A reportback of the last picket at Chicago-Lake Liquors and a short story about sexual harassment of cashiers and how we can stick together and fight against it. Like the first Broken Bottle, we’re using this for outreach to liquor store workers across the Twin Cities metro area.
Posts from the ‘Reportbacks’ Category
by John O’Reilly
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
by Elijah Marks
The celebration of International Workers’ Day in the Twin Cities brought together many groups organizing around various struggles. The resurgent Occupy movement has injected new energy into the holiday.
Local organizing coalesced in an Occupy May 1st Twin Cities group, planning for a day of action around ‘no work, no school’ and a ‘day without the 99%’ For months leading up to the action, they met weekly at the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)’s office to coordinate with other groups, plan events for the day, and make and spread posters and leaflets.
The mutual aid ethos of the wider Occupy movement was demonstrated through Occuprint, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street in New York City, who helped with May 1st publicity in the Twin Cities—and other cities across the country—by distributing hundreds of high-quality, large-format posters and newspapers. Additionally, local designers created their own innovative designs, such as the following poster:
Another form of circulation of common media across the country was a zine with an illustrated history of May Day. During the meet-up at the beginning of the day, I found this zine to be a useful means for meeting new people and sparking conversations. Talking about this history made us feel connected with the tradition of struggle for immigrants’ and workers’ rights, such as the 8-hour workday, that most people take for granted, and seeing that nothing will be gained—and much could be lost—without continued militant struggle.
The rest of the day gave us many lessons in struggle. Occupy Homes MN, a group who organize to defend community members from foreclosure and eviction, led a march of 300 people dancing joyously along with a brass band and a mobile sound bike through the streets of downtown to confront the headquarters of US Bank.
The police were out in full-force. Although they put on a show of intimidation, they were relatively friendly to the demonstrators and there were no instances of physical confrontation.
After the Occupy Homes action, the occupiers dance-marched back to the park and engaged in an action with the MN Immigrant Freedom Network: fanning out in groups to talk with people on the street about immigrants’ rights and asking them to sign a petition against Secure Communities—“a notorious Homeland Security program that promotes the sharing of information between local and federal law enforcement authorities about the legal status of immigrants arrested by local police” —and for The Dream Act, which “would allow young undocumented people who arrived in the U.S. at a young age to pursue their higher education and provide a path to citizenship”.
The next major action was a march for Immigrants and Workers rights organized by the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee with around 700 people.
The march included an anti-capitalist bloc with a major contingent from the IWW, featuring a “Wobmobile” sound truck that enabled a mobile dance party.
The final major action of the day was an IWW Food and Retail Workers United march that, not only continued the fun of the mobile dance party, but also incorporated an outreach/organizing component to strengthen and expand their ongoing campaigns (such as the Jimmy John’s Workers Union and the Starbucks Workers Union). As the march progressed slowly along “Eat Street,” a street with many restaurants, an IWW ‘street team’ went into the shops to give workers fliers about the union and to talk with workers who were lured outside by the music and chants (such as “We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!”). It was a fitting action to honor the history of May Day with celebratory, movement-building resistance.