South Puget Sound IMC Nov. 19, 2009
On Monday, November 16th, Seattle-based property developer Lorig
Associates served a lawsuit against the members of a local community
organization known as the Seattle Solidarity Network (SeaSol). According
to its website, www.seasol.net, SeaSol is an all-volunteer workers' and
tenants' group which organizes activities such as picketing, leafleting,
and office delegations to pressure employers and landlords whom they
believe are responsible for mistreating someone in the Network.
In its lawsuit, the developer seeks a court injunction "prohibiting
Defendants from making any statements or acting in any manner that
adversely affects Lorig's goodwill or reputation, including but not
limited to...leafleting, picketing, or otherwise negatively painting Lorig
in a false light." It also seeks an order for Solidarity Network members
to pay unspecified damages to Lorig.
According to its website, SeaSol's conflict with Lorig began over its
belief that CEO Bruce Lorig had unjustly fired a longstanding African
American employee, Patricia Milton, in a conflict over alleged workplace
discrimination and harassment. Lorig's Chief Operations Officer, Tom
Fitzsimmons, has recently released statements denying that Mr Lorig is
racially prejudiced, citing the company's employment of multiple black
workers both currently and at various times in the past. Despite these
statements, SeaSol has continued to describe Milton's treatment as
"discrimination" and has urged individuals and institutions to avoid doing
business with Lorig.
On Tuesday, Milton and several other SeaSol supporters addressed the City
Council of Olympia, calling Lorig's lawsuit "despicable" and an attempt to
"crush a community organization and gag public speech." Olympia had been
considering hiring Lorig to develop a downtown parking structure, but
voted later in the meeting to cancel the project, citing the poor economy.
The first court hearing in the dispute will be on Tuesday, November 24th,
at 8:30 am at the King County Superior Court, 516 3rd Ave, Seattle. Judge
Laura Inveen will hear Lorig's request for a Temporary Restraining Order
to immediately block the defendants from leafleting, picketing, or
speaking against Lorig.