Meet Worker J.
J worked as a painter for a Kirkland-based contractor. Working for the contractor was never fun: the contractor would bully home owners and would scream insults and threats at J. Still, figured J, a paycheck is a paycheck, and an abusive worksite is better than no worksite at all.
After working for two weeks with the contractor, J was given a check for his hours. J was asked to wait for two weeks before depositing the check, as the contractor was a little short on funds. J understood, being short on money himself, so held off on depositing the check. When he tried to cash the check, he found that the check had been canceled.
When J tried to clear up the matter with his boss, the boss avoided the issue, offering instead to hire J for another project. Upon the completion of this project, J was given another check and was again asked to wait for a period before cashing the check. Fearing the worst, J made copies of both checks that he had been given, and went to the bank. His fears were realized: the second check had been cancelled.
J went immediately to the Worker Defense Committee with copies of checks in hand. We sprung into action because J was still within the deadline for filing a lien on the properties where he had worked. With a lien, a worker is much more likely to be able to claim the wages owed him, because it holds that the owner of the property where the work was performed has ultimate responsibility for all those laboring on the property. This is great news for employees of fly-by-night contractors, whose bosses are working without bonds and can easily evade responsibility for the wages they owe. Workers only have 90 days from the last day they worked to file a lien, so if you haven’t been paid for work that you’ve done, don’t wait!
The boss was unwilling to talk with J, going so far as to say that he didn’t owe J any money. When we asked him about the existence of the two cancelled checks with his signature on them, he mumbled something about, “mmmm….dunno…..police…..mmmm….donnbotherme…” and hung up the phone. J, working with the Worker Defense Committee, decided to initiate a public campagin, in an attempt to bring the boss to the table.
At the Worker Defense Committee, we believe that we are not simply claiming unpaid wages, but are working to claim the respect that we deserve, the respect that we have earned through our labors. When we gather together in front of a boss’s house, we reclaim the power that the boss has stolen from us, we retake control of the situation.
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