The Seattle city council voted unanimously Monday to tax the city’s largest employers $275 per employee in order to provide housing and healthcare for a growing homeless population.
The council reached the decision after a weekend of haggling between council members and Mayor Jenny Durkan, who threatened to veto the originally proposed $500 tax per employee. The tax applies to all businesses in the city that gross more than $20 million annually.
Maxford Nelson, director of labor policy at the Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Wash., told The Daily Caller News Foundation the city council’s message was “clear.”
“[The city council] does not view businesses as entities driving the job growth and prosperity in Seattle,” Nelson told TheDCNF. “The city council views businesses as entities to be punished and taxed for every employee that they hire.”
The “head tax,” as it is commonly called, was pushed principally by socialist city council member Kshama Sawant and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) — one of the largest labor unions in the U.S.
Sawant joined activist in rallying support for the policy, including using city resources to print fliers emblazoned with “Tax Amazon” to bill the head tax on corporations. Sawant was the only member of the city council to vote against the amendment that reduced the original $500 an employee tax down to $275.
The SEIU pushed the policy through nonprofit Working Washington, a labor activist organization funded by the union and shares office space and supplies with the union’s local branch.
“The battle lines on this issue were more starkly drawn than they have been on many of the other progressive issues that the Seattle city council has pushed in recent years,” Nelson told TheDCNF, adding the head tax drew opposition from many divergent interests in the city.
Many divergent interests joined together to oppose the head tax, from local activists to unionized iron workers who lost work when Amazon paused construction on a Seattle facility while waiting for the outcome of the vote. The Seattle business community was nearly universally opposed to the tax, according to Nelson.
“I think you are seeing folks in Seattle who are not conservative by any stretch finally starting to question just how far left the city council has gone,” Nelson said.
The SEIU and Working Washington could not be reached for comment.
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