September 24, 2021
From Socialist Alternative
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Below are exchanges between Socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and striking carpenters with [local]. Also included are Kshama’s correspondence with the leadership of Seattle’s local labor council who accuse her of interfering in internal union matters, referring to Kshama’s activity pledging $10,000 from her salary to a strike fund, introducing legislation on the City Council to address the strike demands, and mobilizing the public to help build lively picket demonstrations. Kshama has unapologetically stood with rank-and-file carpenters as they fight millionaire bosses, which should be expected of any official who claims to represent the interests of workers.


Letter from Kshama Sawant to striking carpenters: Solidarity with Striking Union Carpenters!

Tuesday September 21, 2021

Dear Executive Secretary Treasurer Shapiro and elected officers of the Western Washington Carpenters Union,

I am writing to you in solidarity with the courageous strike action taken by union carpenters in their struggle for a fair contract, demanding fully-paid parking, fully-funded benefits, family-supporting wages, improved protections against harassment, and a three-year contract along with all building and construction trades. My office, and my political organization Socialist Alternative, send you all our best wishes for a resounding victory. If the carpenters succeed, it will not only improve their standards of living and workplace conditions, it will provide a historic boost of confidence to all trades workers and the labor movement. In the context of ongoing attacks on working people, we need to build a powerful labor movement if we’re going to turn things around. The carpenter strike is an important step that can provide an example to workers across the country.

We are stronger standing together, united against the bosses, and that’s why it’s crucial that the Martin Luther King County Labor Council, representing more than 150 unions, has gone on record standing with the carpenters’ action!

As you may know, I have sent two public letters in solidarity with your members, one on September 6 and the other on September 17. As I said in my letters, no worker should have to chase overtime, worry about healthcare, retirement, or wages just to get by.  We will have your back. 

Carpenters have responded with a letter to my office, and to all Seattle City Councilmembers, by writing: 

Rank and file carpenters have been organizing themselves, having recognized months ago that the proposed wages being offered by the AGC bosses were not keeping up with inflation. It is a grim reality that we cannot afford to raise a family in Seattle, a city that we build. We are grateful to you for reaching out and making clear that you stand behind carpenters’ demands for better wages and fully-funded benefits.

and

We hope that you will use your elected position to make further efforts, in coordination with us, to support our strike action. We urge other elected representatives to follow your example.

As a rank-and-file union member myself, and as a thrice-elected workers’ representative, I am proud to stand with union carpenters. I take home only $40,000, and the rest of my $140,000 City Council salary after taxes goes into a solidarity fund for workers’ movements. I pledge to donate $10,000 from this solidarity fund to your strike fund if the carpenters’ union sets one up, and I urge labor and community organizations, and progressive elected officials, to contribute as well. I would also be happy to meet with you and your membership to talk about how we can help build further support for the strike.

Just since the COVID crisis began, American billionaires have become nearly two trillion dollars richer. And the bosses have raked in trillions more over the last decade, while workers fell behind. But when workers fight and win, it inspires workers everywhere. As the fighting Teamsters in 1934 said, “All workers to the unions – All unions to the struggle!”

Solidarity!

Kshama Sawant

Seattle City Councilmember


Letter from carpenters to Kshama: Thank You! From Union Carpenters

Sister Kshama Sawant,

As rank and file Western Washington Union Carpenters currently on strike for a fair contract, we appreciate the solidarity you have publicly expressed with us through your first letter on September 6 and another on September 17. We especially value a union sister elected representative standing steadfastly with us, even in the face of the regrettable attacks on you for doing so.

Your letters recognize the courage it took for rank and file carpenters to reject four tentative agreements and to put pressure on our leadership to sanction a strike. Rank and file carpenters have been organizing themselves, having recognized months ago that the proposed wages being offered by the AGC bosses were not keeping up with inflation. It is a grim reality that we cannot afford to raise a family in Seattle, a city that we build. We are grateful to you for reaching out and making clear that you stand behind carpenters’ demands for better wages and fully-funded benefits. You may not know that many of the carpenters are unable to join their brothers and sisters on picket lines due to PLA and other side agreements that include no-strike clauses. Your support has strengthened carpenters’ voices who are inhibited by these concessions to the bosses. We appreciate that your letters support our specific demands, including a three-year contract to remain united with other building and construction trades workers. We cannot win this alone, thus, we will not forget those who stood beside us when we needed them most.

