Amazon Halts Construction of New Tower; Ironworkers Protest Head Tax on Seattle Businesses

Members of Iron Workers Local 86 show up at Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s press conference outside the Amazon Spheres to voice, literally, their opposition to a proposed head tax on businesses, especially Amazon. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

Fascinating coverage of Amazon’s dramatic response to Seattle’s proposed “job tax” as the tech giant suspends construction on its new tower, and iron workers protest City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who supports the plan.

Seattle Times story reproduced in full below. Read the original here. 

Amazon issues threat over Seattle head-tax plan, halts tower construction

The company that’s conquered the world of online retail is taking on its hometown City Hall, with Amazon delivering an unprecedented public threat Wednesday against a proposal for a new tax on large employers in Seattle.

The retail giant has paused construction planning on a new downtown Seattle tower until the City Council votes on the tax to fund homelessness programs, a spokesman said.

Amazon also may sub-lease rather than occupy space in a skyscraper under construction downtown, said the spokesman, Drew Herdener.

The questioning of two high-profile ventures by the city’s largest employer is a bold political jab of the kind Amazon has never made in Seattle before and could lend weight to an effort by big businesses to kill the proposed tax.

The company helmed by Jeff Bezos has planned to fill its 17-story “Block 18” tower and the skyscraper being built at Rainier Square with an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 workers.

Mayor Jenny Durkan vowed to seek common ground, while council members pushing the measure gave no indication they intend to back down. Councilmember Kshama Sawant accused Amazon of attempting “blackmail.”

“I’m deeply concerned about the impact this could have on a whole range of issues,” Durkan said in an interview about Amazon’s play, declining to say whether the company gave her advance notice. “Everyone should be.”

The e-commerce behemoth last week reported a quarterly profit of $1.6 billion and has been targeted by local social-justice activists, who argue a company led by the world’s richest person can afford to do more to help people living without shelter.

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