Small crowd rallies against big business in Seattle; small businesses oppose proposed big tax increases

Tuesday’s rally in downtown Seattle featured now-familiar themes and chants, as the Seattle Times reports.

“Tax Bezos” and “Tax big business” read signs hoisted outside Amazon’s glass and steel Seattle Spheres Tuesday, as supporters of a new tax on large employers brought a political rally for the first time to the new heart of the tech giant’s urban campus.

Onlookers behind the tinted glass of an Amazon office tower used their cellphones to film the commotion from above. From below, the crowd of about 100 waved back.

Just 100. The occasion was the proposed jobs (“head”) tax to fund programs to alleviate homelessness. The Seattle Times explains,

With the City Council considering the tax on employee hours or on payroll to help pay for affordable housing and homeless services, proponents of the measure are holding up Amazon as the prime example of a company that can afford to do more.

“The tax we are demanding,” City Councilmember Kshama Sawant told the early-evening rally, “is pocket change for corporations like Amazon … Pocket change for these billionaires.”

Business groups generally oppose the tax, as the Times points out.

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and many local employers spoke out against the “tax on jobs” last month, when the council began considering a measure that would raise up to $75 million annually. The city’s response to homelessness has been ineffective and existing taxes paid by businesses account already for more than half of Seattle’s general fund, they said.

And while there have been some small business who back the tax if, as the Times reports, they don’t have to pay it and the money will be used wisely, the Lens carries a guest commentary by two small business owners who make the case against another new Seattle tax. Lauren Adler, owner of Chocopolis, and Kayla Boheme, owner of Pipe + Row, write.

With small businesses struggling and closing all over Seattle, many business owners feel the City Council is working against them. The latest of these challenges is the Employee Hours Tax or “head tax,” proposed by the Progressive Revenue Taskforce to solve Seattle’s housing and homeless crisis.

The proposal suggests that because the housing and homeless crisis is a concern to the entire community, every business, no matter the size, should have “skin in the game.” This would leave businesses as small as one employee paying $395 per year, an amount the Taskforce deems “relatively small.” Larger business would pay proportionately more. Such as tax really wouldn’t be a small impact when considering the seemingly constant rise of property taxes, rent, and other costs of doing business.

The City of Seattle has made it increasingly difficult to run a small business.

The cumulative impact of measures Adler and Boheme describe is not inconsiderable.

Over the last three years, Seattle employers have supported an increased minimum wage, mandated paid sick-and-safe time, secure scheduling, and the most progressive Paid Family and Medical Leave program in the country. We saw significant increases in Business & Occupation taxes and business license fees. It would be one-sided to discuss a “progressive” new revenue source on businesses without also addressing the regressive nature of our current costs.

…When new taxes and policies arise, we don’t magically find more money. The unfortunate consequences of these new costs are that we are unable to pay as many employees.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?