Rank and file carpenters are diverse and are dedicated to uniting members of all backgrounds. We aim to organize and amplify the voices of all carpenters in demand of a fair contract. We appreciate that you have echoed our demands for stronger protections against workplace harassment. Carpenters are calling for support from union leaders and politicians of all affiliations who sincerely wish to help us fight for a better future. To date, you are the only politician to have stepped forward in solidarity.

We hope that you will use your elected position to make further efforts, in coordination with us, to support our strike action. We urge other elected representatives to follow your example.

In solidarity,

  • Aaron Maher, Local 30
  • Aaron Medema, Local 30
  • Aaron Pate, Local 129
  • Agnes Wurz, Local 30
  • Alan Poindexter, Local 30
  • Alfonso Villarreal, Local 816
  • Allen Hopson, Local 30
  • Andy Hecker, Local 129
  • Arthur Esparza, Local 30
  • Austin Tedtaotao, Local 129
  • Brandon Aldrich, Local 30
  • Bryce Owings, Local 816
  • Caleb Hatch, Local 70
  • Christopher Thibodeau, Local 30
  • Cody McPike, Local 30
  • Colin Gibson, Local 30
  • Colin Heft, Local 70
  • Courtney Carmack, Local 70
  • Craig Wa, Local 70
  • Danell George, Local 30
  • David Coffey, Local 70
  • David Wang, Local 70
  • Devin Davies, Local 96
  • Don Sorenson, Local 70 (17 Year Delegate & Officer)
  • Duane Petty, Local 30
  • Elias Marchan, Local 30
  • Erick Lopez, Local 30
  • Gabe Evans, Local 30
  • Gilberto Marchan, Local 30
  • Glenn Vasquez, Local 70
  • Grant Howard, Local 30
  • Jacob Beattiger, Local 30
  • Jacob Schley, Local 129
  • Jacy Purkiss, Local 70
  • Jagziel Aguirre, Local 70
  • James Green, Local 59
  • James Jones, Local 70
  • James Leisure, Local 30
  • Jarry Tourn, Local 30
  • Jason Bartos, Local 30
  • Jeff Olszewski, Local 30
  • Jereme Peterson, Local 30
  • Jessica Warren, Local 30
  • Joe Poplaski, Local 30
  • Joe Sosa, Local 30 (Union Steward)
  • John MacDonald, Local 30
  • John Schneble, Local 129
  • John Thompson, Local 30
  • Jordan McDonald, Local 30
  • Jordan Sears, Local 816
  • Kenneth McElhose, Local 129
  • Mason Thompson, Local 30
  • Melina Harris, Local 30
  • Michael Effler, Local 30
  • Michael Silvey, Local 30
  • Michael Townsel, Local 70
  • Michael Whitaker, Local 30
  • Michael Yusko, Local 41
  • Monty Woods, Local 70
  • Nathan Kelling, Local 129
  • Nick Ross, Local 30
  • Patrick Burns, Local 30 (Retired)
  • Randy Johnson, Local 30
  • Ricardo Banuelos, Local 70
  • Robert Kimbrough, Local 30
  • Ron McMullen, Local 70
  • Ryan Campbell, Local 129
  • Ryan Peaslee, Local 30
  • Scott Shern, Local 30
  • Sergio Zamora, Local 30
  • Seth Adams, Local 30
  • Shane Bentley, Local 70
  • Shane McMurray, Local 70
  • Taylor Morris, Local 30
  • Taylor Tunison, Local 30
  • Thomas Reams Jr., Local 30
  • Thomas Smith, Local 152
  • Tom Nolan, Local 30
  • Travis Philpot, Local 30
  • Tyson Frazier, Local 70
  • Uriel Newcomb, Local 41
  • Vern Reber, Local 70

Email from Nicole Grant to Kshama Sawant:

Councilmember Sawant,

I am writing in regards to your unacceptable behavior as a public official with regard to the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Union strike. Your attempts to lead striking workers directly undermine the democratically elected Carpenters Union leaders who are fighting day and night on behalf of their members.

