IWW non-profit workers in Minneapolis go on strike after negotiations fail

IWW non-profit workers in Minneapolis go on strike after negotiations fail

Information on a just begun strike at a non-profit mobile food shelf and soup kitchen in Minneapolis.

From the Twin Cities IWW blog:

Quote:
MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Canvass workers at Sisters Camelot, a non-profit mobile food shelf and soup kitchen, have gone on strike today after the organization’s managing collective refused to negotiate with the canvass union. The workers went public as members of the Industrial Workers of the World on Monday, and met to negotiate with the collective this morning. This unionization comes after months of organizing among the workers in response to changes in the workplace, resulting in a decline in conditions and mismanagement of the worker’s time and the organization’s resources.

The strike began this afternoon at 12:30PM when the managing collective announced that they were unwilling to negotiate on any demands. The workers are now prepared to continue the strike by refusing to canvass door-to-door or conduct fundraising efforts until the collective comes back to the table ready to meet the workers’ demands.

“It’s deeply disappointing that the collective isn’t willing to take the demands of its workers seriously,” said Maria Wesserle, a canvass worker, “The last thing we wanted in this situation was to be pushed to the point of a strike.”

Canvassers at Sisters Camelot are employed as independent contractors. Workers began organizing with the IWW after a restructuring of the organization’s door-to-door fundraising operation left workers with increased work stress and less control over conditions. They are demanding that management positions in the canvass program be replaced with coordinators elected by the workers, and that hiring and firing be conducted by a worker committee. In addition, workers are asking for better conditions such as sick pay and medical coverage of job injuries, as well as common sense items such as more frequent training and regular repair of work vehicles.

“We care deeply about the mission of Sisters’ Camelot,” said Shuge Mississippi, an IWW member and canvasser who has worked for the organization for over 13 years, “We care deeply about its principles–if we didn’t, we wouldn’t work so hard in order to provide 95% of the funding for their programs. In refusing to negotiate, they are failing those very values they claim to stand for. In effect, they are acting like any other employer would.”

In addition to the workers, Bobby Becker, one of two canvass directors and a member of the managing collective has gone on strike in support of the workers. “This isn’t personal. It isn’t about the organization, which we all care about. What’s happening is an unwillingness to change or to give up any control to their workers.”

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.

Today, Sisters' Camelot posted this, which is pretty familiar territory when it comes to responses to workers organizing (although with a 'progressive' non-profit twist): http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=512286745489471&id=138745306176952

A strike fund has been established and you can donate to it here.

Posted By

Juan Conatz
Mar 2 2013 01:34

Share

Attached files

Comments

MT
Mar 2 2013 11:11
Quote:
They are demanding that management positions in the canvass program be replaced with coordinators elected by the workers, and that hiring and firing be conducted by a worker committee.

According to Slovak law, when a worker is to be fired and there is a union in the workplace, the union has to say yes to that. For a traditional union it is something you have to do. It is usually the leadership of the union in the workplace who decides. It can be based on personal preferences but also on the economic situation of the family of particular worker. Still, I would say it is a part of co-management of the company that legitimizes firings.

If I am not wrong, this demand could be defined as a move towards a closed-shop. Is this an IWW strategy or it is up to the local to autonomously go this way?

Juan Conatz
Mar 2 2013 17:48

The workers there do want a closed shop, if that is the correct definition, in which canvassers would have to join the IWW after a certain amount of time working there. There isn't any explicit strategy on this in the IWW though, and it depends on the campaign.

Devrim
Mar 2 2013 17:58

Juan, the term 'closed shop' as it was used historically in The UK meant that you had to be in the union to work there. It was differentiated into two types 'pre-entry', and 'post-entry'. In the former you had to have a card to get a job. This sort of closed shop was common in places like the print and the docks. In the latter you had to be come a member of the union when you got the job. This was common across both the public and private sectors. When I was a postman it was like that with the management issuing you with the union membership forms on day one.

I don't quite see the point of making people join after a certain amount of time. Maybe I am missing something.

Devrim

Juan Conatz
Mar 2 2013 21:44

I believe they want new canvassers to join the IWW after one month. I'm not sure whether this is considered 'closed shop' or 'union shop' here in the States, but that's one of the things (although a secondary demand?) they want.

