Flyers Confront Sexual Harassment and Fee Gouging Allegations at Phagans School of Hair Design

Flyer handed out in front of Phagans.

Flyer handed out in front of Phagans.

On Saturday, February 21st, Kaitlin led a group of Portland Solidarity Network supporters and community members to stage the first flyering out in front of the Northeast Portland location of Phagans School of Hair Design.  This was the location that Kaitlin had been going to school at, and where she had raised the issues of sexual harassment and bullying.  Here, fifteen people took the afternoon to talk to customers, other students, employees, and passersby about what was going on with Kaitlin’s campaign, and that she just wanted the opportunity to finish her schooling in a harassment-free environment.  This was an opportunity not just for Kaitlin to share her story with people in and out of Phagans, but to also show the community coming together and supporting each other to confront abuses like these.

 

Inside Phagans, the mood was much more somber.  The on-site principal was running around frantically, taking pictures of picketers and forcing the students to the back of the building and away from the front windows.  At one point her tried to lock the door, yet it blocked several of the customers that were trying to come in.  Customers and people on the street were incredibly sympathetic, with several refusing to do business with Phagans and to come out at further actions.

 

Kaitlin’s story is both harrowing and common, raising the issues of how sexual harassment play itself out in professional environments.  Phagans is a for-profit private institutions, though they qualify for federal financial aid so many of their students are coming in and paying their tuition with these loans.  Unlike a University, they do not have the same rights and protections, and you cannot imagine faculty members at a regular college being able to boss students around in this type of manor.  Kaitlin first raised the issues of sexual harassment and bullying from other students and faculty, and says she was initially suspended while an “investigation” was conducted.  She says that after it was completed they gave her a sham report and were trying to get her to sign documents that gave up her legal rights.  When she mentioned that she might talk to an attorney, the owner, Barbara Climaldi, flipped out on her, refusing to let her back until she signed.  Now she just wants to be allowed to finish without harassment and retaliation, as well as to have the fees of about $3,000 that were leveled against her for taking extra time for coursework and practicals because of her maternity leave.

 

PDXSol believes that students should never be victimized with sexual harassment and bullying, as well as penalized for giving birth to a child.  They will continue to support Kaitlin as she challenges them for her right to an education.  PDXSol, and the community, call on Barbara Climaldi to do the right thing, and to step down from her tower to realize that there are working class students in her schools that deserve fair treatment.

 

PDXSol Picket Fox Management; Property Manager Kallie Caito Lashes Out With Erratic Rants

11001838_1791240447768245_7817833065229502497_n

On Wednesday, February 18th the Portland Solidarity Network’s Outer East Side Committee escalated their campaign against Fox Management and property manager Kallie Caito. The campaign supports Aubrey and Becky, who are former tenants of a Fox Management apartment for more than ten years, where they suffered ill-repair and dangerous conditions in their apartment, over charging, and eventual eviction without cause.

10985315_1791239971101626_3079377772709665315_n

About twenty people came together to picket the property manager with signs letting people know not to rent from Fox Capital, as well as calling them slumlords. In preparation for the picket, Fox Capital called the police, who came twice, yet could not stop the picket. Chants came together loudly with renditions like “Kallie Caito come outside/Fox is greedy, you can’t hide!” Over the course of the picket the managers locked the door and hid upstairs, taking pictures and gawking from the windows. Passersby and tenants having to deal with Fox Capital were given flyers telling about Aubrey and Becky’s experience, and the neighboring businesses and organizations got a first hand look at what their neighbor was up to.

This picket comes on the heels of an active campaign that has been marked by the erratic behavior of property manager Kallie Caito. After the initial demand delivery, in which she hid away from the community and tenant delegation, Kallie went about to find the video and articles about the action. On a friendly housing blog that reposted the story and video about the demand delivery, Kallie Caito left a series of antagonistic and strange responses attempting to bait and taunt the organizers. In her initial quote she said:

