Information on a just begun strike at a non-profit mobile food shelf and soup kitchen in Minneapolis.
From the Twin Cities IWW blog:
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.
Quote: They are demanding
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?
The workers there do want a
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.
Juan, the term 'closed shop'
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.
I believe they want new
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.
It seems a bit of a strange
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 wrote: It seems a bit
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.
FAQ about the Sisters’
FAQ about the Sisters’ Camelot Canvass Strike
Local media coverage
In the original post, I
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:
At this time, while they're
At this time, while they're on the picket lines, I wish them well in their strike! Solidarity!
Striking Non-Profit Workers
Striking Non-Profit Workers Walk Out In Response to Surprise Retaliatory Firing
Real quick about the closed
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.
Any updates from the strike
Any updates from the strike itself? Pictures of the picket line? Interviews with strikers?
Good luck to all involved, btw.
Chili Sauce, the last real
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
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
That's amazing: "We're not
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.
Chilli Sauce wrote: That's
You're missing the complex power dynamics!
Chilli Sauce wrote: That's
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.
I'm stealing this
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.
Sent a PM, but I'm curious,
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...
Autonomous union-busting collective
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?
Quote: Sisters’ Camelot is a
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.
Sisters is a a nonprofit
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."
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).
Quote: It's quite clearly a
Not surprised by the actions
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.
There is another fundraiser
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.
This has since been added to the "community letter"
Unbelievable. I saw another round of emails accusing the IWW of being anti-trans, sexist and masculine for the strike. Bizarre.
Yeah, this just gets more and
Yeah, this just gets more and more bizarre.
The co-option of the language of consensus to dismiss the legitimacy of a strike.
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.
I was very confused by that part of the statement too. :confused:
We shouldn't be adversarial in labour disputes now? :confused:
I'm happy that one of these
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,
Wow that's amazing, if it
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...
This is a slightly relevant
This is a slightly relevant article.
Quote: One collective member
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 wrote: Quote: One
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.
Last night, here was a public
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.
Looks like there's some sort
Looks like there's some sort of interview here, although I haven't had a chance to listen to it...
Demands of the striking
Demands of the striking Sisters Camelot canvassers