The Hellhole – week of 12/15

17.1 minute read

About the header photo: Hi, Jenny! Happy holidays to you, too! Thanks to Kelsey Hamlin for the photos. Since the icy hands of the holiday season have been wrapped firmly … Read more

About the header photo: Hi, Jenny! Happy holidays to you, too! Thanks to Kelsey Hamlin for the photos.

Since the icy hands of the holiday season have been wrapped firmly around our necks for weeks now, we decided to cheer ourselves up with a new, minty-fresh header image. If that image resonates with you for some reason that you can’t put your finger on, we’ll help you clarify that feeling with tales of fake regulation, fake task forces, and fake concern for the country’s telecom companies, all designed to make you feel like “something is being done” so the politicians can roll up the window and keep driving. If you’re feeling a little chilly, we recommend a little righteous indignation to get the blood pumping. Welcome to the Hellhole.

Pity the 4-Unit Owner

Similar in effect to the sorts of self-congratulatory, headline-ingratiating laws that gave us labor policy exempting small businesses in Seattle from being held to meaningful labor standards, the Seattle City Council finally got around to imposing regulations upon short-term rentals. By any other name, these are apartments taken off the rental market for use as money-printing schemes through Airbnb, driving our housing crisis to greater heights in its exponential commodification of housing—what we we believe is a human right. We’re skeptical; not only does the law take effect in 2019, but numerous exemptions are made based upon geography (Downtown isn’t as regulated; Councilmember Rob Johnson actually argued for a larger exempted carveout, saying that the expanded revenue would benefit economic advancement programs—even though he was against a tax on high-revenue businesses to do just that) and number of units already owned.

So, rest assured, owners of only two short-term rental properties, living in a third; you’ll be able to list your own home on Airbnb after a year. Unless, that is, if your properties are downtown; you can keep those you have and even add one! Meanwhile, King County has the third-highest unsheltered population in the United States.

Confidence in Corporate Healthcare is Low

Healthcare workers at Swedish Hospital are standing in solidarity with patients to condemn Swedish’s current administration in an almost-unanimous vote of no confidence. Despite leadership promising big changes after allegations that they were putting profit before patients, the nurse’s union says that basically nothing has changed (surprise!). If you’re not already dead from shock, see if you can guess what that leadership had to say (hint: it’s not “we’re listening and are trying to fix it”; that comes later after profits actually fall):

“We welcome constructive, data-driven conversations with our union partners,” Hudson said. “A disruptive approach and an us-vs.-them mentality benefits no one, certainly not our patients.”

Never mind that it’s really hard to have a “data-driven conversation” with medical data, the release of which is notoriously difficult to do; never mind that “us-vs.-them” is what a union is literally designed to do, never mind that this isn’t about a salary negotiation, it’s complaints about the actual healthcare the sick receive… actually, never mind the “never minds”. This is bullshit, and further proof that for-profit healthcare is an extraordinarily bad idea that’s only possible under a system that puts profits before people.

“This website is free” may no longer be true

In the ultimate nightmare posting scenario, the FCC on Thursday voted to repeal the net neutrality rules established under the Obama administration. The rules had made it so companies like Comcast, the Worst Company in the World, could not block websites, charge for higher-quality service or certain content. While leadership of some service providers has said they have no plans to manipulate or throttle access, we’re not so sure we believe them. ?

So what can you do now? This article from Motherboard has some good suggestions, and they basically boil down to, “call your Congress Members.” Locally, State Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island) has already introduced a bill that would prohibit ISPs from blocking any content or throttling service. Even more locally (local-lier?), Councilmember Kshama Sawant rolled out a campaign ad yesterday calling for municipal broadband.

