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Jumbo sized victory for Marco and Seasol
Monday, 01 July 2013 17:54

After a three month fight Marco and Seasol have won our campaign against Jumbo Buffet in White Center.

It all started when Jumbo refused to give Marco breaks, overtime pay, or even to pay him minimum wage. That's right. Marco worked ten or twelve hours a day washing dishes for a flat rate of $60. This came out to about $6 an hour, well under the required legal minimum. When confronted about it, Kevin, the Jumbo manager and nephew of the owner, simply refused to pay more.

After four months Marco had enough. Through a friend he learned about Seasol, gave us a call, and quickly became a member. With Marco we agreed to take on the fight. Our demand delivery was monstrous. We literally shook the floors and windows with our clapping and stomping. With fifty plus people backing him up, Marco demanded his back wages, a total of $4700.

At our first picket, with Marco leading the way, we shut down their lunch rush, emptying out their parking lot in just an hour's time. We had inside information and continued our pressure campaign, targeting their busiest times: Sunday after church, Friday evenings, and Saturday afternoons and evenings. Each time we would empty out or nearly empty out their parking lot, turning away dozens of potential diners, with a loss of hundreds and hundreds of dollars each action. We knew it was only a matter of time before they caved. The emptier their parking lot, the better we felt.

One big element of our success was the enormous community support from the people of White Center. Neighbors showed up to each picket; drivers honked; people waved; neighboring businesses put our leaflets in their windows; diners turned around in the middle of the entrance once they learned Marco had been treated so poorly. Children from across the street made their own "boycott Jumbo" signs and posted them in front of their house.

Kevin and Jumbo had no idea what was in store for them. It took them several months to figure out that we could shut them down and drive them out of business if they refuse to pay Marco and their workers. Once it became clear we could destroy their business, they tried to negotiate, promising more and more money, up to $3000. On one such phone call with Kevin, Marco told them, "Don't be stupid, Kevin – I don't negotiate with my own money." After three months of pickets and actions, a final day long call-in to Jumbo management pushed them over the edge. We set up a meeting, and Marco got all of his back wages!

This fight was a lesson in solidarity for all of us. With the support of the community we put a major squeeze on a cheating boss. The best part is that Marco has become a star organizer - already soliciting new fights with new workers in White Center. In Marco’s words: "without the help of the community of White Center and the help of Seasol it would not have been possible to recuperate the money that I was owed . . . a million thanks to Seasol and White Center."

 
Seasol Victory over Greedy, Paycheck-Stealing Boss
Sunday, 10 March 2013 17:29

Seattle Solidarity Network's campaign of direct action finally convinced thieving boss Eric Galanti to pay Lucio his long-withheld wages. Lucio was a cook at the Admiral Pub in West Seattle; when Lucio was deported to Mexico, Galanti took advantage of the situation by withholding Lucio's final paycheck. But with the support of Lucio's family here in Seattle, Seasol fought for the payment of Lucio's wages.

In late August, Seasol member Luis told us his uncle Lucio had been detained by ICE and was facing deportation to Mexico. Adding to Lucio's problems, his boss Eric Galanti had refused to pay him his final paycheck. Not only was the paycheck theft unjust; now Lucio was faced with arriving in Tijuana without money for food or transportation back to his hometown. Soon, Lucio was indeed deported to Mexico. Friends helped him with money for the trip, while Luis and other Seasol members went to work on the long fight to get Lucio his stolen wages.

On September 19, 2012, thirty or so Seasol members and supporters walked into Admiral Pub in West Seattle. Seasol delivered a letter demanding that Galanti pay Lucio his unjustly withheld wages within the next two weeks. Galanti didn't pay, and Seasol went into action, getting the word out, letting Seattle know about Lucio's unfair treatment. Months of pickets at Admiral Pub followed. In January, Seasol and Luis brought the fight to another bar Galanti owns, Bourbon Jack's in Kent.

It wasn't Galanti the proud and stubborn boss who sat down with Seasol members and a member of Lucio's family at a Taco Bell in Kent on a Friday night, to negotiate a surrender. Instead, here was a man whose two bars had seen four vuvuzela-tooting, sign-waving, chants-chanting, flyers-handing-out, revenue-draining pickets in just the past three weeks. That night Galanti gave in. For months he'd denied and haggled and moaned and lied, but in the end he wrote a check to one of Lucio's relatives for the money Lucio had earned.

 
A Fungus Among Us: Direct Action Cleans up Landlord's Act
Monday, 04 March 2013 17:48

Here's the story of a fight we recently won, in Wendy's words:

My partner & I, both longtime SeaSol members and organizers, moved into our apartment in the Central District in June of last year. After about a month of living there we started to notice substantial mold growth in the apartment. We emailed the landlord (a top executive at Starbucks) who suggested leaving the window open when we took a shower and cleaning it using bleach. The mold continued to spread despite this "treatment." Every time we cleaned the mold it would grow back right away, and with renewed intensity. Worse than that, I was experiencing light-headedness, dizziness and low energy, especially after I cleaned the mold.

