Rantz: In police contract fight, Kshama Sawant vastly overstates union support

Nov 14, 2018, 6:11 AM | Updated: 10:32 am
(Seattle Channel)
(Seattle Channel)

Kshama Sawant’s support just ain’t what it used to be.

At one point, Seattle’s Socialist council member was able to organize union support seemingly at the drop of a hat. A single tweet could bring activists out in full force to listen to every word that come out of her mouth, while brandishing tax-payer funded political signs.

Now? She doesn’t demand the same attention, a victim of her own tired self-promoting and branding. She wasn’t always like this; but now, with a rumor that she hopes to take on a national position with the Socialist movements, she’s gone into overdrive to make everything about her. And she’s failing. Her recent poor performance with the Seattle police contract is the latest example.

Sawant tried to lead the charge against the long overdue SPD contract, putting her in an increasingly recurring position of speaking out against the unions she claims to fight for. She said she wants officers to make more money — though in the same breath she’ll imply they’re racist murderers — but is unhappy with what she considers concessions on police reforms she fought to push through.

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, where she was the lone ‘no’ vote, Sawant tweeted out a letter suggesting “union members” are fighting against the police contract. There was an impressively long list of union members signed onto the letter, their union affiliation by their name, followed by an asterisk indicating the mention of the union is just a ploy to overestimate her union support.

The asterisk actually indicated the individual was acting on their own behalf, not that of the union they mention. That renders their support fairly meaningless in the grand scheme of things. So a total of 39 people are against the contract? Cool story. Tens of thousands of union members support the contract via the endorsement of labor unions. The 39 people were also human beings so Sawant could have just as easily claimed “humankind urge you reject the contract” and it’d have been as relevant.

When you dive into the union members who signed the letter, it’s clear she’s got even less support than you’d think. Paul Bigman signed on — he’s a retired union member with the American Federation of Musicians. There’s Joe Thomas from the out-of-Seattle Highline Education Association and Bobby Lambert and Becca Ritchie of the also-outside-of-Seattle Renton Education Association. But look: Jesse Mason of the Communications Workers of America 7803 signed up — though that’s based in Renton, too. She did manage to get Logan Swan from the Ironworkers Local 8 to sign his name, however, he’s best known as the union worker who Ironworkers warned KIRO 7 about, saying that he definitely doesn’t represent a position the union takes. Power players, these are not.

This letter, implying union support with a major caveat in the form of an asterisk, is a reflection of the simple reality that she no longer holds as much sway over the unions as she once did. Plenty of union support showed up at Tuesday’s meeting, though — they were there in favor of the contract.

Union support continues to erode

This is the second major defeat that Sawant has suffered, and with it, her union support continues to erode. When she fought against Amazon with her support of the union-job-killing head tax, she faced the wrath of a community she once claimed to lead. A recent strategy from Sawant is pulling in a handful of union members who support her causes, only to find out that they don’t represent a major union.

Pete Lamb, senior business agent for Teamsters Local 174, previously explained to me that anger and angst between the unions and Sawant is rather significant.

“There were definitely concerns in regards to Sawant…,” Lamb said of her position on the head tax. “We do definitely believe that her position on [the head tax] … we didn’t agree. We definitely feel that we should have focused on a regional solution. It’s easy to demonize and go after; it’s a lot more difficult to find solutions and so we were definitely not in alignment on that issue.”

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.”

It seems clear that by standing in the way of a contract that would pay her union brothers and sisters a higher wage, alongside better perks, she won’t be winning back union members who feel she’s more about herself than about them. They probably should have learned that a while ago.

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Rantz: In police contract fight, Kshama Sawant vastly overstates union support