Since I first ran for office, Socialist Alternative and I have organized for a $15 minimum wage, taxing the rich, and rent control. We won $15/hour, and now our growing movement has taxed the rich! But we know our work is far from over. Big business, the super-wealthy, and the right-wing plan on taking our tax the rich legislation to the state supreme court. Our movement needs to prepare for that struggle! For more on our victory, and the urgent need to build on our movement and fight for housing justice and rent control, read my speech below.
Washington State and Seattle have had a tax code that is absolutely punishing to poor, working class, and middle class people for decades. Olympia is run by Republicans and Democrats, and yes there are differences, very clear differences, between those two parties. But one thing that they agree on completely is that their policies benefit big business and the super-wealthy.
And that is why our movement has done the right thing by not holding our breath for the corporate politicians to make a change, and building an independent mass movement in Seattle in order to tax the rich!
Thanks to the City Attorney’s office, who have done an incredible amount of work; our City’s Central Staff; Councilmember Herbold and her staff; staff members in my office, especially Ted Virdone; the Trump-Proof Seattle Coalition; but especially the Economic Opportunity Institute and John Burbank, and the Transit Riders Union and Katie Wilson. Socialist Alternative and I have been proud members of that coalition as well.
We need to be crystal clear that this fight is far from over. If you read the op-eds from the big business representatives and strategists, they have made clear that they intend to fight this in the courts rather than in City Hall. That is why, actually, we’ve had to launch a muted battle on City Hall. It’s not because, suddenly, the Chamber of Commerce and their representatives on this body here agree with us on a tax on the rich, but because they know that this will go to the courts and they would rather fight it there. And because the movement has been so strong that it has been difficult for them to fight that battle here.
So we will need to fight this battle in the courts, and we will need to be there to fight to win. Throughout history we’ve seen that where we have unjust laws, mass movements — when they get organized and decide to fight back — we do not have to accept these unjust laws because we can overturn them.
Just one example: Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case, was passed by the Supreme Court to defend women’s rights in 1973. Why? What had changed at that time? There were no new progressive Supreme Court justices. It was the movement that left the justices with no choice if they were to maintain any credibility. Our movement will have to, and can, do the same thing to defend taxing the rich.
And just like we have packed City Hall, we will have to pack the courtrooms to make it clear that we will no longer tolerate a system that buries poor and working class people in taxes, while giving business and the super-rich yet another free ride. And a system that underfunds affordable housing to the point where thousands are homeless, a system that criminally underfunds education.
The Washington State Republican Party is trying to trick people into thinking that we want to tax everyone. They put out a press advisory today about this ordinance, with the title (and I quote), “Income tax for all is the real goal.” As far as I am concerned, and I cannot speak for other politicians, but as far as I am concerned, the goal is absolutely to tax the rich and not working people and the middle class.
Thank you all for your incredible work building this movement. Thank you to Katie and John, especially, and all the organizers in the Trump-Proof Seattle Coalition, including the Neighborhood Action Coalitions, who are the reason this has happened today.
When I originally ran for office, Socialist Alternative and I highlighted three demands for Seattle: $15/hour, taxing the rich, and rent control.
We have won the first two, because we organized and fought to win. We can continue organizing to win not only rent control, but go towards a society free of exploitation and oppression.