Here’s the story of our latest fight, in Anthony’s words:
I’m a caregiver. We go to the homes of disabled people with health issues, to help them with housework, chores, like cooking and doing their laundry. I worked for Chesterfield Health Services since 2003. And when you’re working as a caregiver, you have to drive your clients to do their shopping, and to medical appointments.
Chesterfield was paying for my mileage until 2008. Then they stopped paying me for the mileage. Their claim was that I had some traffic violations in my driving record. But after they stopped paying me for my mileage, they did not withdraw me from driving the clients.
I realized they were violating my rights. I tried to talk to them, so many times, but they ignored me. They were violating the contract. They were not respecting me. I contacted SEIU, since I am a member of that union. And they did not call me back. I contacted them a few times, but found that I was not getting anywhere.
I was struggling with my credit card payments. That hundred bucks I had been getting for the mileage was enough to cover the minimum payments for my credit card. Now I was unable to pay some of my bills because I did not have the money. It destroyed my credit.
I was thinking, where can I get help? On my way to work one day I saw a poster about SeaSol. I stood up and I read it. I thought, those are the people to contact.
The first thing I did with SeaSol was, we sat down and I told my story. We decided what action to take. The first action we took was to take a demand letter to Chesterfield.
If they needed to, they could go ahead and fire me. I did not care. I knew I was asking for my rights. I have been doing a good job, helping disabled people, and it has made me a name in Seattle, so even if I got fired, other companies were waiting for me. That gave me courage.
We organized 35 people to go with me to take the demand to Chesterfield. When we got there, the Human Resources manager Jared came and met us, and we told him what we wanted.
The following day I got the phone call from Jared, and he said he needed an appointment with me. And at the appointment, they fired me.
I contacted SEIU about the firing, to file a grievance, then met again with SeaSol, and we decided the next move we were going to take, because they had not responded to the demand letter. We put up posters about how Chesterfield was not paying me for my mileage for all those years I had been working for them. I think those posters had some effect.
The next move we took was picketing at Chesterfield. We went there with about ten people and we picketed. Management was scared, because I think they had not thought we would do something like that. They called the police, but there was no problem.
The following day I got a phone call. Chesterfield had offered me $2800. I did not take it. I wanted the amount I was demanding with SeaSol: $3600. And they agreed to that. The final offer was $3600.
I have learned a lot from SeaSol. People in this world are being oppressed because they have no support. Without support, as a lone individual, to fight these corporations is very hard. My fellow employees did not believe I could get that offer. Now they have realized, there is a way. SeaSol has opened my eyes. We are fighting a good fight. I am looking forward to bringing in more people.
About the author: Anthony lives in Seward Park, Seattle. He’s originally from Kenya. He quickly got another job with a different health care company, and is still working as a caregiver.