You’ll recall that municipal broadband was a hot topic in this year’s mayoral race, but based on her answers to various campaign questionnaires, it doesn’t seem like municipal broadband will be a priority under Mayor Durkan. Her answer to The Urbanist’s question about the issue: “As mayor, I would tap experts in the area of broadband deployment and continue to find ways to partner with the private sector to ensure underserved neighborhoods, community centers, libraries and schools, have broadband facilities…” Involving the private sector in what should be a public utility is exactly what we’re trying to get away from, Jenny.

Surprise: She doesn’t support a public bank either even though a feasible study is in the works and the bank is achievable within the next few years.

What Do You Do When You Want to Do Nothing?

Ah, the task force– every neoliberal politician’s favorite thing. It gives the appearance of getting something done, without all that tricky doing. Also– you get to do process! Lots of process!

Magically-Animated Ken Doll and King County Executive Dow Constantine recently formed a task force to investigate how we should investigate when cops shoot people to death. Even better– it’s actually forming a task force to understand police inquests; an inquest is what you do when a cop shoots someone to death before the state decides whether it wants to press charges. There’s a lot of boring detail that goes with this, but here’s the big picture of how Dow wants to address police violence in Seattle:

  1. Form a committee
  2. To investigate
  3. Forming a committee
  4. To conduct an investigation
  5. About whether to conduct a trial
  6. Of a cop who has killed someone
    • With their service weapon, with minimal oversight or regulation, and with the full support of the police department and Seattle’s police union
  7. To the mad applause of neoliberals and fascists alike

Thanks for reading, and as always… A.C.A.B.!

Working in tech still sucks… unless you’re a shareholder

In case you forgot, warehouses run by big tech companies like Amazon and Tesla are insufferable hellscapes that strip workers of their dignity in the name of corporate profit. Merry Christmas!

But if that sounds like a story you’ve heard before, then just wait: this piece from In These Times documents the horrors in detail without flinching. Of particular note is the bit about our own, which requires warehouse workers to “stand and walk for 10 to 12 hours,” pack at least 120 items an hour and according to one employee, fires people for sitting down during their shifts.

You also won’t be surprised to learn that Tesla is facing a class-action lawsuit for allegedly being racist and that Blue Apron has been accused of using third-party staffing agencies to avoid paying employees’ health insurance. And worst of all? “Low-wage laborers have little to no recourse: They’re either left to endure imminent social and physical harm, or, should they seek protections against the anguish they’ve borne, are stripped of their livelihood,” the article says.

At Hellhole, all we want for Christmas is for workers to own the means of production. Check out our Workplace Organizing Collective, which meets every Wednesday, to learn about how to start organizing at your job.

Class Enemy of the Week: Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg

Just in time for the holidays, Boeing dazzled its shareholders with news of an $18 billion purchase of its own stock, the largest such purchase of its own shares in the company’s history—making December 2016’s $9.2 billion purchase look downright amateurish! Boeing, of course, took Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington state legislature for a ride, extorting over $8 billion in waived taxes upon a threat to move jobs that the corporation made good on, anyhow. Additionally, the aerospace colossus was the recipient of a one-time $700 million tax benefit from the federal government this year.

Please, stay with us—don’t let your eyes glaze over just yet with all these dollar amounts that seem unimaginable.

Shareholders aren’t the only ones benefiting from such a transaction. It’s de rigueur for executive compensation packages to have a “stock value award” tied to shares’ performance. If stocks perform well, such as they would when $18 billion is suddenly pumped into shares, CEOs like Boeing’s own Dennis Muilenberg would receive additional millions just in time to make his season bright.

Let’s review:

  1. Threaten layoffs to get out of paying state taxes
  2. Work a deal to get out of paying millions in federal taxes
  3. Flood the company’s stock with cash
  4. Receive year-end bonuses for the stock’s success. Capitalism is efficient…at waging war against the poor and plundering the public’s wealth for the benefit of Muilenberg.

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Hellhole is written by members of the Seattle DSA communications team. Unless expressly stated, Dispatches do not necessarily reflect the views of Seattle DSA as an organization or its leadership.