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Sawant, Tenants Announce Skyway Victory and Improvements to Seattle Just Cause Ordinance

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Human Services, Equitable Development and Renters Rights committee, announced today that Skyway tenants facing impending eviction due to absence of Just Cause protections in unincorporated King County have won a huge victory, as the landlord has rescinded the eviction notices. 

She also announced that she will bring forward legislation to improve Seattle’s Just Cause Ordinance SMC 22.206.160(C).

“Skyway tenants Mergitu Argo, Mouhamed Tall, Modou Ndiaye, and Lenh Vong were facing imminent eviction for No Cause. I’m delighted to announce that as a result of their organizing and community support, including 30 faith and community organizations and activists signing a letter demanding the landlord rescind the eviction notices, we have won a phenomenal victory within a day of campaigning. Through building the renters rights movement, and empowering renters and working people in my Renters Rights Committee, we have together forced the landlord to rescind the eviction notices,” said Councilmember Sawant. 

“I want to use this moment to ensure that we strengthen Seattle’s Just Cause Ordinance,” Sawant added. “Our city’s current law does not protect all tenants, and I will bring legislation to close existing loopholes.”

Councilmember Sawant’s Renters Rights Committee will begin discussing the legislation in the upcoming weeks, bringing Seattle renters, renters rights organizations, community organizations, and faith leaders into the discussion. 

King County Councilmember Larry Gossett (District 2 – Seattle/Skyway) expressed support and announced King County will work on just cause legislation.

“People should not have to build a movement every time a landlord decides to unjustly evict a person. That’s why I am working on legislation with Councilwoman Jeanne Kohl-Welles to protect renters from unjust evictions like this,” Gossett said. 

“Twenty days is all that separated my daughter and I from having a roof over our heads to the sudden reality of losing our home of 14 years,” said longtime Skyway tenant Mergitu Argo. “Today we are celebrating the grassroots action that prevented me and many of my neighbors from ending up on the streets, but this is just one step. Too many families are facing evictions that end in tragedy; just look outside to find the neighbors who were not as lucky as me.”

“Washington needs stronger tenant protection laws like just cause and longer notice periods in cases of eviction. A family’s safety should not depend on their zip code and no family should go through the fear my daughter and I have experienced due to the threat of eviction,” Argo added.

“As a tenant who faced a no cause eviction, I decided to stand up to my landlord with the assistance of the office of City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and the Tenants Union,” said Skyway tenant Mouhamed Tall. “Ultimately, we got the eviction notice rescinded. I would like to thank Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, her staff, and the Tenants Union representatives for their engagement, and urge anyone facing this hardship to seek help and fight back.”

Seattle-King County NAACP responded to the Skyway tenants victory, stating: “The Seattle-King County NAACP has fought racial discrimination for 110 years, and we fought it now – that’s what the evictions at the Byrn Mawr Apartments were, racism. Our President, Sadiqa Sakin, and the Housing chair, Clifford Cawthon, worked with community activists, Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, and the tenants of the Bryn Mawr Plaza apartments, and we were able to prevent families of color from being victims of the eviction crisis. The Seattle-King County NAACP calls on the King County Council and local governments to pass Just Cause Eviction ordinances. Tenants Rights are human and civil rights!” 

Johnathan Hemphill, Trichair of the Washington State Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, also expressed support: “We are proud that we were able to stand in solidarity with such amazing advocates and fellow Washingtonians in ensuring that members of our beloved community have not been immorally and unjustly with no cause put out on the street. While this crisis in their lives has been diverted, we must remember that this is a part of a larger crisis sweeping across not only King County but our entire state. And now, more then ever, we must push for the end of no cause evictions on both the county and state level.”

Senior Pastor at Bethany United Church of Christ, Reverend Angela Ying, said: “In our King County, our Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King County, we have a great need for rent control and legislative action to protect tenants seeking to have a home without being at the mercy of the landlords.”

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