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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/.

 
Pegasus Pizza Pays Up
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 21:22

Luis and SeaSol have won our second fight against Pegasus Pizza. A few months after our last encounter, Luis was fired for being a few minutes late due to delays in his Metro commute (something that happens to other workers all the time without reprisals). Recognizing this as blatant retaliation for fighting back on the job with us last winter, we demanded that Pegasus Pizza either give Luis his job back or pay him for the two weeks of wages he lost while he was out of work (approximately $600). More background on this fight and the real reasons for Luis's firing can be found here.

When we started to pass out leaflets in front of their door, many West Seattle locals were not surprised to hear about Ted or Sarah's exploitative behavior. We heard many stories of people's friends, family and neighbors having their time sheets tampered with, wages docked and stolen outright in the past. We also received numerous phone calls and emails from former employees that confirmed that Pegasus has been routinely stealing workers' wages for years. We began to compile these stories into a public blog that the General Manager of Pegasus, Sarah, told us herself was very damaging to their reputation. The owner, Ted, responded by coming into Luis's workplace and threatening his life. Sarah on the other hand responded with a short press release that claimed they had time sheets proving Luis's tardiness. We wondered how seriously we were supposed to take these time sheets, after hearing multiple stories about management routinely editing them for their own benefit.

After we started picketing and shutting down a few lunch and dinner rushes, management apparently had enough. They requested a sit-down meeting during which Sarah admitted she had become "irresponsible" with her payroll. After trying and failing to get Luis to sign some sort of legal agreement, she had another manager run and get two money orders made out to Luis for a total of $600. About this fight, Luis says he is "very happy. Really, I think if there had not been SeaSol I would not have been able to do anything. We have one more victory. We've beaten some bad people [Ted & Sarah] that treat immigrants very badly. With SeaSol I've learned to help people, and that if we wait, nothing will change."

We hope that Ted and Sarah have learned their lesson and clean up their act before another worker who has been trampled by Pegasus decides it is time to fight back with our help.

 
Borracchini’s fight ends, as does long tradition of no breaks
Friday, 07 September 2012 05:17

We are happy to announce that, after six months of protest, Borracchini's has finally begun to allow all workers their 10-minute breaks. (Here's more background on the fight.)

Our many actions have included picketing, postering and even a bake sale of "Cakes Made With Breaks." At every action we reached new people in the neighborhood who told us they wouldn't be shopping at Borracchini's because of the conditions there for workers.

We will be suspending our campaign, as long as workers continue receiving their breaks.

We remain disgusted with Remo Borracchini for publicly pledging $10,000 to Children's Hospital as a public relations move in response to our campaign, and then donating only a tenth of that amount.

Let's celebrate this improvement in working conditions at Borracchini's. Stay tuned for details.

 
Pegasus Pizza Fight, Part II
Monday, 03 September 2012 23:17

Have you or anybody you know been cheated by Ted or Sarah of Pegasus Pizza? If so, please contact us with your story

This is not the first time we have had a fight with Pegasus Pizza. You can read about our previous encounter with owner Ted Nicoloudakis and General Manager Sarah Suseyi.

Luis had worked for Pegasus for almost three months but had only received a tiny portion of the wages he was owed. Rather, Ted and Sarah only gave him three bad checks from different banks and scores of broken promises, as they have had done to many other previous workers at Pegasus Pizza.

So Luis joined more than 30 Seasol supporters and demanded his pay. Roughly two weeks later, Luis received his $1,924.24 and began to be paid on time. However, immediately after paying Luis his back wages, Ted and Sarah cut Luis's hours in half, forcing other kitchen workers to work unpaid overtime to cover many of his usual shifts. It was not until we called Sarah and warned her that it was unacceptable and illegal to retaliate against Luis in this way that they stopped cutting his hours.

In addition, Ted and Sarah started to pile extra work onto his shifts and also forbade other staff from talking with him at all. Luis was not happy about this retaliation, but was willing to work through it.

Taking the bus to work, Luis ended up being a few minutes late a couple of times, and two months ago, Ted and Sara finally trumped up an excuse to fire him. Anybody that rides Metro knows that buses do not always run on time, and sometimes our commutes are delayed. While Luis was working for free, being a couple of minutes late occasionally was not an issue.

Since we started this fight, the response of neighbors and people walking by has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people were not surprised to hear Luis's story. They have had their own stories to share of their friends, neighbors and family not being paid by Pegasus in the past. We have heard numerous stories of Ted and Sarah's exploitative and shady behavior.

What has been Ted and Sara's response? Sarah called us once to set up a meeting. We responded, but are still waiting to hear from her. Meanwhile Ted has come into Luis's new workplace more than once, physically threatening and intimidating Luis – saying he "will be waiting for him outside after work."

In this letter to customers, Sarah claims to have time sheets showing Luis's poor attendance. Sarah's hypocritical claim of moral or legal high-ground on the issue of time sheets at Pegasus would be laughable if her own and other Pegasus boss's behaviors were not so criminal. Another former employee tells of consistent hours shorting, few breaks, and bosses who are themselves routinely late:

"They constantly short our hours and blame us because we "didn't clock out on a 30 min mark", something that is impossible to do unless we drag our feet to the next half hour, something Clara will scream at you for. I have to keep all of my clock out receipts and add them myself in order to prove I was shorted. And when I do, Sarah just rolls her eyes and says "I'll look into it". You have to be a persistent pain in the ass to get your real hours.

We do get breaks, but only if we're working a double. So if you're working 6-8 hours you're out of luck. The kitchen staff can only break if we're not busy. No one ever gets the 10 min breaks we're supposed to…

I've seen the time sheets they are talking about with Luis. I couldn't say if they're real or not, since I know for a fact they routinely edit these records for their own benefit [emphasis added]. And as for being late, they should talk! They never show up when they say they will... Clara is constantly late and says she only comes in to wait on tables and make money. The owners son is ALWAYS late, sometimes more than an hour... Until [a former manager who recently resigned] started we were never allowed to call in sick no matter how sick we were and how dangerous it was to the public. [He] didn't want us there around him or anyone else if we were sick."

An excerpt from a letter written by a manager who recently resigned:

"I was very clear that I have ZERO tolerance for payroll mismanagement and inappropriate time sheet editing. By "inappropriate editing", I am referring to your rounding down on the hours. This practice is illegal, immoral and unethical. On several occasions I have had private conversations with staff that has proof that you shorted their hours on a mass scale. This is not just a random 1-2 hours, there has been cases of checks that were shorted up to 20 hours!"

With this public attention, we hope that Ted and Sarah realize they need to pay their current employees in full and on time from here on out. Who knows how much Pegasus owes current and past employees in our city? To be clear: we are demanding Luis be reinstated or they give him two weeks in lost wages for the time he was without a job to replace his work at Pegasus, roughly $600. Wage stealing bosses like Ted can claim no moral or legal high ground in this situation.

Luis and SeaSol are determined to see this fight through to the end.

 
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