Category Archives: Fight Update

A win and a loss: Prospero and the Silver Cloud Fight


Our dear friend and comrade, Prospero, passed away quietly on July 18 while enjoying a movie at the theater. SeaSol and Prospero had just won the fight against Silver Cloud Hotels on the 16th. We are incredibly lucky to have gotten the chance to know Prospero. We will remember him for his kindness, generosity, and determination to fight for justice.

Prospero was a warm and humble man, but also a tenacious fighter. He worked hard, washing dishes and working as a custodian until the end of his life. Despite old age and failing health, he stepped up again and again to participate in SeaSol, first for Neftali’s fight against Greystar last summer and then for his own, because that was what he believed in. In strategy discussions at meetings, he often said, “We need to hit them harder!” We never saw him happier than on the picket line.

Prospero worked for Silver Cloud Hotels for several years as a dishwasher for their in-house restaurant, Jimmy’s, before suffering a heart attack on the job. His manager was reluctant to let him leave work and refused to call an ambulance, but eventually paid for a taxi to take Prospero to the hospital. While Prospero was recovering, the manager at the Stadium Silver Cloud Hotel fired him for having a heart attack, using the outrageous excuse that Prospero “no call, no showed” while he was in surgery for a heart attack he suffered at work. In addition to unjustly and illegally firing Prospero, Silver Cloud stole the accrued sick and vacation pay Prospero had earned over the past two years rather than paying out the leave at the end of his employment. Their actions were in violation of the federal Family Medical Leave Act, city law, and universal rules of human decency. They thought they could get away with mistreating and stealing from a poor, 76-year-old man. They assumed Prospero would not stand up to them. They were wrong.

Prospero made efforts to contact management for months to discuss the unjust firing and stolen wages, to no avail. He came to the Seattle Solidarity Network at the recommendation of a friend who had seen SeaSol in action in the past. When he first came around, we had no capacity to take on new fights. That never stopped him from doing his best to make it to every meeting in spite of his health. He helped out with other people’s fights, which we won with his help, not once asking us when we would be able to begin his. He wanted to help everyone that he could. When we finally were able to begin his fight in late 2015, we discussed our demand for the fight and what we would consider a win. He was adamant that it was not about the money for him, that it was about letting management know that they can’t treat people the way they treated him. Most importantly, he wanted to show his former coworkers that it is possible to stand up for yourself in the workplace. In late January 2016, Prospero and a group of forty fellow SeaSolers delivered a demand to the manager of the Silver Cloud: Pay Prospero his accrued sick and vacation leave, or face further direct action from SeaSol. Unwisely, the company did not respond.

For six months, we engaged in a tireless direct action campaign against the hotel chain. With support from our comrades in the Portland Solidarity Network, we postered around Silver Cloud hotels and handed out fliers in both cities. We held a series of noisy early-morning pickets in front of the Seattle hotels, very successfully annoying management and guests. We had a noisy late night picket complete with a message projected on the side of the hotel (our first light action) labeling Silver Cloud “wage thieves.” We visited the owner, Jim Weymouth, in his wealthy Medina neighborhood multiple times to alert him and his neighbors of the injustice Prospero suffered working at his hotel. One of these visits involved a land picket in front of the Weymouths’ 6-million-dollar home and a simultaneous lake flotilla on the water behind the house. We reached out to companies who hold conferences at Silver Cloud, discouraging them from doing business with the hotel.

We had another picket in the works when Prospero received his long-awaited check in the mail. We grieve the loss of our friend and comrade, and take some comfort in knowing that he got to enjoy a little taste of victory while he was still with us. We will have a gathering this month to celebrate Prospero and the Silver Cloud fight. For details, please contact info@seasol.net.

Condo owners wake up to wage theft

Rise and shine, condo owners! Early Sunday morning, May 17, a dozen people gathered with SeaSol member Jose at the sleepy, silent Ballard Condominiums to raise a ruckus about the theft of Jose’s wages. With whistles, vuvezelas, and pots and pans, we woke the residents up to the problem. Although some were upset with us, many also expressed support, promising to raise the issue with their condo association.

What’s this condo building got to do with wage theft? José did nine days of cleaning and landscaping work for the Meniz Company as a day laborer. The owners of the company, Johnny and Victor Meniz, never paid him. They chose to steal his wages ($1,170) instead, as they had previously done to at least one other worker in 2012 (per a Washington State Labor & Industries citation against them).

Ballard Condominiums is one of the buildings Jose worked at. The building’s condo association paid condo-management company CWD. And CWD paid Meniz Company. But nobody has paid Jose yet, and he’s the one who did the cleaning and landscaping.

Condo residents: this is your wake-up call. No one sleeps in until Jose gets paid.

Fight Against Transgender Discrimination at Peoples Bank

 

Seasol is standing alongside member Lizzi in her fight against transphobia at Peoples Bank. Lizzi experienced blatant discrimination at the bank where she has an account. She and Seasol are demanding that Peoples Bank give its employees “Transgender 101” training in acceptance of transgender people as co-workers and customers.

