Victory at Seven Windows Restaurant!!!
Back in late February we were contacted by Daryl, then a former waiter at Seven Windows restaurant, an upscale joint in the Kirkendall neighbourhood. Daryl explained to us how his bosses had been keeping a significant share of his tips and how he had tried for months to reason with them but was getting nowhere. We met and we figured out that Daryl was owed $1500 in unpaid tips as well as a T4 slip. After some research and discussion, it was both clear that Daryl was prepared to fight this and that we could put some real pressure on the bosses. So we decided to lend our support.
As always, our first action was to deliver our demand letter to the bosses. Joined by some of our members’ neighbours and family, as well as Daryl’s friends, around 30 of us walked over to the restaurant and read out our demands as customers looked on and an embarrassed restaurant owner made a quick exit. With that the campaign was on and the bosses had a week to return our friend’s wages.
With the deadline passed, we carried out our next action: flyering their customers on a busy Easter Sunday lunch as well as putting up posters around the nearby Locke St commercial strip. Turns out the owners closed the restaurant down for the day. We know they had to cancel many reservations but only they know how much money they lost. Probably too much because only a day later they met with us and paid Daryl his $1500 in full. And we got the T4 slip too.
Thanks to Daryl and the Action Squad for all their hard work!!
Karen came to Steel City Solidarity after being fired by Summer Sun Tanning in Jackson Square. After years of working for them as an employee, the company suddenly wanted to declare her an independent contractor, even though she was doing the exact same job as before. She refused to accept this. For months she was pressured while the company stopped giving her regular pay stubs, T4 slips, and stopped making mandatory deductions such as CPP and EI. When she kept insisting she was an employee and not an independent contractor according to the labour code, she was let go. But not before Karen had carefully documented all of this and filed with Revenue Canada and the Ministry of Labour (MOL).
When Karen joined Steel City Solidarity, we went with Karen and hand delivered a demand letter to the company giving them a week to pay the over $3,700 in unpaid wages that they owed her. When they ignored us, we launched a campaign against Summer Sun Tan targeting their customers. Karen was with us every step of the way. We handed out flyers to potential customers in and around Jackson Square for several weeks. We organized a “phone zap” and had members of the public call the company and the owner to complain. We informed other Summer Sun Tanning workers of their rights.
When the owner showed up at a Ministry of Labour meeting, we were there in large numbers to greet him and tell him that we were not going away until he paid what he owed Karen. The pressure must have been getting to him because after the MOL ruled in Karen’s favour, the owner didn’t try the usual game of appealing, dragging the process out for years, and playing phone tag with the collection agency. He simply handed over to Karen all the wages that he owed her.
A big THANK YOU from Karen and the rest of the Steel City Solidarity crew to everyone who drove to Thornhill to deliver the demand letter, who flyered week in, week out, participated in the “phone zap”, and were there to greet the owner face to face, just before he caved in.
Luc came to us after he was fired by Global Air Care, a door-to-door sales company selling water filtration units. The company refused to pay Luc any wages after he had put in 9 hour days for nearly a month. They claimed Luc was an independent contractor not an employee and they even made Luc sign an agreement stating this.
Luc joined Steel City Solidarity and we determined that in fact Luc was an employee according to the labour code. No one can sign away their rights and so the company owed Luc a little over $900 in wages. After our demand letter was ignored we started warning other workers about Global Air Care (and all the other legal names they operate under). We talked to many other workers who had been treated the same as Luc and to many who were thinking of applying to work for them. We disrupted one of their hiring sessions (really sales pitches) by talking to workers at the door, after which most of them chose not to attend. We cooperated with a CBC Marketplace investigation of SimpleH20 which led to this expose.
Before coming to us Luc had filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labour (MOL). They ruled in Luc’s favour, but as is typical, the company appealed. Months went by. They then didn’t even bother showing up to the next MOL meeting. But then to our surprise the company agreed to pay Luc the full amount owed!
We figure that the company did not expect Luc to show up in Toronto with support from Parkdale Community Legal Services, who had agreed to help us after the Workers Action Centre put us in touch. Our message to them was clear: not only were we not going away, but we could reach them outside Hamilton. They clearly got the message, the only smart thing we saw from them since we had the misfortune of dealing with them. Many THANKS to all of you who stuck with Luc all the way! And many thanks to Parkdale Community Legal Services for their help (and the Workers Action Centre for putting us in touch). This is what solidarity and collective power look like!
Members of Steel City Solidarity after our second picket in front of Portofinas
Milan was hired by James Szanto to build three bars at Portofinas restaurant in Grimsby. After Milan did the work, James Szanto refused to pay him. Milan went to the Ministry of Labour and received a ruling in his favour: James Szanto was ordered to pay Milan close to $1900 in unpaid wages. When Milan still did not receive his wages, he contacted Steel City Solidarity.
Together with Milan, we launched a campaign to get his wages. We began by delivering a demand letter to James Szanto. A group of around 20 of us went to Portofinas restaurant on a busy Saturday evening and read our demands out loud in front of their customers. We demanded Milan’s wages be paid and we gave them a week to do so or face further action.
When our deadline passed we returned planning to rally outside the restaurant and ask customers to eat elsewhere. As it turned out, James Szanto had decided to shut down for the night, foregoing all business for that Saturday evening. We stuck around anyway and received tremendous support from the surrounding community and former Portofinas workers. As we found out, Portofinas had managed to upset many people in Grimsby by not paying their workers wages and by attempting to build a patio without permission from the city council. Nearly every one we spoke to was telling us to “shut them down!” We also managed to make the local paper.
Next we planned a second picket for the following Friday. In the meantime we were threatened with lawsuits by Portofinas lawyers. We decided it was a scare tactic and showed up in strong numbers on Friday as planned. We braved the cold, turned customers away and danced our way around an irate plaza owner who ended up calling the police (no trouble to us as we simply moved the picket to the sidewalk and plaza entrances). All in all, it was another very slow night at Portofinas.
And then we won! The following Tuesday James Szanto offered to pay Milan his wages in full. Later that night we were counting money on the very bar that Milan had build, and for which he had not, until now, seen a single penny for his work.
On June 14th Steel City Solidarity brought together 26 activists to pressure Ejaz Parveen, a delinquent landlord and employer, to pay outstanding wages and a deposit owed to an individual who approached us. Parveen runs two rooming houses at 76 West 4th St and 127 Howard Ave, and employed Dorian, one of his tenants, to do work around the house.
Steel City Solidarity was approached by Dorian who was owed $110 in back wages as well as an outstanding $225 security deposit that were owed to him by his landlord (who he also worked for). The landlord was acting like a bully, and refusing to pay, so SCS met with Dorian and together we drafted a demand letter – giving the landlord until the end of the week to pay up or we would take further action.
On June 14th we brought together 26 activists at the rooming house where Dorian lived. We called the landlord and he refused to show up, saying he was out of town. The group went to deliver the letter to his house, and surprise surprise…there he was! He initially refused to get out of his car, or read the letter, but after a few back and forth negotiations, and the persuasion of the group he finally caved, drove to a bank machine, and returned with the outstanding amount in cash.
On behalf of Dorian, and Steel City Solidarity, thank you to everyone who came out to help, and to show that together we can overcome any injustice – no matter the size!