Devrim
Mar 3 2013 14:51

It seems a bit of a strange demand to me. Ignoring the political implications completely, and just looking at it on a practical level, what happens if people don't want to join the union after one month? Would they sack them?

Devrim

Juan Conatz
Mar 3 2013 19:24
Devrim wrote:
It seems a bit of a strange demand to me. Ignoring the political implications completely, and just looking at it on a practical level, what happens if people don't want to join the union after one month? Would they sack them?

Devrim

I don't have any experience with IWW campaigns demanding this or accomplishing this, so I don't know. I think typically, this is a normal demand of almost all other unions. But I believe there are laws that allow workers at a place under union contract/agreement to not join the union, but instead pay 'fair share', which is a percentage of dues, but no voice/vote in the union. I could be wrong in all this though.

I don't know what would happen if they didn't join. Guess it depends on how things happen.

Juan Conatz
Mar 3 2013 19:28
Juan Conatz
Mar 3 2013 19:32

In the original post, I linked to a FB status update by Sisters Camelot. They have since (after almost 100 comments, mostly supporting the canvassers) deleted it and posted this up instead:

Quote:
As many of you know, canvassers for Sisters’ Camelot have organized through the I.W.W., and have presented our collective with a list of eighteen demands. A statement of intent was delivered at our collective meeting on Monday, and the demands themselves were presented at negotiations we were asked to attend on Friday.

The situation is a complicated one, that has understandably produced high tensions and emotions on all sides. In that environment, and feeling put on the defensive, our collective released a statement that was poorly worded and we now realized does not reflect our true feelings in the matter. Many people have read it and rightfully criticized it for its tone of apologism, one which unfortunately mimicked the justifications nonprofits often use for real exploitation of their workers.

We regret having released that statement, and are retracting it at this point. This retraction shouldn't be taken as an affirmation of all the complaints levied against us, but rather as an acknowledgement that we as an organization need to take more time to calmly and genuinely assess the situation and engage in constructive dialogue on equal footing with the canvassers.

We also want to note that a lot of important conversation have taken place in the comments attached to our previous post. Unfortunately, the realities of facebook mean that removing the post will also result in removing the comments. It is not our intention to silence debate with this move.

As an organization, we are committed to collectivity and creating a healthy work environment for everyone that makes what we do possible. We hope that supporters and everyone touched by this situation will respect our need for space conducive to thoughtful deliberation. We do not intend to minimize or ignore legitimate concerns raised by canvassers, and we thank our community for their constructive feedback and understanding.

syndicalist
Mar 3 2013 19:52

At this time, while they're on the picket lines, I wish them well in their strike! Solidarity!

Juan Conatz
Mar 4 2013 23:42

Striking Non-Profit Workers Walk Out In Response to Surprise Retaliatory Firing
http://tcorganizer.com/2013/03/04/striking-non-profit-workers-walk-out-in-response-to-surprise-retaliatory-firing/

kevin s.
Mar 5 2013 17:50

Real quick about the closed shop, the canvassers have been insistent on that as a protection measure to prevent scabs from working on the canvass and being able to undermine the union. The one month thing is partly because a lot of people work there for a minute and then decide they don't want to do it, because it's hard work, pay is low etc., many people don't like canvassing and others can get better work at a different canvassing job (this one pays well below local industry standard); partly it's also to make sure people who join the union will actually support the union and not just be scabs who hold union cards.

I believe legally speaking what they want is considered "union shop" but I might be wrong about that.

I don't wanna get into a debate about whether IWW should pursue closed shop or not, but, I'll just add that the IWW explicitly bans dues checkoff agreements and how well union job control is enforced depends entirely on the union/in particular on the workers there.

Chilli Sauce
Mar 5 2013 20:18

Any updates from the strike itself? Pictures of the picket line? Interviews with strikers?

Good luck to all involved, btw.

Juan Conatz
Mar 7 2013 00:01

Chili Sauce, the last real update is the last link I posted, which is about the canvassers walking out of a meeting that one of them was fired at.

