The Hellhole – week of 10/16

20.1 minute read

About the header photo: Fox News’ Kennedy called Seattle a “socialist hellhole” in a July 12 broadcast. We wish! We’re coming up on election season (by the time you read … Read more

About the header photo: Fox News’ Kennedy called Seattle a “socialist hellhole” in a July 12 broadcast. We wish!

We’re coming up on election season (by the time you read this, your ballot is probably in the mail). Your faithful Hellhole staff took a break from knocking on doors and calling Seattle citizens to put together this week’s Hellhole. Only a few of the stories are about local politics (directly, anyway), the rest are some really… motivating stories about how openly greedy capitalists are willing to be. Welcome to the Hellhole.

Cats and dogs, living together

In a move that shocked just about everyone who follows politics in this city, the Seattle Times editorial board endorsed democratic socialist and Seattle DSA member Jon Grant for City Council Position 8. The notoriously curmudgeonly, pro-business, anti-everything-good editorial board of the largest print newspaper in the city wrote that Grant would bring a “reasonable and objective perspective” to the city council. We definitely don’t disagree, but we’re as confused as everyone else. Heidi Groover of The Stranger has a theory: The board hates labor unions, from which Grant’s opponent Teresa Mosqueda has strong support, but they hate upzoning even more. Grant has expressed concern over the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) plan—which relies heavily on upzoning and building taller to accommodate more residents— because he believes it wouldn’t result in enough affordable housing. The Times, meanwhile, is skeptical because they are “busy jerking off over the sanctity of single family neighborhood character.”

Groover recommends that Grant and his supporters tell the ed board “to go fuck itself.” It is the opinion of Hellhole that such exchanges aren’t necessary, because we believe Grant can win on the merit of his policies, and with or without the support of an otherwise antiquated and useless newspaper institution.

  • The Jon Grant SUPER Day of Action is Sunday, Oct. 29 at 10 a.m. at Woodland Park. Even if you can’t make it to any other campaign events, this is the one to attend!
  • Seattle DSA is phone banking for Grant every Wednesday through Nov. 1 (although there’s non-DSA phone banking at Grant’s office Monday through Thursday during the election). Members will be canvassing for the campaign every Sunday through Nov. 5.

Hey, Durk-uemada: Whaddya Say?

Casey Jaywork’s final big story at Seattle Weekly is a doozy—it’s a look at Chamber of Commerce mayoral pick Jenny Durkan’s time as a federal prosecutor appointed by President Obama.

In addition to Durkan’s lack of interest in pursuing charges against anyone involved in Washington Mutual’s 2008 fraud meltdown, and her efforts to block legalization of medicinal cannabis, she shamefully sought and achieved the solitary confinement of anarchist activists—charged with nothing—as a coercive tactic in the service of getting testimony identifying…cold-blooded killers? Human traffickers? Shadowy, organized crime bosses? No…vandals of a federal courthouse. This amounts to nothing less than torture in service of seeking retribution for property damage, and it isn’t “progressive.”

PACing City Hall

Jenny Durkan is, however, the sort of “progressive” that Amazon, Vulcan, Comcast, the Washington Association of Realtors, CenturyLink, AT&T, Expedia, Alaska Airlines and Boeing would like to see in City Hall, and so they and business interests like them donated $525,000 to an independent expenditure committee on Monday to help elect her. Independent expenditure committees can take an unlimited amount of donations and spend them in service of campaigns as long as they don’t coordinate directly. Why would they support her? Tax extortion and a block on municipal broadband immediately come to mind.

Empty Promises

Seattle’s reputation as “socialist hellhole,” where low-income workers are guaranteed sick time and one of the highest minimum wages in the country, is nothing for local Democrats to congratulate themselves about so long as Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards, charged with enforcing worker protections, fails to hold businesses accountable. Nine months ago, the city found that a Lufthansa subsidiary was underpaying food service workers and ordered the outfit to pay over $330,000 in back wages and fines. Even after LSG Sky Chefs were found to have willfully obstructed the OLS investigation, the city has entered into a settlement with the company—with corresponding confidentiality agreement—where no wrongdoing is admitted and only $190,500 will be paid for the city to distribute as it sees fit. A defanged, impotent OLS is the logical endpoint of a Seattle City Hall whose politics are informed by not only Chamber-friendly PACS but also by Chamber-chummy labor bureaucracy, despite abundant self-congratulation for worker gains.

Groveling for Dollars

It’s starting to get a little pathetic—a whole pile of Washington politicians signed on to a letter essentially begging Amazon to stay in Seattle (by the way, Amazon has never threatened to leave). It’s hard to sum up how disgusting it is in a few sentences, but here are some choice quotes:

  • “Amazon is a visionary leading the evolution of [the gig economy], and we would like to be on the forefront of helping this new workforce thrive in Seattle and beyond. An estimated 33% of workers now are in non-standard employment, and contract workers do not have the same rights nor are they protected by many of our labor laws.”
  • “You have heard mixed messages from our community, whether it stems from comments in our local newspapers or comments from elected officials who have differing views and positions that are less than collaborative. This does not leave a good taste in anyone’s mouth.”

The “new workforce” is barely making ends meet, the “mixed messages” are from your constituents and activists, and the “less than collaborative” positions are ones that don’t want to sell city real estate and their labor power at bargain prices to corporate interests.