Although community solidarity with striking workers is appreciated, your specific behavior is neither helpful nor appropriate. You are not a carpenter nor are you a union leader. You are a politician. You are completely out of line to insert yourself in a union’s contract negotiation without being asked. Please stop.

Nicole Grant
Executive Secretary-Treasurer
MLK Labor

Sept. 23, 2021


Sister Nicole:

This is the time to unite and mobilize all union members and working people to the strike lines and to support the carpenters in their struggle, to ensure their victory, because their fight is the collective struggle of all working people. As rank-and-file carpenter Monty Woods declared on the picket line this morning, “You cannot defeat such a well-financed enemy as AGC without total solidarity. Solidarity is what will win this strike.”

I agree with Brother Monty and his fellow carpenters. That is why your note and the accompanying social media you did is unfortunate and unhelpful to the workers’ cause. You should be working to unite the entire labor movement to rally around the carpenters, in every way possible, not attacking rank-and-file union members and those who support them unreservedly.

You know full well that the decisions to reject four tentative agreements and then to go on strike have been made entirely by rank-and-file union carpenters themselves. The only effect of your baseless accusations towards me is to sow division inside the labor movement and weaken the carpenters’ fight. And this ultimately plays into the hands of the AGC bosses.

Since the union carpenters asked for support from our office three weeks ago, I have pledged to back them, respecting their rank-and-file-led democratic decision to strike.

Our Council office first joined with carpenters in a Labor Day rally. I issued a Labor Day solidarity letter noting that “When you win, it will be a victory for all workers, not just for carpenters and construction workers” and urging them to support the struggles of other workers.

I am sorry you missed this Labor Day event and the opportunity to speak with and hear from rank-and-file workers from many trades – and also from unions outside the building trades – who understand that the carpenters’ fight is crucial for all workers

After the union members had democratically voted to strike, I issued a second solidarity letter, congratulating the carpenters on standing up to the billionaire bosses, and pointing out the importance of their struggle to all workers: “We need to rebuild a fighting labor movement if we’re going to turn things around. This courageous strike is an important step that can provide an example to workers across the country.”

I also have publicly pledged $10,000 from my Solidarity Fund to the strike, once the union sets up a strike fund. I urge MLK Labor to support the strike financially as well.
Along with carpenters union members, our office launched an online solidarity petition, garnering more than 600 signatures in the first day from a very wide range of union members. I urge MLK Labor to circulate this petition so that our solidarity can be amplified.

And on Tuesday this week, my office received a powerful letter signed by more than 80 rank-and-file carpenters from various northwest locals, who wrote that

“We appreciate the solidarity you have publicly expressed with us through your first letter on September 6 and another on September 17. We especially value a union sister elected representative standing steadfastly with us, even in the face of the regrettable attacks on you for doing so.”

They continued

Rank and file carpenters are diverse and are dedicated to uniting members of all backgrounds. We aim to organize and amplify the voices of all carpenters in demand of a fair contract. We appreciate that you have echoed our demands for stronger protections against workplace harassment. Carpenters are calling for support from union leaders and politicians of all affiliations who sincerely wish to help us fight for a better future. To date, you are the only politician to have stepped forward in solidarity.

I am honored by those words, and have told the union members that they can count on our office continuing to support them in every way possible.

That is why on Wednesday I announced that I would be introducing three legislative measures to address concerns that the carpenters have raised, most notably the cost of downtown parking. Under legislation that my office has begun drafting, we will require contractors to pay 100% of the parking for all construction workers.

I urge you to join with the workers in demanding that the Democrats on City Council publicly support this bill, along with the other measures to benefit construction workers.

This Saturday, my office is joining with carpenters and a number of MLK Labor affiliates to organize a solidarity rally. I would welcome seeing you there, and would of course ensure that you have a chance to address the rally. Please let me know if you can join us then. The carpenters are on strike for a better contract. But the struggle is a fundamental one that all workers, including the members of MLK Labor affiliates, are confronting: Will our city and this nation be playgrounds for the rich? Or will they be communities where workers can live with dignity and enjoy economic and social justice? My duty, as a workers’ representative and a socialist, is to use my elected position to the utmost to ensure a victory for my carpenter siblings.

In solidarity,
Kshama Sawant
Seattle City Council
Rank-and-file member, AFT Local 1789, AFL-CIO




Source: Socialistalternative.org