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Homegrown workers go on multi-day strike

By Corrina Hildreth

Striking Homegrown workers.

Seattle, WA – On Thursday, September 14, over 100 Homegrown workers from six retail locations walked off the job to demand a new contract. The strike took place across the greater Seattle area for three consecutive days. Each day the strike grew, so that by Saturday, workers from all eight of nine Homegrown locations had joined. Homegrown workers are represented by UNITE HERE Local 8 and have been bargaining with the company for over eight months.

Homegrown workers’ militancy has led to significant progress in contract negotiations. However, the company refuses to move on a few key issues. “We're striking because we got stonewalled in our last bargaining session,” said Owen Juell, a worker at Homegrown’s University Village location. “And right now, we're fighting for successorship language so we can keep our union if the company's sold, a fair living wage, and health insurance that we can afford.”

“I need healthcare for my family, wife, and my two kids,” said Russell Concha, a Homegrown catering driver. Currently, Homegrown’s healthcare doesn’t cover spouses or dependents, and can cost over $800 a month, which is unaffordable for on their substandard wages. “I want a wage that allows me to save for college and live on my own,” added Mackenzie Shannon, a Homegrown worker from Redmond.

On the first day, picketing began at 10 a.m. at Homegrown shops in Capitol Hill, Redmond, Mercer Island, and Queen Anne. At the Capitol Hill picket, workers were joined by members of Seattle’s Strike Solidarity Committee, local community activists, and other union workers. “It's great. Capitol Hill's a really big community in a lot of ways. And so it's cool that we're able to be here because we've had a lot of really positive support,” said Juell. “We've been getting a bunch of honks. People are yelling across the street, chanting with us. It's been awesome.”

At 2 p.m., striking workers and their supporters gathered on Mercer Island for a joint picket and rally. Those on the picket line were not afraid to call Homegrown’s owner, Brad Gillis, out by name in their demands. Chants of “Brad, Brad, give us cash! Power to the working class!” and “Brad got his milk and honey but Homegrown workers got no money!” could be heard throughout the neighborhood.

On Friday, workers from Homegrown’s store in downtown Seattle walked out to join in the strike effort. Their shop is one of the most well-trafficked in the area. Workers mobilized from locations around the city to pressure the company back to the bargaining table. Accompanying the downtown effort, another picket took place on Mercer Island, where activists and union members mobilized from as far as Tacoma to show solidarity. Each picket had dozens of Homegrown workers and were militant displays of worker power led by the rank and file.

The strike was punctuated by the strongest showing yet on Saturday. Workers from the Kirkland Homegrown joined the strike, which meant that no Homegrown locations across the Seattle area remained open for business. “This picket is awesome. It’s fantastic. I didn't know there would be more people actually joining us on this picket. It’s been like this the whole strike,” said Concha.

Newly hired Homegrown worker Lucia Lambert had a simple but powerful message for all workers who want better working conditions. “This strike has made a lot of progress, so it works,” she said. “I'm actually on insurance from the postal office, which was family insurance that was won by a union a long time ago. My stepdad's a mailman back in Minnesota and we've got like seven people on it. They even include stepkids. I know that I'm benefiting from union insurance, and I feel like if you're fighting for family insurance from a union, I have to show up.”

Homegrown workers await a response from the company on the key issues that have stonewalled negotiations and are prepared to continue escalating to win their demands.

#SeattleWA #Homegrown #UNITEHERE #UNITEHERELocal8 #Strike