IWW non-profit workers enter second week of strike in Minneapolis

IWW non-profit workers enter second week of strike in Minneapolis

An update on an ongoing strike at a nonprofit 'mobile foodshelf' in the Twin Cities.

As I previously blogged, canvassers who work for a local nonprofit 'mobile foodshelf' in Minneapolis affiliated with the IWW and went out on strike on March 1st.

Here is their 2-week update

MINNEAPOLIS, MN– The atmosphere at Sisters’ Camelot, a mobile food shelf and kitchen bus based in Seward, has grown increasingly tense as a labor dispute between the newly-formed canvassers’ union and the collective management enters its second week. Sisters’ Camelot is a non-profit organization that delivers thousands of pounds of organic produce to low-income neighborhoods every week. It is collectively run by a group of seven individuals, each of whom have paid positions managing specific aspects of the organization. Their wages and the money for programming comes from the canvass crew, who raise nearly all the funds that allows Sisters’ Camelot to operate. However, canvassers have long felt that their work is not respected by the collective.

“I have been told by several collective members that the fundraising canvassers do is not as important or as valuable to the organization as the food distribution.” said Bobby Becker, collective member and canvass director at Sisters’ Camelot.

Canvassers began organizing over three months ago and contacted the labor union Industrial Workers of the World in December, after three canvassers were demoted from managerial positions and replaced by two collective members with less experience. This was not a disciplinary action, but the enactment of a new policy that only collective members could hold such positions.

“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.” said Shuge Mississippi, canvasser. “We’ve had complaints against the collective for years, complaints they were unwilling to seriously address. We decided it was time to take action.”

On February 25 the canvassers went public as an IWW-affiliated union when they marched into a collective meeting and read a statement of intent. A negotiation meeting was planned for March 1, but on that day the collective refused to negotiate any demands and the union went on strike.

Communication continued between the union and the collective and another meeting was scheduled for March 4. The canvassers opened with a statement reiterating their desire to negotiate and promised to end the strike as soon as negotiations proceeded in good faith. The collective responded with two prepared statements: the first offered one canvasser a position on the collective, the second announced the firing of their co-worker Shuge Mississippi.

“[The collective members] recognize that negotiations cannot proceed in good faith until Shuge leaves…. We stand ready to return to negotiations in good faith whenever canvassers are ready to move forward.” read part of their statement. Canvasser Luke Welke expressed his “disgust that the collective could ask us to betray someone in our union who we work with every day and still believe that they are negotiating in good faith.”

The canvassers’ union would not proceed without their co-worker and walked out of the meeting. The situation is currently at a stalemate.

“I really hope this can be resolved soon.” said canvasser Maria Wesserle. “I love Sisters’ Camelot and want to get back to working for them. The collective needs to step back, realize their mistake, and rehire our fellow worker.”

The campaign at Sisters’ Camelot represents a new step for Food and Retail Workers United, an organizing committee of the Industrial Workers of the World labor union. Gaining prominence in recent years for organizing Starbucks and Jimmy Johns workers, the IWW is a global union founded over a century ago for all working people.

The strikers have also released a FAQ about the strike and made their demands public.

They have also released the following statement of support, which you can personally sign onto, by emailing the address listed at the end of the statement:

A STATEMENT OF SUPPORT FOR STRIKING CANVASS WORKERS

We the undersigned, members of the Twin Cities community, write to state our support for the striking canvass workers at Sisters’ Camelot; and in order to hold the organization’s decision-making collective accountable to the community, we urge them to do what is right and negotiate with the union. We recognize that the canvassers have Sisters’ Camelot’s best interest in mind and support their decision to unionize; workers everywhere have the right to organize their workplace. Doing so is not an attack on the collective, the organization or its mission. As a community, we are aware that the canvassers of Sisters’ Camelot must be recognized as an organized union. We feel this recognition is vital to progressive change for Sisters’ Camelot.