Since then, Sisters Camelot has posted this on their Facebook

Quote:
At Monday's meeting, the Sisters' Camelot collective began by reading the following statement and offered what we believe is a good faith measure towards continued negotiations:

"This organizing campaign seeks by design to force our collective project into a worker/boss mold, denying the legitimacy of alternative models of workplace democracy as it tries to unite some Sisters’ Camelot workers at the expense of their fellow workers and the project itself, and under false pretenses about the current structure of the group. Our collective process is of course imperfect and we’re committed to constantly improving it, but such a collective endeavor requires a genuine and equal participation of all affected parties, which is not possible under the terms set forth by the canvassers.

We respect your right to organize yourselves as workers and we expect you to recognize our right to organize ourselves as fellow workers collectively.

We cannot accept any terms which force us into the role of bosses.

As a good faith measure to accommodate all workers to participate in the running of the workplace we all choose to share, and because power cannot come without accountability, we are making a substantial change in our policy regarding collective membership requirements. We recognize that there are many ways to show dedication and investment in Sisters’ Camelot. We regret that we did not fully identify that our previous collective requirements did not reflect this until now. For your immediate representation, we would like to offer one member (to be chosen by the canvasser union) from the canvasser union immediate collective status and welcome all additional applicants.

The new policy reads as follows:

1. Collective members must complete at least eight volunteer hours OR canvass 12 paid canvass shifts per calendar month.

2. Collective members must participate at least once each year (beginning on the date of collective membership) in each current program area.

3. Collective members must attend and participate in all Sisters' Camelot weekly meetings.

4. Collective members holding contracts must record all hours worked or volunteered and submit a weekly time card.

Applicants are still required to fulfill these requirements for three months before full collective membership can be consensed upon by fellow collective workers. In good faith we accept the member you choose today without the three month prerequisite."

After reading this statement, we followed up with another statement explaining our decision to terminate our contract with Shuge Mississippi. We know many people are asking, why now?

We realize that we made a serious error in not dealing with Shuge's breach of trust and confidence sooner. We regret that as a result we've had to take action at a moment fraught with so many other tensions and when doing so unfairly detracts attention from the real workplace issues at stake. However, we recognize that negotiations cannot proceed in good faith until Shuge leaves. This measure is far past due and while we genuinely want to engage in negotiations with all other canvassers, we cannot do so while he is involved.

The action we've taken in relation to Shuge is unrelated to the legitimate issues raised by the canvass. We are willing to negotiate on all 18 demands that have been presented to us; our only condition is that Shuge not be present. Our offer to negotiate is open-ended. We stand ready to return to negotiations in good faith whenever canvassers are ready to move forward.

Because progress on this front has stalled and for the sake of transparency, we have decided to address the full set of 18 demands made by canvassers on March 1st publicly. The demands are as follows:

1) A system to take credit card donations at the door

2) Professional van maintenance

3) Camping canvass to Duluth

4) Medical bills covered for work related injuries

5) Rotating union representative on the collective

6) Union chooses two co-canvass coordinators via democratic election

7) Closed union shop with a hiring and firing committee chosen within the union

8) Decentralization of coordinator pay and tasks

9) Canvass has control over who field manages

10) Coordinators, field managers, and canvassers do not have to be in the collective to do their job

11) Review of Coordinators done by the canvass, not the collective

12) Separation of work and personal differences

13) Canvass credit card only to be used for office supplies, gas, and canvasser appreciation

14) Canvass coordinators have full access to online donations, mail in contributions, and the ability to pay canvassers out weekly

15) More paid training, up to three days for new people when needed

16) Sick/vacation pay

17) 5% base pay raise

18) Double bonus at four shifts worked within a week

The collective has a genuine desire to arrive at consensus with their fellow workers in the canvass on these issues. Because we are not interested in engaging in an adversarial manner, we've decided to try and jumpstart the negotiation process by addressing some of these demands now. We are willing and ready to meet these four demands outright:

1) A system to take credit card donations at the door

2) Professional van maintenance

4) Medical bills covered for work related injuries

15) More paid training, up to three days for new people when needed

We offer these not only as a measure of good faith, but because we agree with canvassers that these are good ideas that should be enacted or formalized immediately.

