Solidarity and Clean-Up: Supporting a Community Leader

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The Portland Solidarity Network has made a commitment to stand with tenants who are facing harassment, exploitation, and eviction from landlords and property managers, understanding that we need collective support as working class people if we are going to be able to stand up to the forces in power.  The way we do this is different than a “service” oriented organization, such as a non-profit that you go to receive help with a problem.  Instead we use a “solidarity” model, where we choose to join and support a person whose struggle it is as we organize collectively to take on the issue.  We understand as members that the success of one person’s struggle is beneficial to us in the larger sense, and therefore we have a material stake in these struggles even if we are not economically tied in the immediate way.  The format we take is to use community pressure and organizing to counter attacks from landlords, but each case is fundamentally different and we make collective decisions about how we want to address each problem.

 

Recently during our outreach for the new Outer Eastside Committee, were approached by a woman that was having trouble with her current property management company.  Granny Annie, as she likes to be called, is a notable medical marijuana activist from the area, and has seen many property management companies come and go at her current apartment.  As they moved people in and out, there was an accumulation of old furniture and trash that grew behind the fourplex’s collective storage shed.  The current property management company, not having understood the recent history of the complex, began to pressure her to have it removed.  Since she is eighty years old, on a tight fixed income, and having severe health problems, she was not in a position to take care of this.  She was then having eviction threatened for a problem she did not create and could not solve on her own.

 

After discussing the campaign we decided that the most direct approach to the issue was to simply get together and remove the offending garbage from the property.  Several members came together with two pick-ups and gathered everything that was there and hauled it away to the local dump.  This was fundamentally different than anything we traditionally have done, but we felt that it was important to extend our community support in this case where it was desperately needed.

 

A new relationship was forged with this community leader, and we will also stay in touch, as there have been other issues with repairs and raised rental rates that she has had to deal with.  We are happy that our collective support can be a resource to the community, and we only hope to get more people from the neighborhood involved in the kind of collective support that is needed to protect our neighborhoods from ruthless landlords and developers.

United Campaign Workers Demand Promised Payment from the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp

When a progressive campaign cannot take care of its workforce according to the principles it claims, they are in a great deal of trouble.

 Taking the streets!

Earlier this week a crew of nine campaigns canvass workers walked off their jobs at the Oregon Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH) and into the office of the Industrial Workers of the World looking to form a union.  The workers had been refused the paychecks they were owed for their time, which only built on the several bounced paychecks in the past.  After their checks did not arrive on the late schedule, and management did not even want to discuss what had just happened, they walked out collectively as a unit.  This action had been a long time coming for a group of workers who had seen a “culture of secrecy and information repression that make incidents like this an ongoing problem,” said a statement they released this week.

 

Together they formed the United Campaign Workers (UCW) with IWW support and began a campaign to come back to work with a written agreement from management offering them the $15/hr pay rate and correct overtime they had been promised.  After initially marching on the boss with their demands and being ignored, they started what has become a nationwide call-in campaign of supporters and union partners phoning the campaign headquarters to show their support for the union.

 

On Friday, June 13th the workers staged another march on the boss, this time with dozens of supporters from the Portland IWW, Portland Solidarity Network, Jobs With Justice, Rose City Resistance, and other organizations and union members, and took to the streets to approach the CRRH office.

Kyle Purdy, Canvas Director, insulting and swearing at the workers.  He says he is the "real grassroots."

Kyle Purdy, Canvas Director, insulting and swearing at the workers. He says he is the “real grassroots.”

Upon entering a spokesperson from the UCW tried to present their demands to the Canvas Director at the location, Kyle Purdy, who repeatedly screamed and swore and the picketers.  Claiming that he represented a “real grassroots” campaign, he decried the workers attempt to unionize as insane and marginal.  “Grassroots doesn’t mean you’re held to a different standard than everyone else,” said UCW worker Micha, “It means you should hold yourself to a higher standard.  It means you are trying to effect positive social change.”

Workers trying to negotiate, while management just films and shouts.

Workers trying to negotiate, while management just films and shouts.

