Why Seattle’s labor unions are ditching Kshama Sawant

Jun 21, 2019, 8:38 AM | Updated: 12:26 pm
Seattle council, Sawant, walkout...
Councilmember Kshama Sawant. (JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images)

As Seattle City Council endorsements have poured in, a curious trend has emerged: Many of the city’s labor unions — who in the past have largely backed Kshama Sawant — are jumping ship to other candidates.

“(Sawant) had all the support at one time, she systematically [alienated] a lot of people with her views, and has lost that support,” Construction Trade Council Executive Secretary Monty Anderson told KIRO Radio’s Candy, Mike and Todd Show.

One by one, a handful of Seattle’s unions have thrown their support behind District 3 candidate Zachary DeWolf, including Teamsters, iron workers, and MLK Labor, the main body of labor organizations in King County.

While roughly 12 unions still officially support her, the cracks in the relationship between Sawant and organized labor have been forming for awhile now. That includes the recent head tax controversy in 2018.

Endorsements roll in for Seattle City Council races

“What happened was she started getting in between the relationship between our end users, the City of Seattle, King County, Amazon, [and] other builders,” described Anderson. “We asked her to stay out of that and she didn’t, so that was where that initial rub came with us.”

That said, the head tax was just one of many factors that’s had unions feeling alienated by Sawant in recent years.

“Where we had to break ties is where she started messing with the new police station [in 2016]. And then there was the head tax, and then she got in between the Teamsters and their negotiations with UPS — those are all things that we feel a local politician should not be messing with,” said Anderson.

“You’re supposed to help facilitate business in the city, and we felt that she was doing the opposite,” he added.

Money flows as race for Sawant’s D3 council seat heats up

Meanwhile, DeWolf has continued to gain momentum, even garnering endorsements from current city councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez and Teresa Mosqueda, as well as the Seattle Police Officers Guild.

DeWolf joined the Capitol Hill Community Council back in 2012, going on to serve as the council’s president, and a commissioner for the Seattle Housing Authority Board. He was also recently elected as the director representing a handful of Seattle neighborhoods on the city’s school board.

“I’ve dealt with Zachary a lot at the Seattle School Board, now here at the Seattle School District, where he does an amazing job here helping us with equity,” said Anderson. “He’s put forward things for people of color, Native Americans, he’s a big advocate along with the superintendent and the other school board members about increasing (Career and Technical Education) classes for women, and creating a more middle class careers here. He’s been a champion on those issues.”

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Why Seattle’s labor unions are ditching Kshama Sawant