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.

Seattle Solidarity Network Wins First Multi-Worker Strike!

The owners of La Lot restaurant in downtown Seattle didn’t last long. Hien, Jeff, and SeaSol are proud to announce that, as of September 1st, La Lot management agreed to meet all of the demands set forth at the start of the strike! This means announcing a policy whereby all tips are distributed to workers, not to bosses, and restoration of Hien to her regular work schedule.

The La Lot strike began after Hien, a server at La Lot, asked management to stop stealing workers’ tips. A reasonable enough request, it would seem, but her boss responded by drastically cutting her hours. Unable to survive on her dramatically reduced wages, and unwilling to accept such a glaring injustice, she started talking to her coworkers about fighting back. After some less-than-promising conversations with state and local government entities, Hien and her fellow worker, Jeff, contacted SeaSol to talk about a direct action campaign.

On August 7th, Hien, Jeff, and over 50 SeaSol members marched into La Lot and delivered a letter containing the workers’ demands and announcing that Hien and Jeff were on strike against unfair labor practices. Almost immediately, three other workers, who were afraid to join the fight but also unwilling to work during a strike, left the job. Management’s attempts to soften the impact of the strike by asking other workers to take extra shifts were unsuccessful.

By August 11th, after just one small flyering action, La Lot’s owner was openly expressing concern about the impact of the strike on their business. They asked for a suspension of the campaign while they negotiated to end the strike. After two days of talks, however, it was clear that they were not serious about meeting Hien’s and Jeff’s demands. Pickets continued during La Lot’s happy hours and lunch rush periods, doing increasingly serious economic damage. The number of customers during lunch was often cut in half, while the restaurant was nearly empty during happy hours.

After two more weeks of actions, La Lot’s owner contacted SeaSol on August 27th to announce that she was ready to meet all of Hien’s and Jeff’s demands. Starting at the beginning of the next work week, managers and owners would no longer be entitled to any of the servers’ tips, and Hien would be restored to a schedule with the same number of hours she was working prior to the events that led to the strike.

This is a major victory for the workers at La Lot and for SeaSol. The outcome of the strike obviously improves conditions for workers and serves as a potent demonstration of their power as an organized force. It is also a milestone in SeaSol history, as our first strike involving multiple workers. We hope this is the start of a trend of organizing larger numbers of workers to fight for their rights against their bosses. Just as important, this fight was not only about recovering stolen wages, but also about allowing the striking workers to return to work after the strike.

As we celebrate this exciting victory, we remain mindful that the working class’ struggle against exploitation always goes on. Make sure you are signed up to receive updates from SeaSol, and keep up to date on this and other opportunities to support struggles by brave workers standing up for their rights!

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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.