Amazon's Major Money Dump in Seattle's City Council Election Seen as 'Dangerous and Ominous Development'

Eoin Higgins Staff Writer, Common Dreams

An attempt by Amazon to fill the Seattle city council with members more supportive of the company than the current progressive slate was called a chilling development for city government by critics of the move after Tuesday's election.

Socialist councilor Kshama Sawant, one of the company's top targets, told The Guardian that her race had been uphill and that the power of a massive corporation like Amazon stacked against her campaign had been difficult to overcome.

"We have run a historic grassroots campaign, with working people, community members rejecting Amazon and billionaires' attempt to buy this election, and that doesn't mean we're going to win every battle against the billionaires," said Sawant. "What matters is the political clarity that the billionaires are not on our side and that this is going to be a struggle."

Seattle is still waiting for the final results in the race—Washington has a mail-in voting system that makes final counts unavailable for days after voting—but as of Wednesday, it looked likely that Sawant and fellow socialist Shaun Scott were headed for defeat against Amazon-backed candidates Egan Orion and Alex Pederson, respectively. Neither Scott nor Sawant had conceded at press time. 

Amazon dumped cash into the race via a super PAC, according to Bloomberg:

Amazon, the biggest employer in Seattle, contributed $1.45 million to a business-backed political-action committee to help elect council members Amazon views as more favorable to its interests and those of the business community.

The group, called the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, backed six new candidates for seven open council seats. Three of them are trailing in early results. It also backed one incumbent, who is leading her race. Two positions were not up for election this year.

In a Medium post from November 1, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), whose district includes much of Seattle, said she was unsettled by the company's involvement in the election.

"I am extremely disturbed by the unprecedented amount of money that Amazon has dumped into Seattle City Council elections—not just a thumb, but a fistful of cash, on the scales of democracy," wrote Jayapal.

Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid noted the insidious nature of that corporate influence in a city where campaign finance is set up to avoid such spending.

"Amazon's attempt to buy Seattle's city council even as the city has a public financing system is a dangerous and ominous development unfolding in one of the bluest parts of the country," Shahid tweeted.

Journalist Walker Bragman, on Twitter, called the results an example of a broken political system. 

"What happened in Seattle is chilling," said Bragman. "Americans will either beat the ruling class at the ballot box or in the streets. This inequality is unsustainable."

Seattle voter Sarah Champernowne, a Sawant supporter, said that Amazon's involvement in the race was anti-democratic.

"It's supposed to be a democratic process and it's not a democratic process when Amazon can contribute that much to basically a small election," said Champernowne.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work