I just wanted to point out that I’m more like everyone here than you’d think. I’m liberal, I’ve protested, my friends are members of activist entities, I’ve quit my job in the past to join AmeriCorps and move across the country, I’ve volunteered in hard-hit areas to help my fellow man. I’ve stood in solidarity with the people of New Orleans post-Katrina after snipers shot their friends/family, government failed them, they were being taken advantage of. I’m a renter, I’m a student, I’m compassionate, and I’m a justice seeker. And I’m offended while my professional reputation is smeared. What frustrates me about this situation is that not a single person tried to contact myself or anyone at Fox Management to even attempt to get an answer. Legally, I can’t give out information without someone’s consent, but that’s not the point. However, it negatively impacts your “fight” to commit criminal trespassing, intimidation, harassment, what is now slander/libel as the accusations from Rebecca and Aubrey are false. It’s not just the company’s name or the plaintiff’s name, it’s my personal name being thrown out there when all paperwork comes from the plaintiff. Not me. To clear some things up: We’ve managed the property since the end of August/early September. I’ve completed over 140 work orders at the property since then (you do the math), and I’m well-versed in habitability issues. We require maintenance requests in writing. We have an online tenant portal, a maintenance email address, a computer kiosk in the office, a maintenance request form in the office and an on-site manager that sends me maintenance requests as received. The information provided to you is incorrect. All of it. I don’t even know how it was determined that those dollar amounts are owed. A business in the area chose to attack a neighboring business because they felt like it. Not okay.

 

Might I suggest asking for hard proof from people requesting help? Might I suggest being positive and inquisitive prior to being ridiculously harsh and nonsensical? Might I suggest not making threats in writing? Might I suggest listening when people tell you not to enter a private area? Also, a little more organization wouldn’t help. Don’t go out into the world looking for a fight. Go looking for answers and proof.

 

It makes you almost as bad as the Westboro Baptist Church.

 

After it became clear that her understanding of PDXSol’s politics or advice were not going to be taken seriously, she began to deconstruct and her rants just escalated.

I was referring to liberal as a definition, not a political affiliation. The fact is that “we” are not exploiting any tenants, so the battle is artificial. You should be more concerned with utilitarianism. If you don’t care what our priorities are, don’t tell us what they should be. When the truth is obvious, there is no battle. “As far as I have seen” is a dangerous statement when you’re narrow-minded and have wool over your eyes. I’m not saying tenants are not being exploited, but this is not an example of that. Again, Westboro Baptist Church. Two peas in a pod.

She further continued to embarrass herself by showing she did not understand the most basic aspects of PDXSol’s mission statement, or what organizing and community support actually is. She continued on to try and bait people, going after their supposed lack of education, and showed that she could not even begin to understand what her exploited tenants were going through.

I hope none of you have landlords. Oh, the hypocrisy.
You’re kind of like the George Bush that claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
You’re regurgitating a bunch of fake garbage and then disappearing behind some bullshit excuse.
It doesn’t help your cause.
I get that you’re not Portland Solidarity Network, but clearly no one else cared enough to comment elsewhere.
Also, you must refute the existence of a dictionary. Damn The Man printing those stupid books. They hold us all back! It’s classism!

Kallie Caito’s erratic behavior only increased from their, all of which showed a painful lack of understanding about how social movements have traditionally worked or how collective change is made.  As a part of the campaign, the Outer Eastside Committee postered both in Becky and Aubrey’s neighborhood, as well as the neighborhood where the Fox Capital headquarters is, indicating what had happened and who is responsible. Kallie then posted her own posters right near their posters, which included a nonsensical rant that showed exactly how disconnected she is. It wrote:

Dear Portland Solidarity Network,

I’m clearing the air and correcting some misinformation. You’ve committed slander and libel, because the accusations were proven to be entirely FALSE. This is in addition to intimidation, harassment, and criminal trespassing. Since when is RENT a FEE? Should property owners be required to let people live in their properties for free? I highly recommend requesting PROOF from people prior to harassing someone/a business when you’ve been asked to help, and it impacts others. You’ve published lies about me all over the neighborhood where I work, all over the internet, and emailed it to a network of strangers. These people decided to harass me incessantly and told me to “re-think my life, because it sucks.” Actually, my life is great. I’ve worked with Habitat for Humanity, AmeriCorp, Global Green and other non-profits to help my fellow man. Thanks for the advice! As Mr. Walsh stated while walking out of our office, “You need to have humor.”
I’ll contact you once I find a cure for your Stick-it-to-da-man-niosis.

 

THIS ISN’T CLASSIM AT WORK. THIS IS UTILITARIANISM.

 

11012684_1791240484434908_3192762567562634386_n

We are not sure if this is the ranting of a person racked with guilt about the treatment of her tenants, or if there was some important thought put behind the letter that just did not have gotten through. The accusations of Becky and Aubrey had absolutely not been proven false, and what is important to PDXSol is to support tenants who are being exploited by people like Kallie Caito and Fox Management. We aren’t sure who told her that her “life sucks,” but we are glad to hear that it is great. Aubrey and Becky’s life has not been so great, however, since she exploited and evicted them.
The Portland Solidarity Network will not quit in its support of this campaign, and all tenant campaigns that attempt to fight back against the rabid abuses that property management companies like Fox Management commit regularly. The response from Kallie Caito shows that she refuses to have empathy for people going through what is one of the most trying times in their lives.

