Casa Latina said Tuesday its weeklong closure would end within days, after reaching an initial agreement with hunger strikers who had set up an encampment outside the Central District campus of the immigrant workers rights organization.

Casa Latina’s board made the announcement in a statement that admitted the organization had made mistakes in its handling of a sexual harassment allegation, as shown by a just-completed independent investigation. The statement said the nonprofit would work to rebuild trust with the help of mediators.

During that process, according to board Vice President Patricia Lally, the board is going to take a more active role in running Casa Latina and is putting two top leaders on administrative leave: Executive Director Marcos Martinez and Araceli Hernandez, director of the worker center that dispatches day laborers and housekeepers to jobs around the area.

Lally said the action was not disciplinary, but intended to make everybody feel comfortable as mediation proceeds.

“We’ve made some mistakes, we’ve corrected some of those mistakes,” Lally said in an interview. “But we still need to take time to listen to everyone, and to think about what are the changes that are needed to ensure that people feel like they’re heard, that their voice matters, and that we can work together toward common goals.”

Martinez and Hernandez declined to comment.

Lucina Carrillo, a staffer whose sexual harassment allegation against a co-worker gave rise to weeks of protests and then the encampment, said she and others plan to take down their tents and leave Wednesday morning. She said they ended their eight-day hunger strike Monday.


Carrillo said workers are happy Martinez and Hernandez will not be around. Carrillo’s harassment allegation, against a man many said was in a relationship with Hernandez, unleashed an array of complaints against the organization’s leaders. Some had to do with their handling of sexual misconduct allegations, others with broader issues such as perceived favoritism in doling out job assignments.

Carrillo said workers trust the mediators, who will come from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

“We need a new Casa Latina,” Carrillo said.

The independent investigation, by a consulting company, examined Casa Latina’s internal investigation into Carrillo’s allegations, which involved behavior ranging from sexual comments to groping. The consulting company found the internal inquiry was “timely, impartial and complete,” according to a summary of findings released by the board.

It was after the facts were in that “we didn’t take the right actions,” Lally said.

When Casa Latina’s leaders concluded harassment had occurred, it suspended the accused man for two weeks, according to Lally. He should instead have been immediately fired, according to the independent investigation.

He was eventually let go, but only after “management learned of other adverse behavior,” according to Lally. Two other women accused him of sexual harassment.


The independent investigation also said the man should not have been allowed to work under a supervisor he was having a relationship with, as was the case. Management should have either restructured the chain of command or asked the couple to decide who would resign.

The independent investigation did not look into other complaints. Asked why, Lally said she expected mediation to bring more concerns to the board’s attention.

State Sen. Rebecca SaldaƱa, D-Seattle, brokered a roughly two-hour meeting Sunday between board members and hunger strikers, including Carrillo, that led to the agreement. The board has agreed to compensate four of them, who work as day laborers or housekeepers, for jobs they missed while protesting. Carrillo was taking paid time off.

At the Sunday meeting, Lally said, she was encouraged by the love people expressed for Casa Latina: “It was clear to me that we can figure this out.”