Workers strike at La Lot Vietnamese restaurant

Workers strike at La Lot Vietnamese restaurant

Small strike begins at a Seattle restaurant.

When Hien started working at La Lot she was told that things there worked a little differently: management would retain 60% of any tips she earned. She had never worked in a restaurant before, didn't know anything about the relevant labor laws, and needed a job-- so she agreed. She quickly learned that most of her co-workers were also working under similar or even more exploitative arrangements. To make matters worse, managers routinely belittled and disrespected their under-paid workforce. As time passed, and Hien began to compare what her paychecks should be to the meager sums she was actually receiving, she decided she needed to do something. She approached some of her co-workers about the issue, and two of them agreed to go with her to confront the owner about her unfair and illegal practice.

In the end, Hien and one other co-worker went to have a conversation with their boss. The owner was upset and refused to give them all of their tips, but initially agreed to let them retain a larger share. Hien wasn't satisfied but was feeling better until the next week's schedule came out: her hours were cut in half. Then she received a call later that same week telling her they were training someone new so she would only be working one day per week now. She was clearly being retaliated against for standing up for herself and her co-workers. She was furious, but didn't know what to do. She began approaching various government agencies such as the Washington State department of Labor and Industries and the city's Human Right's Commission, but the outlook wasn't good. All of those processes would take a long time with uncertain results, and Hien and her husband needed that income now. Luckily, Jeff, her co-worker who had intended to go with her to confront her boss in the first place but had been on vacation at the time, had heard of another group that might be able to help.

Jeff and Hien met with a few volunteers from SeaSol and things started to move quickly. Their demands were simple: restore Hien's schedule and implement a fair tip structure at La Lot. They would go on strike due to unfair labor practices with SeaSol's support until all their demands were met. They approached some of their co-workers to see if they would join and while they supported the demands without exception they were too fearful of retaliation to join. After all, they had just recently seen what happened to Hien's hours after she spoke up. On the afternoon of Thursday, August 7th, Hien and Jeff marched into La Lot with approximately fifty supporters from SeaSol to deliver their demands in writing and begin their strike.

Hien and Jeff have now been on strike for over one week. Management has indicated that they may be willing to settle, but have so far refused to actually implement any changes at La Lot. SeaSol members have twice gone to distribute fliers during La Lot's busy lunch rush, typically turning away approximately 25% of would-be customers with just a few people. On the evening of Friday August 15th, we held our first real picket outside the restaurant. More than forty SeaSol supporters chanted and held signs brining dinner business at La Lot to a stand still. The pickets will continue to become more frequent until the striking workers' demands are met. Please stay tuned for more information about this exciting campaign.

Comments

akai
Aug 17 2014 06:30

Good luck!

Just one question: are the workers going to form a base union for more long-term organization?

klas batalo
Aug 19 2014 14:27

i think SeaSol is seeking to broaden out into becoming a vehicle for more long term workers' organization, no? i think they've always stated that when they built the capacity to take on long term and not just short term "case work" fights they would...

blarg
Sep 1 2014 01:31

Looks like a win! Hien and Jeff are going back to work this week, with Hien's old schedule restored and a new tip policy (acceptable to, and mostly written by, Hien, Jeff and SeaSol) having been emailed to all employees. Of course there may well be future battles at La Lot, and we'll have to be vigilant to make sure that the new policy is actually being implemented properly, and that there is no further retaliation.

Chilli Sauce
Sep 1 2014 10:26

Awesome!

Does this qualify as the first SeaSol strike?

blarg
Sep 1 2014 19:03
Quote:
Does this qualify as the first SeaSol strike?

Yes it does. And I know everyone wants to see lasting worker committees in particular workplaces (far more than want to do the organizing work to help make this happen...), but whether that's feasible in a given situation depends on a lot more than just our will as an organization. But at least we can now establish that, at least in certain workplace situations, getting some workers together to fight their boss and win, without losing their jobs, is something we as a SolNet can make possible. It's a baby step, but a significant one.