We believe that we could find workable solutions for many of the additional demands. However, this is only possible through the canvass and the collective sitting down together to engage in open discussion.

I'm not clear if this was ever read to the canvassers or just drawn up and posted on FB after word got out one of them was fired by the collective..

Also, here's an embarrassing statement written and signed by a number of what I would consider social leaders from the local anarcho scene

http://communitystatement.wordpress.com/

Chilli Sauce
Mar 7 2013 07:40

That's amazing: "We're not bosses, man, don't try and force us to be bosses. However, we did have to fire someone. But we're not bosses. Don't try and make us bosses. But we do have the power to hire and fire. But we're not bosses..."

Yeah, that letter is fucking painful.

Uncreative
Mar 7 2013 11:26
Chilli Sauce wrote:
That's amazing: "We're not bosses, man, don't try and force us to be bosses. However, we did have to fire someone. But we're not bosses. Don't try and make us bosses. But we do have the power to hire and fire. But we're not bosses..."

You're missing the complex power dynamics!

kevin s.
Mar 8 2013 02:19
Chilli Sauce wrote:
That's amazing: "We're not bosses, man, don't try and force us to be bosses. However, we did have to fire someone. But we're not bosses. Don't try and make us bosses. But we do have the power to hire and fire. But we're not bosses..."

Yeah, that letter is fucking painful.

Yup! This campaign has been an interesting, almost hilarious but also highly frustrating experience from where I stand as active supporter and hardcore wob in a campaign consisting of all new members (i.e. we didn't salt in and the timeline prior to going public was short). I'd be happy to talk details off list because it's offered some interesting food for thought, but generally speaking, I'd say the biggest take-away for me from this strike has been to prove, and reinforce, a lot of my cynicism about the radicalism of "the radical community." The details of the strike and union are more complicated unfortunately, and still in progress so I'll wait for things to finish up before offering up much analysis of the campaign.

I'm also mentally and physically exhausted at the moment, and behind on other work, so that's another reason to refrain from writing up detailed analysis.

Juan Conatz
Mar 8 2013 06:00

I'm stealing this terminology, but to me, the signers of that statement are nothing but an 'autonomous union-busting collective'. Most of the classic union busting techniques are employed in that letter.

Chilli Sauce
Mar 8 2013 07:41

Sent a PM, but I'm curious, are the worthwhile Twin Cities anarcho-types planning on any sort of response to that letter?

Still love to see some pics or interviews from the picket line...

Ed
Mar 8 2013 10:07
Autonomous union-busting collective wrote:
We cannot express too strongly our belief that all people have the right of free association, and the right to work and live free of abuse, manipulation, and coercion. The circumstances of Shuge’s termination are not a matter of petty personal disagreements nor of union-busting, but one of collective and community well-being. His absence from the negotiations will be beneficial for everyone involved (Sisters’ Camelot workers, the organization as a whole, and the community at large), and we urge canvassers to negotiate with their fellow Camelot workers and the collective, without Shuge Mississippi present.

I don't know about anyone else, but this bit shocked the shit out of me.. as Juan said, this reads like a classic union-busting statement..

Just to be clear though, can someone explain what Sisters' Camelot actually is/does? Coz I feel like there must be some material reason for people to fall in line with this anti-worker shit.. like, are there a lot of radical projects in Twin Cities that are dependent on SC for support or resources?

Joseph Kay
Mar 8 2013 10:22
Quote:
Sisters’ Camelot is a collectively run 501c3 non-profit organization working to promote sustainability, strengthen community, and raise awareness about food justice. As an organization, we model a way to unconditionally share free healthy food in our communities.

We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit registered in the State of Minnesota.

http://sisterscamelot.org/

But it's quite clearly a 'collective' where one set of equals can fire the other set, whose labour they employ for a wage, regardless of being formally a non-profit.

syndicalist
Mar 8 2013 17:29

self-removed

kevin s.
Mar 8 2013 19:07

Sisters is a a nonprofit foodsharing program that's run by some anarcho types and has longstanding relationships in "the radical community." The organization is run by a "collective" of like six people who employ twice as many canvassers as "independent contractors" and lots of part-time volunteers as well from the community, it sells itself as "volunteer-run" although all the collective members are salaried/stipended, and has to a shitty consensus system that they sell as being radical which has basically made conditions worse and worse for the canvassers.

