Filed under: Action, Community Organizing, Labor, Northwest
Report and update on the more than year and half long fight by the Seattle Solidarity Network alongside the former staff of the Purple Store and recap on where things currently stand.
At the beginning of 2019, a group of workers came to the Seattle Solidarity Network with a long list of grievous issues they were experiencing at the hands of their then-employer, Purple Store owner Adam Sheridan. A demand was delivered on March 3rd of that year for the over $10,000 owed by Adam in unpaid wages or as he termed them, “payroll quirks”. Shortly thereafter, the workers began exploring their options of organizing a union and by March 13th, the entire staff was fired via an email that claimed the business was about to go under and could not make payroll. The employees had reported Adam to Labor & Industries and the Office of Labor Standards as well as to the Washington Attorney General and the FTC for potential fraud violations. They had filed for unionization with the National Labor Relations Board. They had asked politely, and repeatedly, for the money they were owed. The state’s Employment Security Department ruled that employees were fired in retaliation. At the same time as this email was sent, Adam had new job postings up on the job listing website Indeed which made it clear that he was attempting to retaliate against his staff for organizing and intended to hire scabs.
Seattle Solidarity Network takes this kind of escalation and retaliation from a boss with the highest level of seriousness. We quickly assumed a posture of taking picketing action as we were moving into the cruise industry season which brings the Purple Store the lion’s share of their foot traffic. Driven by the massive amount of community support behind the workers, we spent the rest of 2019 relentlessly picketing the Purple Store; at times as frequently as two or three times a week. This represented the biggest test of Seattle Solidarity Network’s capacity as an organization in years and we were truly taken aback by the level of community power we were able to mobilize.
Toward the end of the summer of 2019, Adam attempted to file for a harassment protection order against two of his former employees along with another Seattle Solidarity Network member. This laughable attempt to stifle protected organizing activity was quickly dismissed from court but not before Adam entered into the record of evidence of illegal surveillance recordings from outside his store that included audio recording as well as lying on his initial written complaint. With the cruise season reaching a conclusion and the tactic of in-person pickets thus losing much of its power, we opted to begin pursuing legal recourse against Adam for illegally recording our conversations on the picket line without proper notice. While Seattle Solidarity Network seldom chooses to operate in the realm of the courts due to the fact that we know that is a space which entirely favors bosses and landlords, we felt this was a worthy pursuit since we had willing legal representation and it allowed us to begin working on other campaigns as well. Unfortunately, the courts behaved as predicted and ruled in favor of a boss illegally recording conversations on a public sidewalk in his attempts to shut down worker organizing. Our case was dismissed by the court in late October 2020.
After our lawsuit was initiated, the COVID19 pandemic prompted a cessation of in-person organizing activities for us. In addition to that, it canceled just about the entirety of the 2020 cruise industry and tourist season for our area and thus the effectiveness of in-person actions against the Purple Store. We spent that time redirecting Seattle Solidarity Network’s energies into our RentRelief.net project along with several other fights which we will provide updates about in the coming weeks. We want to express gratitude for the contributions of the former Purple Store employees to those fights. It has been truly inspiring to see them set aside their own fight in order to lend support and solidarity to others in need. Now that the legal tactic we pursued has reached an impasse, we are at a crossroads as to the future of this fight.
With COVID19 cases and deaths surging across the United States, this fight will likely remain static for a while. While Seattle Solidarity Network will continue to initiate and engage in new organizing campaigns, we also remain fully committed to continuing our campaign against the Purple Store until the demand is met. We encourage our supporters to continue to leave comments and reviews on all pertinent sites and social media for the Purple Store demanding he resolve the outstanding demands from the workers he retaliated against for organizing. Our website for the fight www.purplestorewagetheft.com will remain online and we appreciate our supporters who continue to share it any time the Purple Store is mentioned. The workers are still pursuing legal options as the Seattle Office of Labor Standards continues their investigation into this matter. Additionally, once our community is healthy enough to return to each other’s company we will certainly see more pickets and other actions. The fight against Adam Sheridan and the Purple Store for wage theft and retaliation against employees will continue.
This long and grueling fight has only been possible thanks to intense support from our network and the broader community. Seattle Solidarity Network along with the former employees of the Purple Store want to extend our deepest gratitude to everyone who has taken time to support this fight since it kicked off. While this fight has yet to be won, it has already made us all stronger in a myriad of ways and we will continue to build off of it together.