When Kshama Sawant of the Socialist Alternative party was elected to Seattle City Council in December 2013, she promised to accept no more in remuneration than the average Seattle resident makes. Yesterday, Sawant confirmed that she would be giving the majority of her salary to charity. In a press release obtained by The Stranger, Sawant said: 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. After paying taxes, the remainder of my salary will go to a Solidarity Fund to help build social justice movements. Throughout the year I will be making donations from this Solidarity Fund to causes such as workers’ strike funds, and environmental, civil rights, and women’s rights campaigns. Sawant also took the opportunity to note the city's enormous disparities in income across different demographics. In Seattle, the median wage for men is $60,000, but only $51,000 for women, she pointed out; the median income for people of color is only 45 percent of what white workers earn. In the same statement, Sawant vowed to “close the gender pay gap and to overcome the structural racism in working and living conditions." She also assured potential critics that she would provide "regular and transparent accounting" of her Solidarity Fund.
Andrew Mortazavi is a Spring 2014 editorial intern. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewmortazavi.