Seattle city councilmember Kshama Sawant had a personal message for billionaire Jeff Bezos after the passage of the so-called Amazon tax, warning him that “we are coming for you.”
The avowed socialist framed Monday’s 7-2 council vote for the hefty payroll tax on larger businesses as a step toward the goal of overthrowing the “bankrupt system of capitalism” and replacing it with “a socialist world.”
“And if you, Jeff Bezos, want to drive that process forward by lashing out against us in our modest demands, then so be it,” she said in a video address that was posted Tuesday on Socialist Alternative. “Because we are coming for you and your rotten system.”
Two years ago, the council passed and then promptly repealed a head tax on businesses with more than $20 million in annual gross revenue in the face of opposition from a coalition of businesses, including Amazon, that sought to overturn the tax with a ballot referendum.
In her message, Ms. Sawant warned Mr. Bezos, the Amazon CEO and one of the world’s richest people, that he would face the wrath of “thousands” if he tried that again.
“I have a message for Jeff Bezos and his class,” Ms. Sawant said. “If you attempt again to overturn the Amazon tax, working people will go all out in the thousands to defeat you. And we will not stop there. Because you see, we are fighting for far more than this tax, we are preparing the ground for a different kind of society.”
The newly passed tax increase, officially called JumpStart Seattle but better known as the Amazon tax, would raise at least $214 million annually by taxing businesses with more than $7 million in annual payroll 0.7% for every employee earning at least $150,000, and 1.4% for those making more than $500,000.
The city said the tax hike was needed for “affordable housing and essential city services,” as well as to help small businesses and “our most vulnerable community members” get back on their feet after the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Seattle residents have made it clear — now is not the time for government austerity or divisiveness,” said councilmember Theresa Mosqueda, the measure’s sponsor. “Investing in communities of color, small businesses, and community health leads to a more robust and resilient economy.”
Critics argued that the hefty tax hike will further hobble hundreds of businesses still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.
“All of our leaders should be thinking day and night about how to get businesses back open and people back to work safely,” said Alice Teel, spokesperson for the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “Instead the Council turned immediately to new revenue and passed one of the largest tax increases in Seattle’s history.”
Ms. Sawant framed the payroll tax increase as part of a larger social struggle, saying, “We are coming to dismantle this deeply oppressive, racist, sexist, violent, utterly bankrupt system of capitalism, this police state.”
“We cannot and will not stop until we overthrow it and replace it with a world based instead on solidarity, genuine democracy and equality — a socialist world,” she said.
The vote came days after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an executive order to dismantle the Capitol Hill Occupied Zone, or CHOP, after Black Lives Matter protesters took over a six-block area June 8 around the East Precinct.
Ms. Durkan asked the council in a June 30 letter to investigate and possibly expel Ms. Sawant for “disorderly or otherwise contemptuous behavior,” including leading a crowd of protesters to the mayor’s home, but the council president held off, saying the city was already facing “concurrent crises.”
“The public airing of issues amongst and between independently elected officials will not advance solutions on the deepening needs of our constituents,” said council president M. Lorena Gonzalez in a July 1 statement.