The cavassers are what I would call the "garbage collectors" of the "anti-capitalist" "collective." The collective don't want to do the shit work of door-to-door fundraising but they need they money, so they contract it out to the canvassers who they accuse of "just being in it for the money."

Quote:
Sent a PM, but I'm curious, are the worthwhile Twin Cities anarcho-types planning on any sort of response to that letter?

Still love to see some pics or interviews from the picket line...

Again this has been a frustrating campaign - in this case the canvassers have held back from doing any picket line so far, although there was talk of doing one an "open house" thing, until the open house got cancelled. And as far as we can know there hasn't been any scab canvassing, we've had scabwatch patrols that haven't seen anything and the collective has insisted they aren't sending scabs out (which would be hard for them to do, since all but one of the two canvass directors, and one new canvasser who is friends with said director, are with the union).

Gotta go.

Chilli Sauce
Mar 8 2013 19:58
Quote:
It's quite clearly a 'collective' where one set of equals can fire the other set.

huli
Mar 9 2013 16:00

Not surprised by the actions taken by the "union-busting collective."

Having seen too many of my own co-workers at a "progressive" institution fired, suspended, harassed into quitting, and otherwise disciplined in the wake of our nascent concerted activity, I have come to understand that these institutions manipulate their community supporters' will to believe in their mission. They feel emboldened not only to fire trouble-makers but to hide their actions behind a screen of blatant character assassination, because they usually get cooperation from their supporters who will want to blame the workers for waking them from a pleasant dream.

I work for an union that has received broad public support in the labor movement as the last best hope for labor. A lot of influential lefties have given themselves over to this fantasy, and are willing to ignore the way this union deals with its own employees. The union itself merely has to drag a fired worker's name through the mud to give these lefties enough cover to turn a blind eye and let the union off the hook.

In our own case, many of us were angered to be painted as enemies of the members when we asserted our own aspirations. The prevailing idea in the labor movement is that union staff demonstrate their solidarity with rank-and-file members by doing as we are told, making "sacrifices" of time and money, and helping members organize. Bullshit. That's not solidarity - that's me doing my job! And like any other worker, there are plenty of things about my job that suck and that my co-workers and I want to fight against (like the aforementioned "sacrifices.") Instead, the fact that we are fighting with our own boss, just like the rank and file of the union we work for are fighting against THEIR boss is what bonds us together in solidarity as workers. But it is this very thing that leads us to be accused of betraying the people we are supposed to "help."

So we have a lot in common with the canvassers - who are being accused of hurting the people the food program is supposed to "help."

There is more to it than this, of course, but the firing of one of the canvassers and the subsequent rationalization by the collective felt too familiar to me to escape comment.

Juan Conatz
Mar 10 2013 03:44

There is another fundraiser tonight. As a reminder the WePay donation page can be found here. Just saw WSA's check, thanks yall.

Tomorrow there is an open event put on by the strikers to more put out their point of view.

Sisters Camelot put out another status update, which seems like is their strategy here. Post Facebook status updates.

Quote:
Sisters’ Camelot FAQ

The Sisters’ Camelot collective would like to offer some answers to some common questions in regards to the current impasse with canvassers who have gone on strike.

Posted 3/9/13
1.Q: Is Sisters’ Camelot anti-union?

A: No, we are not anti-union. In this situation we prefer to find a solution that does not compromise the values of collective organizing, but we recognize the right of the canvassers to organize themselves as workers.

2.Q: What does Sisters’ Camelot do?

A: We operate a mobile organic food share, where every week we pick up thousands of pounds of overstock organic produce in our bus and share it in low income neighborhoods around the Twin Cities. We also have a community kitchen bus which serves free hot meals three times a week around the Twin Cities, and we have a community garden where we provide educational opportunities and fresh herbs and produce for community meals. Our values include a commitment to community autonomy, equality, economic and social justice, and sustainability.

3.Q: What is a collective?

