Remarks as prepared for Sara Nelson, Tax Amazon Launch, 01/13/2020. (Sara was unable to travel to Seattle for the speech and had her remarks delivered by flight attendant union organizer Kaylah Williams.)
My name is Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants, representing 50,000 Flight Attendants at 20 airlines and currently organizing alongside 25,000 Delta Flight Attendants who are fighting to join our Flight Attendant union and win respect and voice on the job!
I have had enough.
Enough of a system that labels some people as “employees” and others as “contractors” so that massive corporations can control your work without offering a fair wage or benefits.
Enough of a system where corporations hold cities hostage for multi-billion dollar giveaways while everyday people watch services cut and our neighbors pushed out of their homes and into tents—and then have their tents bulldozed by politicians who gave away the store to the billionaires.
Enough of billionaires fighting it out for who gets to be the plutocrat in chief while telling the rest of us our dreams of a better future are just unrealistic.
Enough of a system that tells us trillion-dollar tax breaks for the wealthiest are going to “pay for themselves” but if we demand healthcare for all or a clean future on this planet, we’re told it costs too much.
I’ve had enough of a system where one man’s wealth grows by $87,500 per minute while most people who do the work to make his company succeed don’t earn that in a year.
I’ve had enough of the owner class dividing us into imaginary “working class” and “middle class” so we’ll compete with each other while a tiny few at the very top make off with the spoils.
I know I’ve had enough. Have you?
We are up against the greatest odds in over 100 years.
Last year, America’s billionaires saw their wealth grow by 500 BILLION dollars. Worldwide, billionaires saw their fortunes jump 25%.
And here in Seattle you know all too well how they use that money.
Jeff Bezos alone poured a record $1.45 MILLION dollars into city council races to try to elect candidates who wouldn’t challenge Amazon’s power or demand that massive corporations chip in to make Seattle home for everyone.
But Seattle wasn’t going down that easily!
This isn’t the first time Seattle’s been the tip of the spear when the owner class tried to crush working people.
In 1919, workers in Seattle staged a General Strike that set off a wave of solidarity, uniting workers across industries to fight the Gilded Age. The courage and solidarity in Seattle set the stage for non-violent strikes and protests to improve workers’ lives across the country.
Twenty years ago, working people stood in these very streets in a fog of tear gas – labor, community and environmental activists linked arm in arm to say Hell No, WTO!
Those protests sparked a generation of activism, built connections between movements that had been pitted against each other, and laid the groundwork for our fight to hold multi-national corporations accountable and stop the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
The WTO protests are a keystone in the foundation that gives hope for a Green New Deal that saves our planet and creates good union jobs so no one is left behind in the 21st century.
When I flew into SeaTac, I quietly celebrated landing at the epicenter of AFA’s successful CHAOS strikes that changed our job to a career overnight—and I celebrated the fact that I was landing in the first city to pass a $15 minimum wage. As I drove into Seattle, I fist pumped to be in the first major city to prove a rising wage lifts the whole economy.
Working people are waking up. We realized no one was coming to save us, and we were going to have to do it ourselves.
Across the country, working people are standing together to demand a fair shot.
Picture them in your minds, the people who have inspired and galvanized us all.
Teachers and parents from West Virginia to Chicago to LA…and right here in Seattle! Standing together to demand the schools kids deserve.
Thousands of hotel workers and grocery workers from Boston to San Diego demanding everything from fair pay and benefits to protections from sexual harassment—and winning those demands.
48,000 auto workers demanding an end to outsourcing and a path to full-time status for part-time workers.
Flight Attendants at Horizon airlines, where flight attendants are paid as much as 45% less for the same work their peers at Alaska Airlines perform because it’s classified as “regional.”
Tech workers and rideshare drivers and journalists and grad students who refuse to be treated as a disposable workforce and are standing together to demand better for themselves and our world.
As we build working class solidarity and power, our opponents— the corporate elite, the tech giants, Wall Street, the real estate tycoons—are preparing to use their vast resources to stop our momentum.
Big business sees working-class confidence growing, and they are willing to spend big money to stop it.
We can beat them. We’ve done it before. We can do it again. If we remember that our real power is the power of solidarity.
Solidarity is a force stronger than gravity. It lifts us up. It binds us together. It gives us strength and courage and power to accomplish things no one can achieve alone.
We have big fights ahead. The billionaires aren’t just going to hand us what we’re asking for.
But if we stand together, build power with one another, speak in one voice with clear demands…they will have no choice. Change comes fast when the people in power realize that the alternative is a higher risk for them.
To build the solidarity that creates that change, we MUST build a movement of all working people where everyone feels the power of solidarity.
Solidarity can only happen when the person next to you trusts you to have their back…and where you trust them to have yours.
I think back to November of 1999. Not far from here, as tear gas and rubber bullets started raining down, Teamsters stood arm in arm with massive papier mache turtles. Flight attendants linked to rainbow warriors. And each and every person standing firm, even through the pain and the fear, because they trusted that the person next to them would have their back.
This starts here, Seattle. It starts today. It starts with you.
If you’ve had enough, turn to the person next to you. Look them in the eye. Shake their hand and tell them “I’ve got your back.” (PAUSE). Now turn to the person on your other side, or the person behind you and in front of you. Shake their hand. Look them in the eye. Tell them, “I’ve got your back.”
Do you feel that, Seattle? That’s the power of solidarity building. It’s a power that you must carry with you as you go forward. Let’s say it together, as loud as we can, so everyone can hear us.
I’VE GOT YOUR BACK