More than 100 rally, march to protest Amazon

More than 100 people gathered on Saturday for the "March on Amazon" protest headed by councilmember Kshama Sawant and the Affordable Housing Alliance. (KOMO News)

SEATTLE -- More than 100 people gathered on Saturday for the "March on Amazon" protest headed by councilmember Kshama Sawant and the Affordable Housing Alliance.

Marchers rallied at at Seattle Central College then began making their way to the Amazon headquarters in South Lake Union.

"We are demanding council to not backslide on $75 million dollar tax. Let’s call Mayor Durkan's bluff, " Sawant said before the march began. Mayor Jenny Durkan is pushing for a lower head tax.

According to the march's Facebook page, the march was intended to protest Amazon's "corporate extortion of our city."

Supporters gathered like Sonja Ponath, a former tech employee and small-business owner said large companies "are not paying. All these companies make huge amounts of money."

But some opponents were there, too. "This is ridiculous," said Keith Steinke. "They shouldn't dare Amazon to leave. I wouldn't want to see the consequences if they do."

Amazon announced last week their decision to halt all planning on a massive project scheduled for construction in downtown Seattle because of the proposed 'head tax.'

On Friday, the Seattle City Council voted 5-4 to approve the controversial $500-per-employee head tax on the city's largest businesses.

The council voted on the proposal as a committee, which means another vote must be taken Monday before the head tax receives final council approval.

The current head tax proposal OK'd by the council would require large corporations operating in Seattle to pay $500 per employee each year to finance homeless programs. The measure would raise an estimated $75 million.

About $20 million of the total would come from Amazon, the city's largest employer, which opposes the tax and has halted construction on a 17-story office tower as it awaits a tax vote. The company is also rethinking filling office space in another leased building. Alaska Airlines, Expedia and others also came out against the $500-per-head tax.

Durkan said Friday afternoon that she cannot support the proposal.

Durkan released a statement Friday afternoon that she wants to support a proposal that will allow the creation of "good family wage jobs."

"Unfortunately, the bill that pass out of committee hurts workers by stopping these good jobs, so I cannot support it," she said. "I will continue to work with council and remain hopeful that council will pass a bill that I can sign."

Last week, construction workers shouted down Sawant as she attempted to speak in favor of the head tax at an open-air news conference.

Other local businesses have also spoken out against the head tax. Dick's Drive-In Restaurants said giving money directly to the city won't solve the homelessness problem, but giving it directly to the charities with a proven track record will.

On the other side of the issue, advocates for the homeless and affordable housing crowded into Wednesday's city hall meeting.

One man, who works in homeless outreach, told the council, “It’s important that we take a little bit of tax from the greedy and give it to those who need it most.”

Seferina Hernández told the council she’s been living homeless in an Interbay tent city with her husband for months. She said because she doesn’t have a home her two children, ages 10 and 11, were court-ordered to live with her parents in Snohomish County. She fears she will lose custody, permanently, if they don’t get stable housing soon.

“Housing will make a difference for my family,” she said. “It will make a difference for other families too.”

Organizers of Saturday's march said on their Facebook page that they are against "Amazon's bullying" and want to tax "big business to fund affordable housing."

"We must stand up against Amazon's bullying! We cannot allow them to continue putting corporate greed before the rights and well-being of their workers and the cities they reside in!" the march's Facebook page said.

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