Prince: Please introduce yourself, and tell us why you’re running for Boston City Council At-Large?
SW: My name is Seamus Whelan, and I am running for Boston City Council At-Large as an endorsed Socialist Alternative candidate; and as an endorsed Green-Rainbow party candidate here in Boston. I am running for Boston City Council because I am tired of the “politics as usual;” and I want to put an alternative vision forward. My main message is that Boston is becoming more unaffordable for working people to live in. What my campaign is advocating for is $15 as a minimum wage; and the right to join a union without incriminations. That particular message has been getting a huge echo when we go door knocking and have stand outs. My campaign is a campaign that does not accept corporate donations, and it is run and supported by volunteers and small donations from regular working people.
Prince: What are your issues that you are advocating for as a Boston City Council At-Large candidate?
SW: My number one issue is Affordability and Living for the working people in Boston. With that I call for the need of $15 as the minimum living wage; and the right to join a union. I believe that it connects to every single issue that my campaign is fighting for. What connects those issues is the political process that has been dominated by the corporate agenda and by corporate money—it affects the issue of affordability.
If you take the issue of public transportation, my campaign calls for a massive expansion and a reversal on the hikes from the T; which affects a lot of seniors who saw their costs doubled in the previous months.
My second issue is Public Education. Again we are see increasing corporate control coming into public education. I work full-time as a registered nurse and I see that corporate influence in our healthcare industry; the same influence is coming into our public education. And the vehicles that the Corporations are using are Charter Schools, etc. in order to get control over public education. My campaign calls for a reduction in class size, and an increase in resources that will go towards public education—I will like to see the class-size go down to 10 students per teacher. Now to answer the question on how to finance these demands, you only need to look at Boston’s prosperity.
Boston is one of the richest cities [in the richest country] in the world. The money is here. A recent study from MassPort indicates that the State [Massachusetts] loses $1.6 billion every year from Big Business, Corporations and the 1%. They are hiding their money and sending it off to offshore accounts. That money could be used to fund public education and infrastructure. We have Big Banks and Corporations sitting on trillions of dollars and they are refusing to invest in our economy. As a representative of the people, from the working-class, I want to change that situation.
Prince: What makes you qualified to be City Councilor At-Large?
SW: My qualification to be on City Council, and the reason why people should vote for me, is that I am not a politician [or a corporate politician]. These politicians come into the scene every few years to get elected. They say everything that sounds progressive, but when it comes to their behavior, [when they do get elected] they vote for a corporate agenda. The corporate agenda in Boston means cutting vital public services to the most needy in order to please the 1%, the Big Banks, or Big Business. The demands of Big Business are the tax breaks and corporate welfare. Their price of speculation on our economy was paid for by the working people. So my qualifications stem from the fact that I don’t accept the corporate agenda.
My interests are fighting for the needs of the working people and I will do that on the basis of my history in public activism: I was part of the trade union movement as a Socialist; I am an union activist representative at my hospital for “Mass Nurse Association”; I am an elected delegate for my union’s national body “National Nurses United”; I fought healthcare issues for single parent healthcare and for safe staffing; and I have fought on referendum campaigns against high stakes testing, and Corporations profiting from public education.
So my campaign is unique in that aspect, and I am the only candidate that is putting forward these ideas with a clear agenda for the working people.
Prince: Tell me a personal story that has inspired you to run for office.
SW: Well I can tell you a story that has actually happened to me this morning. As I said before, my campaign is refusing to accept any corporate donations, and we see candidates in the race with hundreds and thousands of dollars in their financial campaign accounts.
This morning I was campaigning and door-knocking at a large subsidized housing estate called Georgetown in Hyde Park. This is an estate that has almost 1,000 units and 70% of them are Section 8—these are the working poor in Boston. It is an attractive area and it is something that we should be proud of. However, it is now under attack. It is being renovated, and 30% of it will be handed over to the market. This gentleman who I met a week ago, liked what I was campaigning and gave me a $20 donation from his own pocket. This gentleman was a Haitian immigrant and works 15 hours a day, six days a week. Those are the type of people that I want to represent. I have no interest in representing Fidelity, Corporations, or Big Banks that dominate the politics here in Boston.
He said that the reason why he was supporting me was because I was the only candidate that he has ever seen at his 1,000 unit estate. No other candidate of the 19 candidates has stepped foot on this estate—not a single political sign. So again I have no interest in representing the Banks or Corporations, I want to represent ordinary working people.
Prince: What promises do you hope to keep as City Councilor At Large?