A: A collective, or worker cooperative, is a kind of structure that individuals use to organize themselves that is non-hierarchical and often uses consensus-based decision-making. In the context of Sisters’ Camelot, it is how we organize ourselves as workers (both paid and unpaid) to ensure that all members can have the opportunity to be involved in the decision-making process. Like Sisters' Camelot, most collectives have some sort of process for membership because it is important to establish the accountability and commitment of people who have decision-making power. For more info on collectives or worker cooperatives, please see http://www.go.coop/kinds-co-ops/worker.

4.Q: I heard Sisters’ Camelot is a “closed collective.” Is this true?

A: No. The collective is open. Any person can go through the process to become a collective member. The process is as follows:

1. Collective members must complete at least eight volunteer hours OR canvass 12 paid canvass shifts per calendar month. [The 12 shifts option was added in response to the concerns of the canvassers.]

2. Collective members must participate at least once each year (beginning on the date of collective membership) in each current program area.

3. Collective members must attend and participate in all Sisters' Camelot weekly meetings.

4. Collective members holding contracts must record all hours worked or volunteered and submit a weekly time card.

Applicants must fulfill these requirements for three months before their membership can be consensed upon by fellow workers in the collective.

5.Q: What kind of people make up the collective?

A: All workers in the collective volunteer their time to participate in the collective process and “managing” of the organization. Most of the collective members also hold other positions in the organization for which they do receive small stipends. Over the years, there has been a wide range of volunteers, canvassers, community members, and stipended workers taking part in the collective.

6.Q: Do collective members get paid to be a part of the collective?

A: No.

7.Q: Is it true that the collective has no experience with canvassing for Sisters’ Camelot?

A: No. The current collective has over 10 years cumulative canvassing experience for Sisters’ Camelot.

8.Q: Is the collective accessible to canvassers?

A: Yes, the collective is open to canvassers and, in fact, four of the six current collective members came to Sisters' Camelot through the canvass. However, having heard that some current canvassers felt the collective wasn't accessible enough, we have made a significant change to the collective membership requirements to address this. (See question 4 above.)

9.Q: What is the difference between a traditional boss/employee relationship and that of the collective/contract worker relationship in this situation?

A: The IWW defines a manager as one who has the ability to hire or fire another individual. Managers, by this definition, are excluded from being members of the IWW.

Canvassers at Sisters’ Camelot are currently independent contractors that are not hired or fired by an individual, but by a group of people who engage in a form of workplace democracy called 'consensus based decision-making,' which some say is more egalitarian than majority voting and and which is certainly more egalitarian than a command structure of bosses. This arrangement allows the organization as a whole to function in alignment with principles of workplace democracy shared by many IWW members. No one at Sisters’ Camelot was or is under the thumb of a fat-cat executive. People generally work here because they feel it is important to uphold the mission of the organization. If someone makes major mistakes that put the organization and/or its mission at risk, the collective has the right, via consensus, to let them go.

Sisters' Camelot is an organization run by a collective body. The collective is comprised of workers who decided to take on the additional responsibility of collective decision-making. The collective members, through a consensus-based process, retain the ability to decide who will be allowed to join the collective body based on a list of criteria that, in the case of Sisters' Camelot, is open and transparent to workers and public alike.

Once a worker meets the criteria, they have the ability to petition the collective to be considered to become a member. The collective members then have the ability to come to a consensus on whether or not the worker meets the criteria necessary to accept the responsibility of membership. They can be accepted if they have the collective’s best interest at heart, and also be denied if they are seen to be counter-productive to the organization. (See question 10 below.) In a boss-employee relationship, even when workers have won some protections through their union or through independent worker struggle, these criteria and these decisions are made on a boss’ whim with little to no democratic process. Also, a major difference is that any worker has a right to attend any collective meeting and have direct input into the organization and any decision which affects their work, whether they choose to join the collective or not.

It is essential to any worker collective or co-op to vet its members in order to harbor members that work in the organization’s best interest, and to protect the organization from potentially harmful persons and/or actions. This process has roots back to the earlier radical union days of vetting new union members to make sure they were not inviting in thieves, infiltrators or thugs.

10.Q: Doesn’t the collective just refuse membership to anyone they don't like?