We support and encourage an open negotiation in good faith between the collective and the Canvassers Union. We insist that all personal matters be put aside; as a community of onlookers, we are aware of the personal issues involved and can see that is it having a negative impact on the organization’s mission. By refusing to negotiate with the canvass union and then firing a union worker, it has become clear that the collective management of Sisters’ Camelot are not allowing the organization to move forward. We recognize that canvassers are the medium which Sisters’ Camelot uses to communicate with the wider world and cannot see a future for Sisters’ Camelot without them.

We recognize that Sisters’ Camelot’s programming represents a spirit of unconditional compassion and acceptance to the community in which it serves; it represents community outreach and support; it represents forward-thinking activism that decreases waste and hunger. An organization like this is scarce, and we are aware it cannot be created or destroyed overnight. As a community, we stand behind the Sisters’ Camelot Canvass Union and feel that the demands and actions of the canvassers are in the spirit of Sisters’ Camelot’s mission and values. We wish to stand together, and ask that Sisters’ Camelot continues living up to these values by negotiating, compromising, re-hiring and re-evaluating what a community truly means.

As a community, we urge the following action:

1) Re-hiring the fired union worker: these actions have no place in the resolution of a labor dispute.

2) Negotiate in good faith with the canvassers of Sisters’ Camelot: so that they can end the strike and continue supporting its mission of “feeding the hungry and inspiring the world.”

We sign this document, as a community, to re-iterate that we too stand by Sisters’ Camelot and its mission statement and hope to see it thrive for years to come.

To add your name to the list of supporters, email SistersCamelotCanvassUnion@gmail.com with the name you would like to be listed as. Please include any title you’d like to see alongside your name; and if you’re not from the Twin Cities, please let us know where you’re from. Thank you!

For the latest updates on the strike, visit:
http://www.facebook.com/SCcanvassunion

To donate to the strike fund, visit:
https://www.wepay.com/donations/sisters-camelot-strike-fund-donations

Comments

Juan Conatz
Mar 17 2013 02:55

Also, Marie Mason, an imprisoned enviromental activist and IWW member, wrote this letter (Warning: anarchistnews.org shitfest in the comments ensues): http://anarchistnews.org/content/words-encouragement-and-respect-statement-support-sisters-camelot-canvass-workers-fellow

Wild Rose Collective solidarity statement: http://wildrosecollective.org/2013/03/17/solidarity-with-the-striking-workers-of-sisters-camelot/

And a libcom.org takedown of a anti-union statement made by a group of anarchists and radicals in the Twin Cities
http://libcom.org/library/statement-autonomous-union-busting-firm-twin-cities

boozemonarchy
Mar 17 2013 13:50

Uh, so wow. That really is the biggest trainwreck of an @newz thread ever.

At some point, someone was impersonating one of the strikers. Its pretty crazy.

orange.ruffy
Mar 18 2013 02:34

Hopefully Marie going to bat once again for the IWW will inspire them to finally apologize for the Industrial Worker's cowardly and unsolidaristic denunciation of her (See the April or May 2008 IW).

Juan Conatz
Mar 18 2013 03:03

As I remember that was one person who wrote that article. Others have supported her for years, branches take turns paying her dues, making visits and corresponding with her, depending where she has been incarcerated.

But I don't want to get into an argument about Marie Mason.

Rebelde
Mar 18 2013 03:13

Juan, my recollection is that the denunciation was written by the editorial board of the Industrial Worker, and it was despicable. I wrote a letter in response, which they didn't print, and I am sure that I was not the only one. While this was not the only reason, it was one of the reasons why I finally left the IWW. If I remember correctly, they essentially threw her under the bus while she was still on trial. Maybe I am wrong, but that is my recollection. And if my recollection is correct, it was inexcusable. Regardless of what critiques they may have had, and however valid they may have been, they should not have declared her guilty before the court did. Good on her for not holding a grudge though.

Rebelde
Mar 18 2013 11:46

Here is the editorial in question (on page 2): http://www.iww.org/PDF/IndustrialWorker/IWMay08.pdf

It was actually written by the General Executive Board of the IWW. As I read it, the GEB wanted to make clear that they didn't support the actions taken by Marie, even though her guilt had in no way been established.