The campaign has been working on Oregon legislation I-21, the Oregon Cannabis Amendment, which would end all legal penalties around marijuana products and would even extend growing permissions to Oregonians.  It has been paired with the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, I-22, that would override existing laws to create a new regulatory framework and funnel money from marijuana sales into state programs.  This is a campaign that has large support amongst the institutional left in the state, a campaign that the workers say they are adamantly in support of and would like to see pass.   The crew repeatedly asked to go back to work, and noted that their crew alone pulls in over 600 signatures a day.  That would mean that as of that moment, the campaign has lost an estimated 3,000 signatures due to the strike.  Though this campaign has had large non-profit and union support, active labor organization came out to support the workers and the local Jobs With Justice presented the campaign with a community petition of supporters demanding they negotiate with the newly formed union.

Starting the march to the bosses!

Many of the newly hired workers were completely confounded by the action, as those who were newly hired were not aware they were replacing striking workers.  They are being offered the wage that the UCW workers were originally offered, but were never actually granted.  The workers even made several concessions, including healthcare, just to get management to the bargaining table.  One of these was a recent call for a bonus for workers with dependent children who were not able to purchase groceries after paychecks bounced.   According to the workers, a manager made the argument that it was “heteronormative” to provide the bonus for people caring for small children.  “As a member of the LGBT community, I find that highly offensive,” said fellow UCW worker Ken Kautz.  “It is not “heteronormative” to have dependents.  To have children.”

 

After management threatened to call in the police, the workers and community supporters took the demonstration outside.  This is only the beginning of the campaign, and a larger contingent will be heading back into the CRRH headquarters on Monday morning.

 

If you want to find out how to help, or more about the campaign, contact the United Campaign Workers at unitedcampaignworkers@gmail.com.

PDXSol Announces an Outer East Side Committee

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Portland Solidarity Outer Eastside Committee Statement

As we face rising costs of living, the threat of increased rents and displacement from our homes, and exploitation by our employers and landlords, we feel a need to band together and build power in our communities to defend our neighborhoods.

 

Portland Solidarity Network, a volunteer network of community members, has successfully advocated for the rights of workers and tenants by directly confronting individuals, organizations, or corporations responsible for exploiting, harassing, or cheating workers and tenants.  Now the Portland Solidarity Network is forming an East Portland committee focused directly on issues in outer eastside neighborhoods.  We want to connect with working people of different backgrounds and languages and together become a force to address housing, workplace, and community issues specific to East Portland.  As the wave of gentrification rolls into the working class neighborhoods on the edge of the city, we will attempt to build neighborhood movements that specifically stand with tenants of low-income apartment complexes, public housing, section 8, mobile home parks, and other areas that are specifically targeted by urban renewal and development.  In the traditions of direct action, community organizing, and mutual aid, our goal is to create a real committee of community members that can come together and fight for material gains while developing a real force in the interest of working people.

 

This committee will begin taking on cases in these neighborhoods, eventually evolving into an somewhat autonomous branch located in this specific area of the city.  We see that keeping struggles regional can help them to act directly democratically and in response to the specific community, while federating with other local and national solidarity networks to continue building the movement.

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You can get in touch with us by e-mailing us at EastPdxSol@gmail.com, and we are now having weekly meetings for the summer in outdoor area of the Montavilla Community Center.  We are looking to meet people in the area who would like to get involved in forming the group, discuss project ideas, or participate in actions.  We will be continuing outreach to the community through postering and direct communication, and we need community members to come get involved if this new project will be a success.

 

Whether it is tenants facing eviction, workers having their wages stolen, or communities at risk, we are putting out a call to stand together and show what a community in solidarity can do!

 

Meeting Information:

 

Thursdays @ 6:00pm

Montavilla Community Center Park Pavillion

8219 NE Glisan St, Portland, OR 97220

 

Contact

Email: EastPdxSol@gmail.com

Phone(Voicemail): (503) 446-6065

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Stand With United Campaign Workers: Supporter Phone Blast Alert!

 

At the Portland Solidarity Network we stand with workers no matter the struggle, especially when it is for recognition and gains in their workplace.  Recently, canvass workers came into the local Industrial Workers of the World office looking to form a union.  Below is one of the steps of their escalation plan, and a great and easy way for you to support them.  JUST CALL THEIR BOSSES, FOLLOW THE SCRIPT BELOW, AND TELL THEM THAT YOU STAND WITH THE WORKERS!

Campaign workers standing united!

Campaign workers standing united!

 

Support the United Campaign Workers!

We’re simply requesting that our employer clearly define and agree to the terms of our employment in writing, something every worker should be entitled!

We would all, and I would personally, extremely appreciate anyone’s support and solidarity in participating in this phone zap.

