Local Worker-Owned Restaurant Joins IWW

Local Worker-Owned Restaurant Joins IWW

Statement posted by the IWW claiming "Act signifies workers’ real desire for change, not just rhetoric". We reproduce it for reference only.

Grand Rapids, MI - Bartertown Diner and Roc’s Cakes a raw, vegan/vegetarian restaurant opening in a couple weeks in downtown Grand Rapids has decided to go “wobbly.” The seven member team which constitutes the worker-run establishment have all decided to join the old and storied Industrial Workers of the World labor union.

“It just seemed like the perfect fit for us. After meeting with members of the IWW it was clear that we all want the same things and being that we really don’t want to be just another restaurant it seemed logical,” said Ryan Cappelletti cook at the new Diner.

Bartertown Diner and Roc’s Cakes, which will be located at 6 Jefferson St., joins a growing list of worker-owned IWW shops. The Red and Black Cafe in Portland, Oregon and Just Coffee in Madison, Wisconsin being two others.

“We are very happy that Bartertown and Roc’s Cakes has decided to go IWW and believe it can only help in our larger campaign to raise the standard of living and benefits for all food and beverage workers in Grand Rapids,” said Shannon Williams, Treasurer of the local IWW branch.

The Grand Rapids Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World has been involved in food service organizing for many years. From the IWW Starbucks Workers Union to the IWW Jimmy Johns Workers Union.

The Industrial Workers of the World is a rank-and-file labor union open to all workers.

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http://grsbuxunion.blogspot.com/
http://www.bartertowngr.com/

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grsbuxunion
May 10 2011 01:54

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Devrim
May 10 2011 03:41

Is this a kind of marketing ploy?

Devrim

Plumber
May 10 2011 03:54

The "class Struggle" continues! Clueless.....

Steven.
May 10 2011 17:15

What is the point of everyone in a co-op being in the IWW?

I have moved this from news to the library section and rewritten the introduction, as basically this looked like an advert which we wouldn't agree with.

Mike Harman
May 10 2011 17:26
Steven. wrote:
What is the point of everyone in a co-op being in the IWW?

Like Devrim said, it could be lefty marketing for the store. I'm pretty sure there is some kind of wobbly shop stamp of approval you can get.

Less cynically, if you have a workers co-op, then it being 100% wobbly is possibly a way to 'officially' differentiate it from consumer co-ops, or co-ops where the members are the bosses of other workers - but then it's those kinds of co-ops that could actually use workplace organising, and at best it's symbolic, at worst confusing.

From the IWW's point of view, it makes up the numbers of 'organised shops' - i.e. you can say "we have 5 shops organised in the food service sector in Oregon" - even if they're all co-ops.

I'd like to think this doesn't happen, but sentences like "The Grand Rapids Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World has been involved in food service organizing for many years. From the IWW Starbucks Workers Union to the IWW Jimmy Johns Workers Union." really blurs the line between this.

vanilla.ice.baby
May 10 2011 18:19

While I have massive issues with the IWW and places like this - workers and other co-ops always have to be on their guard against a management structure developing and having a union (and if they have a union, a radical democratic union is better) could act as a safeguard against that happening.

I'm playing devils advocate of course.

Juan Conatz
May 10 2011 18:26

There are a number of worker run enterprises that are affliated with the IWW. There's at least 3 in Madison. A coffee company, a print shop and an infoshop.

I definitely don't think bringing co-ops in should be emphasized whatsoever, but they provide a bit of infrastructure and resources for things sometimes.

Joseph Kay
May 10 2011 18:57

As far as i'm aware the IWW view is that co-op workers are waged workers, so they're entitled to join. However they can't really organise (unless it's a 'co-op' like Mondragon with higher paid management etc), so it wouldn't make sense to target such firms, as the best it could do is prevent management hierarchies emerging.

Steven.
May 11 2011 09:19
Juan Conatz wrote:
There are a number of worker run enterprises that are affliated with the IWW. There's at least 3 in Madison. A coffee company, a print shop and an infoshop.

I definitely don't think bringing co-ops in should be emphasized whatsoever, but they provide a bit of infrastructure and resources for things sometimes.

yeah, sure - I just don't think they should be advertised as if they are functioning job shop

fnbrill
May 13 2011 00:55

On a whole, I'm not an advocate for co-ops/collectives joining the IWW. I think most of the attraction on both sides comes from a incorrect view that anarchism/socialism//comunism is a simple administrative change. Therefore collectives are part of the new society. This view was promoted by a grouping of anarcho-syndicalists around the IWW from the 1970s on.

That said, being a former member of several collective businesses, if you take an industrial attitude towards business, it makes sense for collectives would encourage higher wages, benefits, etc in the industry as a whole. I've seen collectives have to cut wages in order to compete/stay in business. In this way I think collectives joining effective campaigns makes sense for wage-workers within them.

robot
May 13 2011 04:36

I don't know anything about what is exactly meant by a cooperative joining the IWW. So I can just tell you how the question of collective business / cooperatives is dealt within my own union, aka the FAU-IWA.

