Unionized Seattle human services workers rallied at City Hall Plaza Nov. 8 to demand wage increases and better services for the homeless. With the rising cost of living, austerity has forced many of these workers, stuck with low wages, to quit, leaving 300 vacant positions for homeless services. Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has offered workers only 4%, but the cost of living has increased 7.6%, which is a conservative figure.
Sponsors for the protest were Seattle Martin Luther King County Coalition on Homelessness; Seattle Human Services Coalition; Office and Professional Workers, Local 8; Coalition Ending Gender Based Violence; Service Employees International Union, 1199NW; and Martin Luther King Labor. (Seattle Times, Nov. 9)
By law the city and county must provide funds to maintain homeless programs and for the Healthcare for the Homeless Network. However, last year 195 homeless people died in the city and county, and 135 have died so far this year. This is a racist and anti-working class crime!
Government budget cuts are adding to the crisis. The King County Regional Homeless Authority warns that $9.4 million in government funds for shelter, rapid rehousing and outreach are about to expire. The authority said 20 programs at 12 agencies would lose an average of 40% of their funding.
Meanwhile the City of Seattle is spending an outrageous $160 million to build a new “shark tank” aquarium, which now needs more money.
It’s a life-or-death struggle!