Who's Violating Who?

Four Amazon customer-service workers were forced to leave the company cafeteria on Friday, December 8, because they were violating the dot-com's non-solicitation policy. No, the workers weren't turning tricks. They were exercising their right to organize--setting up a table in Amazon's lunchroom at the company's downtown site, and asking co-workers to sign union cards. The Day 2 Campaign, as the current union drive is called, is in the process of collecting the required number of signatures to petition for a union election. ["Organizing at Amazon," Phil Campbell, Nov 23.]

Amazon says their employees were violating a company policy that prohibits workers from handing out literature on site if those employees aren't scheduled to work that particular day. Unfortunately, according to a letter that union lawyers subsequently sent Amazon, the company's policy violates federal labor law.

"[Amazon's ] not even respecting the basic law of a worker's right to organize in the workplace," says Marcus Courtney, an organizer with WashTech, a high-tech labor group that's supporting the Amazon union drive. JOSH FEIT


Apparently, we're not the only ones who think Amazon.com's ad campaign--the one featuring old guys in sweaters singing stupid songs about cell phones and books--is silly.

Last week, the co-creator of the campaign, ad agency FCB Worldwide, announced it was dropping the $35 million Amazon account due to irreconcilable marketing differences. Amazon spokesperson Bill Curry assured us that the sweater-men campaign will be back for years to come. Thank God. PAT KEARNEY

We Still Love You

One of the country's largest tobacco companies, Brown & Williamson Tobacco, is targeting Seattle this holiday season with a new ad campaign designed to make smokers feel good about themselves, and less like sidewalk exiles on smoke breaks.

The campaign, designed by New York ad agency the Mackenzie Company, employs two-person teams to roam the streets of Seattle and provide cups of hot coffee, roses, and folding chairs to the outcast puffers. "It's an outreach to the people huddled in the cold. We feel your pain," says ad agency owner Karen Mackenzie. In response to the ad campaign, The Stranger is sponsoring downtown Christmas carols sung by cancer victims with holes in their throats. PAT KEARNEY

Smells Like Teen Lawsuit

Members of JAMPAC's board, including former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, met with civil rights attorney David Osgood on Monday night, December 11, to finalize plans for a lawsuit against Seattle's evil Teen Dance Ordinance. NANCY DREW

Inside Your Landlord's Brain

The Apartment Association of Seattle & King County (AASK) is prepping for next month's legislative session. Last week, landlords handed out their 2001 Legislative Issues booklet to apartment owners and managers at an industry conference.

The 19-page booklet puts five things on AASK's shitlist: laws that would lower taxes for homeowners but not for rental housing owners; laws that would make it easier for trailer park tenants to sue their landlords; laws that would impede property owners' ability to evict renters without a good reason; and laws allowing local rent control. AASK's fifth target? Renter rabble-rouser Judy Nicastro, who's highlighted in AASK's booklet for having campaigned on a renters' rights platform.

"The current concern is that Judy put repealing or modifying the state's rent control law on the city's legislative agenda priority list," says AASK Executive Director Jim Nell. ALLIE HOLLY-GOTTLIEB

Letter Bombs

The future of the Morrison Hotel in Pioneer Square has human-service wonks whipped up into a dynamic letter-writing frenzy.

The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA)--who owns the building's 205 publicly subsidized apartments and leases space in the Morrison's lower levels to the Downtown Emergency Service Center--is calling for the shelter and the neediest residents living in the upstairs apartments to move out. ["Emergency Operation," Allie Holly-Gottlieb, Nov 30.] This plan has evoked various strong responses.

Representing housing activists, the Seattle Displacement Coalition's John Fox sent an angry e-mail message to city politicians and members of his organization two weeks ago. Fox said SHA's "catastrophic" proposal may be a response "to pressure from development interests calling on SHA and the city to clear out homeless services from that area." He wants the city council to step in and kill SHA's plan.

On behalf of Mayor Paul Schell, Deputy Mayor Tom Byers wrote a letter on December 5 that defensively mentions Fox's e-mail message and vouches for SHA and Schell. Byers basically says the mayor trusts SHA and is staying out of it.

Council members have also joined the letter-writing fray. Peter Steinbrueck crafted a letter opposing the main components of SHA's classist plan, getting an odd mix of his colleagues to sign: Jim Compton, Heidi Wills, and Nick Licata.

SHA's proposal will be one of five discussed at a meeting on Friday, December 15. ALLIE HOLLY-GOTTLIEB

Science Lesson

The brave and scrappy employees at the Pacific Science Center have admitted defeat at the hands of their anti-union employers.

Would-be union organizers say that the publicly funded science center waged a harsh campaign to dissuade its workers from joining Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 6 ["Anti-Union Experiment," Phil Campbell, Aug 8]. The center fought SEIU despite media attention, a legal challenge at the National Labor Relations Board, and public admonishments by Mayor Paul Schell.

Organizers inside the center accuse the center of winning through intimidation. "Some of us were getting followed around by managers," says Kevin Weyer, who just quit his job as a planetarium demonstrator after it became obvious that workers were losing their spines. (Management denies that employees were being followed.) Weyer says support among workers slipped from 75 percent to less than 50 percent after the center launched its campaign. "It's a really negative place now," Weyer says of the center. PHIL CAMPBELL

Eyman's Offensive

For now, dangerous Tim Eyman has dropped his two proposed initiatives to the legislature. The first, I-251, would have capped total state revenues at 2000 levels ($10.4 billion adjusted for inflation). That's the year, thanks to Eyman's previous brainstorm, I-695, that revenues took an estimated $620 million hit. Eyman's other zinger, I-252, would have put all local government tax and fee increases up for a public vote.

Eyman and his group, Permanent Offense, were trying to collect the required 180,000-plus signatures by December 29 so the initiatives would have gone straight to the state legislature. State lawmakers can approve initiatives themselves, send them unchanged to the voters, or send them to the voters with amendments.

Why did Eyman drop his permanent offensive? Probably because permanently offended groups like Transportation Choices teamed up with Seattle attorney Knoll Lowney, and filed a suit in Thurston County challenging the accuracy of the ballot titles last week. This threw a monkey wrench in Eyman's plans.

"This lawsuit, by its very existence, makes it impossible for Eyman to qualify this year," Lowney said after he filed the suit.

He was right. The Secretary of State's office said Eyman could not have collected signatures until the ballot title issue was resolved in the courts. The court date was December 22.

That would have left Eyman with just seven days to collect the required signatures, so he bailed. Eyman says he'll now go straight to the people with the initiatives, which gives him until July to collect the signatures. "I've always said, 'One way or another this will be on the fall 2001 ballot,'" Eyman says. "I guess, now, it looks like the other." JOSH FEIT