We treat the question of waged labour / command over the waged labour as our rubicon river. If all the workers in a collective business are at the same time members of the collective –which is our understanding of collective business– we will allow members of the collective to join the union. If a collective business additionally employes workers that are not members of the collective at the same time, we treat every member of the collective as an employer and thus will not allow her to join the union or will desfederate him if he already were a member. In addition there were some discussions about collective bargaining in cooperatives and if we should negotiate certain standards for those collectives, whose members like to join, but there has been no decision about those questions yet. May be IWW has a similar strategy with collective business / cooperatives.

888
May 13 2011 05:54

I don't see what's so bad about them joining.

Mike Harman
May 13 2011 07:04

I don't think anyone is saying they should be barred from joining necessarily - at least as individuals, robot's description of the FAU-IWA policy sounds sensible to me.

Although even with that there are grey areas - what if a collective pays a book keeper for a few hours a month to do their accounts? Is the co-op paying another company for services (client-provider relationship), or is the bookkeeper a non-owning part-time worker (employer-employee relationship)?

This is a very fine line, and issues like that are the wedge that could take an actual workers co-op into an employers co-op, but don't necessarily start out as an exploitative relationship as such.

What is mainly being objected to here is:

1. Presenting the joining of a co-op as a shop being organised.

2. Blurring the lines between a co-op joining collectively (a decision of the collective owners of that firm operating /as a firm/ to join the union) and things like the starbucks union/Jimmy Johns by association.

3. Posting press releases about all this.

4. Complete lack of any sense in the press release that the writers have even considered any of these issues.

robot
May 13 2011 07:47
Mike Harman wrote:
Although even with that there are grey areas - what if a collective pays a book keeper for a few hours a month to do their accounts? Is the co-op paying another company for services (client-provider relationship), or is the bookkeeper a non-owning part-time worker (employer-employee relationship)?

Of course there is always some sort of greys. But if some or all members of a collective company want to join the union, they have to take care that they fit into a non-employer scheme. That's not much a price for a union membership. Because as we all know, the working class and the employing class have nothing in common. Thus even the most progressive and well-minded employer finally makes no difference with any other employer. That's just basic materialism.

happyanarchy
Mar 15 2012 05:31

I say good on 'em for joining up to the IWW all together, and making a public shout-out to the Wobblies.

Just because they are a collectively owned enterprise, doesn't mean they aren't part of the working class even if they have the technical capacity to 'hire and fire'. That capacity to 'hire and fire' may be a joint consensus/democratic decision, which I think is fine. Sometimes that call needs to be made if you are running an enterprise. As long as the internal culture is fair and democratic.

I see this as statement of solidarity to the IWW, and these workers are establishing an internal culture of unionism in their enterprise. This will live on after each member leaves and new members join.

And it adds the practical power check for their business. That if internal relations drift towards more hierarchical, or exploitative tendencies over time, there is an external organisation (IWW) that can be called on to challenge it.

This is a step up from other co-ops and social enterprises.

Spikymike
Mar 15 2012 19:22

Workers Co-ops of this type may provide a less crappy option for survival by some individuals but at the end of the day they are capitalist enterprises and in most cases where they are not employing other workers are still self-managing their own exploitation.

Peculiarly Robert Kurtz elsewhere in his post 'Anti-economics......' argues for a new kind of 'consumer co-op' operating as a means of disconnecting from the market by comparison with producer co-ops selling on the market.

Food for Thought?

communal_pie
Mar 16 2012 03:09

Thing is that not only is class-struggle not really high enough yet for, as an example, co-operatively worker-run businesses to sort things out with each other in a constructive manner that doesn't impact any worker negatively, but the economy isn't even in good shape. Surely this'll just lead to them having to implement wage cuts on themselves? That's going to create pretty bad resentment I should imagine.. not only that, but they'll have to compete with other businesses..quite sceptical about this. It does seem a bit like marketing too as Devrim said...I dunno, not sure why they need the union either if they're all class-conscious....

Awesome Dude
Mar 16 2012 03:40
happyanarchy wrote:
Just because they are a collectively owned enterprise, doesn't mean they aren't part of the working class even if they have the technical capacity to 'hire and fire'. That capacity to 'hire and fire' may be a joint consensus/democratic decision, which I think is fine. Sometimes that call needs to be made if you are running an enterprise. As long as the internal culture is fair and democratic.

The real interests of the working class are served only through the abolition of the wages system, i.e. negation of capital. Working class "self management", which includes co-operatives, is one of a multitude of schemes advanced by "capital" to try to keep profit margins up, thereby attempting to avoiding the tendency of the rate of profit to decline-by eliminating or significantly reducing costly middle management and instruments of mediation (that also includes organs of the capitalist state like the police and the dole...big society?).

Chilli Sauce
Mar 16 2012 07:39

Agree with the above, but for our American posters and explanation of the the Big Society might be helpful:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Society