Category Archives: Victory!

Unexpected visit prompts pizza place to pay up

It was almost Christmas when Luis got in touch with SeaSol and he hadn’t been paid since before Halloween. A part-time pizza chef at a local Pizzeria, Luis had not received a penny for his hard work for almost three months. Instead, management had only given him three bad checks from different banks and scores of broken promises.

As his bills continued to mount and his family kept asking him when he would finally be getting paid Luis wondered what he should do. A dishwasher at the restaurant had recently been slapped in the face and subsequently fired for being too insistent about being paid on time. Luis thought about not showing up to work until he got paid or just quitting for good, but he didn’t want to lose his job and knew he shouldn’t have to.

After joining SeaSol, he decided it might be possible to fight for his stolen wages while continuing to work at the restaurant. On Friday, January 13th, nearly thirty SeaSol members marched into the restaurant with Luis on one of his off days to bring a little bad luck to the thieving establishment.

While the owner was spotted hiding in the back Luis was eventually able to deliver a letter to the general manager containing a simple message: pay him everything he was owed within two weeks and do not retaliate against him in any way or expect further action.

SeaSol received a phone call later the same evening from the general manager apologizing for how she had behaved during the demand delivery (screaming, swearing, and calling the police) and assuring us it was all just a misunderstanding because Luis doesn’t speak English. Most importantly, she promised to pay him the next day.

She broke this promise and time started to run out fast as SeaSol and Luis could not agree with the restaurant on exactly how much he was owed. As the deadline of Friday, January 27th, approached SeaSol and Luis began organizing an action for Saturday the 28th if the restaurant should fail to pay. However, this action never happened.

When Luis got off work Friday night he was handed a check for $1,774.24. And this check didn’t bounce. There was a small discrepancy regarding an additional $150 being owed, but once it was brought to their attention management added this amount to the first up-to-date and in-full paycheck Luis had received in months the following week. Luis got his money and kept his job and as of this writing he is continuing to be paid on time and in full. Thanks to everyone who helped make this possible and stay ready in case anything should change for the worse at Luis’s workplace.

Video of the demand delivery is available at YouTube.

Surprise nighttime visit makes “Thrifty” boss pay up

In November 2011, Lavon agreed to work for John Hybridge, owner of Thrifty Janitorial Services (TJS), on a month-to-month basis. During his first (and only) month there, Lavon was punctual, hardworking, and he developed good relationships with the contracts he covered. Yet, at the end of November, his paycheck was nowhere to be found.

Upset with John and needing his money to follow up on plans to propose to his (now) fiance, Lavon decided to call up a few other employees who had worked for TJS. He soon found out that many of them were only receiving partial payment, if they were paid at all. So Lavon decided to confront Mr. Hybridge about the missing pay, asserting that he needed to give Lavon his back-wages within a week. Despite agreeing to this demand, when the deadline had passed, all Lavon had to show for it was a check receipt sans the check. Facing non-payment, Lavon quit in his fifth week, citing that his obligations to his second job (that actually paid him) had become overwhelming.

Shortly thereafter, Lavon was on his way to work and happened to notice a phone pole with a flier that jumped out at him. It read, “Problems With Your Employer? Unpaid wages? Injustice at work? Call Seasol!” Previously at a loss for where to begin pursuing his absent paycheck, and aware that seeking legal help for his back-pay would be prohibitively costly, Lavon thought, “What’s the worst that can happen? Why not give it a try?” After calling and explaining the situation to a Seasol member named Michael, they decided to meet at a local coffee shop and discuss Lavon’s options/next steps. Within a week Seasol had decided to take on the fight.

After a few weeks of meetings, research, and preparation, the group was ready for the demand delivery. With some clever maneuvering, Lavon and fellow Seasol volunteer Carley had found out that John would be waxing the floors at the Burien Big 5 on the night of January 26th. With some help from another volunteer Cyan, the demand letter was written and ready to be delivered.

The night of the delivery, more than forty people gathered in the parking lot in Burien, braving the bitter cold in the name of justice for a fellow worker. The plan was to ambush John on his way into work with a frosty reception and a letter describing what he’d done wrong, and what he had to do to make the situation right. The letter also made clear that if he didn’t make good on his promise to pay Lavon, Seasol would be back to carry on the struggle. Seasol volunteers took lookout positions throughout the parking lot, and waited for John’s arrival.

After an hour had passed, it seemed like something had gone wrong. The Big 5 employees had filtered into the night, the police had come and gone letting us know that “…big crowds of people make people in Burien nervous.”, but still, no John. The group agreed to slowly disperse leaving a core group to stay behind just to be sure. Nine of ten minutes passed, minutes spent plotting out our next moves, a second attempt at John’s house in North Seattle, postering around his neighborhood, visiting his contracts around the city, fake job applicants and more.

