This Saturday, July 20, five members of the Seattle Solidarity Network stood outside The Purple Store with signs that read “Wage theft: Ugly in Any Color” and “Don’t shop at the Purple store.” SSN is a community organization that advocates for workers and renters’ rights in and around Seattle on request of workers and tenants. They handed out flyers laying out the accusations made against the store and its management. The owner, Adam Sheridan, stood outside as well. He passed out his own flyers, assuring potential customers that the groups claims were lies, and his store was an excellent and reputable place to buy anything purple.
This was the latest in a long line of pickets outside The Purple Store. The shop has been visited twice a week every week since March 2 when the employees formally made their demands. With 40 SSN members behind them, the workers delivered a letter laying out the back pay and reimbursement they claimed they were owed.
The list included reimbursement for two workers being paid below the minimum wage, as well as bonuses promised upon hiring that never materialized, and pay for time worked that was never accounted for.
The workers also reported Adam Sheridan to Washington State L&I, the Washington Attorney General, and the Federal Trade Commission for fraud violations.
On March 13, Sheridan sent an email to the entire staff detailing the financial distress the store was under and laying all 10 off. The doors did not close for a day and Sheridan brought on new employees to fill the open positions. The Washington State Employment Security Department ruled that the former staff was fired in retaliation.
Since the protests began, one former worker has been reimbursed for pay below minimum wage, but not to the level required by Seattle law, which requires reimbursement for sub-minimum wage pay be paid back plus interest. No other grievances have been addressed.
Sheridan claims the only issue was inability to pay bonuses. He says the stores financial insecurity prevented him from paying annual bonuses and forced him to lay off his staff. He also claims he attempted to address payroll “quirks” with his employees, but they insisted on involving courts and the SSN.
“When you tell somebody that you’re going to be paid a certain amount of money in advance, and then it comes time to get paid and you don’t receive the money you were promised, that is theft,” said Lee from the Seattle Solidarity Network, defending the claims made by the former employees.
Two local business owners came out and confronted the protestors on Saturday, stating that their protest was hurting surrounding businesses. The SSN members refused to leave but agreed to remind passers by that other stores in the area were not accused of the same practices as Sheridan and The Purple Store.
SSN and the former employees say they have no intentions of stopping the protests. There are more protests in front of the shop scheduled for the following weekend.