In mid-July, one of Seattle’s largest public employees union endorsed a Socialist Alternative activist, Kshama Sawant, who is running for the Washington State House of Representatives from the 43rd legislative district. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) local 587 is a union of approximately 4,000 bus drivers and transit workers, most of whom work for King County Metro Transit.
Shortly after ATU local 587 endorsed Sawant, the prominent weekly Seattle newspaper The Stranger also endorsed Sawant as a write-in candidate for the 43rd legislative district, position 2. These two endorsements are the latest signs of the growing support the Sawant campaign has been receiving.
Since the economic crisis struck in 2008, on top of 30 years of growing inequality, support for the Republicans and Democrats has been steadily declining as these corporate-controlled political parties have implemented policies that have widened the chasm between the richest 1% and working people. Despite cynicism on the left, there were hardly any objections raised among rank-and-file ATU members about endorsing an openly Socialist candidate. In fact, the votes at the union membership meetings were practically unanimous.
Sawant advocates reversing the $10.5 billion in budget cuts to public services that her opponent Democratic Representative Jamie Pedersen and the Democratic Party-majority state government have implemented during the economic crisis. In fact, Sawant calls for expanding funding to make public transit free, environmentally sound, and extremely convenient for commuters. Seattle has the 4th worst traffic in North America because its transit system is centered around private cars, which is also disastrous for the climate change crisis.
Sawant gained a lot of support from transit workers by demanding taxing the richest 1% and corporations in order to massively expand public transit, create jobs, and restore drivers’ break periods. She pointed out, “simply reversing the 500 tax exemptions given to big business by their bought-off political representatives would bring in $6.5 billion per year.”
The Washington State Labor Council took the unusual step this year of rejecting endorsing Jamie Pedersen, Sawant’s opponent, because of his anti-labor record, such as his vote to eliminate cost-of-living adjustments for teachers’ and public employees' retirement benefits. Sawant herself is a fellow union sister. She is an active member of the American Federation of Teachers Local 1789 and an economics teacher at Seattle Central Community College. She is also an Occupy Wall Street activist and an outspoken advocate of equality for women, people of color, and LGBT people.
The Sawant campaign hopes more unions will follow ATU 587’s positive example of endorsing her and running activists for office as Independent working-class candidates. The unions traditionally spend hundreds of millions of dollars and valuable time and energy campaigning for Democratic politicians, who, once elected, turn around and attack workers. Rather than trying to compete with unlimited corporate cash for control over the Democratic Party, the labor, civil rights, Occupy, and environmental organizations should use their resources to run independent working-class candidates who refuse corporate campaign contributions.
As one bus driver John Gallup put it, "Simply put, I don't want to get laid off. There aren't many good union jobs left, particularly for young people. We're not going to be effective defending what's left – or fighting for more good jobs - if we keep supporting the same two corporate parties that keep balancing their budgets on the backs of public employees and social services."
How You Can Support our Campaign:
1) Like our page on Facebook www.facebook.com/VoteSawant
2) Donate on-line at www.VoteSawant.org
Your contribution is important to our campaign. It allows us to purchase signs, campaign materials, mailings and print ads, and to organize events. Unlike our opponent, and other Democratic and Republican candidates, we are not financed by big business and the 1%. Our campaign relies on funding from ordinary workers, young people, and activists. To mount a serious challenge to our corporate-backed opponent, we aim to raise $20,000. (Pedersen has already raised $65,000). If you support our campaign, please donate as much as you can, but even small contributions make a real difference.
We are running a 100% grassroots, working-class campaign. We rely on ordinary people contributing their time and energy to build our campaign. We need you to get involved! There are many things that we need help with, so you can definitely pick a task that works for you! Sign up at www.VoteSawant.org
4) Endorse our candidate
Invite the candidate and/or a campaign representative to talk with your organization about endorsing. Please also contact us if you can personally endorse as an individual. Please include exactly how you want to be listed, for example, as “John Gallup, Amalgamated Transit Union local 587 member.”
5) Vote for Sawant as soon as possible before the August 7 primary election
Vote for Kshama Sawant for the 43rd legislative district in position 1, and ALSO write in Kshama Sawant for position 2. Exact spelling required.
6) Get involved and join our organization, Socialist Alternative!
For more information or to get involved in the Sawant campaign and/or Socialist Alternative:
Paid for by Vote Sawant / P.O. Box 85862, Seattle, WA 98145. Candidate party preference: Socialist Altern.