Seattle already had over 11,000 people affected by a dangerous hepatitis A epidemic affecting 100 of them when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. In the week of March 15-21, a total of 37,296 unemployment claims were filed in Seattle and King County, following the biggest stock market crash since the Great Depression. Many thousands of workers have since been evicted and forced to live in cars or tents, or to move to far away suburbs, due to big real estate landlords profiting from sky-high rents.
Meanwhile, the Amazon super-monopoly, a trillion-dollar company based in Seattle, continues its dominance of the city and the rest of the world. The Tax Amazon campaign seeks to tax the top 3 percent of Seattle’s businesses at 1.7 percent.
Tax Amazon has launched a ballot initiative campaign to collect 30,000 signatures to get the proposal on the ballot. City Councilmember Kshama Sawant has been holding mass meetings, City Hall hearings and lately webinar meetings to build this campaign. People like Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, and representatives of the Amazon (Whole Foods) worker strike in New York have spoken out for the initiative.
Allied with Sawant are Councilwoman Tammy Morales and a coalition of labor unions, community organizations and socialist groups.
The legislation would raise $300 million a year. In its first year it would provide cash assistance to help working people who lost income during the COVID-19 economic crisis.
In the second year of the law with “no sunset provision,” the $300 million would go to build affordable, nonprofit social housing for workers. The housing would be built under a Green New Deal to assist in the conversion of gas-heated homes to sustainable electric-heated housing.
Seattle, with 55,000 Amazon workers, has become a company town. The most visible opposition to CEO Jeff Bezos was a walkout and march of 1,500 workers during the Global Climate Strike in September 2019. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice has continued to protest Amazon’s polluting policies, despite its firing of two key leaders on April 10.
Amazon is resisting the Tax Amazon movement every step of the way. But the campaign has overcome many obstacles and is not turning back.