Finally, just as we were preparing to call it a draw, who should pull over the crest of the parking lot but John and his latest cleaning crew! The rest you can see here, but suffice it to say our perseverance was rewarded. Within a week Lavon had been paid and the stress he’d endured had been handled. In his own words, “Our night in the Burien Big 5 parking lot was awesome…we did it, it was great!”

See the video here.

SeaSol stops rent ripoff after bedbug nightmare

Last summer, Cesario inquired to rent a studio in the International District. Due to poor credit, the apartment management required pre-paid rent. They accepted a security deposit and six months rent from Cesario, but failed to mention their historic building’s ongoing problem with bed bugs. It was only a few months later that a bed bug infestation made Cesario’s 125 square foot studio their home as well.

Management had the room fumigated on several occasions, and although this left a nasty chemical residue on Cesario’s possessions, it did not eradicate the bed bugs. After spending hundreds of dollars out of pocket trying to deal with these pests, Cesario decided he had to move out. He informed the manager of his intent, and only requested two months rent and his security deposit back. This simple request was quickly denied by the apartment manager. Already being a member of the Seattle Solidarity Network, Cesario knew exactly who could support him in this situation.

In early January, 34 SeaSol members descended upon the apartment complex to deliver a demand for the pre-paid rent and security deposit. When we crowded into the small entrance, the apartment manager caught a glimpse of what would be waiting for their business if they did not comply. Cesario was paid his $1000 back within two weeks.

Thanks to everybody who came to his demand delivery!

Direct action stops abusive debt collection by corporate housing giant

SeaSol’s latest victory is against a 16-billion dollar company which calls itself “one of the nation’s largest” residential landlords. A young low-income tenant named Anelise was ordered out of one of their Seattle apartments in 2009 for being unable to pay the rent after losing her housing assistance. She moved out as ordered, then arranged a $200 monthly payment plan to cover the back rent she still owed. Two years later, Anelise had paid off her entire back-rent debt for the months she had lived in the apartment, but the company still was not satisfied. They demanded thousands more from her, claiming she owed them rent for all the months when the apartment had sat empty after they’d kicked her out. If she didn’t keep paying, they’d ruin her credit and make it difficult to find housing in the future.

Anelise decided to fight back. Not only was she furious at the injustice, but having recently lost her job, she simply could no longer afford to keep paying the company rent for time when she had not even lived in their building. She joined SeaSol, and we agreed to take on her fight. On September 29th, 2011, thirty people marched with her into the corporate office in Belltown to present our demand: back off and leave Anelise alone, and cancel any further debt that she allegedly owed.

The company’s response, on October 11th, was to flatly refuse to drop any of the alleged debt, to threaten to send the debt to a third-party collection agency, and to say that our “tactics…will not be tolerated.”

So we escalated our campaign. We picketed their offices. Whenever the Executive Vice President showed up at industry and charity events, our people were there to embarrass and denounce him. When potential renters went to view the company’s apartments, they were greeted by vast numbers of posters saying “WARNING RENTERS!!” and detailing the company’s unscrupulous practices.

After two months of this, the company had had enough. They signed an agreement formally dropping all claims of further debt owed by Anelise.

Thanks to everyone who helped SeaSol and Anelise win this fight!

Solidarity wins against marine shop boss

In February 2011, Dominic was working at an industrial marine repair shop in Kent when an out-of-control piece of equipment smashed into his truck in the parking lot. He asked for compensation from the company, but got nothing. This put him in a terrible position, since his wages at the shop were so low that he could not afford the repair bill. Soon they laid him off. When he finally took his ex-employer to small claims court, they signed a mediated agreement to settle for $900 compensation within one month, and it looked like the issue was finally settled. Then a month went by, and another, and the $900 never arrived.

One day Dominic called the company’s owner to ask when he would get the compensation. “I will never pay you,” the owner replied, “because I always win.”

So Dominic joined SeaSol and prepared for action. On September 21st, 30 of us walked with him into the company’s office to present our demand that they honor their agreement. After another week went by with no response, we began contacting local marine-industry companies, two per day, warning them not to do business with Dominic’s former employer. Meanwhile we began preparing to escalate the pressure with more aggressive action against the company. Then on October 11th, the company called Dominic to say they were ready to settle. Dominic received his $900 that same night.

Thanks to everyone who participated in helping Dominic win his fight! He’ll be there for yours.