Applying for: Seattle City Council, Position 8
Below are the answers Jon Grant provided to our ten-question job application. All answers are copied verbatim from what we received from the candidate.
1. What would you say is your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness?
My greatest strength is my depth of experience and knowledge on housing and homelessness issues. I have over ten years of work experience as a housing and homelessness advocate, from volunteering to establish the first Nicklesville encampment, to leading the Tenants Union in organizing renters to build power and solidarity against abusive landlords. If it is corny to say that my greatest weakness is that I work too hard; it’s still true, I am relentless in this work to make the world a more just place for all.
2. What are the best & worst jobs you’ve ever had? Why?
The best job I ever had was being the Executive Director of the Tenants Union. As a membership based organization comprised of low-income renters, the organization serves a critical role in representing the interests of its members above all else. It is very rare to get to work for an organization that has baked in its DNA a mission to advance the interests of low income people. It meant that as a rule the only way to do the job is to confront the powerful interests of big developers and landlords, and to advance campaigns to fundamentally shift the balance of power between those who own land, and those who do not.
Before that I had a number of service jobs working in the back of restaurants and bakeries. The work itself wasn’t what made those jobs “the worst”, but that none of them had union representation. The employees had no means to demand higher wages, health benefits, or fair scheduling practices. We also had no grievance process when disputes existed between management and the staff. Every worker should be entitled to a union.
3. Why is this position a good fit for you?
Seattle is facing an unprecedented housing and homelessness crisis. Seattle is at a turning point: the decisions we make regarding affordable housing now will impact our city for generations to come. We need elected officials who understand the scope of the crisis and who will take bold action to ensure that no matter your wage, there is a home for you in Seattle. I have dedicated my career to fighting for affordable housing for all, from volunteering at Real Change to working as a housing advocate with Solid Ground to leading the Tenant Union. Given the affordability challenges our city faces these experiences make me uniquely suited to serve on the Seattle City Council.
4. What makes you the best choice for workers in this race?
I strongly support workers rights in the workplace. In my first year in office I would introduce a proposal to charge businesses to expand funding for the Office of Labor Standards (OLS). I support increasing the budget for OLS to $5.8 million, which would expand the office to 22 full time employees. The financial burden for following and enforcing the law must be borne by the industries that are responsible for complying with the law in the first place.
I previously worked as the Outreach Director for Raise Up Washington to pass I-1433, personally gathering over 3,000 signatures to help qualify the initiative for the ballot. Thanks to the hard work of Working Washington members, unions across our state, and our broader coalition, all workers are entitled to paid sick and safe leave, and over 700,000 minimum wage workers got a raise.
I would be a strong supporter of other important labor issues, like unionizing workers in the gig economy, expanding secure scheduling, and removing exemptions for domestic workers to ensure they receive the same rights as other workers.
I believe I am the best choice for workers in this race because of my background in advocating for affordable housing. Workers in Seattle are increasingly unable to afford to live in the the city in which they work. We have to fight for wage hikes and against rent hikes at the same time. It is critical in this race for candidates to be both pro-worker and pro-affordable housing.
5. What do you think is the single biggest issue affecting workers in your area? What would you do to address it?
The single biggest issue facing workers in Seattle right now is the affordable housing crisis. A full-time minimum wage worker has seen their monthly income increase by $638 since 2014. Yet in the same time period, the average apartment rent in Seattle rose $519/month. In other words, 81% of the average minimum wage earners pay raise has gone toward rent. More and more minimum wage, working class and middle class workers are getting priced out of our city.
My housing platform proposes several key measures that would helps workers in Seattle. Our campaign is calling for 25% of new development to be affordable to working people. Our platform would extend collective bargaining rights to tenants, allowing renters to form unions to negotiate rents, building repairs and lease terms with their landlords. Additionally, we are calling for a tax on big business to fund low-income housing for homeless and very low-income renters. Finally, we support the creation of the Office of the Tenant Advocate, which would advocate for renters in disputes with landlords.
6. Describe a specific situation where you took action to support workers fighting for their rights. What was the experience like, and what did you learn? Bonus question: tell us about a time you engaged with workers with Working Washington.