As the crowd was leaving after the picket, one staff person from Fox Capital yelled out that Aubrey’s son should “take a shower before coming back.” This was a shameful, and obviously racially motivated attack on him, and one that shows exactly what they think of everyday people standing up for themselves. So, yes Kallie, PDXSol will continue to fight for what is right, and we urge you to recognize your role in the exploitation of and attack on this family.

Portland Solidarity Network Demands Phagans Beauty School Stop Exploitation and Sexual Harrassment [VIDEO]

Phagans staff reading the demand letter.

Phagans staff reading the demand letter.

Kaitlin Welch just wanted her education.

As an aspiring beautician, Kaitlin enrolled at Phagan’s Beauty School, a franchise of independently owned cosmetology schools around Oregon.  She was attending night classes at the Northeast Portland location while working to support herself during the day.  Her dream to become a hairdresser was getting within her sights after a year and a half of attending courses and cutting hair virtually for free when the situation there began to change.  She went on maternity leave to give birth to her daughter, which they then penalized her for with almost $3,000 in additional fees for taking the time off.  When she returned, she was the subject of repeated sexual harassment, body shaming, and bullying from both other students and faculty.  One faculty member would call her into her office to accuse her of perceived sexual improprieties, shaming her and instructing her on how to live her life.  A vicious rumor was started and maintained by students and staff, and after she had been publicly humiliated by her teacher’s behavior at her graduation ceremony she had had enough.

 

She went forward to the Compliance Officer to report her complaint, though the faculty that she was claiming about insisted they sit in.  When she demanded something be done, they suspended her.  They said that they would conduct and investigation and move her to the Clackamas campus, which is also owned by this franchise owner, Barbara Climaldi.  She waited patiently, believing that they really would uncover the abuse that she was suffering and right the wrong.  Unfortunately, they refused to do a formal and adequate investigation.  They asked a few of the the teacher’s favorite students if they had seen any harassment, and then basically called the case closed.  When Kaitlin requested a report, they quickly scrambled together an unprofessional document of just a couple of paragraphs.  She then mentioned seeking legal council, and Barbara went beserk.  She began screaming at her, putting her in tears, threatening to not let her return.  Barbara acted on this threat.  She later produced a document meant to terrorize Kaitlin into keeping quiet.  She was asked to sign it, therefore giving away all legal rights about her sexual harassment claims, before she would be let back.  If she refused to sign, then she would not be allowed to finish her school, of which she was only six-weeks away from her degree.  At this point she has already gone $25,000 in debt to student loans.

 

She began picketing the decision on her own, then came to the Portland Solidarity Network for support on her campaign.  Her story is shocking and outrageous, but not necessarily out of character for schools like Phagans.  Together we organized the campaign to begin with a public demand delivery, which would show Barbara clearly what we expected of her and the school.

 

On Friday, February 13th, about 40 members of PDXSol and supporters joined together at the Clackamas Town Center location of Phagans for the demand delivery.  Here were friends of Kaitlin, organizers from AFL-CIO’s Working America and Jobs With Justice, and several other political organizations and community groups.  Together they were making a statement that this fee gouging and harassment will not go unchallenged.  That ordinary people and students have the power to fight injustice.

 

Collectively, we marched into a busy Phagans location, crowing the front entry.  There were students and customers covering the floor, all of which began rushing forward to see what the commotion was about.  A PDXSol member asked for Barbara, and when he was denied he “mic checked” a simplified reading of the demands.

Reading the demands.

Reading the demands.

He then handed over the demand letter, addressed to Barbara, which read:

 

Phagans School of Hair Design has failed to take Kaitlin Welch’s reports of sexual harassment and bullying seriously and needs to address the following by Friday February 20th or further action will be taken.

 

-Transfer Kaitlin Welch to the Clackamas Phagans location to finish her schooling and to receive her diploma

 

-Waive the re-enrollment fee of $150.00.

 

-Waive the over contract fees of $3,000 accrued from maternity and medical leave.

 

-Phagans School of Hair Design will follow their current policy regarding sexual harassment and bullying.

 

-Phagans School of Hair Design agrees to not retaliate against Kaitlin Welch or any other student that files a complaint.

 

We hope you understand the seriousness of the situation. Please contact us to verify that the issues have been resolved.

