Seattle’s only socialist city councillor will take home just half of her allotted salary, bringing her income in line with the average worker in the city.
Kshama Sawant, the first socialist elected to Seattle’s city council in a century, had made the promise during her campaign. She will receive $40,000 per year, instead of the normal $117,000. The remaining half will be donated to trade unions and organizations dedicated to campaigning on the environment, civil rights and women’s rights.
In a statement, Sawant said:
[box type=”shadow”]Every Councilmember faces a choice of who they represent and which world they inhabit. My place is with working people and their struggles. I want to give a voice to workers, trade union members, women, and immigrants. As a Councilmember, I re-commit to a fundamentally different political outlook. In line with the principles of the political party I represent, Socialist Alternative, I pledged to stay accountable to working people by taking only an average workers’ wage.[/box]
Sawant’s decision to forgo half of her salary follows a similar move by the socialist president of Uruguay, José Mujica, a former Marxist rebel who fought against the military dictatorship, and spent 14 years in prison before the restoration of democracy in 1985. Last year he decided to take home just 10% of his presidential salary, donating the remaining 90% to charities. He also refused to live in the presidential palace, opting to live in his farmhouse on a dirt-road just outside the capital, Montevideo.
Councillor Sawant went on to say that she believes that high salaries are one reason that the American public often feel that their political representatives are out of touch and do not understand their day-to-day lives and struggles:
[box type=”shadow”]Seattle City Councilmembers receive over $117,000 a year — the second highest of any city council in the country. Inevitably, such a salary removes Councilmembers from the realities of life for working people. I will only take home $40,000 per year. This amount is roughly the full-time take-home pay of a Seattleite.”[/box]
Sawant represents the Socialist Alternative, a democratic socialist party, and was elected on a campaign based around increasing the minimum wage, improving economic democracy, tackling income inequality and increasing taxes on the wealthy.