On June 5th, 2014, workers at the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH) were refused the paychecks lawfully owed them. This is not the first time paychecks were delayed or dishonored; in fact, a large majority of the paychecks from the previous pay period bounced. Workers were informed (with “98% certainty”) that their paychecks would arrive the following morning. The checks did NOT arrive on Friday, and workers were told to wait until Monday morning to see them. Workers were given coffee, bagels, cigarettes and a $5 bill in lieu of payment, then asked to work over the weekend. On Monday morning, checks were discussed only when brought up by employees, with management quickly brushing concerns aside and asking employees to participate in a “team-building activity.” Workers then walked out–not just for their unpaid wages, but in protest of a culture of secrecy and information repression that make incidents like this an ongoing problem and not just an anomaly. Due to the risk of reprisal by management, workers decided to protect themselves and the rights of their coworkers by forming United Campaign Workers (UCW), a union dedicated to canvassers. In the aftermath of the unionization by CRRH employees, management has repeatedly disrespected, intimidated, or otherwise harassed union members, all while refusing to negotiate with UCW in good faith. In light of management’s complete disregard for the needs of workers, we have no choice but to escalate.

Phone Zap to Support the United Campaign Workers!
Please call the CRRH campaign office at (503) 235-4606 and the following CRRH directors:
Jersey Deutsch (917) 952-4526
Kyle Purdy (503) 875-7298
Leo Townsell (914) 419-0293
Jordynn Jimenez (632) 262-6578

Please start calling NOW!

Script:
Hi, this is __________ calling regarding the ongoing union activity at CRRH, where workers are continuing to strike due to management’s refusal to sign any agreements. We’re reaching out to you because we’ve been informed that YOUR ACTIONS are preventing canvassers from returning to work and hindering efforts to create a more just, transparent, and egalitarian workplace. We DEMAND an immediate cessation of any and all anti-union or anti-worker activities, and urge you to stand in solidarity with United Campaign Workers as they fight to improve working conditions for ALL employees.

Facebook event for call in:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1428324297441119/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular&source=1


For more information on how to get involved, please email unitedcampaignworkers@gmail.com.

Spontaneous Insurrections: Organizing to Defend Alicia Jackson’s Home

Early morning at Alicia Jackson's, waiting for a possible eviction.

Early morning at Alicia Jackson’s, waiting for a possible eviction.

As we gathered together on Alicia’s lawn we collectively wished we had weeks of planning behind us. Months really. As with anything, a looming eviction defense is something that escalates quickly and requires the kind of coordination that takes dress rehearsals. We had a few hours, maybe. When it comes to defending a house from a foreclosure-based eviction, you will be lucky to have a few minutes of warning before the police descend and begin forcefully removing a family. We needed to be ready to see the police car headlights before they see the several dozen people in front of the house ready to block their entrance.

Alicia Jackson's home liberation on May Day 2012. Photo from Oregon Live

Alicia Jackson’s home liberation on May Day 2012.
Photo from Oregon Live

The story of Alicia Jackson’s foreclosure and eviction go back several years, telling a common story of illegal banking practices and community response. After being foreclosed on by Fox Capital and evicted she liberated her own house with the help of the Portland Liberation Organizing Committee and community members on May Day in 2012. In 2011 she was foreclosed on after she was owed a home modification as a part of her Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing, but the property was still transferred to Fast Cash House Buyers LLC before being passed along to Fox Capital. On May 1st, 2012 she joined up with a direct-action contingent to move back into her home and made it an outpost for housing justice in Northeast Portland. For a full year and a half eviction watch shifts happened with people checking in regularly and coordinated scheduling. With the support of We Are Oregon, and their project Housing Is for Everyone, supporting Alicia was a main project as they attempted to keep her in her home as long as possible.

Fox Capital temporarily dropped the foreclosure case as they changed leadership, but as the brother of the original owner took over the company they went back to threatening eviction. A court date finally happened this past April 6th, which really just determined when Capital supposedly has a “chance to negotiate.” Since the We Are Oregon project had begun to wane from SEIU funding cuts, there was no organization actively taking on Alicia’s case as the final court date loomed. A few community members independently decided to take over the Rapid Response network, which is a grouping of phone numbers of community supporters that can be notified immediately if an eviction is taking place.

A second court date took place where Fox Capital laid out its case, saying that they didn’t take the home illegally even though they did not have rights to the property. While waiting for the verdict on this, Alicia received an eviction notice saying that she needed to be out of her home by Sunday at 11:59 pm. It was already Friday, and the community was not prepared to respond.

