Category Archives: Victory!

Direct action makes Chase bank pay

When longtime SeaSol member Neftali needed Canadian money for a trip to visit family, he went to a downtown Chase bank branch, near his work.  There, what should have been a simple transaction turned into a nightmare. Although he came prepared with his Chase debit card and PIN, his valid temporary driver’s license, and his expired license, none of it was enough.  He was hassled, questioned aggressively, and told he needed to go home and bring in his passport to prove his identity – or perhaps it was his immigration status? Neftali, who is a dual U.S./Mexican citizen, was furious at this treatment and demanded to speak to the manager.  Finally, they allowed him to complete the transaction. He took the Canadian cash and left for his vacation, thinking the whole awful Chase experience was behind him. But it was just beginning. He soon realized, to his shock, that the stack of bills Chase had given him contained $1,000 less than it was supposed to.

Once back in Seattle, Neftali confronted Chase management about the missing money. They wouldn’t believe him. He asked to see the surveillance video of the transaction, but they refused to let him see it, despite admitting that it existed and that the teller had broken bank policy in the way the money had been handled.

So on May 31st, Neftali marched back into the bank together with thirty other SeaSol members. Our demand: either give Neftali his missing $1,000, or else show the video footage to prove their claim that they’d handed him the correct amount.

After two weeks went by with no response from Chase, we started turning on the pressure. We covered the area around the branch with posters warning customers, “Banking with Chase? Count it twice!”. Chase kept ripping them down, so we kept reposting them continually over the next three months. Meanwhile we picketed the branch twice, then expanded our pickets to cover four other downtown Chase branches. The posters began featuring a large photo of the branch manager’s face. Chase still wouldn’t yield, so we began looking for ways to pressure higher-level company officials. When the Chamber of Commerce invited Chase’s northwest regional CEO to address a “Young Professionals” event, SeaSol’ers were there leafleting the crowd while wearing mocking signs with her face printed on them.

Finally, after one more noisy multi-bank-branch picket, Chase’s District Manager arranged a meeting with Neftali to discuss resolving the dispute. The manager wanted to meet with him one-on-one behind closed doors, but Neftali insisted on bringing two other SeaSol members to back him up.  At the meeting, the district manager delivered a lecture about how upset he and his colleagues were about this conflict and our tactics, and about how Chase admitted no wrongdoing. Then he handed Neftali a check for $1,000.
Thanks to everyone who took part in the actions that brought about this victory! We proved that when we’re united and determined, even enemies as gigantic as JPMorgan Chase are not invulnerable.

Victory vs home care pay theft

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.

Victory! Solidarity stops deposit theft

Here is the story of our latest fight, in Alison’s words:

How I Won Justice from a Deadbeat Landlord
by Alison Goodman

In September 2010 I rented a mother-in-law apartment from a woman named Jacque. I was out of town and a friend checked out the apartment. There was no written agreement, and per Jacque’s request, I sent $400 to hold the place, since it would be a month before I moved in.

When I arrived in October, I found many problems: mold in the washing machine, the toilet didn’t work, the bathroom sink didn’t drain, the dishwasher was full of dirty dishes, the general condition was filthy, the bed was torture. I spent four hours cleaning, with new discoveries of worse conditions. Jacque’s ho-hum reaction to these problems did not inspire confidence.

I decided to move out, which was a tremendous hardship for me: packing everything back up, finding temporary lodging and finding a new place, with only a week before returning to work. I told Jacque why I was moving out and asked for my deposit. She agreed, but then ignored that agreement, along with all future attempts at contact.

Then I found Seattle Solidarity Network, who agreed to take on my fight. I was impressed with their levelheaded dialogue, democratic process and peaceful approach. The first action was the presentation of a written demand for the return of my desposit. I was deeply moved to see thirty people show up (!!) most of whom I’d never met. When I handed that letter to Jacque, knowing that Seattle Solidarity literally had my back, I felt brave and strong. Later when I expressed my gratitude, many said, “Injustice to you is injustice to me.”

Jacque ignored the demand letter and the fight escalated. We hung flyers and posters in her neighborhood, emailed her own promise-to-pay along with links to the law she was breaking, but to no avail. Finally we decided to use Jacque’s connection to a local shoe store as leverage. As an employee, she sells shoes for this store, via her own Ebay store. She’s also related to the owners. Ten members showed up in front of the shoe store and handed out flyers to passers-by.

The following day, we finally heard from Jacque. She sent three emails full of threats, name-calling, rewritten history, invention, hateful epithets, wrong presumptions, and self-incrimination.

Less than one week later I received a cashier’s check for $400.

Seattle Solidarity Network members tirelessly volunteer countless hours to help fellow workers and tenants who have felt the powerless sting of being ripped off by landlords and bosses. For some, the loss of that money is a real hardship. For others, the injustice is the bigger issue. Either way, Seattle Solidarity is there and growing fast. I’ve become involved and feel tremendous satisfaction in helping others, as I’’ve been helped.

