This afternoon Seattle police officers showed up at a fast food picket line at a Capitol Hill Subway and, according to multiple eyewitnesses, trespassed two of the picketers from the property—Caroline Durocher, an organizer and current Subway employee, and Carlos Hernandez, a Subway employee who was recently fired and whose termination is now the source of several charges filed in federal court.
As Cienna reported earlier, organizers with Good Jobs Seattle filed federal labor charges this morning against Subway for allegedly retaliating against Hernandez. They also picketed outside the restaurant on Broadway and Olive from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. today, holding signs and chanting slogans and basically trying to make the lunch rush a little uncomfortable.
But, near the end of the two-hour picket, Durocher says she went inside the restaurant to tell a customer who had crossed the picket line what the protest was all about. The customer decided to stay and have lunch, and Durocher says, "I said hi to the manager and left." Hernandez says he didn't even go inside.
When police arrived shortly thereafter, everyone was surprised. Officers singled out Durocher and Hernandez. Durocher said officers told her, "You're not allowed to go in there, it's trespassing." She says she explained to the cops that she actually works there—she works at a few different Subway locations, including the picketed one, all of which are owned by the same franchise owner. That didn't seem to matter. So, she says, "I asked them if I could file a report about my wage theft." She alleges that her employer hasn't paid her for some overtime, that she was charged for her uniform, and that money is taken out of her check when the register is under at the end of her shifts.
But officers weren't having it. According to Durocher, one officer told her, in essence, "That's not a crime. We have things to do, we're busy."
Here's what's weird: Normally, being trespassed from a property means that an individual can't step foot on that private property again for one full year.
If they do, they could be arrested for criminal trespass. The officers involved had already left the picket by the time I arrived to interview Durocher, so I couldn't question them. What's unclear at this point—what neither Durocher or SPD officials could tell me—is what being trespassed from her job means for Durocher. Will she simply be scheduled to work at other locations for the next year?
When I called SPD for comment, spokesman Mark Jamieson told me that he didn't have all the information yet and hasn't had a chance to speak with the officers involved. But, he says, he can report that the police received at least three calls about the protest, with one caller alleging that a protester "had entered the store and was harassing customers." Citizens, says Jamieson, "have the right to demonstrate in public spaces, as long as they’re not breaking the law or impeding people's travel. But as soon as you enter a store and you start harassing customers, you've kind of crossed a line there. So the business owner or manager or whoever is responsible for the business at that time certainly can request that police come and trespass an individual from their business."
I then asked him about Durocher's claim that the officer refused to take her wage theft report. "I can't really comment on what the interaction was," replies Jamieson. I'll be checking back with SPD later, once they have more information.
Durocher, who already filed a claim about a previous employer forcing her to work off the clock, says she'll be contacting SPD again with her allegations of wage theft. "And I'm gonna tell them the names of the officers who said I can't report that crime." The city has assured the public repeatedly that they take the crime of wage theft incredibly seriously.