Decisions were made quickly and a call-out came for people to join together at Alicia’s house to stay the night on the lawn, recognizing that since the eviction notice specified “11:59,” then the marshal’s office and the police could theoretically come anytime after that. Quickly outposts were made on surrounding blocks where people could watch for the police on shifts and then use walkie-talkie’s to communicate with each other if they saw a caravan of law enforcement heading into position. Watchers were stationed at the house as well, and people took shifts sleeping so that there was always a contingent available to act quickly.

A meeting was first called together where people shared concerns and ideas on how to take care of this. Brief committees were formed to work on separate projects, such as putting together a response plan. Without having a formal organization in place, or having an organization take it over as “their project,” the community members were able to put together a point-by-point plan on how to defend the house from the police eviction within a matter of hours. This included how to defend the interior of the house from its other entrances, who was going to risk arrest, and how we were going to use the resources we had to physically block an invasion. Medics and media people were coordinated, a press release was written and sent to major media contacts, and outreach continued as we talked to friends and comrades from around the city. As we camped overnight, people discussed the plan and became more comfortable with what was going to happen when the police finally did show up.

Together we kept shifts on a tight schedule, made sure the medics had what they needed, ensured that proper video would be captured upon the police arrival, and that the exact plan of action was known to all new comers so they knew when and how to position themselves.  What was clear was that when people brought in organizing experience in the past they were able to apply those ideas and skills in a situation that did not have a formal organization backing it.

Dozens of people were ready and waiting in the morning.

Dozens of people were ready and waiting in the morning.

When morning came, there were dozens of people, several tents and sleeping bags, and a slew of signs and banners that showed that this was an eviction encampment that was not simply a passive protest. These people were ready to keep this house, and had a clear idea of how they were going to do this.

The police never came that day, and the eviction defense strategy continued with coordinated shifts of watchers and maintaining the plan that the community members had agreed upon during the initial planning. Somebody called the sheriff’s office and convinced the undersheriff to meet with Alicia to discuss the eviction so that we could get a better sense of what was coming. This gives us time to get the legal paperwork for the appeal in and to do the most important part of this struggle: organize in our community. The formal appeal of the court’s decision will validate that she can live in the property to another bank. It should also allow her to have her water turned on, which she has been without since her initial eviction two years ago. The title to the house would actually be in her name, and this would mark a real, yet possibly temporary, victory.

The community showed that there was an implicit will towards resistance embedded within us, and that even with only a few hours to spare we were able to create a fighting force that was willing to put itself on the line to keep Alicia in her home. There seemed to be an implicit understanding that the wave of foreclosures and evictions that we have seen over the last few years of crisis and austerity only mark and increasingly unjust system of capitalism, and that we have decided the power of solidarity and community has more weight than the authority of capital. As we stand with Alicia today, we see the seeds of resistance that can spread to other neighborhoods, and we know that all it takes is the fire to get organized and take risks.

Wages of Class War: Reflections on Portland’s May Day

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Coming together in working class solidarity!

 

May Day can be your local mixer of “who’s who” in the radical and progressive scene, giving ample excuse to bring out the flags and dust off IWW songs from the 1930s.  As we are heading into deep periods of post-crisis recession, institutional union busting, increasing repression of civil liberties, and a general crisis in working class confidence, it can take something like May Day, or International Workers Day, to bring back people’s confidence in the movements they are seeding.

Portland, Oregon’s event has been marked by a unity of radicalism and Big Labor, where unions participate alongside anarchists just as they would in more conventional Labor Day parades.  In the wake of the Occupy Movement, 2012’s march was glossed with police confrontation and militant street action.  The last two years saw a far more tame (by comparison) show, but saw steady participation and rhetoric about both capitalism and corporate control without using coded language to soften the blow.

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This year, as many as a thousand people descended on Portland’s Park Blocks to first rally then march, bringing together a diverse crowd that seemed to highlight a few key ideas.  As with 2013’s event, immigration was a top focus with signs donning slogans like “No One Is Illegal,” and the crowd has a larger influx of Spanish speakers.  Both universal healthcare and a call to a $15 an hour minimum wage were popular targets, part of which is from the local $15 Now campaign pushed by people like the Socialist Alternative.  This is on the heels of Seattle’s announcement that they will be the first city to institute a $15 an hour minimum wage, which was a main platform point of their new socialist city councilor.  Though the ten year plan to institute this new minimum wage leaves a lot to be desired, it clearly was motivating a great deal of action locally.  The IWW’s new “High Five” campaign was infecting new life into the discussion of what wage increases can mean beyond simply adjusting the minimum wage, especially since its goal looks at five dollar and hour raises in a workplace through organizing in that workplace.