In November, Lizzi called the bank to ask for her account balance. Shayna, the Peoples Bank employee on the other end of the line, refused, saying, “We have this [account] listed as ‘Lizzi ___, female.’” Although Lizzi correctly answered far more than the usual number of security questions, Shayna would not acknowledge that she was speaking to “Lizzi, female.”

Is it a “peoples bank” or only a Cis-Peoples Bank? This bank has been operating in Washington for a century, and three generations of the LeCoq family have served as its officers. Now it’s time for Peoples Bank to live up to its name and do the right thing: show that it is learning how to treat transgender people justly and without discrimination.

It’s not 1921 anymore. Join Seasol in telling Peoples Bank the news: it’s time for Peoples Bank to accept transgender sensitivity training from a skilled transgender advocacy group. Demand an end to transphobia!


Irwin LeCocq Sr, Peoples Bank President 1938 – 1969

Day laborer takes action after Meniz Co. steals wages

José did nine days of cleaning and landscaping work for the Meniz Company as a day laborer several months ago. The owners of the company, Johnny, Victor, and Oscar Meniz, hired him at a rate of $15/hr for a total of 78 hours. When the time came to pay José for his work, the Meniz brothers decided to steal his wages ($1,170) instead.

Frustrated, José contacted the Seattle Solidarity Network, who voted to take on his fight. We quickly found that the Meniz brothers have a history of abusing workers. The Meniz Company was cited by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries for stealing overtime pay, deducting and pocketing extra money from worker paychecks, and writing workers bad checks in February of 2012. One of the brothers, Oscar, owns another business, already on the Labor and Industries contractor “strike list” for wage and hour violations. Clearly, the Meniz brothers have made a habit of greedily exploiting honest workers.

On Monday, December 22, José and a group of SeaSolers confronted Victor and Johnny Meniz at a coffee shop, demanding that José be paid in full. Both thieves were startled and confused as José confidently handed over the demand. We gave the Meniz brothers two weeks to pay up.

After two weeks, the bosses hadn’t paid what they owed so SeaSolers put up posters exposing their deeds around the Meniz Company office at 5470 Shilshole Ave NW in Ballard. José and SeaSol are gearing up to take further direct action against the Meniz Company if they do not pay José’s wages. If you’re interested in helping or have questions, please contact SeaSol.

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Workers Strike at La Lot Vietnamese Restaurant

When Hien started working at La Lot she was told that things there worked a little differently: management would retain 60% of any tips she earned. She had never worked in a restaurant before, didn’t know anything about the relevant labor laws, and needed a job– so she agreed. She quickly learned that most of her co-workers were also working under similar or even more exploitative arrangements. To make matters worse, managers routinely belittled and disrespected their under-paid workforce. As time passed, and Hien began to compare what her paychecks should be to the meager sums she was actually receiving, she decided she needed to do something. She approached some of her co-workers about the issue, and two of them agreed to go with her to confront the owner about her unfair and illegal practice.

In the end, Hien and one other co-worker went to have a conversation with their boss. The owner was upset and refused to give them all of their tips, but initially agreed to let them retain a larger share. Hien wasn’t satisfied but was feeling better until the next week’s schedule came out: her hours were cut in half. Then she received a call later that same week telling her they were training someone new so she would only be working one day per week now. She was clearly being retaliated against for standing up for herself and her co-workers. She was furious, but didn’t know what to do. She began approaching various government agencies such as the Washington State department of Labor and Industries and the city’s Human Right’s Commission, but the outlook wasn’t good. All of those processes would take a long time with uncertain results, and Hien and her husband needed that income now. Luckily, Jeff, her co-worker who had intended to go with her to confront her boss in the first place but had been on vacation at the time, had heard of another group that might be able to help.

Jeff and Hien met with a few volunteers from SeaSol and things started to move quickly. Their demands were simple: restore Hien’s schedule and implement a fair tip structure at La Lot. They would go on strike due to unfair labor practices with SeaSol’s support until all their demands were met. They approached some of their co-workers to see if they would join and while they supported the demands without exception they were too fearful of retaliation to join. After all, they had just recently seen what happened to Hien’s hours after she spoke up. On the afternoon of Thursday, August 7th, Hien and Jeff marched into La Lot with approximately fifty supporters from SeaSol to deliver their demands in writing and begin their strike.

Hien and Jeff have now been on strike for over one week. Management has indicated that they may be willing to settle, but have so far refused to actually implement any changes at La Lot. SeaSol members have twice gone to distribute fliers during La Lot’s busy lunch rush, typically turning away approximately 25% of would-be customers with just a few people. On the evening of Friday August 15th, we held our first real picket outside the restaurant. More than forty SeaSol supporters chanted and held signs brining dinner business at La Lot to a stand still. The pickets will continue to become more frequent until the striking workers’ demands are met. Please stay tuned for more information about this exciting campaign.