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My Letter to Seattle FireFighters Union President Kenny Stuart with Proposals to Fight the Threat Posed by the Far Right to Working People, Racial Justice, and Progressive Movements

On January 19th, I sent a letter to City officials asking for an investigation into a series of threatening emails I received from a Seattle Firefighter email account against me and the working class and progressive movements my office represents inside City Hall. FireFighter Union, IAFF Local 27, President Kenny Stuart sent the following response, which I appreciate:

“I am speaking for Seattle Fire Fighters Union, IAFF Local 27, as well as myself, when I say that we are unequivocally opposed to threats of any kind towards individuals. Seattle Fire Fighters are deeply committed to protecting people and threats are antithetical to our mission and our values.”

Below is my response proposing ways my office and the movement can work together with Seattle Fire Fighters to oppose the very real threat posed by the far right to working people, racial justice, and progressive movements as whole.

Brother Kenny,

Thank you for your email responding to the threats that have been directed at my office. As a fellow union member, in AFT 1789, I know you’ll agree with me that the strength of the labor movement lies in the power of solidarity between us all as workers and our power in moving that solidarity into action. In the words of some of the proud sisters and brothers that helped build the labor movement in the very early days of the 19th and 20th centuries – an injury to one is an injury to all.

As you said in your message ‘these threats are antithetical to [IAFF’s] mission and values’. I believe violent far-right views and threats and those who make them have no place in our labor movement, which is built on fighting oppression against any section of our working sisters and brothers.

In these volatile and dangerous times, the labor movement has a critical role to play in protecting all working people from the threat of the far right’s violence and their message of hate. By coming together, our unions can and must be a powerful collective voice standing together to reject not just the violent attacks of the extreme right but also their source – right-wing, anti-worker ideas, including sexism and racism which motivate these acts of violence against both our organized and not-yet-organized sisters and brothers. The labor movement cannot afford to allow these ideas to gain ground, which serve only to empower the billionaire class. They make it harder for us to unite against systemic inequality and fight together to win the good standards of living all workers deserve. 

In the context of the right-wing riot in the Capitol and threats against leaders of the workers’ movement, I appeal that you convene a meeting of IAFF members to discuss solidarity, the need for working people to unite against the increasing danger of the far right, and to confirm that there is no place in the labor movement for threats against union sisters and brothers. I would appreciate it if I could join you for that discussion.

Most urgently, I urge you to publicly stand with me and other union sisters and brothers most likely to be targeted by far-right violence – workers of color, women, those with left-wing or socialist political views such as myself – by releasing a statement from you and Local 27 condemning this and all far-right threats and affirming the need to stand up and fight against these ideas in the union movement and in broader society. Finally, I request that public pressure be brought by the union on the Fire Department leadership to take seriously the investigation they say they began in late December on the threats sent to my office, two more of which have been sent from the same Fire Department employee’s account since that time — if the employee is found to have in fact sent this series of threats, disciplinary action must be taken.

I look forward to your response.

In Solidarity,

Kshama Sawant

Member of AFT 1789

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