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Whether it was targeting the TransPacific Partnership, looking towards labor issues, or suggesting a critique of late capitalism itself, economics is still at the forefront of a day used to celebrate the success of the eight-hour workday.

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Since May Day is a yearly event that is not dependent on a specific campaign, we often see more generalized anti-capitalist language.  All of this is built on a set of ideological ideas since, as the history of the holiday suggests, these are ongoing struggles that are not disappearing after individual campaigns are won or lost.  With that being known, it can often be more of a celebration for organizers who have been fighting hard and thinking tactically all year to simply come together and stand in solidarity.  At the same time, the amount of effort and labor that goes into an event like this is also the perfect time to focus in on our campaigns and use them as leverage to build the movements that we need to inch our way forward to the final goals the day is spirited with.

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ILWU speaking out against union busting!

While this was very clear for wage campaigns and healthcare campaigns, the real standout here is with the ILWU Local 4 and their lockout with United Grain.  The International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union Local 4 have been shut out of their workplace for more than a year as scabs have been brought in.  Local 8 in Seattle has seen similar union busting tactics, and members of the Portland Solidarity Network and many other organizations stood with the ILWU and blocked the scabs entrance to the port several weeks before.  This is an ongoing fight and they came in force with support from everyone from the Laborers to the IWW to Jobs With Justice.   As the march continued on its set path, which was permitted specifically, the ILWU lead a breakaway contingent that was made up of the majority of attendees.  They headed directly over to the Wells Fargo building, which is also the local headquarters of United Grain.  There they rallied in front of the building and told the story of working people trying to make ends meet as their livelihood and right to organize is being severed.  They put out a call to action and solidarity, and asked that we collectively stand together as they head into heated negotiations in the coming months.  This was the most energetic moment of the entire day as there was an almost universal moment of connection as we saw the reality of working-class struggle right in front of us, and we were given the choice to participate.  As they decended from the steps they were met by a round of hugs and handshakes, and they responded with the kind of love you only get when people have decided together to fight a shared battle.

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This shows the perfect use of a day like today, where the abstract ideas the holiday was built on are brought home and given tactical equipment.  Today the march became a tool in the fight with United Grain, and will hopefully drum up even more support as the ILWU continues its fight.

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What was noticeably absent from the march was a focus on housing issues that marked much of the previous year’s engagement.  Last year, foreclosure and eviction were a chant-ready topic that were tied to everyone’s economic and immigration concerns, but it was almost completely absent from the discourse.  This is largely from a deficit of local work around housing issues, especially after the promising SEIU project Housing is for Everyone dissolved.  For the Portland Solidarity Network, this shows the importance of moving into tenant work as the issue continues to be of incredible importance even as the housing market appears to recover.

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The showing of May Day was impressive from coast to coast, and we even saw a 1,500 person crowd form in Salem focusing on immigration.  Thousands took to the streets in cities like New York and Chicago, where the sentiment echoed many of the same issues that we were seeing in Portland.  This can often be a temperature check for the collective mood of the country and what issues are really on people’s minds, but more specifically it tends to be a reflection of exactly what issues and campaigns people are actively organizing around.

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As we head back into our daily work we should use this as a time to reflect on how this global day of action can really be tied directly to our struggles.  As the Portland Solidarity Network continues wage-theft campaigns with partners like the VOZ Worker’s Rights Education Project and tenant support issues, we want to use this momentum to get right down to the campaigns that see material results for everyone’s lives.  Let’s make next year’s May Day the culmination of the kind of fights that get traction and see working class power developing in our workplaces and neighborhoods.  Let’s get something big to celebrate next year!

First Picket Shuts Down Parkrose Auto Center

Standing united against wage-theft!

Standing united against wage-theft!

On Thursday, April 10th, the Portland Solidarity Network and the VOZ Workers’ Education Project staged the first picket in the wage-theft campaign against the northeast Portland business, Parkrose Auto Center.  This follows a recent demand delivery from both organizations in support of a former worker who has been denied over $800 in back wages for a week of work that he put in at the auto shop.  The demand letter was simply an entry point to discuss the back wages with the owner, yet they refused to even discuss the matter and the letter had to be read allowed since they declined to accept it.  At that time they were informed that both organizations would initiate an escalation campaign and that “further actions” would continue if they did not respond.   They continued their communication blackout, and a picket was planned.

