‘We have to fight for pay raises AND rent control’

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My Aug. 4 picket line statement in solidarity with the 4,000 SEIU 1199NW members at UW Medicine who are fighting for a good contract.

As a rank and file union member, a socialist, and an elected city council representative of working people in District 3, I stand in complete solidarity with all of the caregivers at UW Medicine. 

I also bring you greetings of solidarity from my organization, Socialist Alternative.

Over the last year and a half, you have been on the front lines of this pandemic – providing quality care and day and day out, working overtime on the front lines, putting yourselves and your families at risk. You have sacrificed, saved lives, and been heroes to the community.

You deserve excellent pay and benefits that recognize the vital healthcare you have provided to the community. 

And yet how has UW Medicine responded to your just contact demands? Their 1% pay proposals are frankly an insult, not just to you but to your patients and the entire community. And while UW Medicine is supposed to be a not-for-profit organization, their proposals represent the worst of austerity under capitalism – a feast for those at the top, and crumbs for the workers. 

Last year, while you struggled and suffered under the weight of being on the frontlines of the pandemic, the top six UW Medicine executives took home an average salary of nearly half a million dollars. 

This is scandalous – but it is not surprising. Over and over again, we have seen the University of Washington’s management enriching themselves, while the workers who make UW run struggle to make ends meet.

The pay proposals from management are especially appalling given the cost of living in Seattle. Over the years, I have talked with so many healthcare workers – nursing aides, laboratory technicians, cafeteria workers, custodians, nurses, surgical techs – who have been economically evicted from Seattle by the crushing vice of meager pay raises doled out by management on the one hand, and huge rent increases by corporate landlords on the other.

In just the last six months, corporate landlords in Seattle have raised rents nearly 22 percent, bringing rents back up to the already-outrageous pre-pandemic levels. 

Rent control has never been more urgent in our city and state. I’m excited to announce here that our socialist Council office has put forward legislation to enact rent control in Seattle, without any corporate loopholes, to take effect as soon as the state ban on rent control is lifted. 

Union sisters, brothers, and siblings – we have to fight for pay raises AND rent control. I urge you to join my Council office and our renters’ movement on Saturday, September 18 at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill, at our rally demanding rent control for working people in Seattle! My staff are handing out leaflets about the rally, and I hope you can join us. Please also sign the petition! Even if you live outside Seattle, you should sign This is truly one fight – we need raises and rent control.

We know this system is simply not working for us. We have to continue building the union movement nationwide, your action today is part of that. We need Medicare for All. We need COVID and student debt to be cancelled – big business and the wealthy should pay for this crisis. And just days ago, scientists released new information about the seriousness of the climate crisis. We need the top fossil fuel corporations and banks to be taken into democratic public ownership by workers and our community. But none of this will happen unless we continue getting organized. 

I will stand with you through your fight at Harborview, at Northwest Hospital, and throughout the UW Medicine clinic system. Your fight is our fight. My Council office stands ready to support you in any way necessary.