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Hunger strikers declare victory after suspension of two Casa Latina directors

casa_latina.jpg
Lilly Ana Fowler
/
KNKX
A protest sign outside of Casa Latina in Seattle

The prominent Latino advocacy organization Casa Latina has placed two directors on administrative leave after allegations that they mishandled sexual harassment complaints, ending a nearly two-week hunger strike staged by protesters. 

 

On Tuesday, Casa Latina announced that it had placed Executive Director Marcos Martinez and the director of the day worker center, Araceli Hernandez, on administrative leave. 

“We all want the same thing, a change for Casa Latina,” said Lucina Carrillo, an organizer with the day labor program who says she was the victim of verbal harassment and then groped at the organization.  

“I think the most important thing here is our community. Casa Latina needs a restructuring so that everyone can trust the organization again and feel comfortable and can show up to work unafraid,” Carrillo said in a recent interview in Spanish.  

The organization has also agreed to bring in the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, or NDLON, a California-based group that works to improve the lives of migrants and low-wage workers, to help with the transition. 

Finally, Casa Latina has promised to compensate four workers who lost wages during the hunger strike.   

Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, helped negotiate the terms of the agreement with the hunger strikers. 

Earlier this month, five Casa Latina employees and members began a hunger strike in protest of what they said was the inaction of Casa Latina leadership in the face of sexual harassment allegations.

Workers say a longtime former employee of Casa Latina harassed both women and men for years. 

Carrillo says the former employee grabbed her breasts and, on a separate occasion, grabbed her rear end. 

Carrillo says she tried to get help from Casa Latina staff for months, even filing a complaint with human resources.  

Last month, after pushback from workers, Casa Latina fired the employee, but Carrillo and others say Martinez tolerated harassment at the organization for too long. 

Workers also say the employee accused of harassment was protected because of his romantic relationship with Hernandez. 

After the firing, Casa Latina’s board hired D Diamond Consulting to conduct an independent investigation. It found "consequential missteps, at various levels," said the board of directors of Casa Latina in a press statement.

Among the findings from the investigation: Casa Latina should have proactively offered employees counseling at the organization's expense and should have terminated the employee accused of groping sooner.  

The Seattle City Attorney’s Office says it is still reviewing two complaints related to Casa Latina forwarded by the police department. 

Updated with details from the independent investigation. 

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