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Several community supporters, organizers from VOZ and the Portland Solidarity Network, fellow day laborers, as supporting organizations like the Portland IWW, came out to publicly show their support for the worker who has had his wages stolen.  Upon arrival, several members attempted to speak with a manager or owner, though it was stated that none were available.  As the picket began, and chants like “Wage theft is a crime! Pay your workers every time,” echoed from the megaphones, they immediately shut their doors.  Flyers were handed out with mass support, and one customer who stopped by to check on a car Parkrose had for sale said that he would take his business elsewhere.

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They shut down rather than confront their labor abuses!

 

This is first stage in an ongoing campaign against Parkrose Auto Center that will focus on escalation tactics until the back wages are paid in full.  As a part of the ongoing relationship between the VOZ Worker’s Center and the Portland Solidarity Network, we are committed to supporting day laborers that are regularly exploited with low, and even stolen, wages.  This is one of the most enduring workers struggles that happen outside of the purview of Big Labor, and it is up to us to develop permanent bonds of solidarity to respond to these injustices as they happen.

 

Stay tuned for an upcoming phone blast, and you can tell Parkrose what you think of their wage policies!

Oodles of Wage Theft: Confrontation Leads to Victory in Oodles of Noodles Campaign

Picket in front of Oodles of Noodles, protesting their wage-theft practices.

Picket in front of Oodles of Noodles, protesting their wage-theft practices.

Wage-theft seems, because of the virtue of its status as “illegal,” that it would be one of the less common types of labor grievances.  A whole range of monstrous behaviors that are taken up by management against its employee subjects is labeled “legal,” yet wage-theft continues to persist even though it should be targeted by the various state agencies there to combat different types of business criminality.  Anyone who has worked in most consumer, food service, retail, construction, the arts, and most other industry, can tell you that wage-theft is so common that there is hardly a career history that is without it at some point.  Unpaid freelancers, those in restaurants forced to work off the clock, and day-laborers never paid for weeks of work, all fall under this umbrella term.  This only increases when it comes to workers of color, especially when they only speak a marginal amount of English.  This has become an unfortunately dependable form of extralegal exploitation where day laborers are often brought on to complete arduous tasks, only to come up empty handed once the work has been completed.

 

The Portland Solidarity Network has aligned ourselves with the VOZ Worker Center to support day laborers that have been denied their rightfully earned wages, no matter what industry it happened to be.  This is what brought us into the case of Marcos and his position at Oodles of Noodles.  Marcos has been working at Oodles of Noodles for over a year, commuting over an hour and half from his home to the upper-class neighborhood in West Linn, Oregon, where the restaurant was located.  On top of this he was often on call, which was incredibly difficult when he had to take several buses just to get there and back.  He had been an incredibly dependable employee, which he hoped would show to his employers.  An agreement was made between him and the owner that he would be paid $100 a day for working as a dishwasher.  After Marcos continued to put in long day after day, the owner did not keep up her end of the agreement.  She offered him about $40 and a pair of shoes, but this did not actually come close to the $940 of back pay that Marcos was owed.

 

Together with the VOZ Worker Center, who had already notified Oodles of Noodles that they owed Marcos the back wages, began an escalation campaign to get Marcos his compensation.  We began with a public picket, along with supporters like the Portland Jobs With Justice and the Portland IWW.  Thirty people came out with banners and signs saying things like “Wage Theft is Class War” and “Oodles of Wage Theft.”  They responded by shutting down and hiding in the back, though we took up a collection of tips for the workers who were not responsible.

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This was followed up by two sets of call-ins, where community members called the location and told the manager that they would be boycotting the restaurant until Marcos was paid in full.  It did not take long before management began accosting the callers with profane language and threats, including giving the phone numbers of the callers to the local police.  Towards the second round of calls we got a notice from VOZ that their attorney had made contact and they wanted to pay the money they owed.  The first payment came in shortly there after, and it looks like they will uphold the original agreement and pay the full amount that is owed.

 

This campaign and its quick success is due directly to the coordinated support between workers, and shows that when a public light is shined on these kinds of practices we can ensure that justice will be served.

PDXSol Delivers Wage-Theft Demand to Parkrose Auto

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Letting them know that this is only the beginning.

