SEATTLE – Seattle Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the Martin Luther King Labor Council, together with the Tenants Union of Washington, UNITE HERE Local 8, AFSCME Local 2083, Labor for Black Lives, Transit Riders Union, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, 350 Seattle, Socialist Alternative, Be:Seattle, Cancel Rent WA, and others will host a “Rally for Amazon Workers and Tenant Rights” as part of a national day of action in support of the Bessemer, Alabama Amazon warehouse workers’ unionization effort on February 20.
While Amazon workers across the country are struggling to make rent, Amazon is viciously opposing the efforts of its workers in Bessemer, Alabama—mostly Black and mostly women—to form a union. The Renton rally will highlight the connection between Amazon’s refusal to give its workers the wages and conditions they need, their steadfast opposition to paying their fair share in taxes that could go to affordable housing and shelter, and the reality that countless low-wage workers are on the brink of homelessness.
The rally will begin at 2pm at the Washington Multi-Family Housing Association, a prominent opponent of tenant rights and one of the largest landlord lobbies in the country, and then march to the Amazon Flex warehouse less than a mile away.
TENANT RIGHTS LEGISLATION IN OLYMPIA
With 225,000 households behind on rent in Washington—14% of all renters—and the eviction moratorium set to expire on March 31st, many are predicting an “eviction tsunami” if elected officials don’t take urgent action. At the rally Saturday, in front of the influential landlord lobby group, WAMFHA, Seattle DSA will be calling on state and local elected officials to respond with bold transformative policies to address the deepening housing and economic crisis.
As a starting point, Seattle DSA is joining with a broad coalition of housing justice groups to demand the state legislature pass the full suite of tenant rights legislation already introduced, including Senate Bill 5160, which would ban evictions for any back-rent accrued during the pandemic emergency for a full two years following the end of the eviction moratorium, among other “just cause” eviction protections. We are calling on the Democratic Party leadership in Olympia to reject all amendments that water down these already inadequate bills, and to extend the legislative session as long as necessary to overcome Republican obstruction tactics.
If passed in full, the tenant rights bills in the legislature could prevent tens of thousands of unjust evictions. But they would do little to address the underlying causes of the housing crisis, including the deep structural racism and inequalities maintained by the for-profit housing industry. We believe that, at root, quality stable housing must be treated as a human right, guaranteed to all regardless of ability to pay or legal status, not as a commodity sold to the highest bidders. Unless we take the housing industry out of the private marketplace, the drive for profits by the real estate companies and Wall Street will block every effort to guarantee stable affordable communities for all of us.
To begin to remold Washington’s housing industry toward prioritizing the needs of working people, Seattle DSA’s Housing Justice Policy Committee is calling on our elected officials at every level to enact the following policies:
- No Economic Evictions Until Affordable Housing is Available to All. Governor Inslee should immediately extend the eviction moratorium for another year. The legislature should make “just cause” eviction protections permanent and extend the provision in SB 5160 banning evictions for back-rent until enough affordable housing is built to fully meet the need. All back-rent debt should be cancelled. A rental assistance fund should be established, paid for by taxes on big business and millionaires, and made available to small landlords on the basis of proven need.
- Rapidly Build Enough Affordable Social Housing to Fully Meet Our Needs, including 50,000 new units in Seattle. Funded by progressive taxation, a massive statewide green jobs program is needed to rapidly build quality social housing—publicly owned, democratically managed, and permanently affordable—on a scale designed to ensure no one is homeless and no household pays more than 30% of their income on rent.
- Immediate Shelter For all. Seattle, King County, and other local authorities need to immediately authorize funding to provide safe, private, low-barrier shelter for everyone who needs them, with wrap-around healthcare and substance abuse services. We could start, this year, by building enough tiny homes in Seattle to shelter the roughly 5,000 currently sleeping in the streets each night.
- Pass Statewide Rent Control and Lift the Ban on Local Governments. A GQR poll last March showed 71% of Washingtonians support statewide caps on rent increases. In cities like Seattle, where rents have risen over 90% in the last decade, local governments must be allowed to implement rent control to prevent the systemic economic displacement destroying our diverse communities.