SW: The promises that I’m making as a City Councilor is number one: to build a movement. It is movements that change societies and bring reforms. I am running in order to build a movement. I am promising that I will not accept the full $87,000 salary that City Councilors make. I will only take the average Boston salary, which is half of that amount, and use the rest to invest in building campaigns, like $15 minimum wage or other campaigns for working people.
Also Boston City Council and Boston politics is quite undemocratic. The real decisions are made behind closed doors in organizations like Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and the un-elected school committee. My problem is that we are living in a state [and in a city] that is dominated by one party: the Democratic Party. What I find wrong about the Democratic Party is that it is not Democratic. I want to bring a real democracy into Boston and so I am calling for the repeal of the BRA; and instead implement a real planning authority. I am tired of a developers’ body that favors themselves. I also recognize that Boston City Council has very limited powers—it does not have the power for its own budget. They get their budget from the mayor and they can vote up or down. What I pledge is that I will not vote for any budget that has layoffs or cuts to public services that are vital for working people.
Prince: As a City Councilor At-Large, what would you do to attract people from all over the world to come to Boston and invest in their American Dream?
SW: I think first and foremost that Boston has to be a livable city and an affordable city. The trend that we are seeing from the residents of Boston is that they have been driven out of Boston. Last year, Boston had the second highest increase in housing costs and rents in the country. We have seen in the last period [last two decades] that productivity and wealth in our nation and in Boston have greatly increased. However, the wealth that was created has gone overwhelmingly to the 1%; and wages have become stagnant. So there has been a redistribution of wealth from the working people to the 1%.
To keep Boston affordable for the working people—to live in and raise families—I think we need to reverse that trend and organize by building mass movements.
Prince: Can you tell me an embarrassing story that you have done–on or off the campaign–that has reminded you that you are still human?
SW: I guess missing a forum is an embarrassing story for me. I missed a forum which I was all geared up to go to in Charlestown but I got the date wrong on my schedule. What really annoyed me was that I missed an opportunity to advocate my message to the working people of Charlestown—the opportunities to raise your message to the people of Boston are extremely limited. So in every opportunity, I have to take my message out there.
We are dominated by the corporate media that puts forward a superficial view of politics in Boston. If you are reading the elections, the only thing that they are focusing on is “how many hundreds of thousands of dollars do the leading candidates have?”; rather than the message. For the donations that are over $200 you can see the main banks; the main finance houses; and the main real estate interest that finance these candidates. My message is this: “Do you want a candidate that will fight for your interest?”
I believe that you cannot have two sets of interests, and I believe that the people of Boston can have an option [an alternative] in this election. If a candidate is independent and refuses to accept corporate donations then the people can have that alternative: an alternative from the “politics as usual”—and an alternative candidate that will fight for the interest of the working people.
Prince: Lastly, in your own words, what makes Seamus Whelan so interesting?
SW: I don’t think I’m interesting. I have been an ordinary working guy all my life; I work full-time as a registered nurse taking care of patients, and I, as well as my union, believe in Socialist Activism—it is not enough to take care of people on the bedside which I do on a daily basis. We have to take care of the ills of the community.
So what is interesting about me are the ideas; the programs; the unique situations; and the unique demands that my campaign puts forward. What is also unique about me is that I am the only candidate that is calling for a $15 minimum wage and the rights to join a union. I am the only candidate that has pledged to not take the full $87,000 salary from City Council; and use part of it to build movements and campaigns for working people.
And lastly, I am the only candidate that is putting forward a clear agenda that will help working people in this city; and will stand behind that agenda—I will not be tied to other interests. So that is what really makes me unique. I am the only candidate that is a Socialist and is putting forward the ideas of democratic socialism: working people create the wealth in society. The working people are those who work at fast food restaurants and at Wal-Mart. [Wal-Mart has one family that owns more wealth than 40 million Americans; and advise them on how to collect food stamps]. This is symbolic of the society that we are living in today. My campaign offers an alternative from the corrupt political system that has been dominated by corporate money.
My main message is that one person cannot change City Council—movements do. I will use my campaign as a platform for other movements like trade unions, social justice, etc. Instead of having one candidate running against the feet of corporate influenced candidates, we should have hundreds of candidates from each community organization. So I hope my campaign will set an example for that vision. Every vote that I get will be a vote for that vision—we should have all the trade unions run their own candidates with an agenda for working people. We should have environmental groups, housing advocate groups, and any movements of people that fight for social justice, civil liberties, social equality and have their own candidates represent them. I will be an exemplary model for working people to bring about that change.
To follow Seamus Whelan and his platforms go to: www.votewhelan.org