Comite de Defensa del Trabajador – Worker Defense Committee

Ongoing Labor Dispute
March 6, 2009, 2:22 am
Filed under: acciones, información utíl

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.


March 6, 2009, 1:53 am
Filed under: acciones | Tags: ,

What can you do when your employer doesn’t pay you? What can you do when your employer denies that you worked the hours that you worked, or claims that you didn’t work for them at all? What can you do when you realize that your boss isn’t interested in paying you, but instead wants to treat you like a slave?

Meet Worker P.

He had to ask himself all of these questions after working as a dishwasher at Sorrentino, a Seattle-area iItalian restaurant, for a month. After unsuccessfully trying to claim wages owed him, he decided to come to the Worker Defense Committee and see what could be accomplished with the efforts of many.

P worked at Sorrentino as a dishwasher, oftentimes working over 12 hours a day in the back of the restaurant. He wasn’t given an orientation to his work — he wasn’t even told how much he was going to be paid!

After working two weeks, P submitted the hours that he worked to the owners of Sorrentino. The owners issued a personal check to P, a check that even at the minimum wage rate did not cover the full number of hours worked. Despite this, P continued to work for Sorrentino for another pay period, but when it became clear to him that he was not going to get paid the amount of money he was owed, he quit,

P tried to claim his wages from the owners of the restaurant, to no avail. He came to the Worker Defense Committee in hopes that we could facilitate a negotiation with Sorrentino. Oh, how we tried! Champion Promotora C tried sweet talk, tried reason, tried strong armming the management and managed to bring the owners of the restaurant to the table. Time after time, we met with the owners. Time after time, the owners came up with trumped-up reasons why they were unwilling to pay.

After months of dogged pursuit of P’s earned wages, the committee decided to take the campaign to the streets. We started by passing out flyers in front of the restaurant and then turned to picketing in front of the business. Despite angry words and threats of retaliation from the restaurant management, we stayed strong.

In the end, the management decided to try to win us over, even going as far as offering us steaming hot plates of food! We turned our backs on the offer: we were there for P’s wages, not for greasy bribes!

After two weeks of picketing, resulting in a spontaneous near-boycott of the restaurant, the owners of Sorrentino suddenly remembered that they owed P money. They contacted the Worker Defense Committee and made an offer, which P accepted.

Congratulations to Worker P and all committee members and allies who were involved in these actions!

Want to find out more about businesses who have cheated their workers?  Want to find out more about our cases?  Check out our Employer Black List.

Somos pocos, pero locos
March 5, 2009, 11:31 pm
Filed under: información utíl

The Worker Defense Committee/Comité de Defensa del Trabajador is comprised of Seattle- area immigrant workers, allies, students, and activists, all working together to fight for our rights. We work in committee to improve the situation of workers living and working in King County, Washington.

Together, we work to

  • claim unpaid wages
  • improve workplace safety
  • build awareness of workers’ rights and what to do to protect ourselves

To accomplish our goals, we:

  • wage public campaigns
  • submit complaints to Labor&Industries
  • refer cases to attorneys

Want to get involved? Have questions about the program? Contact


El Comité de Defensa del Trabajador consiste de migrantes, aliad@s, estudiantes y activistas de Seattle, luchando para que nadie los violarán a nuestros derechos. Junt@s, luchamos para mejorar las vidas de trabajador@s viviendo y trabajando en el condado King.


  • Hacemos reclamos para salarios no pagados
  • mejoramos la seguridad de sitios de trabajo
  • creamos conciencia sobre los derechos laborales y como podemos proteger a nosotros mismos

Para lograr nuestras metas, utilizamos:

  • campañas publicas
  • quejas a labor e industrias
  • referencias a abogad@s

Tiene un caso? Quiere involucrarse en nuestro comité? Mande un correo a