 

Thank you,

Kaitlin Welch

Portland Solidarity Network

 

Supporters standing in solidarity as the demand letter is given to Phagans.

Supporters standing in solidarity as the demand letter is given to Phagans.

To say that they were angry would be an understatement.  They began yelling, threatening to call security and police, and harassing individual members of the crowd.  We stood fast, showing that they could not control our behavior.  We began a slow clap, eventually drowning out there complaints.  The students stood watching from behind them.

 

This is the first action of a campaign to force Phagan’s hand to do the right thing and let Kaitlin finish her education.  We gave them a week to comply, more than enough time for them to get their act together and follow basic protocol.  At that point, if they do not abide by this then the campaign will go forward.  This is what community power looks like, and we will stand with Kaitlin no matter what.

On Phagans’ own blog they state:

A positive learning environment at our beauty schools is another goal.  We encourage mutual growth, support and self-esteem building.

It is time that they were held accountable to their own standards.  Enough is enough.

#pdxsol #boycottphagans

Fighting For Our Homes: Tenant Demand Delivery at Fox Management [VIDEO]

IMG_0083

On Tuesday, January 20th, a group of almost forty people gathered around the corner from Aubrey’s former property management company, Fox Management.  Though nervous as the crowd was growing, Aubrey was preparing to confront the manager that had closed the door on her former apartment.  Local news Koin 6 was there to see why they were confronting their landlord, and how they were able to continue to live in a city that is becoming more and more unaffordable for renters.  Aubrey and her mother Becky had dealt with disrepair, both on their plumbing and their refrigerator, for years.  With raw sewage coming into their apartment, spoiled food, and radically high rents, they were reaching a breaking point.  It was at this point that their negligent landlord gave them a no-cause eviction.

Aubrey started by speaking out about her treatment, which now left her and her mother with no place to go after forcing them out of their home of eleven years.

“We’ve been there eleven and a half years, and we’ve never been late.  We don’t know what to do,” she said.  “Our apartment, they’ve got is listed for $925, which is almost $300 more than what we pay there.  It’s just ridiculous.”

Her mother, Becky, elaborated on her fears of leaving.

“It’s hard out there to even find a place to move to.  It’s scarey thinking that you might be out on the street.”

The crowd marched directly into the office, where staff immediately asked them to leave.  Determined, they went up the stairs and into the office where they knew their relevant property manager would be.  Instead of hearing what Aubrey had to say, she slammed the door shut and refused to let them in.  Instead, Aubrey read the letter out loud and shoved it under the door as one other distant staff person threatened to call the police.

“To Kallie Caito & Fox Management, Inc.:

It has come to our attention that Aubrey and Becky Kirk, 11-year tenants of Rose Tabor Court Apartments are owed $1600 in costs relating to habitability. We also demand that you drop the unfair fees of $437.50. Meet these demands by Tuesday, January 27th or we will take further action.

Do not contact Aubrey or Becky directly.

Contact Portland Solidarity Network when you are prepared to drop the fees and make the payment. We will pick up the check at your office.

Becky Kirk

Aubrey Kirk

Portland Solidarity Network”

The collective chants and claps of the community drowned this out, as the force of solidarity had a much stronger presence in that building.

Afterwards, Aubrey fought back tears as she thanked all the supporters who had come out, and who had raised their voices in protest.

Marching into the property management office.

Marching into the property management office.

This was only the first step in a campaign that has a growing set of escalations in front of it.  They will need the community to continue to come out, challenging the authority of a property management company that has essentially taken away Aubrey’s home.  This is the regular battle that is taking place in this city, where normal working-class people are fighting just for a right to live in the place they have called home for so long.  Without a movement that stands up from the ranks of the city’s tenants, we will never be able to keep this city our own.  As the waves of gentrification and development flush the long-time residents of Portland further and further out, we have to depend on the organized support of the community to fight back.

The day of the demand delivery, they had an eviction notice taped to their door.  They will be appearing in court at 9:00 AM on January 27th to hear more about this eviction, which is the exact day that the Portland Solidarity Network has noted they expect a response from the property management company.  If not, then the campaign will begin to escalate, and will not end until the entire list of demands has been met.

 

Eyes on the Prize: Solidarity from the Streets of Portland

Along with cities from around the country, Portland erupted on November 25th in one of the largest demonstrations and actions it has seen in years.  The Portland Solidarity Network came on as an official sponsor of the event that was planned in solidarity with the Mike Brown actions happening both in Ferguson and in cities across the country.

