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Posts from the ‘Reportbacks’ Category

Picket violently attacked — call for full boycott of Sisters’ Camelot!

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On May 4th 2014, members of the Twin Cities IWW and supporters withstood a violent and deliberate attack on a picket of Sisters’ Camelot, whose canvass workers went onstrike in March of 2013 and have endured vicious union-busting efforts from the organization ever since. After some twenty minutes of peaceful picketing, Sisters’ Camelot supporters organized an escalating series of attacks and attempts to break the picket line, eventually tackling an IWW member to the ground and beating him until other Wobblies pulled them away.

Earlier in 2014, a committee organizing the 80th anniversary of the 1934 Minneapolis Trucker’s Strike was asked to participate in the official Heart of the Beast Theatre May Day Parade. Many members of the committee, which includes many IWW members, were concerned about whether or not HOBT was working with a known union-busting firm. In April, a member of the Remember 1934 committee made a discreet inquiry to the artistic director of HOBT, and an assurance was made that by mutual agreement between HOBT and Sisters’ Camelot, Sisters’ would not be at the festival.

However, on Sunday, as marchers with the Remember 1934 committee arrived at the park, a union member and striking canvasser alerted us that the Sisters Camelot bus was parked on 35th St near 13th Ave, directly facing Powderhorn Park, where the festival was occurring. Acting in solidarity with the striking canvassers, a group of Wobblies and community allies began a peaceful picket on the sidewalk in front of the bus’s serving window.

Members of Sisters’ Camelot managed only disorganized attempts to disrupt the peaceful picket for the first twenty minutes, including trying to drown the picketers out, and screaming that the workers were greedy for trying to improve their working conditions. When that failed, they called in support–many of the same cadre who had been a part of drafting anti-union “community statements,” and acted as advisers to Sisters Camelot in their union-busting efforts–in order to, as one of these individuals later explicitly stated online, “Run [the IWW] out.”

In their efforts to achieve their stated goal of breaking a peaceful picket line, Sisters’ Camelot steadily escalated their violence against IWW members. First they physically blocked workers and their supporters–at one point a Sisters’ Camelot supporter physically pushed her small child into the picket line. IWW members responded by peacefully moving around individuals trying to block their way. Following this failure, attackers began shoving and physically attacking picketers. Each time, IWW members did their best to defend themselves and continue the picket line. Meanwhile Sisters’ Camelot supporters did nothing to intervene or remove those individuals, evidently happy to have them act as their goons and enforcers. Eventually, several members of this cadre organized a group of people to encircle the picket, take picket signs and personal material and destroy them, and forcefully prevent the picket from continuing. At this point, an IWW member was tackled to the ground, where he was scratched and beaten by a member of Sisters Camelot as well as several supporters. Once more, it was up to the IWW picketers and supporters to remove these individuals, while those who had mobilized the attack looked on approvingly.

Beyond the physical attack, there was a constant stream of classist, sexist, homophobic, and otherwise problematic language from the assailants. Following the final assault, a member of Sisters’ Camelot mocked and belittled the beaten IWW member and another openly queer IWW member with homophobic and sexist slurs, in full view and earshot of many of the self-described anti-oppression activists who said and did nothing. Others mocked IWW members for having to work for a living, while still others were given the same tired anti-union line of “If you don’t like your job, get a new one.” Meanwhile, two IWW members overheard an individual walk up saying, “I’m looking forward to bashing in some IWW skulls.”

None of this is particularly surprising: while Sisters Camelot and their allies claim to be anti-oppression, they have repeatedly shown throughout the last 15 months that they are more than willing to ally themselves with openly anti-worker, anti-woman, and anti-queer individuals and institutions in order to get their way. When Sisters’ Camelot was brought to court over the illegal firing of a canvasser for union activities, they employed the services of John C. Hauge, a lawyer who boasts of defending corporations against sexual assault cases, OSHA claims, wrongful death lawsuits, and aiding companies in “union avoidance” efforts, among other contemptible practices. Laughably, they have repeatedly decried “aggression” from their striking workers and the IWW.

While their self-created image of rebellious attitude and anti-oppressive culture is well groomed, what lies beneath the surface is a condescending disregard for the wellbeing of anyone beyond their social circle. At one point, picketers overheard a SC Collective member state “I’m proud to be a scab!” while other key supporters laughed about the IWW member who was bleeding from his head, saying, “well, maybe he just sucks at fighting.”

To be perfectly clear, anyone who mobilizes their friends to assault a peaceful picket of workers and their supporters, who associates themselves with homophobes and sexists and then disclaims any responsibility for their actions, or who supports this type of activity, has no right to consider themselves a part of any progressive or radical community. To even consider otherwise is a slap in the face to everyone who fights for a better world.

