Surprise nighttime visit makes “Thrifty” boss pay up

In November 2011, Lavon agreed to work for John Hybridge, owner of Thrifty Janitorial Services (TJS), on a month-to-month basis. During his first (and only) month there, Lavon was punctual, hardworking, and he developed good relationships with the contracts he covered. Yet, at the end of November, his paycheck was nowhere to be found.

Upset with John and needing his money to follow up on plans to propose to his (now) fiance, Lavon decided to call up a few other employees who had worked for TJS. He soon found out that many of them were only receiving partial payment, if they were paid at all. So Lavon decided to confront Mr. Hybridge about the missing pay, asserting that he needed to give Lavon his back-wages within a week. Despite agreeing to this demand, when the deadline had passed, all Lavon had to show for it was a check receipt sans the check. Facing non-payment, Lavon quit in his fifth week, citing that his obligations to his second job (that actually paid him) had become overwhelming.

Shortly thereafter, Lavon was on his way to work and happened to notice a phone pole with a flier that jumped out at him. It read, “Problems With Your Employer? Unpaid wages? Injustice at work? Call Seasol!” Previously at a loss for where to begin pursuing his absent paycheck, and aware that seeking legal help for his back-pay would be prohibitively costly, Lavon thought, “What’s the worst that can happen? Why not give it a try?” After calling and explaining the situation to a Seasol member named Michael, they decided to meet at a local coffee shop and discuss Lavon’s options/next steps. Within a week Seasol had decided to take on the fight.

After a few weeks of meetings, research, and preparation, the group was ready for the demand delivery. With some clever maneuvering, Lavon and fellow Seasol volunteer Carley had found out that John would be waxing the floors at the Burien Big 5 on the night of January 26th. With some help from another volunteer Cyan, the demand letter was written and ready to be delivered.

The night of the delivery, more than forty people gathered in the parking lot in Burien, braving the bitter cold in the name of justice for a fellow worker. The plan was to ambush John on his way into work with a frosty reception and a letter describing what he’d done wrong, and what he had to do to make the situation right. The letter also made clear that if he didn’t make good on his promise to pay Lavon, Seasol would be back to carry on the struggle. Seasol volunteers took lookout positions throughout the parking lot, and waited for John’s arrival.

After an hour had passed, it seemed like something had gone wrong. The Big 5 employees had filtered into the night, the police had come and gone letting us know that “…big crowds of people make people in Burien nervous.”, but still, no John. The group agreed to slowly disperse leaving a core group to stay behind just to be sure. Nine of ten minutes passed, minutes spent plotting out our next moves, a second attempt at John’s house in North Seattle, postering around his neighborhood, visiting his contracts around the city, fake job applicants and more.

Finally, just as we were preparing to call it a draw, who should pull over the crest of the parking lot but John and his latest cleaning crew! The rest you can see here, but suffice it to say our perseverance was rewarded. Within a week Lavon had been paid and the stress he’d endured had been handled. In his own words, “Our night in the Burien Big 5 parking lot was awesome…we did it, it was great!”

See the video here.