10615971_1738961986329425_3885693368701723930_n

After the fatal shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri this last August, Officer Darren Wilson was cleared by a grand jury on November 24th.  The jury was directed to determine whether or not there was probable cause to level formal charges against Wilson, which could range from first-degree murder down to involuntary manslaughter.  The jury determined that no charges were to be filed, in a decision that many were saying was coerced by a mishandling by the District Attorney’s office.

 

In Portland, the Albina Ministerial Alliance and the Urban League put the solidarity action together.  In front of the Justice Center, they called together over two thousand people to a rally that targeted the racist police violence that has become commonplace both in our city, and the U.S. broadly.  The people present overwhelmed the area, taking Third Street over as well as the park on the other side.  Speakers ranged from local organizations and churches, each putting out a call to create a movement that has the force to confront the kind of mammoth power of institutional racism and white supremacy.  After an emotional round of Eyes on the Prize was sung, a speaker from the AMA came up and boiled the issues down to their essence.

“The blood of Michael Brown cries out for justice today.  Across this nation, and across the world.  Once again, the African American community, communities of color, mental health communities, the poor, the marginalized, citizens who love justice and democracy, those who have been crushed by the decision of the grand jury not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown.  Once again we rise at the criminal justice system of America, and law enforcement is tainted with racial bias when it comes to rendering justice and fairness for black people.  For communities of color.  For the disenfranchised and the marginalized.  We know from our own experience here in the city of Portland, that the brokenness of the criminal justice system and law enforcement.  We know from Kendra James.  We know from James Chasse.  We know from Aaron Campbell.  We know from Keaton Otis, that there is no justice and fairness when it comes to white police officers killing black and brown and poor people and mentally ill people.”

“What must we do about it?  We must not go back to our old routines, and just talk about it.  No, no, a thousand times!  We must fight to change this broken, unjust and unfair system.  We must use these times of injustice to build a movement!”

 

Speakers came forward from the NAACP, the All-African All-People’s Revolutionary Party, various churches, Jefferson High School, and many others to draw together the issues of police violence and racism to the various struggles in the city.  A student from Portland State University’s Black Student Union spoke powerfully and bluntly.

“Do not go quietly into that dark night!  This happens a thousand times in America.  But we have an opportunity to rise up and use our collective voices to tell America, ‘Enough is Enough!’  … American, how much more do you want us to bear?  We bore the injustices of slavery.  We bore the injustices of the lies of emancipation.  We bore injustices of segregation.  We bore indignities of Jim Crow.  We bore the annihilation of our communities.  We bore the brunt of mass incarceration.  We bore the debt of your housing market.  We bore the magnitude of under and unemployment.  We bore the assassination of our leaders, and now our children.  How much more America?  What is the cost of justice and freedom?  What is the mortgage on the lives of black and brown folks?  How many more payments before you reduce the principle balance on our freedom? “

“When will black lives matter?”

1724707_1738961506329473_2157312110815028360_n

Speakers from the Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines and the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party drew the killing right back to capitalism, imperialism, and the need for revolutionary change and international solidarity.  A call here was really to get involved in ongoing organizing efforts, from challenging police violence to related movements such as housing struggles and labor.

 

A march was then led, through downtown with a population that over swelled even the roads.  The memetic chant “Hands up!  Don’t shoot!” was common, with people focusing directly on the targeting of young people of color that has marked the city in recent years.  There was a sense of group solidarity as major unions, non-profits like Basic Rights Oregon and the NAACP, and more radical organizations like the Black Rose Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation and the International Socialist Organization stood together with a complementary vision.   As the march wound back to the Justice Center, the AMA led a final talk about Michael Brown’s family and led a chorus of old spiritual activist songs and a candlelight vigil.

 

At this point a large contingent began to form that did not want to end the action at that point, many calling for direct action at the Justice Center openly.  From a third to half of the crowd broke away at this point and led an unpermitted march that again took the streets over and head towards the Morrison Bridge.  Here protesters began to push against the forming police force in an effort to take the bridge, with police beginning to shove through the crowd and drive motorcycles into the crowd.

The march moved back down the street and took over the Burnside Bridge, making it across the river and blocking the intersection on the other side.  Moving through the Water District, the next spot was to openly block Interstate 5 from a park, the same way that organizers have done so in Oakland and Los Angeles.  It was at this point that the police force took another turn and began attacking protesters with the riot-prepared troops and cavalry.  As hundred of protesters attempted to stage a sit-in on the freeway and/or occupy the park, the police began swinging batons and letting pepper spray loose.  Participants of color had to be treated by street medics for pepper spray directly into their eyes, which is an irony that must have been lost on the Portland Police Department.  A former member of the Portland Solidarity Network, and close ally, was seriously injured by police batons, and had to be cared for by a street medic before being rushed to the emergency room.

