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=1387...

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

Posted By

Juan Conatz
Mar 2 2013 01:34

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Devrim
Mar 10 2013 15:13
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

I didn't realise that consensus decision making worked like this. I thought it meant everybody had to agree. This seems to suggest that everybody has to agree except those who disagree, and therefore 'remove themselves from the consensus decision-making process'.

Devrim

Juan Conatz
Mar 11 2013 22:03
Devrim wrote:
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

I didn't realise that consensus decision making worked like this. I thought it meant everybody had to agree. This seems to suggest that everybody has to agree except those who disagree, and therefore 'remove themselves from the consensus decision-making process'.

Devrim

What actually happened is that he is a collective member (therefore he has partially the power to hire and fire) who knew about how the canvassers were unionizing, but as a former canvasser he was sympathetic, so he didn't tell the rest of the collective. Because of this, they basically tried to force him out of the decision making process, which he fought, but then gave up on after some hours.

Juan Conatz
Mar 11 2013 22:06

Last night, here was a public meeting at one of the CWA (union of mostly AT&T workers) halls, in which 8 of the strikers or so talked about the strike and their situation. Fairly good turnout for such short notice and it went well. Video was taken, so hopefully that will be edited and put out publicly soon.

Chilli Sauce
Mar 11 2013 22:56

Looks like there's some sort of interview here, although I haven't had a chance to listen to it...

https://soundcloud.com/laborradio/win-labor-report-march-8-2013

Juan Conatz
Mar 12 2013 19:45

Demands of the striking Sisters Camelot canvassers
http://tcorganizer.com/2013/03/12/demands-of-the-striking-sisters-camelo...

Quote:
The following are the demands, along with explanations written by the striking canvassers, presented to the Sisters’ Camelot Collective for negotiation on March 1, 2013. We wish to stress that many of these points are meant to be negotiated, there has never been an expectation that all of them must be accepted as-is.

Rotating union representative on the collective

Previous attempts by various canvassers to join the collective have been met with hostility, despite declarations of openness and inclusion. This representative on the collective would only have say in matters affecting the canvass, not any of Sisters Camelot’s other programs. The canvasser filling this position would be elected democratically by the union canvassers, and the union canvasser filling this role would rotate on a regular basis.

Union chooses canvass coordinators via democratic election

Currently, the canvass is run by two canvass directors who are hired by the collective with no say from the canvass workers. The union wants to abolish these positions and replace them with canvass coordinators who would be chosen by the workers themselves through a democratic election. In this manner the best candidates for the position would be determined by the workers, who have the most familiarity with what is required, and those filling these positions would be accountable to the workers directly.

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

Having a closed union shop at the Sisters Camelot canvass program means that every worker who joins the canvass must also join the union within one month of employment. This protects the union in the workplace and allows for new hires to get a feel for the job before making a full commitment. Currently, hiring and firing power is held by the co-canvass directors. The canvass believes that in order to have a truly democratic workplace, that power must be in the hands of the workers themselves.

Medical bills covered for work related injuries

Sisters Camelot canvassers are employed as independent contractors and are not covered by workers’ compensation laws. Although workplace injuries on the canvass are relatively rare, they do occasionally occur. We believe that it is the responsibility of Sisters Camelot to cover the medical bills for the canvass in case of injury on the job.

A system to take credit card donations at the door

Many potential donors don’t have checks or cash at the door. The ability to take credit card donations would greatly increase the amount of money that the canvassers can raise for Sisters Camelot. The collective has denied this request in the past, citing a distrust of the canvassers in regards to credit card information.

Professional van maintenance

Since being purchased in the summer, the current van used to take canvass crews out fundraising has experienced several mechanical and electrical failures that have not been addressed by a professional. Previous van maintenance has been inadequate and done in-house without a clear timeline. This has resulted in fundraising shifts cut short, hurting both the workers and the organization as a whole.

Camping canvass to Duluth

Camping canvasses are a useful and common tool used by other fundraising groups to expand support outside of the Twin Cities area.

Decentralization of coordinator pay and tasks

The current workload placed on the canvass directors has proven to be too heavy and all-encompassing, resulting in errors in accounting, zoning, and time management, among other issues. Much of this work can easily be taken on by other members of the canvass program, furthering efficiency and effectiveness of Sisters Camelot as a whole.

Canvass has control over who field manages

Field managers are responsible for directing canvass shifts, driving the van, cutting maps, dealing with money deposits, and other day-to-day tasks. The canvass has proven that they have the experience and knowledge to elect who completes these tasks and how that work is managed.

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

The SC collective is a closed collective, meaning that you have to go through a trial process and application to be considered for membership. There is no guarantee that applicants will even be accepted. Volunteer hours are a requirement in addition to paid canvassing work. Many canvassers work between 4 and 7 days a week and do not have time to put in extra volunteer hours. We believe that it is unfair to require any workers at Sisters Camelot to join the collective in order to perform their paid jobs.

Review of Coordinators done by the canvass, not the collective

The canvassers are the ones who are directly affected by the work that the canvass coordinators do. Thus, it only makes sense for the canvassers to review the coordinators, not the collective, who have proven in the past that they are unable to do this task effectively and without bias.

Separation of work and personal differences

Comments made out of personal animosity can no longer be tolerated in the Sisters Camelot workplace. In the past, canvassers have felt that personal comments and attacks made on behalf of the collective have created a hostile and unhealthy work environment. We don’t expect everyone to always get along, but demand the right to work in an environment of respect and dignity.

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

Current access to funds for emergency situations, fueling the crew van, and office expenses is in the hands of one or two collective members. Having access to a canvass credit card for such instances would help the workers do their job more effectively.

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

Often, when canvassers go to the door, supporters are unable to donate via cash or check, and do so either online or via mail. These donations are an important part of our wages. These donations are infrequently checked by members of the collective often resulting in late or lost wages.

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

Currently only one full shift is given to new hires for training purposes. The union feels that this is not enough in order to fully understand the job. We want to give new hires the tools and knowledge to perform their job at the highest level possible in order to raise more funds for Sisters Camelot.

Sick/vacation pay

Sisters Camelot canvassers currently do not get paid sick days, despite this being a standard practice in the industry. The canvassers union is asking for earned sick days/vacation pay as a sign of respect and dignity for the hard work that we do.

5% base pay raise

As it stands, SC canvassers earn not an hourly wage, but 40% of funds raised at the door, which is well below industry standards. A 5% base pay raise is a relatively small amount of money to ask, and will serve as an incentive for canvassers to fundraise more money for the organization.

Double bonus at four shifts worked within a week

Currently, if canvassers raise at least $500 in one week, they are granted an extra 5% commission. We are proposing that if the canvassers also work 4 shifts in a week in addition to reaching $500 in donations, they will receive an extra 5% bonus. This encourages canvassers to set fundraising goals and put in extra work toward making the organization function well.