Seattle Solidarity is supporting Maria as she tells her ex-landlord to give her back her stolen deposit and to stop harassing her with bogus bills.
This fight now seems to be over. In a letter delivered to Kasota Apartments residents and to media, Sound Mental Health (SMH) has announced that it will fully meet the tenants’ and SeaSol’s demands. Any non-SMH-client Kasota resident who wants to move out of the building will receive $3,000 in relocation assistance. Any who choose to stay will see a rent increase of no more than 10% over the next year.
This is a huge victory for the low-income tenants at the Kasota, who until recently had been facing $200 rent hikes, and who until a few days ago were under threat of eviction and in danger of homelessness. Most plan on moving as soon as possible, now that they’ll have the money to afford it.
Their victory took courage, as they kept fighting in the face of eviction threats and intimidation. It also took unity, as they insisted on sticking together when management tried to divide them and deal with each individual separately. They couldn’t have done it alone. Thanks to everyone who came out on December 28th to help the Kasota tenants–and SeaSol–win this fight.
Not long before Christmas, Sound Mental Health (SMH), the property managers of downtown Seattle’s Kasota apartments, began going door to door in the building trying to get tenants to sign a new lease. SMH houses both mentally ill ‘clients’ and roughly seventeen low-income tenants at the Kasota, but the new lease seemed to indicate that they wanted that to change. The terms of the new lease for SMH’s non-client tenants included rent increases by as much as fifty percent. Many of the low-income residents of the Kasota are dependent on Social Security and other fixed incomes for survival and cannot afford to pay rent increases of this magnitude. They were outraged as it became apparent that the terms of the new lease would drive them from their homes and out into the street. For many residents, the new lease would mean desperation and homelessness. It was at this point that one tenant saw a Seattle Solidarity Network (SeaSol) poster and decided to start fighting back.
In their first meeting with SeaSol the tenants decided that if SMH wanted them out of the Kasota so badly, then they would make a pact: unless and until each and every one of them has received adequate relocation assistance, none of them will pay the increased rent or voluntarily vacate the building. Most felt that relocation would be the best solution, because the Kasota had gone downhill ever since SMH took over in spring of 2009. SMH had failed to make long promised improvements to the apartments, and there had been two fires and one flood during that time. While the tenants make it clear that they hold nothing against their neighbors, they do resent the fact that SMH has repeatedly failed to provide them with safe living conditions.
On December 28th eight Kasota tenants and twenty-two other SeaSol’ers formally delivered the tenants’ demand in mass at SMH’s offices on Capitol Hill. Two days later SMH posted notices on every tenant’s door promising to make much needed repairs, draw up new leases which would not raise the rent by more than 10%, and consider providing relocation assistance. Despite these conciliatory promises, the very next day SMH celebrated New Years Eve by retaliating against the tenants who had decided to fight back. SMH posted three-day Pay or Vacate notices on many tenants’ doors, even though only some of them actually owed any back rent. It would seem that SMH is moving to reconcile with one hand while reaching out to strangle with the other. Nonetheless, the tenants are standing strong and have told SMH to stop these intimidation tactics immediately and begin negotiating in good faith, or they will be forced to take further action in conjunction with SeaSol.
It was not enough for WinCo Foods (Kent, WA) just to fire John J, their lowly employee who had the nerve to discuss pay and working conditions with his coworkers. They also decided to sue him.
When they fired John, back in November ’08, the best excuse management could come up with was his alleged “theft” of a packet of ranch sauce – price: 38 cents – with which he had flavored his fully paid-for snack in the break room one day. At the time, although he was outraged at their dishonesty, John decided he’d had enough of working for WinCo and moved on to bigger and better things, including getting involved in supporting fellow workers and tenants through the Seattle Solidarity Network. But WinCo was still not finished with him. The company’s lawyers began sending him letters threatening to sue him unless he paid them $200 compensation for the 38-cent sauce packet.
In response, 14 of us went with him into the office of the company’s top local manager, Lori Lulay, to deliver a message: withdraw, in writing, your legal threats against John, or else you will have a conflict with the Solidarity Network.
Over two weeks went by, and they did not do so. Next, a few of us joined John for a small rain-soaked evening picket at WinCo on Easter Sunday, which got a lot of attention from both customers and the company. The following Saturday we held a larger picket during the peak shopping hours of the week, with signs and flyers saying “Don’t Shop Here!” and “Leave John Alone!”.
Finally, the message got through to the chain’s corporate office in Idaho. On Saturday, April 25 2009, John received a letter from WinCo in which the company officially dropped all charges against him.
This fight ended today! The apartment/motel owners gave in and paid up! Yes, the full amount. It’s a sweet victory for the kicked-out residents, who have been fighting for this for three long weeks. This weekend they’re finally moving out, and moving into decent apartments, with more than enough money to pay deposits and initial rent – as well as positive references – compliments of their old landlords Annie and John Min.
Victory BBQ: Saturday June 14th, 4pm, Licton Springs Park, N 95th St & Densmore Ave N.