 

A move was made to take the next bridge and head back into downtown, though police were beginning to pick off large portions of protesters by blocking them onto portions of the bridge and going for mass arrests.  Luckily, many people were saved from being taken into custody as unarrests in the chaos of the freeway action were roundly successful.  From here protesters made it in the direction of PGE Park, where a now fully militarized police force began using crowd control measures.  Though there were seven arrests reported, the numbers could have been much higher without a conscious move by the people on the ground to keep the crowd together and to watch out for the treatment of fellow protesters.  Things ramped up even more aggressively as the police riot van had its windows smashed in and there were reports of protestor injuries increasing rapidly.  The rest of the crowd eventually made it to Waterfront Park, where final speeches were made and a commitment given to keep this fight going into the long-term.

10408760_1738964136329210_9134186845176133330_n

An action like this shows both the passion and desire that is necessary for mass movements, and the ability to think in a more radical context to directly confront the kind of racial animosity that has tarnished our local and national institutions.  Though we are incredibly happy to see the actions play out as they have, we also want to see this turn into long-term organizing that will be able to continue to target this systemic inequality.  The kind of racism that was implicit and led to both the shooting of Mike Brown by Darren Wilson, and the several police murders in the Portland area, is just as prevalent in people’s workplaces and housing situations.  Redlining, Section 8 and rental discrimination, unequal foreclosure rates, and inaccess to public housing all mark institutionalized housing oppression against people of color in our communities.  We are committing to work with tenants across the city to use community solidarity to force concessions and change in people’s neighborhoods and housing complexes.  These racial issues are not just at play in loud points of cruel violence, but also the subtle evictions that we see in apartment complexes across all cities and the kind of gentrification that turns previously communities of color into trendy shopping centers for upper-class whites.  Let’s take the anger and determination that we saw on November 25th and continue to challenge these institutions, and hopefully we can use this as an opportunity to spotlight the racism that is central to the unequal access to housing in this city and country.

 

Stories of Victory and Solidarity: A Conversation With SeaSol and PDXSol

 

Portland Solidarity Network standing in support of a day laborer who had wages stolen!

Portland Solidarity Network standing in support of a day laborer who had wages stolen!

Tired of bosses and landlords ripping you off?

The Inner City Committee of the Portland Solidarity Network (PDXSol), invites you to a discussion on organizing to win with the Seattle Solidarity Network and PDXSol.

We’ll hear from people who have successfully won grassroots campaigns to turn the tables on landlords who refused repairs or stole security deposits, and bosses who stole their pay. Whether it is organizing in the neighborhoods against landlords, or in the workplace to get what we deserve from our bosses, we come together to show solidarity across the community!

Guests will include members of Seattle Solidarity Network(SeaSol), who will talk about their recent victories and how they achieved them.  SeaSol was the first major solidarity network, and has garnered major attention for not only focusing on returning stolen wages and security deposits, but for doing “multi-tenant” organizing and actual workplace strikes.  They have helped to push this new organizing model, which provides and incredible avenue for those looking to organize in both housing and the workplace.  The Portland Solidarity Network(PDXSol) will also be there to talk about their formation and recent victories, both in housing and in collaboration with the VOZ Worker’s Center on wage-theft cases.  We have a long history of successful organizing that looks at both wage-theft and tenant exploitation, and we want to expand and grow in our community.

Come and learn more about how people can come together to support each other and win real gains and power in their communities!

We fight together, and we’d love your help.

 

Where: In Other Words, 14 N. Killingsworth

When: December 7th, 4:30

 

Facebook Event:

https://www.facebook.com/events/589270847885572/

Miranda and the Portland Solidarity Network Announce Tenant Victory in the Outer Eastside

Miranda holding the check issued to her from her former landlord!

Miranda holding the check issued to her from her former landlord!

Miranda and the Portland Solidarity Network are proud to announce that we have reached amicable terms with Bluestone & Hockley.  The company, now the property management company handling the Patia’s Corner Apartments, paid Miranda the full amount that was demanded.  This includes her complete security deposit; the prorated rent for the time that she was not in the apartment, and the additional money for the utilities that then negligence in repairs cost her.  A check for $1195 was written to her directly and her complaints and issues were finally heard and understood. This marks a major victory for the first campaign for the Outer Eastside Committee of PDXSol, and a major step forward for tenant organizing in this city.

