The Hellhole – Week of 8/28

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Can't make no demands

Your Hellhole for this week showcases all of capitalism’s oldest stories – empty promises from compromised politicians, capitalists exploiting workers, and landlords over-charging for housing that should be free for all by right. However, for every problem, there’s a solution, and we’ve got those too – organizing, building solidarity, and telling capital that halfway isn’t ever good enough. Welcome to the Hellhole.

 

  • What do household name-Republicans such as Wisconsin Representative and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, former Florida Governor Jeb! Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio share in common with former US attorney and mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan? Conservative, wealthy donors, the PI reports. Durkan’s received funds from a developer who’s made several donations to the King County Republican Central Committee, from a donor that helped fund an anti-income tax campaign and from a cement company that spent 74% of political donations in the last 23 years on Republicans. To further underline the contradictory alliance of the Chamber of Commerce with the Martin Luther King County Labor Council and unions to endorse Durkan, here she is at a recent Teamsters 174 picket line at a local cement company – just the type of thing these kind of donors would love to see ended or even prosecuted.

 

  • The Ed Murray-endorsed candidate also proposed a plan this week for providing two years of community college to any kids whose families can still afford to live in Seattle and send them to public school. She promises no new revenue streams to pay for this, insisting it can be done with existing, regressive taxes, such as the soda tax, which would suggest black and brown kids will still be paying their own way without cutting into Seattle’s hoarded wealth.

 

  • A federal judge tossed another challenge to a Seattle law allowing rideshare drivers to unionize. Patrick Semmens, vice president of an anti-union activist group, said of the dismissal, “The ruling is very disappointing and means Uber and Lyft drivers will soon be targeted by Teamsters organizers with a coercive card check campaign seeking to impose one-size-fits all monopoly unionization, including forced union dues on drivers.”Semmens mischaracterizes card check as something more sinister than the democratic vote it is. Earlier, Uber ran a coercive campaign of their own with TV ads and podcasts that attempted to scare drivers with threats of powerlessness and even homelessness.

 

  • The Seattle Times investigated a push to get disabled workers’ labor paid at the same minimum wage due everyone. Opponents of the campaign to get the workers higher wages are worried they might then be disqualified for social programs or that employers won’t pay the higher wages and eliminate positions. The efficacy or moral repugnance of tying social benefits or self-esteem to exploitative labor under capitalism is not explored in the piece.

 

  • Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods was finalized on Monday, strengthening the company’s gravitational pull on our city’s culture. News of the acquisition is cold comfort for Whole Foods workers, as the merger agreement “includes guarantees that their salary, benefits, bonuses and severance options will not be reduced” for just a single year. And what of the executives? “Their salaries and benefits are guaranteed for two years, a perk that comes in addition to the “golden parachute” sums, payable in the event of their termination.” Seattle Times celebrated the news with a “story” that looked more like the birdcage fodder that comes with their Sunday issue.

 

  • Home prices in our boomtown have risen for the 10th straight month. Seattle now has 38 ZIP codes with million dollar homes, up from 16 in just 3 years. Forty-one percent of Seattle Millennials are considered “rent-burdened” in the eyes of the government, with Xers and Boomers at 44.4 percent and 49.3 percent, respectively. A majority of Seattle residents in 2014 made under $50,000 a year. The market’s answer when involved in a human necessity, such as housing? Let it all fall down. “The last time prices were rising this fast locally was the 2006 bubble, when prices rocketed up nearly 20 percent in a year before crashing back down during the recession.”

 

  • The battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline took place in North Dakota, but as it turns out, we’ve got our very own pipeline battle being waged in Tacoma with startling parallels to Standing Rock. The South Seattle Emerald reports that the Puyallup tribe and other environmental activists are battling an enemy in the form of a proposed 140-foot-tall, 8 million gallon tank of liquid natural gas stored at –260ºF at the Port of Tacoma. The tribe has filed suit under the Clean Water Act, saying the project — which is in the heart of their reservation — would cause catastrophic damage in the event of a leak or failure. The tribe is clearly not the only body concerned, as Puget Sound Energy took time to (poorly) answer 16 questions about the project’s validity and safeness.

 

  • Capitalists are motivated by profits, and the easiest way for them to increase their profit is to pay you less to create it. Washington’s Dovex Fruit Company is being sued by its workers over lost wages due to a “piece-rate” model— if a worker picks above-average amounts of fruit, they’re rewarded with additional pay. The problem? Workers spend a lot of time performing non-picking tasks like traveling between fields and attending company-mandated meetings, so instead, most earn minimum wage to do what Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson termed “backbreaking work”. This grift is as old as capitalism is; see also retail workers that are promised high wages if they can hit impossibly-high commission targets, or artists that must pay to display their work in a gallery, and are paid by the gallery if and only if the work sells. The only way to make the wage you deserve is to organize and fight back, as these farmworkers did.

 

  • or, you can organize and fight back as taxi drivers for Eastside Taxi Company are. Ride-share company Uber and Eastside struck a deal– for a share of Eastside’s business at Sea-Tac, Eastside’s management would back Uber’s fight to keep Uber drivers in Seattle from unionizing. Wouldn’t you know it– Eastside drivers have fewer fares than ever, but still have to pay fees to their employer to pay Port of Seattle taxes– up to $7 per ride. Drivers staged a strike, and shortly after, some were suspended. A manager at Eastside Taxi Company was as sensitive to the demands of the suspended drivers as you’d expect:

    “‘Our concern was that we had these people behaving like somewhere between a 4-year-old kid and a thug—a Teamster thug—standing there stopping people who wanted to work from working,’ Van Dyk says. ‘That’s the way things are done in Mogadishu. That’s not the way it’s done here, okay?’”

 

  • Kshama Sawant was interviewed by Daniel Moattar of Jacobin recently, and explained how socialist movements must build solidarity by fighting the oppression of people of all races and genders:

    “I don’t think you can achieve any of this without bringing together people of different races, different genders… You cannot fight for economic justice without also being a fighter against black oppression or against racism, against misogyny, against sexual inequality. On the other hand, if your goal is to end racism, we’re not going to be able to do that on the basis of capitalism. The logic of the capitalist system is such that if you’re fighting racism, it forces you to reach anticapitalist conclusions.

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