Shirley Henderson of Squirrel Chops and Alex Kostelnik 20/20 Cycle united in support of City Councilmember Kshama Sawant.
Shirley Henderson of Squirrel Chops and Alex Kostelnik of 20/20 Cycle, united in support of City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. Kailyn Nicholson

We are small business owners writing on behalf of the Kshama Solidarity campaign to oppose the right-wing Recall campaign against City Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

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Since voters elected her in 2013, and then reelected her in 2015 and 2019, Sawant has fought tirelessly and effectively for Seattle’s working people and marginalized communities. This includes spearheading struggles to greatly expand renters rights, both residential and commercial.

Faced with skyrocketing rents and little to no protection, small businesses and co-ops in District 3 and across the city are being forced out of the district — or worse, closing their doors for good.

Iconic small businesses that have enriched Seattle’s culture and community for decades are falling victim to these unfair and unnecessary conditions. Unsurprisingly, this has had a disproportionate impact on those communities already experiencing systemic racism, discrimination and inequality: from the eviction of Ethiopian restaurant Saba to the closure of LGBTQ+ mainstay R Place. More will follow unless we find a way to stand up to corporate greed and to provide real, ongoing relief for small businesses, such as commercial rent control.

Ultimately, the financial hardship faced by small businesses and working-class renters shares a common cause: profiteering from corporate landlords and developers. But a united movement for residential and commercial rent control can counter this exploitation.

More than any other council member, Kshama Sawant has used her council position to boldly take on the big businesses, corporate landlords, and developers that are driving the gentrification and corporatization of our city. Together with her office, renters, workers, small businesses, and oppressed communities have managed to win major victories in the past eight years.

This is precisely why she is now being targeted by a billionaire-and-Republican-backed Recall campaign.

Supported by a cast of unsavory characters — including Amazon executives, notorious slumlords, and Trump mega-donors — the Recall campaign is going all out to get rid of Kshama. They're fundraising piles of corporate cash, spreading outright lies, and engaging in blatant voter suppression by pushing the vote to a holiday special election, counting on as little voter participation as possible to undo the democratic election of 2019.

In doing so they hope to start the process of stripping back the progressive victories Kshama has helped win, such as the Amazon Tax, and to undermine the crucial, ongoing fight for residential and commercial rent control, which is not currently being supported by any council member besides Kshama Sawant.

Winning residential and commercial rent control would be a game-changer for renters and small businesses in this city. As researchers from the University of Washington have explained:

If CRC [Commercial Rent Control] legislation is able to navigate the political blowback that would inevitably occur, it not only can help maintain the 'character' of a neighborhood, but help support existing businesses that serve basic local needs that chain stores and luxury boutiques can’t provide. Without rent controls, higher rents inevitably pass onto the customer and increase the likelihood of both business and neighborhood displacement.

We can’t afford to let Kshama Sawant lose her seat to this right-wing Recall. It would be a major boost to those who continue to buy up Seattle with little consideration for its residents or for the unique culture and economic stability that come from having a stable, long-term, diverse community of small businesses. It would also endanger movements like the BLM, LGBTQ and reproductive rights movements that are targeted by the same forces backing this Recall.

For those reasons, we think it is crucial for the small business community to support and endorse the Kshama Solidarity Campaign and to help make this the biggest get-out-the-vote campaign this city has ever seen so we can get the highest voter turnout possible by the December 7 deadline.

We urge other progressive small businesses to join us by putting up a “Vote ‘No’” poster in your business window, donating to the campaign to push back on the big business PAC money being dumped into the Recall, and adding your small business endorsement to the Kshama Solidarity Campaign website. Other small businesses who are interested can contact Shirley at info@squirrelchops.com.

Sincerely,

• Shirley Henderson & Sharon Blyth-Moss, owners of Squirrel Chops
• Alex Kostelnik, owner of 20/20 Cycle
• Geetanjali Vailoor, owner of Union Coffee And Wine
• H. Stephan Mollmann, owner of Twilight Exit
• Jonah Bergman & Mike Leifur, owners of Bait Shop
• Caleb Hoffmann & Jordan Koplowitz, owners of Blotto
• Jesiah Wurtz & Haley Williams, owners of Cafe Red
• Karla Esquivel, owner of Andaluz

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