A reportback of a IWW picket in Minneapolis of Chicago-Lake Liquors, which fired 5 organizers in April 2013. More information can be found here.
Over a month after the retaliatory firings of five works shocked South Minneapolis, a noted progressive community within the Twin Cities, workers at Chicago-Lake Liquors continue their fight for justice at work by taking it right to their bosses. Throughout April, workers and their supporters in the IWW have kept the story of the fired workers alive in South Minneapolis, holding two large informational pickets outside the store and flyering to customers every weekend night. While management refuses to speak with the fired workers, the Labor Board continues to investigate the firings and the IWW continues to heighten the pressure against the company.
On April 1st, five IWW organizers at the highest-volume liquor retailer in Minnesota were fired after the majority of their coworkers delivered a petition to management asking for a higher wages and to raise the wage cap for the store, which sits at $10.50 an hour, below Minneapolis’ living wage of $12.19. The five IWW members, whose union affiliation was at the time not known by management, were fired in an attempt to scare the rest of their coworkers into silence. So far the attempt has backfired, as IWW supporters continued presence outside the store has only solidified the idea that the union has Chicago-Lake workers’ backs and is not going away. The fired IWW workers continue to demand an end to union-busting at Chicago Lake, their immediate rehiring, and a raise for all workers there.
The union decided to up the militancy of the struggle on Saturday, May 4th, when nearly 50 working class Minnesotans and IWW members picketed out the two main entrances to Chicago-Lake, stopping cars at the driveways and asking them to turn around and shop elsewhere that day. Minnesota’s blue laws prohibit liquor sales on Sundays, so Saturday is the biggest day for liquor retailers, and May 4th came a day before the Southside’s annual Mayday Parade and Cinco de Mayo, both big days for drinking. IWW members turned away upwards of 90% of shoppers while they picketed, making what should have been an extremely busy Saturday into a quiet afternoon inside the store and testifying to the consciousness of the Minneapolis working class. Cars honked in support and union supporters cheered as customer after customer pulled a U-turn and drove away to buy their booze elsewhere. Despite management’s threats and security personnel’s attempt to arrest IWW members, union workers stayed strong and held the line for the duration of the picket, asserting their rights and their power. The picket was scary enough for John Wolf, Chicago-Lake’s owner, who has become basically invisible since the fight began, to emerge and skulk around the store.
While the fight for fair wages and union rights at Chicago-Lake is just beginning, IWW members vow that it’s a fight they’ll see to the finish. Escalation work continues on multiple levels and readers of the Industrial Worker should stay tuned for what comes next. Organizers have announced another picket of the store on May 24th and continue to inform customers of the situation outside the store daily. As the chant which has become a favorite on Chicago-Lake picket lines goes: “If we don’t get no justice, you don’t get no Natty Ice!”
This is a slightly altered version of an article which will appear in the next Industrial Worker
Originally posted: May 16, 2013 at The Organizer