The Counter-Attack of Seattle’s Elites


Seattle’s corporations were blindsided, it all happened so fast. Socialist candidate Kshama Sawant’s successful City Council campaign tore through Seattle politics like a tornado, leaving the 1% devastated, unable to cope with a storm they didn’t see coming. The Seattle elite had no way to counter her arguments, silence her supporters, or keep her from gathering a tidal wave of support for the $15 campaign. The establishment was paralyzed, powerless.

But Sawant’s election victory was just the beginning of the humiliation for Seattle’s super wealthy. After singlehandedly transforming city politics, Sawant used her newly elected bully pulpit to torment the mayor and City Council and harangue Seattle’s corporations, while simultaneously mobilizing thousands in the streets to bulldoze through her progressive agenda. The 1% had absolutely no idea what to do — they’d never experienced anything like it. They conceded defeat and agreed to a $15 minimum wage — in words.

Sawant didn’t buy it, refusing to declare victory until it was in her hands. After the mayor and the City Council created a committee to implement the $15 minimum wage, Sawant was busy sounding the alarm bells, correctly predicting that such a radical change would never be accepted without a fight by Seattle’s 1%, who would eventually recover from their shell shock and re-group to attack.

That attack is now beginning. But a direct assault isn’t yet possible. Sawant’s position is fortified by her broad-based support, the result of her devastatingly effective campaign. Thus, the 1% are playing a long game, using a combination of tried and true tactics, where they’ll “agree” to Sawant’s demands on one hand, while slandering her as an “extremist” on the other, all the while proposing a plan for $15 with just enough loopholes to render it meaningless. For example, the corporations want a $15 that includes “total compensation,” meaning that any benefit — like health insurance costs — could be counted as part of a worker’s wage, thus changing the definition of minimum wage.

These are some of the tactics being employed by the newly-formed Seattle corporate front group “One Seattle,” whose members include some of the largest corporations in the world, and who collectively despise Sawant nearly as much as she hates them. The “middle ground’ in this conflict doesn’t exist.

Which leads to another tactic of One Seattle: creating the illusion of a middle ground — the super wealthy plan to use middle class small business owners as proxies in this war, since “mom and pop” are more lovable than Starbucks’ multimillionaire CEO.

This corporate tactic to win the hearts and minds of the public by putting forward the friendly face of small business owners was recently exposed by Seattle’s weekly newspaper “The Stranger,” who revealed a leaked memo from ‘One Seattle’ which detailed the “small business strategy,” as well as other above-mentioned tactics that Seattle’s biggest corporations were going to use to undermine Sawant and the $15 Now campaign

But One Seattle is still playing defense against a relentless Sawant, who continues to signal no hint of mercy. Having predicted the stalling tactic of City Council, Sawant and $15 Now have been threatening to go over the heads of Council by organizing a public ballot measure initiative — a conference on April 26th will vote on whether this strategy is pursued.

The Seattle 1% is terrified of the ballot initiative. One of the City Council members who claims to be in favor of $15 complained,

“I hate the idea that we’re pressured to make a decision [about $15] because of the ballot threat.”

This quote reveals, in small part, the inherent power of the $15 demand: it’s gathered such broad support that politicians are forced to react, and none dare oppose $15 in Seattle. It’s also forced politicians and corporate hacks to debate the $15 demand publicly, the discussions of which are raising the consciousness of working people all over Seattle.

For example, this Seattle news segment shows a $15 Now spokesperson devastating her corporate opponent on a public debate about $15. Such discussions in Seattle have been happening well before Kshama was elected, educating the public in the process.

More importantly, the $15 demand inspires confidence in working people, who for decades have been taught to act defensively, if at all. The $15 demand is the first time in years that working people have gone on the offensive. This is precisely the type of confidence that union workers need in order to demand higher wages at the bargaining table, and the type of self-assurance that non-union workers need to demand $15 and a union.

This dynamic gives $15 a power unlike the myriad other demands that progressive people insist that working people should unite under; $15 is being accepted as a reasonable demand by large numbers of people, and a demand is only powerful if it becomes tangible in the minds of working people, which is a pre-condition for a demand to be realizable.

It is also a demand that will make a huge difference in the lives working people currently on the low end of the wage scale; it will help unite the working class by bringing the bottom up closer to the rest of the class; it will have an impact on reducing the growing inequalities in wealth; and it will help unions recruit by demonstrating that they can play a significant, positive role in the lives of working people.

But this battle can’t be limited to Seattle. Fortunately, groups across the country are adopting the $15 demand, which will further enforce the position of working people in Seattle. When Sawant speaks in Portland on April 24th, another front will be opened in the battle for $15, alongside the recently announced offensive in San Francisco, where SEIU 1021 announced that they would pursue a $15 ballot measure

The ultimate success of the $15 demand will depend on the energy, organization and resources dedicated by labor and community groups, combined with the mobilization of the broader community. Its failure would mean yet another victory for the corporate elite.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org) He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai Park: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation