Thursday, August 15, 2013


Sometimes it is not about some giant ideological struggle, sometimes it is not about taking on a giant global corporation, sometimes it is not about anything anyone almost anywhere even hears about.  Sometimes it is just a group of working people deciding they have had enough large injustice and that they are not going to take anymore small injustices.  Sometimes most of the "left" forgets that for working and poor people, small injustices are big deals, are life changing deals.

This leads us to a group I know little about.  It is a group which describes itself simply as, 

...a network of volunteers, open to workers both employed and unemployed, active and retired.

This is a group which in one paragraph sums a whole lot of things up:

Each of us at some time has suffered from unjust treatment by employers, landlords, or other wealthy people who hold power over our lives.  We've learned from experience that the only way we'll be treated fairly, equally, and with dignity is by being prepared to stand up to such people and defend our rights.  It's hard to do this alone.  That's why we've come together, and we're seeking out other local people with similar problems who feel the same way.  Together we can find ways of dealing with abusive bosses, greedy landlords, and those who would deny us, our friends, families, neighbors and co-workers the right to a decent life.

This is a group with a rather simple, yet profound vision:

We see our efforts as helping to build a powerful and democratic working class movement.  One day we will be strong enough to take full control over our lives.

This is a group without a political platform whose goal is simply: stand together and defend our rights against bosses and landlords—is what brings us together.  Individuals are free to discuss, argue, and agree to disagree about everything else.

This is a group then when asked to give examples of their work, responds with some examples: 

•    Bert got his rental deposit stolen.  He and a group of Solidarity Network supporters visited the property manager at her home one morning, and within a few days she paid up.

•    Jorge was owed $892 of wages, and the boss adamantly refused to pay. Jorge and a group of other workers visited the boss’s house, then leafleted the boss's church twice on Sunday mornings. After that, the boss agreed to pay Jorge every cent.

•    Stephanie, Yvette and other long-term motel residents demanded relocation assistance when they were ordered out of their homes at short notice.  Organized with the Solidarity Network, motel tenants and supporters defied eviction threats, visited the landlords’ neighborhood and launched an online and on-the-streets boycott campaign. Within a month the landlords met all our demands, paying 3-months’ rent per household to all residents who got involved.

This is the Seattle Solidarity Network and the posts below introduced them to me.  The first is from their own web site. The second is from  This is what it is all about.

Quick win in poverty-wages fight

at White Center grocery store

New SeaSol member Antonio worked at a grocery store in White Center for two grueling years. Working regular 6-day, 72-hour weeks, Antonio received no breaks, no overtime pay, and was irregularly compensated at less than $7 per hour (far below Washington State's minimum wage). When he learned of our win at Jumbo Buffet, Antonio got in touch with the Seattle Solidarity Network. After much discussion and research, SeaSol and Antonio voted to fight for 30 weeks of back wages, or $6,710, for Antonio.

On Saturday July 27th 2013, Antonio, his family, and over forty SeaSolers filed into the store to deliver our demand. The atmosphere was tense as the boss read the letter, shaking, and looking around at the stern faces glaring in solidarity with Antonio. The boss was so intimidated by our direct action that he immediately contacted a lawyer friend for help. His lawyer called us the following Monday with weak - and quickly shut down - attempts at bargaining.

On Thursday August 8th 2013, the thieving boss and his lawyer friend met up with Antonio, his daughter, and other SeaSol members. More attempts to bully Antonio into accepting less money were rejected, and Antonio was paid $6,710 on the spot.
The unwavering position presented by SeaSol and Antonio throughout this fight, our refusal to play legal games with a lawyer, and flawlessly carried out direct action quickly resulted in a swift win in this fight. Congratulations to our new comrade Antonio, and thanks to all who showed up to the demand delivery!


A fungus among us: Direct action cleans up landlord's act

 A fungus among us: Direct action cleans up landlord's act
A demand delivery scares landlord into returning the deposit of two SeaSol organizers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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