A: No. We believe in the right of free association, and so we do reserve the ability to refuse membership if circumstances mean we can't work in a healthy manner with someone. We take this refusal very seriously, and see it as a measure to be used sparingly. Over the course of Camelot's existence, we have asked only a handful of individuals to leave, and haven't actually refused collective membership to anyone who had met all the requirements--ever.

11.Q: What is consensus?

A: Consensus decision-making is based on cooperative intent, with a commitment from everyone in the group to reaching the best possible resolution for everyone involved. Unlike a majority vote, consensus does not seek to cast aside one viewpoint for another, but rather to develop suitable options while taking all voices into account and addressing all concerns before a decision is reached. Many different models of consensus process exist, and few groups use exactly the same process as any other, but all have the consent of all those who choose to participate as their goal.

12.Q: Do collective members rely upon Sisters' Camelot for their livelihood as much as canvassers?

A:Yes, like canvassers, collective members who hold stipended positions do rely on the income from that position. Most of the stipended positions come with a range of time commitments, from part- to full-time, and all of these positions are as independent contractors. Sisters' Camelot has no salaried or hourly staff.

13.Q: How does the collective address grievances?

A: Anyone can bring a problem to the weekly collective meeting and put something on the agenda to be discussed; likewise, they can raise a grievance to a collective member to take to the meeting for them. This process is not flawless. Sometimes it’s hard to attend a meeting at 10 am if someone has another job or commitment at that time. Sometimes if an issue is sensitive enough, someone might not feel comfortable bringing it up at a meeting that anyone could attend. And sometimes, because we are all human and criticism can be hard to hear, the reception may not be as open and supportive as we'd wish. We are glad that the canvassers have highlighted that our collective process for addressing grievances is lacking, and we want to develop a process with them that is acceptable for all workers and is in line with our collective values.

14.Q: Is the collective refusing to negotiate?

A: No. We have already offered a good faith measure by significantly expanding the ways someone can become a collective member and put out an open ended offer to begin negotiations. (For more info, please see our statement from March 6th.)

15.Q: Has Sisters' Camelot stopped or reduced programming during the strike?

A: Aside from suspending canvass operations, not yet. We are working hard to prevent it, but we are regretfully preparing to scale back programs if necessary.

16.Q: Does Sisters' Camelot currently have any additional manner of fundraising?

A: No.

17.Q: Is Sisters' Camelot planning an alternate canvass to replace the striking workers?

A: The collective has made no move towards establishing an alternative canvass.

18.Q: Has a collective member been left out of the consensus process?

A: One collective member told the collective on Friday, March 1st, that he was going on strike with the canvassers. In doing so, he removed himself from the consensus decision-making process concerning the union and the collective. Consensus process is dependent upon all parties choosing to participate in it in good faith. None of us gets to hold up the process of consensus by refusing to engage in it; if we did, tools meant to foster mutual respectful consideration and compromise would become tools of coercion.

19.Q. Why did you fire a canvasser after the strike had begun? If there was cause to terminate him, why hadn't you done it before?

A: The first time a contract was ended with Shuge Outerspace Mississippi, it was both because he had stolen pay from fellow Camelot workers at least twice, and because canvassers took it upon themselves to have a meeting to discuss problems with canvass morale and function. They came to full consensus that there had been a huge breach of trust and that his lack of responsibility led them to have no confidence in his ability as a canvass director. In July 2011 he signed a contract to canvass with Sisters’ Camelot through a canvass director (who was not a collective member) without the knowledge of the collective. When this was brought to our attention, we wanted to take immediate action but our consensus process broke down; one person blocked the termination of that contract and consensus could not be reached. Our own internal shortcomings in practicing consensus and mutual care created a situation where we have been non-consensually subjected to Shuge's presence ever since his return. He made no attempt to account for his past actions, and his return against the consent of many Camelot workers has created an unhealthy work environment for many. We should have dealt with this issue sooner, and deeply regret that we didn't.