This editorial was flawed for several reasons, not least of which was the fact that the GEB seemed to take the FBI's accusations at face value. Regardless of whether Marie actually did what she was accused of, the General Defense Committee is set up to defend the workers in the union. This editorial however seems to denounce the earlier call for solidarity "because the charges (simply put, arson and property destruction done to halt bio-engineering experiments and logging) are unrelated to union activity." By those standards, of course, all the FBI has to do is accuse anyone of doing anything not directly related to the union, and the IWW will refuse to support them. By those standards, Big Bill Haywood and others who were railroaded for their denunciations of WWI were not deserving of the support of the union, because their actions were "not directly related to the union." Perhaps even more glaring is the case of Joe Hill, who was clearly not arrested for activities "directly related to the union." Despite what the mythology might say, Hill was not targeted by the "copper bosses" for his organizing (which was not happening in Salt Lake City). Robbery and murder are clearly not union activities. I am not saying he was guilty. The point is that the IWW sure milked that controversy for all it was worth. And that it is a clear double standard for the union to continue to use this mythology a century later but then refuse to show solidarity for Marie Mason while she was currently being persecuted. I must point out that at this time Marie had just recently been arrested and had not pleaded guilty. So at the time, this editorial was the equivalent of taking the FBI's word. Some kind of solidarity.

Juan Conatz
Mar 18 2013 05:16

Yeah, I agree that it was wrong and most Wobs I know would probably say the same thing, but please start another thread if that's a discussion people want to have.

Rebelde
Mar 18 2013 12:12

Fair enough. I am not trying to hijack this conversation. At the same time, I am not the one who brought up Marie Mason or even this editorial. I was simply providing clarity, and pointing out that it was not a single author writing an editorial, but an official statement from the GEB. But I will leave it at that. I am in no way arguing that the workers on strike do not deserve solidarity. I was just weighing in on a conversation that had already been started and that had already turned to the discussion of Marie. As far as the situation at Sisters of Camelot, it is clear that the workers on strike deserve our support. What's more, the response of many in the "anarchist" community in Minneapolis to the workers actions demonstrates how tenuous our bonds of solidarity are with each other. If we ever hope to build meaningful and powerful social movements capable of fundamentally remaking social relations, we need to be able to look at our own complicity in reproducing inequitable social relations. That goes for the SC collective members, as well as the IWW GEB. Solidarity should not only apply when it is convenient.

orange.ruffy
Mar 18 2013 12:58

I'm sorry too if this has been too much of a diversion. But in reply to JC, the struggle at Sisters Camelot demonstrates the power (or at least the apparent power) of public positions and statements. That's why so many have been released in the past two weeks. While it's wholly commendable that individual wobblies, GDCs, and GMBs have done great support work for Marie, the still-standing public position that the IWW has as a whole regarding Marie is one of denunciation and contempt for a long-time Fellow Worker. That will be the case until there's a public apology and retraction.

Steven.
Mar 18 2013 13:07

As has been pointed out, this is a thread about a strike. If you want to discuss this other case, start a new thread. Further off topic comments on this thread will be deleted.

syndicalist
Mar 20 2013 13:07

Copy of letter WSA sent along with donation about 2 weeks back:

Quote:
"IWW Camelot Sisters Organizing Committee

Minneapolis, MN

Dear Striking Sister and Fellow Workers,

The Workers Solidarity Alliance (W.S.A.) stands in solidarity with you
in your struggle. As working people we believe that an injury to any
worker worker is an injury to all workers. Please find enclosed is a
$100- donation towards your strike fund. We hope that this small
donation helps you in your fight.

We stand with you in spirit and look forward to hearing about your
victory. As well as the reinstatement of Shug Mississippi.

Yours in solidarity,
WORKERS SOLIDARITY ALLIANCE"

Juan Conatz
Mar 27 2013 00:41

Some updates

There was another open event the other day. I believe the video is here, but I havent checked it out: http://bambuser.com/v/3467819

A lot of people have added their name to the canvassers statement
http://sccanvassunion.wordpress.com/

The canvassers also started hitting up the neighborhoods they usually fundraise in, but instead of getting money for SC, they are informing people of their strike and the reasons. One of the times, one member of the managing collective and an anti-union anarcho followed them and took pictures.