Last year I served as the Outreach Director for Raise Up Washington, the statewide initiative to raise the minimum wage and pass paid sick and safe leave. We were lucky to partner with Working Washington as well as a broad coalition of labor unions, faith groups, reproductive justice advocates, environmental organizations and more. In addition to my work with partner organizations, I personally gathered over 3,000 signatures to help get I-1433 on the ballot. I also worked with UFCW 21 to do store visits and ensure that grocery workers understood how 1433 would improve their sick day policy (first day sick leave) and their wage.
7. What would be your top single priority if elected to this office? How would you define success or failure on this issue?
My single biggest priority as Seattle City Council member would be to expand affordable housing in the city. There are several metrics that we can use to define success or failure. One, is the number of rent-burdened households in our city increasing or decreasing? Currently, more than 100,000 Seattle households are rent-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing costs. Second, the city should set a goal of building 5,000 units of deeply affordable housing for homeless families and individuals over the next five years. That would effectively end unsheltered homelessness in our city. A final metric for determining success is whether rates of homelessness in Seattle increase or decrease. A successful affordable housing agenda will put a big dent in that number.
8. What can you do in this office to resist attacks by the Trump Administration on the rights of low-wage workers, who are disproportionately women, people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ?
Seattle needs an intersectional lens toward Trump-proofing our city. The Welcoming City resolution passed in January represents a strong start in protecting Seattle’s vulnerable communities; however, we should strengthen it by making it a legally binding ordinance. We should increase funding for the immigrant legal defense fund which, at current levels, is only sufficient to represent 3% of pending immigration cases. We should also end the practice of E-Verify in Seattle. E-Verify is a punitive program that makes in undocumented immigrants vulnerable to abuse from employers that take advantage of their status. We’re proud that the Seattle’s city government has refused to use the program for its own hiring. Now, we must extend that practice to all employers in the city.
We should be very concerned about reports of ICE showing up at labor disputes between workers and bosses, especially in cases of employer retaliation. To protect workers, we should bar the use of city resources for immigration enforcement; bar the use of resources to assist any federal program requiring registration of individuals on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or national/ethnic origin and; bar the Department of Homeland Security and sub-agencies access to city databases that include information that are directly linked to an individual and identify a person’s race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, or national or ethnic origin.
9. Tell us how you plan to address affordable housing, especially for minimum-wage and part-time workers, as well as for those left homeless because of high housing costs.
My affordable housing platform presents bold, visionary ideas for addressing our affordable housing crisis. My platform includes requiring 25% of new development to be affordable to working people, expanding collective bargaining rights to tenants, creating an Office of the Tenant Advocate and fighting speculation in the housing market by passing a non-resident buyers tax and a vacancy tax.
Most importantly though for low-income workers and the homeless is my proposal to tax big business to build social housing. It is clear to everyone in Seattle that major corporations like Amazon are the main drivers of our housing crisis. It’s time that big business pays its fair share to ensure that ALL workers, not just those making a tech worker salary have access to housing options they can afford. We must raise the top corporate tax rate (while raising the exemption for small businesses) to pay for thousands of units of deeply subsidized housing.
10. How would you support advancing the rights of workers in non-traditional jobs, including domestic workers and workers in the gig economy?
Seattle has a long way to go when it comes to protecting and expanding the rights of domestic workers and others outside a traditional employment structure. For many domestic workers that work alone at odd hours and often live where they work they are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Where the city has authority I would seek to expand the city’s worker protections and remove exemptions for domestic workers. All workers deserve the benefit of Seattle’s local worker protections. If there are barriers imposed at the state level I would pursue legislation directing the city’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations (OIR) to lobby Olympia to close loopholes.
I strongly support the right of workers in the gig economy to unionize. Seattle has led the way on unionizing ride-share drivers and we should explore legislation to expand the right to join a union to other workers in the gig economy. Because positions in non-traditional jobs are often word-of-mouth or network driven, it can be a difficult group to organize. Seattle should expand support to community partners who provide outreach to reach these networks and let these workers know what their rights are, how they can advocate for themselves when needed, and who to go to when their rights are being denied.