In a nasty case of liberal-versus-liberal politics, progressive labor unions are emerging as possible opponents of a city initiative that would require electing the Seattle City Council by seven new districts, which is considered a progressive cause. "We feel the Seattle Districts Now proposal will have the effect of undermining the voting power of persons of color," writes UFCW 21 organizer Steve Lansing in a February 15 e-mail sent to a source. Lansing's food workers' union is joined in the cause by SEIU Healthcare 775NW, OneAmerica Votes, Washington CAN!, and the Win/Win Network.
But politically speaking, their motivation seems transparent: It may be less about racial justice and more about unions retaining their influence. Candidates elected by smaller districts would need less money and fewer connections to win than in the citywide races that Seattle conducts currently, so switching to districts instead of at-large elections could mean that major lobbies and big funders (like labor unions and their allies) have less sway in campaign season—and over politicians once they're elected.
Reached for comment, UFCW spokesman Steve Williamson says, "That's not what's going on" and that his group just "want[s] the best proposal to go forward."