 

After the community came together to support Miranda on our demand delivery, we continued our escalation campaign by postering in the apartment complex itself.  These posters addressed the owners of the complex and demanded that they do the right thing and pay Miranda the owed sum.  The goal of this was to publicly show what had happened and remove the shadows that negligent landlords often hide these sorts of cases in.  It was also a beacon to other tenants who may have faced similar mistreatment and whose stories may have gotten brushed aside.  The demand letter was sent to the owners and the property management company Bluestone and Hockley Real Estate Services, who was brought on recently and had not been in charge when Miranda was a tenant.  They were unaware of what kind of conditions the tenant relationships had been under their previous property management.  After seeing the community support and hearing the legitimacy of Miranda’s claims, they decided to settle and pay her the money that was owed.

 

The Portland Solidarity Network is committed to supporting tenants who have been the victims of slumlord practices, and will continue to build a ground-up tenants movement in the outer eastside of the city.  These working class neighborhoods are some of the hardest hit areas when it comes to exploitative landlords, and the only way to truly curb this behavior is to organize and develop community power.  We hope to move beyond the single cases and create a permanent network of tenants to support each other and fight back through collective and direct action.  Miranda’s case shows that just a small display of our power as regular people can push forward a track of justice, and we need to take this inspiration as we head into further cases and new tenant campaigns.

 

From our workplace to our homes,

When we fight, we win!

 

#pdxsol

#pdxsolvictory

March on the Slumlord: Miranda and PDXSol Announce Campaign With Demand Delivery

Miranda and her mother marching together to stand up to her slumlord.

Miranda and her mother marching together to stand up to her slumlord.

There is a point at which everyone breaks, and Miranda has already exceeded it.  Living on a limited income and with pets that she could never abandon, Miranda moved into her former apartment with some reservations.  There was clear damage inside, all of which she was repeatedly reassured that it would be taken care of quickly.  When she was given a pile of documents to sign no red flags came up from her new landlord, Kurt, telling her that she was signing in agreement with a walk-through that had never happened.

Over the subsequent three years the decay in the apartment hit a fever pitch, a problem that rested entirely on their shoulders.  Their property manager, whose erratic behavior and drug use made common notifications next to impossible, ignored their requests for repairs regularly.  The water heater became a central problem, and instead of seeking professional repairs or replacements the landlord sent his son into her apartment to drain it with a hose through the window.  This did not put an end to the mechanical trouble as it continued to keep the water at a boiling temperature, which shot her utility bills up hundreds of dollars.  Her final solution was to manually shut off the water heater at the circuit breaker whenever it was not in use, which means that anytime showers needed to happen the roommates had to come together in a sequence or forgo hot water entirely.  After two years the pipes began failing and leaking rust-stained water into her home, and the housemates eventually had to do their dishes in the bathtub because of the malfunctioning fixtures in the kitchen.

“I paid him over $23,000(in rent) over three years, and he never would fix anything,” said Miranda.“

Miranda’s requests for repairs had become a regular cycle, with Kurt either outright ignoring her or pacifying her for the moment.  She eventually confronted him at his door, filming him to keep a record of the systemic abuses she was seeing in this relationship.  Instead of living up to his commitment, he slammed the door in her face.  Shortly there after she got a text message saying that she had thirty days to get out.  An eviction deriving directly from her simple requests to have her apartment brought up to basic living standards.

Test message Miranda received notifying her of her eviction.

Test message Miranda received notifying her of her eviction.

Though the eviction was in clear violation of local tenant laws, Miranda conceded and even moved out ahead of the eviction date.  When she attempted to get Kurt to do the walk through in the apartment with her so that she could document that she had made no damages, he refused and angrily slammed the door in her face.

 

Does this story sound familiar?  It does to most of us, as this type of “slumlord” tenant exploitation is commonplace for young people and those on lower-income scales.  Landlords use tenant’s security deposits, which are legally required to be put into a bank account and saved, without giving just cause as to what it is really for.  Thirty-day no-cause eviction is commonplace in most states, and in Oregon it is one of the main things that allow people like Kurt the freedom to create a pattern of fear around his tenants.  Miranda was clearly excised from the property for having the audacity to hold Kurt to his end of the agreement, and that was just unbearable for him.  He decided to keep her security deposit, citing damage to the unit that was there long before Miranda had set foot inside.  He is also charging an additional $700 for damages that no one can seem to identify, but, as Kurt knows full well, most tenants will just pay the amount rather than go through the arduous legal process that is stacked in favor of the property-owner.