Three month fight puts thieving restaurant out of business

Here is the story of our latest fight, in Becky’s words:

For the entire month of September I worked for Ciro D’Onofrio at his Italian Restaurant in Renton, Bella Napoli. During this time, Ciro was verbally abusive towards his employees and even customers. He would throw temper tantrums in front of tables and claim we were out of things on the menu simply because he did not feel like making them. He would also hire different people to come in and help out on a weekend night with no prior experience and without training. This proved to be difficult, as I was the only server, bartender, hostess, food runner, and busser.

I still had to pay rent so I continued to work for Ciro. Things got hairy when I had $110 of my bank “disappear” one night when only he and I were working. Also, I needed my check and Ciro claimed that he only paid his employees at the end of every month. I thought this was strange, especially after I had seen him give a check to the cook, but I dismissed it. What was he going to do, not pay me? As you might have guessed by now, that’s exactly what happened. Ciro has made up every excuse in the book as to why he refuses to pay me the balance of $478, from a missing bottle of wine to incorrect invoices. It is clear that he never intended to pay me.

That was when I decided to call Seasol. After meeting with them we decided to inform Ciro that he had 14 days to pay up or we would start fighting back. Then for two and a half months we peacefully fliered, postered, and picketed. Meanwhile Ciro’s response was consistently violent: shouting profanity, spitting at us, assaulting us, throwing water and picket signs at us and more. We went down every weekend, twice a weekend recently, keeping his restaurant empty (or nearly) for any given dinner rush we desired. And through it all our numbers grew, with fifty picketers at a recent action on December 19th.

Conversely Ciro broke down week by week. Despite sending in faulty documentation Ciro was forced to pay Labor and Industries a portion of my wages, although he still refused to pay the entire amount. His business dwindled, while our numbers and dedication grew. Finally last week, in a matter of days Ciro spent a night in jail (with assault charges pending) for attacking a group of Seasolers while they were postering; Seasol and my fight received some much deserved radio attention on KCBS 91.3’s One World Report; and most importantly, Bella Napoli Closed!!!

The day we delivered my demand letter was one of the happiest days of my life, I felt so supported and strong. With our strength and persistence we have shown, and will continue to show bosses like Ciro that they can’t get away with abusing their workers. And if they resist we are ready, willing, and able to shut them down so that they can never again commit such a despicable crime against the working class. There is power in numbers and support out there if you have a similar situation. Solidarity Forever!

Direct action settles the bill at King Way Apartments

For three years, Gladys lived with her daughter in the King Way apartments, owned by Housing Resources Group (H.R.G). One day this summer, Gladys’s daughter was in a car accident. Luckily, everyone was ok. But less than four days after the accident, management had the car towed out of Gladys’s private parking spot. Apparently this was part of a crackdown on damaged vehicles. Rather than personally contact her to let her know she needed to move her car, management simply placed a sticker on the car itself, which Gladys didn’t happen to go anywhere near during those few days. As a result of this callous and arbitrary act, she suddenly faced an enormous towing fee. Even after the car was sold at auction and the sale price deducted, she found herself pursued by a collection agency for $547. As a low-wage worker, there was no way she could afford this.

Not long after this incident, Gladys moved out of the King Way, whereupon H.R.G. gave her yet another slap in the face: a letter saying they were taking her entire deposit, citing no reason except mysterious ‘miscellaneous’ expenses.

Gladys joined SeaSol. On October 1st, she and 27 others marched into H.R.G.’s headquarters and delivered a demand: settle the $547 towing bill, and return the deposit in full.

When the two-week deadline passed with no resolution, SeaSol started putting up “Don’t Rent Here” posters around the King Way Apartments, warning prospective tenants about the abuses they might face from H.R.G. A few days later, we expanded this effort to cover more and more H.R.G. buildings, focusing on the largest ones which had vacancies to fill.

Soon after these actions got underway, H.R.G. mailed Gladys a response: a check for $300 in partial compensation for the towing, nothing for the deposit, and a letter arguing that she ought to accept this much and be satisfied. Gladys, furious at this, did not agree, and neither did SeaSol, so we stepped up the poster campaign and made plans to begin more serious actions soon.

At this point, an executive at H.R.G. called SeaSol and requested a meeting. Not wanting to be unreasonable, we agreed. Gladys and four other SeaSol’ers used the opportunity to explain to two H.R.G. executives (including the Director), in person, why we were standing by our original demand and would not be satisfied with less.

They went for the usual management tactic of trying to separate Gladys from the rest of SeaSol. The Director said, “Our goal is to satisfy Gladys, not SeaSol.” We replied that it was the same thing. Gladys had co-signed the demand, which was for the minimum amount needed to fix the bad situation that H.R.G’s actions had caused.

They asked, “How much time will you give us?”. We replied that we had given them two weeks already, and that ought to be enough.

A few days later, Gladys received another check. It included her entire deposit, plus the remaining $247 in towing fees.

Gladys says thanks to everyone who participated in this fight! She will be there for yours.