 

This last Thursday, March 27th, the Portland Solidarity Network and the VOZ Workers’ Rights Education Project joined together to support a former worker at Parkrose Auto Center who was refused his rightfully deserved wages.  Roger, the former employee, was guaranteed $125 a day for his work, but never received pay for 6.5 days that he had worked.  The manager called him in to receive the paycheck with the correct amount, yet when he arrived he was refused his payment.  Requests have been made repeatedly for them to pay what was owed to him, yet this never resulted in anything other than a disrespectful and negligent response.

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Holding up the demand letter for everyone to see.

 

PDXSol and VOZ organized a “demand delivery” for last Thursday, where the demand for the back wages, over $800, was listed explicitly with a week time for their response.  About 25 supporters came to support Roger, representing additional organizations like the Portland IWW and Jobs With Justice.  As we entered, management immediately responded with hostility, refusing to talk or even accept the letter.  A spokesperson decided to read the letter aloud with a “mic check,” which outlined that we expected the money to be paid within a week otherwise we would escalate the campaign.  They called the police, and the group headed out front to stage a picket, letting them know that this was merely the first step in what would be an ongoing project to support this victim of wage-theft.

Confronting management, who refused to even discuss the situation.

Confronting management, who refused to even discuss the situation.

Wage-theft is one of the most common kinds of worker mistreatment, and in some workplaces and sectors it happens so systemically that people fail to even recognize that it is illegal.  We believe that it is up to the collective solidarity of working people to come together and support each other to improve our situations, and we will continue to stand with day laborers and other workers who have had their wages stolen by an employer.

 

Today, we are waiting to see how management at Parkrose Autobody will respond, and if they refuse to pay Roger what he deserves then this will be a campaign that is going to continue.

Anatomy of a Win: How We Won Our Wage-Theft Demand in Three Hours

Flores Auto Body did not have the most stellar reputation, especially when it came to the treatment of their employees.  They brought on different workers to do very labor intensive jobs, and then refused to pay them when they claimed that they did not have the money for it.  Harrison, a day laborer who is associated with the VOZ Worker’s Center, was brought on over several workdays to assist in regular shop work.  He ended up being owed almost $550 dollars that had not been paid, and after a BOLI complaint first targeted Flores Auto Body it did not look like the money was ever going to come through.

Protest in front of Flores Auto Body.

Protest in front of Flores Auto Body.

This is when the Portland Solidarity Network teamed up with the VOZ Worker’s Center and staged a public picket in front of the Flores location, showing passersby and possible customers that they have not been paying all of their workers.  With the support over around twenty community members, as well as Harrison himself, we held signs with slogans such as “Wage Theft is a Crime.”  After a few moments of lively chants the owner came out to see what was going on.  A PDXSol member confronted him, telling him that he needed to pay Harrison the money he was owed immediately or the pickets would continue.  He stated that this could not continue to happen, and he said he would immediately take care of the money.  After working out how the money was to be delivered, two money orders were purchased and handed directly over to Harrison.

 

A campaign that could have lasted weeks, even months, came to a close with the entire demand met simply from a single collective action.  By uniting with community members like Portland Jobs With Justice and the Portland IWW, the owner saw that this was the beginning of a strong campaign that seriously threatened his continued business.  In an effort to stop this before it became a consistent problem for him, he provided the money that was owed, which effectively ended the pressure.  This is an important precedent because it shows that the collective power of solidarity can get these types of wage-theft cases to end positively and quickly, and it shows other employers in the area that there is a force taking place that can with back wages swiftly and effectively.

Harrison holding the money that was delivered from the owner.

Harrison holding the money that was delivered from the owner.

Today the campaign against Flores Auto Body has come to a close, and one more day laborer has been paid for the work he was so rightfully owed.  Even though wage-theft is a clear violation of labor laws, it is incredibly common across a whole number of sectors.  The chance of being victimized in this way only increases when it comes to people of color, immigrants, women, and the LGBT community, all of which have become targets for predatory business owners.  The only way to functionally stop this as a systemic issue is to show the business community collectively that we have organized solidarity that refuses to allow this to transpire.  Once resistance and success becomes the norm, it will become that much more difficult to rob people of their deserved wages.

 

The Portland Solidarity Network will continue to support the VOZ Worker Center on different wage theft cases that involve day laborers, and we will continue to make wage-theft a primary labor issue for our work.

 

When we fight, we win!