 

Miranda is going for a third option.

 

She, along with the Portland Solidarity Network, has decided to fight back with community support.  The Portland Solidarity Network was formed several years ago, working on a model popularized by organizations like the Seattle Solidarity Network.  The foundation of this is simple: create tangible goals and demands and then use escalating tactics to put pressure on a target.  Whether these are wage-theft cases or security deposit related campaigns, the goal here is to see the exploiter relinquish what is owed based on the community pressure.

On August 10th, Miranda led a group of community supporters and PDXSol organizer in a “march on the slumlord,” to Kurt’s residence to deliver her demands.  Miranda had been by there a little while earlier to simply discuss the charges, an episode that was met by Kurt’s abusive rage.  He eventually called the police on her, which prevented her from ever setting foot back on that property.  She remained stationary on the sidewalk as the rest of the group descended the long driveway to Kurt’s door.  Miranda’s mother came armed with the demand letter, which she planned to read aloud whether or not Kurt decided to let her in.

“It has come to our attention that Miranda Rivamonte, a former tenant of Patia’s Corner Apartments, was given a thirty-day notice to vacate on May 15th, 2014 in response to her repeated requests to property manager Kurt Albright for necessary repairs to her apartment’s plumbing,” she read out loud.

Miranda's mother reading the demand letter.

Miranda’s mother reading the demand letter.

“Ms. Rivamonte vacated the premises on May 22nd, 2014, leaving only pre-existing damages and those incurred by normal wear-and-tear over the three years of her tenancy. However, property manager Kurt Albright refused to perform a walkthrough when asked at this time, and subsequently, Albright Enterprises saw fit to withhold the entirety of Ms. Rivamonte’s refundable security deposit ($600.00), failed to refund her rent for the period of May 23rd through May 31st (nine-days at $21.67 equaling $195.03), and proceeded to demand an additional $719.05 in scurrilous charges.”

“Furthermore, Ms. Rivamonte’s water heater was never fully repaired over the course of her three years of tenancy, despite repeated requests for this to occur.  As a result, Ms. Rivamonte endured increased utility bills estimated at approximately $400.00.  We see it as your responsibility to ensure that this situation be resolved by Albright Enterprises dropping all claims of damages for her apartment and that she be reimbursed for her security deposit, back rent for the period of May after she vacated the apartment, and the utility costs incurred as a result of the negligence of her property manager, totaling $1,195.03.”

“We expect this to be addressed shortly, within a period of no more than fourteen-days; otherwise we will take further action.”

This has been a familiar campaign stop for those utilizing the Solidarity Network model around the country.  Popularized by the Seattle Solidarity Network, this model has conventionally taken on fights such as tenant issues and wage-theft cases.  The goal is to utilize direct action and an “escalation plan” model of organizing, where by very material demands are put together and a target has pressure put on them through community action in a consistently increasing fashion.  This often takes the form of confronting former bosses about unpaid wages, past property management companies around stolen security deposits, and a variety of new possible projects coming out of the missed gaps in organized labor and housing activism.  This has spread to places like Houston, Boston, Olympia, and San Francisco, as people try to target fights that are very based in the material realities of everyday life, but have also often been neglected by the more established left movements of the area.  The Portland Solidarity Network has been at this for several years now, having taken on many high profile housing and labor fights in recent years.  This has evolved into an established place for dealing with low-wage worker issues in the area, often partnering with the VOZ Worker’s Center and the Portland Jobs With Justice chapter.

Miranda had come in contact with the Portland Solidarity Network after they had established a committee and meeting space in the outer eastside of Portland, which has a lower income base than the more affluent inner city.  Together they worked on an escalation plan and developed a long-term strategy for how to see this campaign through.

After the demand delivery it was discovered that Kurt had actually returned to prison, leaving the property up to a new management company and other members of the family.  Miranda and the Portland Solidarity Network are continuing to the next stages of the escalation campaign, moving out to the rest of the controlling parties and letting them know that this groundswell of support and action is nowhere close to peaking.

“I think because all of us have felt this kind of thing at one time or another,” Miranda said to a crowd of supporters.  “We felt just pretty much helpless and stuck by someone in a higher position than you.  So I just think its really cool that we can flip it on this guy and tell him ‘hey, we’ve got the power, not you,’”

 

 

Solidarity and Clean-Up: Supporting a Community Leader

photo 1

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.