Category Archives: Fight Update

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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.

Victory in Wage Theft Fight against the Bombay Grill

demand delivery at Bombay Grill  Bombay Grill pays up

José endured seven months as an underpaid cook at the Bombay Grill in the University District, receiving hourly wages between 81 cents and $4. Adding insult to injury, he faced threats and intimidation from bosses Glen Quadros and Kailash Upadhyay on a regular basis. Because his wages were insufficient for rent anywhere else, José had to sleep on the floor of the filthy restaurant during the heat of summer (which Glen called “room and board”).

After seeing a SeaSol sticker at his local laundromat, José decided to stand up against his bosses and fight back using direct action. He called SeaSol and we voted to take on his fight.

On January 4, 2014, a large group of SeaSolers filled the Bombay Grill to support José as he delivered a demand to his former bosses. José and SeaSol demanded payment of the equivalent of one month’s stolen wages, which came to $2,261.30. Glen ignored the letter, looking with condescension at the faces surrounding him, as a waitress picked it up and read it aloud. During the two weeks following the demand delivery, Glen and Kailash neglected to pay José the portion of his wages he had demanded. As we knew the Bombay Grill would likely be closing down very soon, there was a degree of urgency in SeaSol’s approach to this fight which influenced major decisions we made at meetings.

In the following weeks, SeaSol’s campaign against the wage thieves Glen and Kailash escalated from small flyerings and posterings around the restaurant to larger, noisier pickets. Our largest picket was on February 14th; we turned away many Valentine’s Day customers with high-energy chants and noisemaking, leaving Glen and Kailash visibly upset at their loss of profits for the night and acting like fools in their parking lot. We turned away the majority of their business during every action, and the bosses slowly began to accept that José and SeaSol were not going away until the demand was met.

Throughout the fight, the bosses at the Bombay Grill gave us the run-around, claiming they wanted to meet up and pay at least once a week and then trying to negotiate paying a lesser amount, creepily trying to get José alone in the restaurant with them, and trying to talk José into “not telling anyone” about the conditions he faced working in their restaurant. On Friday February 21, 2014, the sleazy Glen and Kailash set up a meeting with SeaSol and José yet again, writing a check for the full demand. Immediately afterward, as José went to cash the check, the greedy and stupid bosses walked smirking out of the bank. They had canceled the check, and thought their problems were solved.

At noon the following day, a dozen SeaSolers showed up for a picket of the Bombay Grill’s lunch buffet. With this, Glen realized that he and his partner in crime had not outsmarted us, and went to the bank to get José a cashier’s check for the full amount of the demand, which José walked away with that same day. Thanks to everyone who participated in this fight! Victory is ours!

Join Us!

Seattle Solidarity (“SeaSol”) is a volunteer network of working people who believe in standing up for our rights. Our goal is to support our fellow workers’ strikes and struggles, build solidarity, and organize to deal with specific job, housing, and other problems caused by the greed of the rich and powerful. Join us!  Let’s fight to win.

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“Don’t Rent” campaign builds despite landlord violence

It has been over four months since Danica walked into NW Apartments’ offices with a crowd of supporters and calmly handed them a letter demanding that they return her stolen money. Since that time hundreds of current and prospective renters have not only heard her story, but also learned about NW Apartments’ broader pattern of abuse against other current and former tenants. Most recently, Danica and other members of SeaSol could be found outside of one of NW Apartments’ more visible buildings on Capitol Hill, the Casa Del Rey, handing out festive “slumlordwarning.com” balloons and peanut butter “no-slumlord” cookies to tenants and passers by. The popular support was overwhelming and dozens of people took the “Do Not Rent from NW Apartments” pledge bringing the total count up to–who knows how many.

So, how is NW Apartments responding to these sorts of peaceful demonstrations? They are proudly demonstrating their complete lack of professionalism at every opportunity. The property manager at Danica’s old building, the Manchester Arms, has been filling up pitchers of water and dumping them on SeaSol members from the safety of his balcony. If only NW Apartments was equally dedicated to keeping water OUT of their tenant’s apartments maybe this whole situation could have been avoided! Needless to say, the posters continued to go up despite his immature antics (incidentally, dumping water on people is considered assault, and is an arrestable offense) and other tenants leaned out their windows to express their support for us and apologize on behalf of their property manager. More concerning are the violent threats from an employee at another NW Apartments building, the Tuscany. Here a NW Properties employee saw a SeaSol member putting up posters and threatened that he would “fuck them up” if he catches them again.

We will not be intimidated by NW Apartments. While we do not enjoy being threatened and attacked, it does make it clearer than ever to us as well as to those we are trying to reach just what kind of company we’re dealing with. We will continue to do everything within our power to spread the word about NW Apartments’ dubious business practices and thuggish behavior until they agree to do right by Danica.

Organized tenants fight back against Cornell & Associates

A few weeks ago a group of tenants contacted SeaSol because they were fed up with the unsanitary conditions and unresponsive management at Sterling Manor, an apartment complex in North Seattle. For months the tenants had reportedproblems including extensive mold, leaks, broken or missing appliances, and signs of bedbugs. Property managers ignored them, doing nothing to fix the most serious issues. The mold was the worst problem. Several tenants and their children were chronically sick, and some of their belongings were ruined. One of the tenants remembered that SeaSol had previously supported a relative in a fight against an abusive landlord, and thought that we could help get much-needed repairs and cleaning done at Sterling Manor.

The tenants started meeting with SeaSol, and went door to door in their apartment building to gather the support of their neighbors. Together, we wrote a demand letter addressed to Cornell & Associates, the company that manages Sterling Manor, giving them two weeks to hire a professional mold remediation company.More than half of the residents of the building signed on in support of the newly formed Sterling Manor Tenants’ Committee. The demand delivery went down on Thursday, August 22. Two dozen SeaSol supporters accompanied members of the Tenants Committee, occupying the offices of Cornell & Associates to hand-deliver the letter to property manager Susana Manio in front of her bosses.

Cornell & Associates reacted immediately, notifying all the Sterling Manor tenants that they would be performing a “routine” inspection of their units. Long-time tenants in the building say this is the first time the managers had ever done this kind of inspection. Though property manager Susana acknowledged extensive mold and other issues in several units, she made no concrete plans to address the worst problems, much less to hire a professional mold remediation service.

Then Cornell & Associates attacked. Two tenants who had signed the demand letter with the Sterling Manor Tenants’ Committee and SeaSol received 10-Day “Comply or Vacate” notices for long-standing issues that the managers had previously ignored. One tenant on a fixed income was hit with a $600 bill for unpaid water bills that management had previously said she didn’t have to pay due to protracted repairs to her apartment. (Tenants report a suspicious pattern of high water bills, leaks, flooding, and mold throughout the building.) Another tenant, from whom Susana has been accepting rent for months, was told to vacate because her name is not on the apartment lease, which was signed by a relative who has since had to leave the country.

Needless to say, it is clear that Cornell & Associates’ intent is to use any pretext to evict as many organized tenants as possible while intimidating those who remain. This kind of retaliation is illegal under state law, and neither the Sterling Manor Tenants’ Association or SeaSol will stand for it. Our fight is just getting started, and we’ll keep it up until the retaliation stops and tenants at Sterling Manor get the respect and healthy living conditions they deserve.