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New Socialist member settles in at Seattle city council

Kshama Sawant is a teacher, Occupy Wall Street participant, union activist, and a new openly Socialist member of the Seattle, Washington city council.

When Sawant was sworn in Monday afternoon, she became the first Socialist to sit on the city council in almost a century.

“This is a turning point in the history of the United States,” she said in an interview with Democracy Now.

“And I do not mean just because of an election of a Socialist to the City Council, but the Occupy Movement, legalizing marijuana use, marriage equality, this is all an illustration that the people in this country are extremely outraged and frustrated at the status quo,” she explained.

Sawant says, that people are open minded to the idea that “there are alternatives to the Capitalist system. … People, especially young people, are much more open to Socialism then you would find out from the corporate media.”

Sawant ran as a Socialist Alternative candidate once before when she campaigned for a spot in the Washington State House of Representatives. She was defeated in a landslide by Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp, who won with 70 percent of the vote.

She credits observing the inequities of the caste system in India while she grew up in Mumbai for her socialism. However, she officially became a party member after she heard a speech from a Socialist Alternative activist in Seattle.

One of her priorities is working with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray to establish a $15 minimum wage throughout the city.

Shortly after she was elected in December 2013, she told reporters at a news conference that “2014 is going to be the year of 15 dollars an hour in Seattle.”

And she pledged that if she was not able to accomplish this task in her position as a city council member, she would find another way to do so.

“If our bottom line is not able to be met simply through discussions in city government, then we have to take it to the people for a referendum,” she promised.

In 2013, the airport town of SeaTac, WA voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and last Friday Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced his support for a $15 an hour salary for city workers.

Sawant also aims to provide more government subsidized housing and to tax the wealthy to provide funding for transit and education.

She explained to Democracy Now that she hopes while serving as a council member she will help answer the question, “How are [Socialists} going to have a mass movement that will challenge the status quo of capitalism?”

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