Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, long a thorn in Amazon’s side, won’t seek re-election – GeekWire


Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant leads a 2018 protest demanding more taxes from Amazon. (GeekWire File Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who took on Amazon and others over the years in an effort to tax big businesses, will not seek re-election to the Seattle City Council.

Sawant, who has represented the city’s District 3 for 10 years, announced Thursday that she would not run for a fourth term when her current term expires in December.

In a “guest rant” published by The Stranger on Thursday, Sawant touted her “historic victories” over the years as a socialist fighting for workers’ rights. These included passage of a $15 minimum wage, her push for a “head tax” on Amazon and other big businesses, and renter protection legislation.

Sawant, 49, said she was moving on to help start Workers Strike Back, a national movement launching in March to fight for better pay, union jobs, affordable housing, free healthcare and more.

In 2018, Sawant stepped up as a vocal critic of Amazon and the tech giant’s impact on housing and affordability in the company’s hometown. She led a years-long battle over what became known as the “head tax,” pitting Seattle progressives against Amazon and other employers in the city.

Iron workers outraged about Seattle’s proposed head tax shout down Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s press conference in May 2018. (GeekWire File Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

The tax would have required companies to pay a per-employee sum to generate revenue for affordable housing and initiatives to fight homelessness. Opponents slammed its as a “tax on jobs,” and Amazon responded with heated rhetoric and political maneuvering of its own, including pausing construction on Seattle office buildings and all but threatening to pull its headquarters out of the city.

The City Council passed the head tax in 2018, only to repeal it a few weeks later when faced with a costly referendum battle and Amazon’s threats.

In 2019, Sawant won re-election despite a massive financial push by Amazon to unseat her and elect a more business-friendly Seattle City Council. She told GeekWire at the time that her victory was “a resounding referendum on the direction of the city.”

In 2020, lawmakers managed to approve a new payroll tax dubbed JumpStart Seattle. That policy targets payrolls at the city’s largest companies and was designed to pay for affordable housing and homeless services, equitable economic development projects, and Green New Deal investments to help the city meet its environmental goals.

“While I’m sure the corporate establishment in Seattle will be very happy with the news that I am not running again, they shouldn’t rush to mix their martinis just yet, because we are not done here,” Sawant said in her Stranger post. “My Council office will continue fighting relentlessly for working people right up until the final days of my term.”


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