Video: Affordable housing activists protest at Amazon HQ, demanding higher taxes on corporations

Amazon is getting used to fielding jabs from politicians. President Donald Trump spent most of last week berating the company. But this time, the Seattle tech giant is under attack from political organizers in its hometown.

Demonstrators gathered at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters Tuesday evening to protest “Amazon and big business” and support a tax on the city’s biggest companies. The tax would fund affordable housing, which is in short supply in fast-growing Seattle.

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant headlined the protest as part of an ongoing campaign to mount support for a per-employee tax on the city’s largest businesses. Though Amazon isn’t the only company that would be affected, it is the most visible symbol of the rapidly evolving tech economy that is generating massive wealth but pushing out lower-income residents in Seattle.

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant leads a protest demanding more taxes from Amazon. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Amazon declined to comment on the demonstration.

Although Trump spent the past week slamming Amazon for a number of things, including underpaying taxes, Sawant made it clear that the president has nothing to do with her agenda in Seattle.

“Trump, as we know, has been trolling Amazon but we have to be very clear, Trump is the conman in chief,” she said. “At the same time that he has the temerity and dishonesty to say that Amazon is not paying enough taxes — which it isn’t — but when Trump says that, that is doublespeak because only months ago, Trump and the Republicans gave the biggest corporations, like Amazon, a $1.8 trillion tax cut.”

(GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Sawant is a socialist who has earned a reputation for going after big corporations, like Amazon, and promoting worker rights.

The tax at the center of Sawant’s protest was narrowly voted down this past November but the Council agreed to revisit the issue in 2018 after more time could be spent studying its impact. Earlier this month a task force recommended that City Council pass a tax that would generate $75 million per year in funding — and as much as $150 million per year with additional “progressive revenue options” — to alleviate homelessness and housing issues in Seattle. The funding would most likely come from a tax per employee, earning it the nickname “head tax.”

(GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

About 150 people gathered at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters Tuesday. Several were canvassing, asking passersby and employees streaming out of Amazon buildings to sign a petition supporting the tax.

In addition to Sawant, former Seattle mayoral candidate Cary Moon attended the event. She was defeated by Mayor Jenny Durkan, who received campaign donations from a PAC funded by Amazon.

Seattle mayoral runner-up Cary Moon joins in the Amazon protest. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce opposes the head tax and is boycotting negotiations with the City Council. More than 180 business leaders wrote a letter to the Council in March, asking lawmakers to reject the new $150 million tax proposal.

Sawant says that the tax is essential to alleviate Seattle’s housing crisis by providing funding for 750 permanently affordable, high-quality homes every year.

A vote on the head tax could come as soon as May.

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