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Seattle WA: Homegrown workers win 119-day strike

By Clio Jensen

Some of the victorious Homegrown strikers. | Fight Back! News/staff

Seattle, WA – On Wednesday, March 13, Homegrown workers across Seattle voted 100-1 to ratify their contract, after a successful strike to win reinstatement for their fired coworker.

Homegrown workers at the sandwich company’s Redmond and Southcenter cafes have also officially ended their strike and returned to work after the reinstatement of union leader Sydney Lankford, who was fired illegally on October 30.

Last month, the company agreed to a deal that allowed Lankford to return to work with $10,000 in back pay. Her coworkers, who have been on strike for her reinstatement since October 30, have returned to work as well, with their heads held high. Southcenter Mall Homegrown workers are back to work as well, 80 days after joining the strike.

“We won! It’s been such a long and hard fight, but we won,” said Kairi Beliz, a worker at the Southcenter Homegrown. “Even though it’s been super hard I’m so proud of us and everyone who stood by our side, and all of the young workers who have had the courage to be out on the streets with us. I hope we can inspire other workers, especially food workers, to stand up for themselves against unfair labor practices, and see that service work is not lesser work.”

This victory for Homegrown workers also brings a conclusion to the militant, year-and-a-half long campaign workers have fought for their first contract. Over the course of the strike, workers won affordable healthcare for themselves and their dependents, along with 50 cents more per hour then was previously on the table. They also won two years of successorship language that would protect the union in the event that the company is sold.

On March 13, workers signed into effect a powerful contract with strong safety language, large pay raises, benefits, and tipping language. In addition to the most recent strike, majority strikes across the company in the summer of 2023 and 2022 helped secure these gains.

Some of the highlights of this new contract include an immediate $3.25 across-the-board raise, and a total of $7 in raises by 2026. Workers also won heat pay language that would ensure they make double pay if store temperatures reach 86 degrees, and time-and-a-half pay over 82 degrees. They have also won paid 30 minute breaks, time off accrual upon hire that goes up to four weeks a year for tenured workers, affordable healthcare, automatic 10% tips on all DoorDash orders, fair discipline and just cause, and air quality protections.

Homegrown workers also won protections for immigrant workers, which prevent the company from working with ICE, and translation rights for Spanish-speaking workers.

Workers across the company voiced excitement over the contract, as well as hope it will spark many more union drives to come.

“I’m really excited about heat pay, because it gets really unbearable during the summer, I’m excited about paid 30s, and I’m excited to be able to leave without discipline if it gets too hot,” said MacKenzie Shannon, a worker at the Redmond location.

“A $3.25 per hour raise immediately and $7 over three years is enormous. It is the difference between making and not making rent, between scraping by and having some breathing room,” added Zane Smith, another worker and bargaining committee leader at the Redmond cafe.

“I’m so proud that we have won the strike, we gave it our all and stayed strong and united for 80 days and we are now excited to see this contract. We’re excited to show other workers in the Southcenter Mall who aren’t unionized what they can get, because they deserve to have good jobs too,” said Perry Meas, a worker at the Southcenter Mall Homegrown.

“I am very excited to have way better healthcare than I’ve ever had at any job, as well as better pay and job protections” said Adam Balk, a worker at HAPS. “A rising tide lifts all ships, so hopefully this will help other workers in the food service industry as well.”

Sydney Lankford, the union committee member who’s unfair firing sparked the strike, gave one last, inspiring message to other workers, stating “Every company will pay you only as much as it takes to get you back to work the next day. We raised our bar 20 fold and so can any other workplace! We are one of many union shops to come; one job should be enough. I am so proud of us. Go, fight, win all that can be won! We built organization, fought hard and won big. I hope other workers see this kick ass contract and decide that they can take their power back too.”

Homegrown workers plan to stay organized as they move into enforcing their contract, and hope to continue to inspire food service workers, and workers across industries, with their campaign.

For a more in depth feature on Homegrown worker organizing, check out this episode on Fight Back! Radio.

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