It’s hard to read the document without wanting to scream, but you can just quickly scan the signatories at the bottom and know which Washington politicians should never have your vote again.

#HousingForAll gets a budget… hopefully

Housing is a human right, and last week, Seattle City Councilmembers Kirsten Harris-Talley and Mike O’Brien unveiled a major plan to aid those struggling with high-housing costs and homelessness throughout the city.

Known as HOMES (city council folks like gimmicky acronyms as much as we do, apparently), the plan would set aside money for housing vouchers, public housing development and services for people living outdoors, according to Seattle Weekly. Best of all, the money would come from some of the largest employers in Seattle and continue indefinitely, which would provide crucial, sustained funding for a problem that was declared a state of emergency nearly two years ago.

The two councilmembers say the plan would cost around $100 per employee per year, and would affect only the top 10 percent of the highest-grossing businesses in Seattle. They predict it generate $24 million annually. But of course, not everyone thinks this is such a good idea. The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Seattle Association (the bad DSA), came out hard against the proposal. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Maud Daudon went so far as to call it “immoral” and “backward,” while the (bad) DSA said in an email that “this proposal comes out of the blue and is disconnected from any larger plan.”

The only thing “immoral” and “backward” about this situation is that dozens of people die each year simply because they don’t have shelter, and the city continues to rely on inhumane solutions, such as homeless camp sweeps, to disrupt and displace people without actually solving the problem. Slapping a head tax on the wealthiest companies in the city to provide some relief seems like a pretty good idea to us.

  • Our friends at the Transit Riders Union have a helpful email script you can use to tell the councilmembers how important it is to support the HOMES tax. You can find it here.
  • Learn more about the Housing For All campaign here.

Monad Technology

Say hello to Bellevue’s Nomad Technologies, a company that allows cash-poor students, commuters and anyone likely to wear a backpack in a crowded area, to affix their iPad to their bag and act as a roving billboard. For about $100 a week (Nomad employs a lot of algorithmic and surge pricing), you or your alienated, atomized, debt-stricken college kids can be reified as advertisements; things so undeserving of attention or consideration that many, when given the choice, download software to prevent them from ever having to be seen…would mute the television or change the radio station to avoid hearing.

While the New York Times wondered aloud last week on today’s teens heightened anxieties, the same teens need not freak out over a lack of an iPad needed to participate; Nomad will be happy to lease such “independent contractors” one of their own.

Landlords Don’t Take Apples

Even if you’re lucky enough to have a full-time, union, government job such as teaching, in order to afford a house in Seattle, you’ll need to save for almost two decades.

Given the housing market in Seattle and how criminally underfunded the Seattle school system is, this is likely surprising to no one. We don’t need more hand-wringing from politicians and we don’t need more money to be “moved around”— we need an income tax on high earners, or a head tax on large businesses, or something, anything, that brings in more resources to support Seattle institutions. Without that, the teachers of Seattle’s children will continue to be rent-burdened until they quit and find other jobs, and nothing will get any better. Of course, overworked Seattle teachers could always drive Uber in the evenings…


Boeing was so busy cutting jobs over at its factories that it never stopped to consider how many people they’d actually need to do business. Now, they’re scrambling to re-hire many of the people they cut loose, and paying out bonuses to try and get the experienced workers they sent home to come back. Capitalism is efficient!

From the article: “Boeing said the experienced former employees are being brought back to train new hires for permanent positions that are now open.” This means they fired experienced workers (who cost more), hired inexperienced workers (who cost less), and then re-hired the experienced workers on a temporary basis (a maximum of 180 days) to train their replacements. It’s either more cost-effective, which is chilling, or it’s not, which is almost weirdly more chilling. Bear in mind that under capitalism, a job is the only thing between you and starvation!

DeVos’ Big Night

We mentioned last week that Betsy DeVos was coming to town, and Melissa Westbrook of the Stranger reported on her time in the ballroom with Betsy. It’s funny in parts, like DeVos’ ludicrous attempt to draw an analogy by charter schools to food trucks (“So, if you visit a food truck, does it mean you hate restaurants? Or are trying to put grocery stores out of business?”), but is just as often infuriating, like when Fox News’ Neil Cavuto does his Columbus chunk (“Native Americans got sick and all but it’s not like he came here to deliberately kill people”). Most interesting, though, is the other attendants and their stories. You can also find some of the’s photographs here.

Class enemy of the week: Bank of America

Sometimes it’s hard to explain to people how capitalism is predicated on extracting the maximum amount of profit from you. Thankfully, Bank of America makes it easy when it says Chipotle restaurants won’t be successful this year because they haven’t cut their employee’s hours enough.

It’s a simple equation for business owners– if they don’t make enough profit from sales, they take it out of costs, and the biggest cost for business owners is often labor. “Labor costs” are comprised of your wages, benefits, and job security, and business owners face intense pressure under capitalism to make ever-more profit; this forces even “nice” capitalists to cut benefits, and gives “mean” capitalists plenty of incentive to do so. Seattle’s too expensive for full-time teachers; how could it ever be affordable for part-time fast food workers?

This Too

Via Stranger journalist Sydney Brownstone’s Facebook wall, we see how one company is working the popularity of heart-wrenching #MeToo posts by women addressing their own sexual assaults for the purpose of shilling products.

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Unless expressly stated, Dispatches do not necessarily reflect the views of Seattle DSA as an organization or its leadership.