The Hellhole – Week of 5/6

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The Hellhole - Week of 5/6/2019 banner image. Seattle Hellhole and an app mocking lyft with the word "strike" on someone's phone in a cafe.
The Hellhole – Week of 5/6/2019. Banner image uses words “Seattle Hellhole” and an app parodying lyft with the word “strike” on someone’s phone in a cafe.

Seattle schools deserve workplace democracy

It’s teacher appreciation week. You’d think teachers would be appreciated? Many teachers already pay out of pocket for supplies, play roles as pseudo-guidance counselors and librarians as paraeducators are cut. That’s whack.

This week, the Social Equity Educators caucus of the Seattle Educators Association held walk-ins demanding better conditions for teachers and students. Washington education austerity is leading to predictable worker abuse.

Take the case of Seattle Schools in a recent KUOW report. 20 school administrations in Seattle used waivers to bypass the entire science curriculum in favor of an app-driven science education vendor. Instead of teachers developing robust curriculum tailor-fit to their students diverse and oftentimes localized needs, there’s an app. Teachers hate it, students are bored of it, and parents weren’t even consulted.

To get new curriculum adopted, teachers hold stakeholder meetings, give presentation to the school board, look at multiple options, develop a method of assessing the choice, and then, only after exhausting community input, is a proposal voted on for adoption. In this instance, management swooped in to make kids more efficient income generators for some company at the expense of subject matter experts with years of experience who are taking on increasingly more responsibility. Thank a teacher this week and reach out to your local Educators Association.

Drivers of the greater Salish Sea: unite!

Two big strikes this week: 1) Lyft and Uber drivers went on strike ahead of Uber’s IPO and 2) Teamsters Local 117 went to the picket line. What do rideshare and big rig drivers have in common? Glad you asked! Bad bosses stealing wages and reneging on promises.

Take the case of rideshare drivers. As a driver, the model for all the companies has been: Log into an app and can get paid less as time goes on. There’s no human face to negotiate with. You either accept today’s rate or scram. There’s an entire online community about how to customize rides to please customers and to boost ratings (at personal expense). It’s the dogged, hypercompetitive logic behind capitalist markets. App drivers are the ones producing value and incurring all the cost, while the app-oligarchs profit. They don’t get benefits or fair status as an employee and the protections that brings.

Thank you for everyone who refused to cross a picket line on Wednesday!

On the south end of the Salish Sea, Teamsters 117 are picketing. New management is deciding to move their facilities from Tacoma to Centralia in order to void union contracts. How about not? ILWU Local 23 and IBEW 46 rank and file members joined the picket line.

Management can try to back out of a contract, be greedy, and bust up unions, but when Labor refuses to yield, the capitalist class gets dunked. Hard.

Mayor Durkan and Carmen Best Emphasize Broken Windows Policing, Showcase All that is wrong with Seattle

This past week Mayor Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best announced that in preparation for the start of summer, the Seattle Police Department would begin “emphasis patrols” in 7 different neighborhoods. Shorter: Cops are stepping up harassment to make scared (white) homeowners feel safer.

How did Durkan and Best come to this decision you may wonder? How did they decide to put up emphasis patrols Ballard and Fremont? Reports show that some of the data they used came from the city’s Find It Fix It App which has been hijacked by Seattle’s NIMBY’s to report unhoused people instead of potholes and things in this city that actually need fixing (like our ineffectual government maybe).  

Coincidentally, the Mayor and Chief of Police chose to make this decision a day before the city’s court mandated Disparity Report came out. The report detailed three main findings:

  1. Subjects of color are more likely to be frisked than white subjects
  2. Subjects of color are less likely to be found with a weapon when frisked
  3. People of color are more likely to have a firearm pointed at them than white people

People of color, communities in Seattle, and most people with any sense understand these truths to be self evident. Instead of listening to the people and doing what we all know would work to alleviate the root cause of degradation in the city (things like taxing the rich, taxing big businesses, and BUILDING PUBLIC HOUSING), the Mayor is doubling down on aggressive policing and encampment sweeps.

We must organize like Hell to ensure our demands are met and our city is taken back for the many from the few.

A year later, where are the business community’s promised solutions?

In a letter just over a year ago now, 130 businesses held the city of Seattle hostage, demanding that the city council not only repeal the Head Tax, but “set aside the misguided dialogue” around the Head Tax as well. Not only was the democratically-elected city council not allowed to govern as they saw fit — they were not allowed to speak as they saw fit either.

In their letter, ‘business leaders’ and CEOs like Madronna Venture Group’s Matt McIlwain, Rover.com CEO Aaron Easterly, Convey CEO Dan Lewis, and BigOven CEO Steve Murch (who also helps organize the right-wing leaning Speak Out Seattle candidate forums, which have been boycotted by many good candidates) claim that “our city is stronger when we work together to find solutions that meet everybody’s needs.” While we may agree to an extent, we don’t think that these tech overlords understand the meaning of their own words, nor do we think that they are being close to honest.

A year later, we have seen little to no solutions from the business community. We have seen increased ostracization of the unhoused. We’ve seen increased polarization from the business community. We’ve seen income inequity worsen in Washington state, and we’ve seen the gilded class continue to fight efforts to make it more equitable for all. We saw Amazon hold Seattle hostage — threatening to move jobs out of Seattle — first if the Head Tax amount was not lowered, and then if the Tax was not repealed all together. When it was repealed, they left anyways. So, rather than hiding your true intentions, just come out and say it: you wanted to avoid paying your fair share.


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]