The fired worker filed a Unfair Labor Practice for unlawful firing with the NLRB. Not sure how that will work with their "independent contracter" status (they're probably misclassified).

Chilli Sauce
Mar 27 2013 08:26
Quote:
A lot of people have added their name to the canvassers statement
http://sccanvassunion.wordpress.com/

Bit a Chomsky action on there, I see.

This must be hitting SC financially by this point, no? My worry would be that they're soliciting backdoor donations via the autonomous union busting collective. I obviously understand a lot of this can't be discussed publicly, but any more updates on how this is affecting SC?

Juan Conatz
Mar 27 2013 22:36
Quote:
The Sisters’ Camelot Canvass Union are doing a phone and email zap on the Sister’s Camelot collective. There are three phone numbers and one email to contact.

Please call Eric Gooden (SC Collective member) at 612-823-0647
Please call Dave Senn (SC Collective member) at 612-296-0677 <— Twin Cities people only for this guy!
Please call the SC Collective office number at 612-746-3051
Please email sisterscamelot@gmail.com

Please tell them to:

1. Rehire the fired union member.
2. Negotiate with the union.

Below is a sample email that can also be used as a script for calling as well.

*Dear Sisters’ Camelot,

I’m contacting you about the canvassers’ strike that’s been happening. I love the work your organization does, but, I’m deeply disappointed that you fired a union member, and now you won’t rehire him and negotiate in good faith with your workers. It’s shameful that your workers have been on strike for a month, and you still haven’t rehired the worker and come to an agreement with the union. I urge you to stop and reconsider your position. Rehire the fired worker, negotiate with ALL of the union, end this conflict and get back to the work you do that we all love and believe in.

Sincerely,*

Please call them every day, multiple times a day, and don’t stop until they agree to the union’s two demands.

http://tcorganizer.com/2013/03/27/sisters-camelot-phone-email-zap/

Juan Conatz
Mar 31 2013 23:27
Juan Conatz
Apr 2 2013 22:10

Some picket pix

Juan Conatz
Apr 5 2013 03:16

IWW Sisters’ Camelot Canvass Union makes package-deal proposal to end the strike.
http://tcorganizer.com/2013/04/04/iww-sisters-camelot-canvass-union-makes-package-deal-proposal-to-end-the-strike/

also, one of the strikers wrote this: http://lettertompls.wordpress.com/

Juan Conatz
Apr 9 2013 22:21

Sisters’ Camelot management refuses deal with union, says they are “not anxious to end strike”
http://tcorganizer.com/2013/04/09/sisters-camelot-management-refuses-deal-with-union-says-they-are-not-anxious-to-end-strike/

Juan Conatz
Apr 11 2013 05:12

Phone zap (I think yall call it a 'communications blockade' in UK)

Quote:
The Sisters' Camelot Canvass Union has been on strike since March 1st. One of the striking workers was fired while on strike, and they have refused to sit down and negotiate with the union.

Here are the names, phone numbers, & email addresses of each member of the
management of Sisters' Camelot.

Call, Text, and Email them every day. Here are the talking points and guidelines.

1. Urge them to rehire the fired worker and negotiate with the union.

2. Remind them that the world is watching and knows that they are responsible for this strike.

3. Ask them to resign if they are not willing to negotiate with a union.

4. Please do not make any threats.

The Sisters' Camelot Collective
Office phone number 612-746-3051
Email Address: sisterscamelot@gmail.com

Clay Hansen: cell phone 612.578.3373
email: clay.hans@gmail.com

Aaron “Muskrat” Barck: cell phone 612.281.8988
email: aaronmbarck@gmail.com

Lisabeth Foster-Bayless: cell phone 612.205.4507

Dave Senn: cell phone 612.296.0677

Clive North: cell phone 612.600.2497

Eric Gooden: landline 612.823.0647

Juan Conatz
Apr 13 2013 21:09

Some helpful souls put out this gem: http://scunionbusters.com/

Chilli Sauce
Apr 14 2013 15:19

That is f*cking awesome.