councillor? That was the situation in Seattle on 6 January. Socialist Alternative Councillor Kshama Sawant, in her speech, roundly denounced the problems which ‘crisis ridden capitalism’ causes for working class people, called for workers to organise, for a new party of the working class as an alternative to the Republican and Democratic Party politicians and for socialist change.
Kshama Sawant was elected in November, achieving a stunning 93,000 votes to defeat a long time, right wing incumbent supporter of the Democratic Party. Seattle, with a population of 634,000, has only nine members on the City Council who are elected from the city at large, rather than from smaller electoral areas within the city. The elections are held on a staggered basis with, for example four seats up in 2013 and five the previous year.
I was privileged to be at the inauguration. It was an amazing event by contrast with the first meetings of newly elected Councils in Ireland. It was held in the huge foyer of City Hall and included the swearing in of the Mayor Ed Murray and three other Councillors re-elected after having served on the Council previously. The public at large are invited to attend this event.
City officials told me that normally the ceremony would take place in the Council chamber which has seats for 200 members of the public. This time it was different, however. Murray is the first openly gay Mayor elected in Seattle whose business and political establishment consider themselves to be progressive in comparison with other urban areas in the United States. He was the candidate supported by the Democratic Party establishment and invited a large number of establishment representatives to attend.
The really significant difference, however, was the huge political upset created by the election of Kshama Sawant. Previously it would have been considered unthinkable for a Left/socialist candidate to defeat a Republican or Democratic candidate in a major city in the US. However, Socialist alternative launched a massive campaign addressing the issues affecting the working class of Seattle. At the cutting edge was a demand for the minimum wage of $15 an hour to address rocketing accommodation and other living costs.
Kshama’s campaign created great excitement among ordinary people, sick of the big business backed two party system in the US. Hundreds of people volunteered to work on the campaign. A massive $141,000 was raised in thousands of contributions from ordinary people and none from big business.
At the inauguration the packed audience spread from the foyer floor up a very wide staircase onto balconies overlooking the speakers’ podium. The front page headline of the establishment Seattle Times summed up political clash, ‘Murray talks innovation, Sawant raises defiant fist’. In an article subtitled, “Sawant upstages Ed Murray”, the radical weekly The Stranger described the scene. “Socialist city council member Kshama Sawant drew the loudest cheers and the most sustained applause as she denounced “international capitalism” while proclaiming from the center of this bastion of big-D Democracy that “working people need a new political party… accountable to themselves. T-shirted, sign-waving Sawant loyalists raucously cheered as well-dressed, grim-faced Democratic Party regulars shifted on their heels, wondering what to do with their hands. Sawant herself displayed no such uncertainty, closing her speech by raising a fist in the air and declaring: “Solidarity’.”
Accounts of this unprecedented inauguration were reported by media all over the United States and much further afield. It presages greater struggles to come and points to the possibility of building a real movement for socialist change in the very heartland of world capitalism.
Join the Fight for $15 Now! Come to the kick-off rally this Sunday January 12 to put Seattle's establishment on notice: we want $15 and we want it NOW!
Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant along with her Socialist Alternative supporters and union allies have launched the 15now.org website to strengthen the grassroots movement for a $15/hour minimum wage.
The movement for $15/hour has been growing in Seattle and nationally, spearheaded by fast food worker strikes, a successful ballot initiative in Seatac, and the Kshama Sawant campaign for city council.
In spite of opposition from big business, Seattle is poised to raise its minimum wage to $15/hour in 2014. Even the new Mayor Ed Murray has declared his support for $15.
A $15 minimum wage in Seattle will lay the groundwork for workers, activists and unions across the country to fight for a living wage.
In order to counter the resistance from corporate America, 15now.org appeals to people to get involved and join the fight. At 15now.org you can donate $15/month, add your name to a list of endorsers, and sign up to volunteer. See you at the Labor Temple!
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Doors open at 2:00 pm
Rally at 2:30 pm
Labor Temple, Hall One
2800 First Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121
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.
Kshama on her inauguration, running as a socialist, Occupy, the struggle of Boeing workers, and the $15 Now campaign:
What: 2014 Inauguration Ceremony for officials elected in the City of Seattle, including Socialist Alternative Councilmember Kshama Sawant
When: Monday, January 6, 3:30pm
Where: Seattle City Hall - 600 4th Ave - 1st Floor Lobby
(Facebook event here)
Together we made history in 2013. This victory is not just mine, it is all of ours. It was the result of countless hours of work by hundreds of volunteers, thousands who donated, and 95,000 who voted. So please join me in celebrating at my inauguration ceremony on Monday January 6.
That evening I will also be hosting a party at the SEIU 775NW headquarters at 215 Columbia St at 6pm. Refreshments and food will be available. Suggested donation of $10 to help retire my campaign debt of $15,000, but no one turned away.
I need you - and your friends, family, co-workers - there to show your support for a new type of politics, one that represents the interests of working people rather than corporate greed. Make your presence known by wearing your Vote Sawant $15/hr t-shirts (or the t-shirt of your union or progressive organization) and bringing signs for $15/hr, taxing the rich or rent control.
I am pleased to hear about Mayor Murray’s executive order to begin the process of making $15/hour the minimum wage for all city workers. This move towards $15 for an estimated 600 city employees is an important step in the right direction and a victory of the growing movement of low-wage workers. It starkly demonstrates the unprecedented political momentum for a $15/hour minimum wage for all of Seattle.
As an immediate step, I appeal to Mayor Murray to insist that the thousands of city subcontractor employees not covered by today's order also be raised to a minimum of $15.