Portland Solidarity Network: How We Won Our Wage Theft Demand In Three Hours
Flores Auto Body did not have the most stellar reputation, especially when it came to the treatment of their employees. They brought on different workers to do very labor intensive jobs, and then refused to pay them when they claimed that they did not have the money for it. Harrison, a day laborer hired through the VOZ Worker’s Center, was brought on over several workdays to assist in regular shop work. He ended up being owed almost $550 dollars that had not been paid, and after a BOLI complaint first targeted Flores Auto Body it did not look like the money was ever going to come through.
This is when the Portland Solidarity Network teamed up with the VOZ Worker’s Center and staged a public picket in front of the Flores location, showing passersby and possible customers that they have not been paying all of their workers. With the support over around twenty community members, as well as Harrison himself, we held signs with slogans such as “Wage Theft is a Crime.” After a few moments of lively chants the owner came out to see what was going on. A PDXSol member confronted him, telling him that he needed to pay Harrison the money he was owed immediately or the pickets would continue. He stated that this could not continue to happen, and he said he would immediately take care of the money. After working out how the money was to be delivered, two money orders were purchased and handed directly over to Harrison.
A campaign that could have lasted weeks, even months, came to a close with the entire demand met simply from a single collective action. By uniting with community members like Portland Jobs With Justice and the Portland IWW, the owner saw that this was the beginning of a strong campaign that seriously threatened his continued business. In an effort to stop this before it became a consistent problem for him, he provided the money that was owed, which effectively ended the pressure. This is an important precedent because it shows that the collective power of solidarity can get these types of wage-theft cases to end positively and quickly, and it shows other employers in the area that there is a force taking place that can with back wages swiftly and effectively.
It shows how solidarity and coming together prevails in general.