Rantz: Major union leader slams Kshama Sawant as ‘divisive,’ support wanes

Oct 22, 2018, 5:59 AM | Updated: 10:02 am
Kshama sawant...
Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant. (AP)

Union support for Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant is leaking like a sieve. After her continued anti-cop sentiment, newly highlighted by a rumored ‘no’ vote on a new police contract, union leaders are calling her out and may not support if she chooses to run for re-election.

Seattle Building Trades, which represents about 20,000 workers in the region, pulled their support of Sawant last year, pre-head tax, because of her divisiveness.

“The way that we originally endorsed her, we didn’t feel she was aligned with our values,” Monte Anderson, executive secretary for Seattle Building Trades, explained to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “She has got an agenda that is very anti-establishment so … I think she’s a good person, but her politics are very divisive and sometimes I think she takes a divisive tone to be in the spotlight.”

But now, Sawant is further alienating union membership as she demonizes Seattle Police Officers Guild membership. Consequently, union membership Seattle-wide, has taken a more negative view of Sawant, who sells herself as supportive of unions and fair wages.

“Labor is very complex and I forget where she jumped the shark, and I tell you what, I was a little naive,” Anderson told me. “I think people pointed out to me a long time before I got to the point where I said we can’t support you anymore … The building of the Police North Precinct. It needs to be done. Her and her staff goes through the building and says ‘It looks good to me.’ Well, first of all, that’s not what your job is. You’re not qualified to make decisions about that. Then they went to ‘don’t build the bunker!’”

Sawant is one of three council members believed to be against the tentative Seattle police contract. The final vote tally is uncertain and Sawant didn’t return a request for comment last week.

Which union is next?

The Building Trades isn’t the only union Sawant should be worried about.

At a rally in support of a new police contract, Dustin Lambo, Teamsters 117 political director and committee chair of the MLK Labor PAC, threatened to pull support of any candidates who voted against the contract.

“One of the things we think about whenever we interview candidates for office, one of our guiding principles, is that we don’t have permanent friends — we have permanent issues,” Lambo said. “One of those issues is whether you stand up for workers when you were asked to do so. This should be a routine vote that the city council makes. This is a permanent issue for us and we’re going to evaluate candidates on where they stand on issues that are important to working families and police officers are hard-working family members in this community and we deserve to stand up for them and let’s support their contract now.”

Teamsters 117 had previously supported Sawant. Could this be the issue that gets them to rethink their support? Pete Lamb, senior business agent for Teamsters Local 174, has already told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that, “there were definitely concerns in regards to Sawant …” in regards to the Amazon head tax, which she backed, against the interests of unions.

Now, she’s going after police union members. What happened to solidarity?

It’s a political minefield

Rumors swirled, several weeks ago, that Sawant is undecided about her council future. She may take a position with the national Socialist party. But if she runs for re-election, she’s certain to have a challenger after her disastrous anti-Amazon crusade. And, politically speaking, Sawant is in a tricky situation.

Her signature position is support for the working class and unions. But many in her base are virulently anti-cop. Sawant herself has referred to cops as “murderers,” which made her the most hated council member of many SPD officers. But how can you preach solidarity with “my union brothers and sisters” and claim to support an increase in wages, if you vote no on a pay raise for cops?

Police can only afford two negative votes, or the contract fails. SPD Command Staff believe cops will ditch the department for a city that better supports them and both Mayor Jenny Durkan and SPD Chief Carmen Best spent Friday on a media blitz, putting pressure on the council to approve the contract.

This pressure will inform how she ends up voting on the contract. Who will she support? Her anti-cop base or her police union brothers and sisters?

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Rantz: Major union leader slams Kshama Sawant as ‘divisive,’ support wanes