Activism or Intimidation? Protestors threaten historic Seattle bakery
A historic Seattle bakery has been targeted by a group of protestors who claim the owner has unfair labor practices.
Borracchini’s Bakery has been located in the Rainier Valley for nearly 90 years, and owner Remo Borracchini said his customers have become like family. Which is why when he started to get complaints that an employee was being rude to customers, he decided to let her go.
“I said, ‘We can’t do this anymore, we just can’t do this anymore,” Borracchini said. “She said, ‘You mean I’m fired?’ I said, ‘Yes, you are.'”
The worker had been with the business for nine years.
But not long after he let the woman go, she showed up at the bakery with a group of more than 50 people. The demonstrators marched inside the small shop, and delivered Borracchini a letter that demanded he pay his former worker $7,901. The letter claimed that the employee was denied breaks as required by law, and therefore entitled to 10 minutes pay for every four hours she worked.
“We hope and expect that this will be done soon, within no more than two weeks,” the letter read. “Otherwise, we will take further action.”
The group behind the demand is called the Seattle Solidity Network, which is described as a volunteer network that helps people who are “getting kicked around by an employer or landlord.” Since their original protest, the group has posted signs about Borracchini’s around the neighborhood, and has planned another protest for Saturday.
Borracchini denies the allegations, and said his employees are entitled to “mini-breaks” or “breaks on the fly,” which add up to 10 minutes over the course of a four-hour shift. He showed KIRO FM surveillance video of the employee in question taking those breaks.
Several employees who were at the bakery Tuesday said they believe the break policy is fair, and take breaks as they need them. A manager, who has been with Borracchini’s for more than 20 years, said he has never had a complaint about breaks.
“I love this business. I love the people who work here, and for somebody to come in and do this, it’s hurtful, it’s very hurtful. Because it’s unjustified,” Borracchini said.
A member of Seattle Solidarity, which is also known as SeaSol, acknowledged that they agreed to help the worker without asking for the bakery’s side of the story. He said, however, that she had provided statements from other workers who did not receive breaks either.
“In this society, the people that are working for companies have much less power than the people who own companies,” said the member, who went by Ryan H. “So our basic assumption, generally, is we assume that there’s more of a chance that what they’re saying is true than untrue.”
The group was also quick to believe the employee’s story because they had helped her in the past. Ryan said they protested her former landlord until he returned a deposit she said he wrongfully kept. Since then, the woman has regularly attended SeaSol meetings and become friends with many members.
“She’s done this before, and now I understand that she had told an employee a while ago, ‘If they ever fire me, I will demonstrate here. I will put them out of business,” Borracchini said.
Borracchini said he hopes to get an injunction to prevent the group from protesting at his business in the future.