When the canvassers articulated such strong desires for more control over their work environment, which would ultimately affect every worker at Sisters’ Camelot, the current collective went through days of deep discussion about what we could do to address their demands. Through this process of internal discussion, our understanding of the atmosphere of division Shuge has brought to our workplace crystallized. It became clear to us that his involvement in the organization needed to come to an end in order for us to be able to move forward, both internally and in dialogue with the canvassers. In response, we have recognized our past errors. We are strengthening our consensus process, and furthering our accountability to one another and the organization.

20.Q: Would the financial demands of the canvassers “sink” Sisters’ Camelot?

A: Based on the budget from 2012, a base pay raise of 5% would have pushed the organization into a deficit of -$8,784.67. A double bonus at four shifts worked within a week would have had the potential to bring that deficit to -$21,028.57. Of course, many other factors are in play, but this gives you a sense of the small margin at which we operate.

This has since been added to the "community letter"

Quote:
ADDENDUM, 3/8/13

Since publishing this letter, many if not most of the signers have been recipients of harassing messages and personal attacks. As a result, we've heard from multiple people who, although they agree with the content of the letter, have asked not to have their name added or have asked for their name to be removed so as not to be subjected to this harassment. We wholeheartedly support such requests. If you've signed, not signed but stand in support, forwarded this letter, or otherwise helped move the current conversation forward towards an amicable resolution, you have our thanks.
-the co-authors

Unbelievable. I saw another round of emails accusing the IWW of being anti-trans, sexist and masculine for the strike. Bizarre.

Chilli Sauce
Mar 10 2013 08:58

Yeah, this just gets more and more bizarre.

Quote:
One collective member told the collective on Friday, March 1st, that he was going on strike with the canvassers. In doing so, he removed himself from the consensus decision-making process concerning the union and the collective. Consensus process is dependent upon all parties choosing to participate in it in good faith

The co-option of the language of consensus to dismiss the legitimacy of a strike.

Quote:
15.Q: Has Sisters' Camelot stopped or reduced programming during the strike?

A: Aside from suspending canvass operations, not yet. We are working hard to prevent it, but we are regretfully preparing to scale back programs if necessary.

On this, it's only the canvassers involved in the strike? What percentage of the workforce do they make up? What's the relationship between them and other non-collective members of Sisters Camelot?

And, not to score political points off the back of this, but next time someone comes on libcom spouting about consensus and/or workers co-ops, I'm directing them to Workers Camelot.

I do think, in general, a libcom introduction to co-ops (and the economic crisis and federalism and...) would be beneficial.

Shorty
Mar 10 2013 10:38
Juan Conatz wrote:
Unbelievable. I saw another round of emails accusing the IWW of being anti-trans, sexist and masculine for the strike. Bizarre.

I was very confused by that part of the statement too. confused

Quote:
What’s more, we’ve seen in this adversarial approach that political positions are oversimplified and loudly debated in a manner that hides nuance and silences thoughtful and respectful engagement, at the expense of mutual aid, strong relationships, and political growth. This environment bolsters existing privileges and power dynamics, reproducing many of the very oppressions we fight against: namely, such behavior tends to reproduce the oppression of women, people of color, queer and trans folks, and other marginalized groups. This behavior has often rendered anti-authoritarian projects unwelcoming for community members who are essential to our struggles for a better world, which holds back all movement towards collective liberation.

We shouldn't be adversarial in labour disputes now? confused

bozemananarchy
Mar 10 2013 14:27

I'm happy that one of these sorta lefty 501c(3) organizations is finally being taken to task. I've worked for non-profits before, none this hippy, but still used the same logic to shut down talk of better conditions for the wage-earners.

The logic is, our mission is socially responsible and just generally a good thing to do, thus, we can do no wrong, EVER. Further, if you try to impede that mission, your on the wrong side things. Toss in some slanderous bull-shit and BAM!, that is how you get your autonomous union busting collectives.

Solidarity with the strikers,
B

Rob Ray
Mar 10 2013 14:50

Wow that's amazing, if it wasn't down in black and white as an official statement I'd assume it was satire. Imagine having politics so bad that having used your position of power to strip someone's livelihood from them you then accuse them of oppressing you with their privilege...

Shorty
Mar 10 2013 14:55

This is a slightly relevant article.

http://libcom.org/blog/pissing-blood-08112012