By Ashley Archibald
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant announced Thursday that she will not run for reelection in District 3 and will instead launch a worker’s rights campaign called Workers Strike Back.
Sawant is now the fourth incumbent City Council member who will be vacating a seat, joining Debora Juarez (North Seattle), Lisa Herbold (West Seattle) and Alex Pedersen (University District).
At a press conference, also livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook, Sawant said that Socialist Alternative will not be running a candidate for her seat, instead focusing the organizational resources on the new, national effort. Workers Strike Back has five main tenets: raises for workers; union jobs for all; fighting racism, sexism and all oppression; quality, affordable housing for all; and a call for a new party.
"Workers Strike Back is meant to be a national movement," Sawant said, saying that it would launch in multiple cities. There will be a launch event on March 4.
In a “guest rant” published on Jan. 19 in the Stranger, Sawant celebrated her legacy on the City Council while casting derision on other elected officials including Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Seattle) and members of “The Squad” such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York City), who she described as failing to live up to their campaign promises.
Democratic “sell-outs” strengthen the Republican Party in its efforts to brand itself as the party of the working class, Sawant wrote.
"Should we put our faith in them?" Sawant asked at the press conference.
Cannabis business owner and food security advocate Joy Hollingsworth announced her bid to represent District 3 days before on Jan. 16, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Originally elected in 2013, she is the longest-serving councilmember, coming from behind to win her seat three times and survive a recall election. She is also one of the most prominent socialists in American politics, an unabashed Trotskyite who was celebrated in Mother Jones as a hero of the decade in 2019. She donates a large portion of her six-figure public salary to social justice causes, promising to take only “an average worker’s salary.”
Sawant has been a polarizing figure in Seattle politics, celebrated by the left and challenged — unsuccessfully — by moderate and right-wing figures, known for her polemics on the dais, delivering scorching speeches that deride her colleagues for making policy that is insufficiently left, as well as advancing legislation to help renters and tax big businesses.
Her policy successes include the $15 hour minimum wage, which Seattle passed in 2014, and building momentum for the “Amazon Tax,” a payroll tax aimed at Seattle’s biggest businesses. Its first iteration was ultimately voted down by the Seattle City Council in 2018 before being revived by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda in 2020 under the moniker “JumpStart tax.” That money has increased investments for affordable housing and bailed the city out of budget jams for the past two cycles.
Ashley Archibald is the editor of Real Change News.
Read more of the Jan. 18-24, 2023 issue.