As the mold infestation continued to worsen, my partner developed a low-grade fever, his tongue turned white, and his doctor recommended in writing that he move out of the apartment as soon as possible. Our dog developed allergies that caused open sores on his legs as well as ear infections requiring several trips to the vet. It became clear that it was no longer safe to live in the apartment and after being out of the apartment for just a few days, all of our symptoms, even our dog's allergies, began to clear up. Back at the apartment our landlord refused to consult mold specialists or make any serious attempt to get rid of the mold.

We told our landlord that our apartment was uninhabitable and moved all our possessions out on Dec.18th. In response, she insisted we were breaking the lease and threatened to sue us for "waste." She refused to give back more than $400 of our $1000 deposit. Meanwhile, we were seriously struggling to get the money together to get moved into a new place. We called SeaSol.

SeaSol voted to support us in a direct action campaign demanding that our former landlord return the missing $600 of our deposit. We arranged a fake showing at one of her properties and planned to present a letter to her outside the house en masse demanding that she return our stolen deposit. At the pre-action huddle, standing around me, supporting me, were about forty people.

We headed toward the corner where our former landlord was expecting to meet "Sarah," a fake tenant. There were close to forty of us marching down the middle of the street. As we approached she and two prospective tenants tried to skirt the large, silent group but I stepped toward her, letter in my hand, and said her name. Quickly, and while the tenants were still listening I explained to her that the letter was "in regards to the $600 of our security deposit that was taken". At this point she was surrounded by all forty, intensely quiet and serious-looking SeaSolers. She took the letter, said as professionally as she could that she was going to read it later, and scurried off to get in her BMW. Unfortunately for her she was parked on a dead-end street, so the experience was not over until she had started her car, turned around and slowly driven past all of us while we watched and filmed her. As soon as she was out of view we erupted into applause and whooping. I felt an unprecedented surge of empowerment.

Within ten days our landlord sent us an email stating she would pay back the $600! She was apparently unwilling to face the prospect of that same group of forty people staging future actions. Thank you so much to everyone who supported us.

Solidarity forever!

 
Tenants campaign scares slumlord into fixing things up
Sunday, 03 March 2013 16:50

SeaSol members and supporters might be interested in learning about a recent campaign that just ended (for the moment at least). Although it didn't end up including any dramatic mass actions, it's still an inspiring example of working-class people getting together and getting results, and how we as a solidarity network can help make that happen.

In November, SeaSol members doing routine door-to-door outreach had some very interesting conversations with tenants at Burien's "Startree" Apartments (not its real name). Some tenants had been living for months, even years, without a working refrigerator. Others described cockroach infestations that the landlord was ignoring, despite complaints. The elevator had been out of service for months. Tenants' assigned parking spots, which had been part of the deal that was included in their monthly rent, had been taken away for no apparent cause, and the owner was charging hefty extra fees for guaranteed parking at another of his nearby properties. Some units had been flooded with water coming down through the ceiling, and one victim, a recently evicted working mother of two, was being sued by the landlord for the damages caused by the flood, which she clearly had not caused.

We gathered contacts and set up individual meetings with the tenants who seemed most interested in taking action. They described in emotional detail how the substandard living conditions were affecting their lives and their families. We explained how SeaSol fights work and discussed how a group organizing effort could fit in with that, and how they and their neighbors might be able to get organized so that no one tenant could easily be singled out for retaliation.

We organized a series of group meetings where tenants met each other, often for the first time, made a list of grievances, and discussed how we could fight the landlord together if they weren't resolved. By the end of January, about half of the building's tenants had added their names to the demands.

These efforts were no secret from the manager and the owner. More and more, they felt the heat. We prepared for a mass action in mid-February, but we never even had to go through with it. By the weekend of the 9th, almost all of the tenants' demands had been met. Several long-broken appliances were finally fixed or replaced. Cockroaches were finally exterminated. The elevator was finally repaired. And residents finally got assigned parking spots again.

Putting the campaign on hold brought mixed feelings. Sure, we won most of it, and won enough to (at least temporarily) satisfy most of the tenants, but by granting our wishes, the slumlord deprived us of the eagerly-awaited chance to launch an economic war against his sleazy business. But given the way he operates, with any luck he'll give us another chance. Meanwhile, another handful of militant working people have joined the SeaSol phone tree.

 
Seasol Takes on Paycheck-Stealing Boss
Thursday, 07 February 2013 15:40

Seasol is demanding payment of Lucio's stolen wages. For years, Lucio worked as a cook at the Admiral Pub in West Seattle, until he was deported to Mexico in August, 2012. Pub-owner Eric Galanti promised he would pay Lucio his last paycheck of $800. To date, the Admiral Pub has still not paid Lucio what he earned.

Seasol, alongside Lucio's family, has taken the fight to Galanti's two businesses, picketing the Admiral Pub in West Seattle and Bourbon Jack's in Kent. Seasol will continue until Admiral Pub and Eric Galanti decide to do what is right. For more information, see http://boycottadmiralpub.com/.

 
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