Before Kshama Sawant won a seat on the Seattle City Council, she was a prominent organizer within the city’s Occupy movement. Now in her fourth year at City Hall, the former software engineer and economics professor has remained committed to activism.
A member of the Socialist Alternative party, Sawant is a proponent of democratic socialism and has been successful in leading grassroots campaigns to benefit the working class of her city. First came the Fight for $15; more recently an income tax on the rich; next up is rent control.
Originally from India, a country known for extreme income inequality, she said it was the breadth of poverty she witnessed in the U.S. that she credits for her radicalization.
According to the party platform, Socialist Alternative members believe the capitalist system is the root cause of economic crisis, poverty, discrimination, war and environmental destruction. The party aims to build a movement that will take the top 500 corporations into public ownership under democratic control to end elite control of global competition for profits and power.
During her bid for City Council, Sawant announced she would take home no more pay than the average Seattle worker. She has lived up to that campaign promise, keeping $40,000 of her $117,000 annual salary and donating the rest to social justice movements.
She’ll be in Portland on Sept. 30 to give the keynote address at Portland Jobs with Justice’s annual dinner, a fundraiser for the coalition of more than 100 labor organizations and community groups.
Sawant said Portland Jobs with Justice has focused its efforts on the struggles she believes working people in cities across the country should be addressing. She plans to discuss organizing, movement building and the direction of the left at the Portland dinner.
In advance of her Portland appearance, Sawant spoke with Street Roots about her strategy for fighting homelessness in Seattle and how the nation needs to strengthen its labor movement. We began our interview with a question from Street Roots vendor Charles McPherson.
Click Here to read the interview in Street Roots!