Standing up to dirty politics in Seattle

Pedestrians are dwarfed by the Amazon Spheres, part of corporate headquarters in Seattle. PHOTO: Sounder Bruce
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Picket signs that said “We Support Bessemer Workers!” were loaded into cars. Leaflets, chant sheets and bull horns were packed. It was March 20, a national day of solidarity with those trying to organize a union at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. Events were happening across the U.S., and it was almost time to head to the Amazon Spheres, the retail giant’s corporate headquarters in downtown Seattle.

But, two hours before the rally’s start, event organizers from Seattle Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) called an emergency online meeting. Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan had demanded that the protest be postponed. She claimed it would interfere with a Covid vaccination clinic over a block away.

It was déjà vu. Durkan, a corporate Democrat whose campaigns have greatly benefited from the commercial behemoth’s support, had used the exact same maneuver in February against socialist Council Member Kshama Sawant. Her party, Socialist Alternative, had planned to protest Amazon with a car caravan circling the block containing the Spheres. After pressure from the mayor (same location, same vaccination clinic) Sawant and her organization moved the time of the event. Their action was practically unseen as cars drove around on a dark, winter Saturday night amid the pandemic emptiness of downtown.

Emboldened by this earlier success, Durkan decided to play the same hand on March 20. Sad to say, most of the DSA leadership at the emergency meeting folded to the Mayor’s bluff. They rescheduled the gathering to the following Friday night. Their main concern? That Mayor Durkan might say rally organizers were intentionally hurting vaccination efforts. This would, unthinkably, leave Seattle, home of Amazon, without an event on the national day of solidarity.

Luckily, over 70 workers and supporters from around the Puget Sound area gathered at the Amazon Spheres anyway. The Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) and Radical Women led a spirited rally that afternoon attended by Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS), International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) activists, other leftists, and independents. FSP organizer Jared Houston, who is also a shop steward with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, emceed the impromptu event. At the open mic, people praised the Black women leading this essential fight and spoke of the importance of this unionization drive.

The rally-goers did not place value on what the mayor, a representative of the capitalist system, might or might not do. They knew to postpone was to sell out. Instead, they stood in solidarity with Black workers in the South trying to organize a union.

In the end, despite the mayor’s machinations, those who attended made sure there was a militant, pro-union event in the belly of the Amazon beast.

Also see: High hopes, a tough loss and the road ahead: The Amazon union drive in Bessemer, Alabama

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