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 [email protected] 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:
To donate to the strike fund, visit:
Also, Marie Mason, an
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
Uh, so wow. That really is
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.
Hopefully Marie going to bat
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).
As I remember that was one
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.
Juan, my recollection is that
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.
Here is the editorial in
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.
Yeah, I agree that it was
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.
Fair enough. I am not trying
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.
I'm sorry too if this has
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.
As has been pointed out, this
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.
Copy of letter WSA sent along
Copy of letter WSA sent along with donation about 2 weeks back:
Some updates There was
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
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).
Quote: A lot of people have
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?
Quote: The Sisters’ Camelot
There's a picket tomorrow
There's a picket tomorrow morning
Some picket pix
Some picket pix
IWW Sisters’ Camelot Canvass
IWW Sisters’ Camelot Canvass Union makes package-deal proposal to end the strike.
also, one of the strikers wrote this: http://lettertompls.wordpress.com/
Sisters’ Camelot management
Sisters’ Camelot management refuses deal with union, says they are “not anxious to end strike”
Phone zap (I think yall call
Phone zap (I think yall call it a 'communications blockade' in UK)
Some helpful souls put out
Some helpful souls put out this gem: http://scunionbusters.com/
That is f*cking awesome.
That is f*cking awesome.