Click an image and learn more about some of Portland Solidarity Network’s past campaigns.
After spending a couple years having her water bills skyrocketing and being forced to do her dishes in the bath tub, Miranda had enough. She finally demanded that the repairs to the water heater, and he requests were met with an eviction notice. After paying him over $23,000 in rent in her three years there, she was faced with an eviction, having her security deposit stolen, without prorated rent, and with over $700 in erroneous charges leveled against her.
With the support of the Portland Solidarity Network, a demand delivery was leveled against her former landlord, where the community demanded that her security deposit and prorated rent were returned to her, as well as to have the extra charges dropped. This was the beginning of the campaign, which then began talking to neighbors and putting up posters letting people know about the landlord’s behavior.
The property management company took the campaign seriously, and both acknowledged what had happened to Miranda and paid her the amount she was owed in full. Miranda was given a check for $1,195, and she stood proud of the fact that she was vindicated by organizing in her community!
Oodles of Noodles Campaign
The Portland Solidarity Network allied the VOZ Worker Center to support day laborers that have been denied their rightfully earned wages. Marcos had 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 Portland Solidarity Network and VOZ began an escalation campaign to get Marcos his compensation. The campaign began with a public picket with supporting organization like the Portland Jobs With Justice and the Portland IWW. Oodles of Noodles responded by shutting down and hiding in the back.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 Oodles of Noodles made contact and paid Marcos in full.
Rental Management Services Campaign
After living in their rented house nearly 8 months, Sean and his roommate received a letter from the management company for the property, Rental Management Services (RMS), informing them that they had been late paying their rent 5 months out of the past 8 months. This was the first notice Sean and his roommate received notifying them that they had ever been late. Sean and his roommate now had an outstanding balance on their account of $787.50. Sean and his roommate had been paying their rent by putting their checks in a drop box every month. It was both Sean and his roommates understanding that rent was due on the 5th, but to their surprise upon reading the lease, rent was in fact due on the 4th. Both Sean and Stephanie remembered very clearly being told by the management company when they took possession of the house that rent was due on the 5th. Sean attempted to negotiate with RMS with no luck. RMS absolutely refused to waive any of the fees.
Seven months later, RMS again pulled a retroactive shakedown. Sean and his new roommates Monica and Adam received a letter from RMS informing that there the amount past due on late fees was approaching one months rent. Once the late fees past due equaled one month’s rent, RMS would take any money paid for rent and apply it to the late fees, and then immediately bill Sean, Monica, and Adam for one months late rent. Additionally, a mysterious outstanding $100 had appeared on the account of the tenants.
Sean decided RMS’s actions couldn’t go unchallenged. He had heard of the successes of the Portland Solidarity Network and contacted them to see if he could get help organizing against RMS’s shakedown. After a few short months of escalating actions RMS dropped the fees in full.
Martha Macias is an example of a worker who has had her wages stolen for the last three years. Martha worked at a neighborhood lotto deli. She is a mother of two and lives in an area where the bad economy has hit hard. Many see themselves as lucky to have jobs even if those jobs are not paying them for all their work. For Martha it became an issue of respect. Her boss started taking money from their paycheck if they were off on the till. Once Martha was off roughly $6 and he deducted from her paycheck. She confronted him and he responded with “I don’t like to lose money.” It was then that it clicked for Martha and she responded in kind. “I don’t like to lose money either and I am working 84 hours in an 80 hour pay period and I’m working those extra hours for free.”
Martha did not want to give away her lost wages. She went over her pay stubs and calculated how much she was owed in unpaid time and reached out to community members for support in confronting her employer. Over 30 people showed up to support Martha and they marched over to the office of her former employer and delivered a letter. The letter stated how much she was owed and a date when they expected to hear back from the employer.
The next day Martha received a phone call from her former boss who was not happy with her actions. He threatened to call the police if they returned and claimed that she did not have any proof. However, Martha held strong and said she would be moving forward with her fight if he did not pay. A couple days later Martha received a call from her boss’ lawyer asking her to stop by the office to pick up a check. Martha had won.
January 24th, ten former workers from Yaw’s Top Notch Restaurant won their campaign against wage theft and picked up checks from management. The workers confronted their supervisors over more than $1200 in unpaid waged for mandatory unpaid meetings, illegal paycheck deductions, and missing time cards.
Yaw’s Top Notch Restaurant, a popular Portland diner in the 1950’s, reopened to much fanfare in October 2012 after being shuttered for more than 30 years. While Yaw’s painted their workplace as a family-friendly environment on their website, behind the scenes the people who worked there weren’t being treated much like family. When it became clear to the workers that the restaurant wouldn’t change its practices or address their concerns individually, they gathered together to fight back. The workers organized with 40 community members to march into the restaurant during business hours and present a letter along with documents outlining the amount of wages owed. One week later, the workers’ demands were met.
Alicia Carroll, a former worker at Yaw’s had this to say about her experience. “I honestly believed I would never see a cent of the money I was owed. I tried time and again to address the problem with management and was ignored. Fighting for and receiving my wages, has been a very eye opening experience. Our victory is a testament to what we can achieve when we unite. With help from the community and sticking together as a group, we were able to succeed in obtaining our proper wages and send a message to Yaw’s Top Notch that it’s not okay to disrespect workers. Hard work deserves respect.”
The Yaw’s organizing is part of a local movement against wage theft and for worker power. Multiple actions in recent months have seen workers and community members directly confronting work their bosses over missing wages and bad working conditions. So far, over a dozen wage theft campaigns have won back wages for the organizing workers. Workers in many industries are vulnerable to wage theft, but the practice is especially rampant in restaurants and the service sector generally. To win wages and respect, workers are taking matters into their own hands and building community support to hold their employers accountable.
Flores Auto Body Campaign
In the support of a day laborer from the VOZ Worker’s Center, PDXSol confronted Flores Auto Body who failed to pay Harrison almost $550 in back wages. As the campaign began, we started with the first picket at the location with Jobs With Justice and a large community contingent. When the owner finally showed up, we gave him our demands and told him that the campaign was only beginning. He conceded to pay the back wages immediately, and Harrison received his money back in only three-hours!
Local Body Shop Campaign
Working along with the Voz Worker’s Rights Education Project, we supported Roger, a former employee of a local auto-body shop to get the over $800 he was owed and never paid. Hired on at $125 a day, Roger worked for almost a week and when he came to get his paycheck they refused it. After a coordinated campaign at the auto-body location with several large community actions, VOZ was able to negotiate with them and get Roger back what was fair.
Falcon Art Community Campaign
Brian, the owner and landlord of the Falcon Art Community building where Beth briefly lived, initially refused to return Beth’s security deposit after she was forced to move out because of black mold in her apartment. PDX Sol engaged in several direct actions including a thirty-four person demand letter delegation. Our friend Beth received a check for her full deposit from Brian Wannamaker, the target of our campaign, and it has been confirmed that the check has cleared, thereby meeting our campaign’s demand!