The Hellhole – Week of 2/11

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Aerial photograph of Seattle in the haze with the words "Seattle Hellhole" and subtitle "The Only walls we build should be for housing everyone."
Audio narration of The Hellhole – Week of February 11, 2019

Democrats, Republicans Giving Trump Billions Emergency or Not

People are pretending that sarcastic claps at the State of the Union signal resistance to Trump’s agenda, but Democrats in Congress are folding on a tentative deal to keep the government open. The key to it is handing billions over for parts of the wall (euphemistically a “fence” or “steel slats” or what have you). Though not a wall, the fence is still a stark and symbolic construct (imagine images of rowed razor-wire dividing a town in two in Nogales, Arizona). Expansion of the surveillance state and even ICE handing children over to traffickers is now the norm.

What can each of us do? That which seems insurmountable federally can be fought locally. The Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network is advocating for the Keep Washington Working Act. You can learn more and participate here. It would help make sanctuary status a part of the law that’s not subject to the whims of executive order while preventing state agencies from making lists of people based on protected class.

While you’re at it, call your state senators to support SB 5438, which had a hearing February 14 in the Committee on Labor and Commerce. The bill is advocated for by immigrant-led workplaces and political activists like Community to Community. It would put more local oversight on to the working conditions for migrant farmers, like Honesto Silva Ibarra, who died after working in a Sumas berry farm in 2017.

It underscores why we can’t separate justice and sustainability in food production, the conditions of the food supply and workers harvesting the food are linked. There is no economic justice without racial justice.

Out of Touch Mayor Durkan Jokes About Staying Warm During Record Unhoused Deaths, Record Sweeps

In a since-deleted tweet, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office joked to “stay warm” this week with a GIF of a family huddled together in Snuggys™ joking around a campfire. The tweet was a bad look when in reality the deaths of our unhoused neighbors hit new records.

So many in Seattle are a single missed paycheck or medical emergency away from eviction (for as little as $10, per Crosscut). Mayor Durkan’s barbaric camp clearings doubled in 2018 under the guise of “humanitarian” sweeps, and a recent city audit found systemic failures that fall below United Nations human rights standards regarding water and toilet access. There are just six public toilets open at night, compared to the required 224 for a city of Seattle’s size.

Durkan has avoided or quashed real solutions to the crisis—included dedicated funding for housing through marginal capital gains taxes and taxes on large businesses. She’s deliberately avoided solutions that would affect people of her class (wealthy, white, property-owners with capital). At this point, Mayor Durkan is waging class war on our unhoused neighbors.

Reminder: Mayor Durkan and County Executive Dow Constantine Still Collaborating to Cage Kids

With the ongoing atrocities against the unhoused, it’s hard to imagine how Seattle-area leaders could sink to new lows, but they’re still working hand-in-hand to complete a youth jail on stolen land. What goes unsaid is how deeply racist the collaboration between Mayor Durkan and Executive Constantine is. Per 2017 County Juvenile Jail statistics and summarized by Nikkita Oliver:

Screenshot of Nikkita Oliver's post pointing out that 75% of cases filed by the prosecutor's office involed youth of color and 80% of youth inmates in King County are youth of color.

Yikes!

The power structures that profit from, exploit, and drive systemic racism live on in Seattle and the Mayor and County Executive perpetuate them. They differ from Trump in how they talk and how aggressively they pursue it, both sets are dedicated to caging children of color.

They should listen to their constituents:

Don’t be fooled: Bezos and Trump Prove Solidarity Exists Among Billionaires

From the sound of editorial class, one could easily mistake the National Enquirer scandal involving Bezos’ alleged nude selfies as some revenge from Trump, who has attacked Amazon via Twitter. In practice, their relationship is as healthy as ever. Amazon paid $0 in federal income taxes. Again. Like the beefs between two heels in pro wrestling, they take turns hyping each other up to their supporters.

What’s under-appreciated is that billionaires know what class they belong to. They’re organized. Billionaire landlords and billionaire techlords are birds of a feather. They have billions of workers to exploit for those billions they stole: from raw resources pillaged near Lake Malo to suicide-net factories in Shenzen. Billionaires understand what it takes to look after one another. Amazon, despite Trump’s tweets, earns lucrative CIA contracts and builds the tools that power ICE. Bezos can donate a pittance toward immigration justice but profit that amount many times over by helping to spy on immigrants en masse.

Amazon is also pulling out of New York City and dropping $3 billion in subsidies over the fear that it might have to cede to residents’ demands for union labor.

And Amazon took that opportunity to complete the “capital strike” they threatened during last year’s head tax debate.

Your boss is organized, your landlord is organized. Are you? You can be.

Lay-offs are taking the fun out of fun.

Activision Blizzard amassed record revenue and stole the labor produced from thousands of employees as profit. 800 of those employees were just laid off. There were even reports of employees crying as they arrived to work each day, wondering when the shoe would drop:

Similarly, Electronic Arts practiced wage theft via unpaid overtime. It’s a practice that’s propagandized by the industry bosses as the norm. Add in workplace culture rife with sexual harassment, gender divisions of labor, unequal pay, toxic customers, and it makes for an oftentimes shitty job.

It’s time for workers to organize against crunch culture and abuses against gender and racial minorities in the industry.

Screenshot of Star Wars featuring actor Harrison Ford stating "No reward is worth this."

Long-time industry veteran Chris Avellone has been especially outspoken on “crunch” and overtime violations by employers, as in this thread with numerous game dev horror stories on the demise of one’s personal life to make games:

Good News: Illinois Passes $15 Minimum Wage

Seatac and Seattle were the first in the nation to pass $15, and now Illinois becomes the fifth state in the country to do the same. Isn’t it time Washington state followed suit?


Note: The Seattle Hellhole represents the views of its writers and does not represent official positions of Seattle DSA at large. Its writers are a collective working on independent pieces, editing, and design to deliver this each week. If you want to volunteer, join us in #wg_comms_design on Slack or email [email protected]