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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.

Multi-city campaign forces Greystar to return tenants' stolen money
Tuesday, 15 September 2015 01:13

Longtime SeaSol member Neftali and his husband Yusdel met with some fellow SeaSol members after moving out of the Corinthian Apartments in Seatac. During their yearlong tenancy (April 2014-May 2015), Neftali and Yusdel suffered horrible living conditions, largely related to the plumbing in their building.

For about two weeks they did not have a functioning bathroom. Greystar's compensation offer? A pair of free movie tickets. The issues with their plumbing were so extensive that contractors had to tear down an outer wall of their apartment in October. Rather than relocate Neftali and his family, Greystar forced them to live in an apartment with a missing wall for over a week, leaving their unit exposed to the street. Meanwhile water rained down from ceilings and raw sewage bubbled up from drains, damaging rugs & paint before the leaks were finally fixed. When Neftali and Yusdel moved out, Greystar charged them for the damage. When Neftali asked that the bogus charges be removed, the landlord arrogantly told him to go take Greystar to court. Neftali refused, saying, “The judge is your friend. I’m going to talk to my friends.”

Initial research revealed that hazardously neglectful management and wanton theft of tenants’ money is business as usual for Greystar, the largest apartment manager in the U.S.

A few highlights from other Greystar tenants' online reviews:

  • "A closet door broke right off of a rotting wall and collapsed on me!" (yelp)
  • "I'd rather be shot in the face than to live in that apartment again!" (pissedconsumer.com)
  • "All over the apartment is mold and my kids are so sick... The lady who was our neighbor died in her apartment and [Greystar] left her there for a month..." (ripoffreport.com)
  • "We had asked that the second floor balcony be secured better because our toddler could slip through the railings. Greystar's eviction attorney came to our home and asked me to hold my toddler out through the railings to prove that he could fit" (yelp)

You get the idea. Greystar's CEO, Bob Faith, explains his business model here:

("Many times we take over an asset that was managed by a smaller organization that hadn't been focused on the bottom line, and we can drive dramatic savings out of the expense side of the equation")
In other words, they boost profits by dramatically cutting back on maintenance and allowing thousands of peoples' homes to decay and fall apart.

Usually they get away with it all, but when they ripped off Neftali, they messed with the wrong guy. Neftali and Seasol formed a nine-person fight committee and voted to take on Greystar. On July 21, Neftali, Yusdel, and 22 others marched into the Seattle office of Greystar to deliver our demand of $575.01. We gave this large company a week to meet our demands, vowing to take further action after the 28th of July.

After a week had passed, SeaSol utilized connections with solidarity networks in other cities to launch a multi-city postering campaign against Greystar buildings. This coordinated effort got Greystar’s attention, and regional manager Garett Randall met with Neftali and SeaSolers, offering to pay approximately half of the demand. During the meeting, as he heard about Neftali and Yusdel’s experience, Randall laughed uncomfortably and said “I wouldn’t have lived there” multiple times. This manager also mentioned that Greystar would not pay back any money unless Neftali signed a confidentiality agreement restricting his legal rights. Neftali and Yusdel refused to accept, and fought on to win their entire demand.

Neftali, Yusdel, and SeaSol worked tirelessly to put up posters at Greystar buildings around Seattle. We held a poster-wearing action in front of a large downtown building that attracted a lot of negative attention for an incensed property manager there who followed Neftali around, tearing down posters as he put them up. We set up a website highlighting the shameful business practices of Greystar and encouraging prospective tenants not to rent from them. Meanwhile, postering continued across the country.

At a second meeting with Garett Randall on August 19, Neftali refused again to sign the ridiculous legal document and was walking away from the table when Randall ran up to him and shoved a check for $575.01 into his hands, preferring to give in to Neftali, Yusdel and SeaSol’s demands rather than face continued widespread direct action against Greystar.

A victory party was held in Seattle on August 22. We are very pleased with this victory after a well-organized collaboration with other solidarity networks. Thanks to comrades in Seattle, Oakland, Santa Rosa, Boston, Philadelphia, and many other cities, for acting in solidarity with Neftali and Yusdel.

Sticky-Fingered Bosses Forced to Pay Day Laborer
Friday, 05 June 2015 17:39

The Seattle Solidarity Network has won another fight! The greedy brothers, Victor and Johnny, finally paid José for his 2014 work on June 2, 2015 after a five-month series of direct actions. This was our first fully-successful wage theft fight involving a contractor employing day laborers, which we've previously thought we couldn't fight effectively. This time it was possible to beat them because, like many such contractors, they are not really independent but are actually the minions of much larger, more targetable companies.

José did nine days of cleaning and landscaping work for these bosses as a day laborer in mid-2014. The owners of the company 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 company decided to steal his wages ($1,170) instead. Frustrated, José contacted the Seattle Solidarity Network, who voted to take on his fight. José and a group of SeaSolers confronted Victor and Johnny 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 them 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 office at 5470 Shilshole Ave NW in Ballard. When that wasn't enough, we contacted and then visited one of their clients, a condo management company based in West Seattle. They promptly ceased doing business with the wage thieves.

Next, we sent out a letter to members of the brothers' church, and followed up with a flyering action there in early March. The social pressure was on, but they continued to refuse to pay José’s wages.

In mid-March, SeaSol escalated the fight by delivering a demand to the company’s largest client, CWD Group. CWD, in their management of multiple condo buildings, hired Victor and Johnny to do cleaning work despite their public record of having been cited by the state for wage theft. We let CWD know that if they did not make sure that José’s wages got paid, we would hold them responsible for hiring a slimy, wage-stealing company to do their cleaning. We also let them know that we would soon be contacting the condo associations which employ CWD. Our response from a representative from CWD group read: “Once you left I contacted Victor ... to follow-up on this situation. To my understanding, although Victor disagrees, he hired an attorney to draft a settlement letter (Release) and is prepared to pay Jose the money he believes is owed.” Victor and Johnny knew that they needed to start at least pretending to pay, and fast, if they wanted to keep their largest client.

Discussions of payment through the brothers’ skeezy lawyer throughout April weren’t going anywhere. It became clear that they weren’t going to pay up unless SeaSol and José took further direct action. Involving their largest client seemed to be the best way to put economic pressure on the wage thieves. We decided to target Ballard Condos, a 160-unit building managed by CWD, and cleaned by Jose, for our next actions. We sent letters about the fight to every unit in the building, and on Sunday, May 17, we held a very loud 7:30am “Wake up to Wage theft” action at Ballard Condos. Our noisy Sunday morning picket got the attention of Condo owners and CWD. Victor and Johnny took notice.

Following the picket, the worn-down bosses tried to pay José’s wages with some ridiculous conditions attached, and then dropped said conditions and paid José in full on June 2. We had a victory party to celebrate this fight on Saturday June 27th, with about 30 SeaSolers in attendance. Congratulations to José and to everyone who helped out with this fight.

Condo owners wake up to wage theft
Friday, 22 May 2015 17:07

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
Friday, 15 May 2015 15:24

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
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