We don’t take organized assaults on our members and friends lightly. After the assault on our picket line, we feel it is necessary to take further action against Sisters Camelot. The Twin Cities IWW calls for a complete economic, organizational, and charitable boycott of Sisters Camelot. If a scab canvasser comes to your door, turn them away empty handed. If they approach you about hosting a food share, tell them they are not welcome. Any individuals or organizations who continue to support Sisters Camelot will be associated with their shameful actions. There is no space within our communities for any organization that operates in this way.

We Never Sleep. We Never Forget.

Sisters’ Camelot management admits to dishonesty about fired worker at NLRB trial

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The trial to seek a court order for IWW Sisters Camelot Canvass Union member shugE Mississippi to be rehired and be awarded back pay took place this past week on June 6 & 7. Both sides called witnesses and cross-examined them in a courtroom in front of an administrative law judge at the Minneapolis NLRB office.

The most surprising testimonies came when NLRB lawyers representing shugE Mississippi cross-examined Sisters’ Camelot managing collective member Eric Gooden and ex-managing collective member Clay Hansen.

Near the end of the trial’s first day Eric Gooden admitted under oath that shugE Mississippi was never fired from Sisters’ Camelot in 2009, contradicting a claim given in the written statement approved by the managing collective and read aloud on the March 4th, 2013 when shugE Mississippi’s contract was terminated. Gooden also clarified in testimony that the language of the firing statement did mean to assert that shugE Mississippi was fired in 2009, which clarifies that the managing collective approved lying publicly about the events of 2009. Gooden continued to admit under oath that if it were not for the demands of the workers union shugE Mississippi would not have been fired in March of 2013.

The following day Clay Hansen, a former Sisters’ Camelot managing collective member who quit the organization during the strike, testified under oath that to his knowledge shugE Mississippi did nothing that warranted being fired between February 25 when the workers union went public to the bosses and March 4 when he was publicly fired. Clay Hansen continued to testify that to his knowledge shugE Mississippi did nothing that warranted being fired any time during Hansen’s entire time working at Sisters Camelot starting in spring of 2011 and ending in April of 2013. This testimony is especially important since the March 4th public statement which fired shugE Mississippi not only wrongfully asserted that he had been fired in 2009 as justification but also claimed his behavior was disruptive in the workplace since returning to Sisters’ Camelot in 2011.

“It feels so good to finally have the truth on public record. The management of Sisters’ Camelot lied about me ever being fired in 2009, and they lied again when they claimed I was being fired in 2013 for anything other than union activity. Now we have this admitted under oath by one of the bosses and I feel so much relief to have these lies exposed in a way that cannot be refuted”, stated shugE Mississippi.

Sisters’ Camelot’s attorney, John C. Hauge, a notorious far right wing union busting lawyer, gave up attempting to prove the firing was not based on activity. Instead Hauge focused on technicalities. These included arguing the canvassers were not covered under the National Labor Relations Act. The Labor Board had found merit with the Unfair Labor Practices because it found the canvassers to be misclassified as Independent Contractors instead of employees. Additionally, Hauge attempted to argue Sisters’ Camelot did not engage in interstate commerce and therefore would not be covered under the NLRA.

Union member Bobby Becker was asked about the overall trial and stated, “I feel great about what happened in that court room and am really hopeful that the judge will rule in shugE’s favor. One great thing to realize about this trial is that even if the judge rules against us, we still win the moral argument because they’ll just be getting off on a technicality. When the transcripts of this trial become public record in ten days, nobody will ever be able to argue again that shugE was fired for any other reason than retaliation for union organizing.”

The Sisters’ Camelot Canvass Union has been on strike over 100 days now. The campaign 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.

New developments in the IWW Sisters’ Camelot Canvass Union (SCCU) campaign

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1. Sisters’ Camelot Working With Scabs

On May 22 a scab was found canvassing for Sisters’ Camelot in Saint Paul. The scab was not directly confronted; rather striking union canvassers engaged potential supporters at the door to clarify that Sisters’ Camelot is involved in a labor dispute and the scab canvasser is participating in strike-breaking behavior. The scab immediately called the police on the union members and claimed they were harassing her.

The scab canvasser was Amy Lynn (also known by many as Crazy Amy), a past Sisters’ Camelot canvasser who had been fired twice by the organization– once in 2008, and again in 2011 after being given a chance to return to her previous position.

Scab canvasser Amy Lynn was quoted in a public Facebook forum on May 25th stating, “I’m not a class traitor. I come from a very wealthy family of business owners.”

2. Management Pays Missing Wages But Withholds Basic Documents To Verify Accuracy

On Monday, May 27th the management of Sisters’ Camelot agreed to mail checks to 8 canvassers they say received online donations for the period of October 2012 through February 2013. The union is asking for access to documentation to verify the figures that the collective management provided. This documentation includes a printout of all information regarding online donations from October 2012 through February 2013, all canvasser callbacks, and all canvass master maps.

The canvassers are worried that the collective management did not thoroughly cross-check callbacks to online donations. They say the amounts are unusually low for year-end donations, a time during which many people traditionally donate for the tax incentive. Furthermore, according to the information provided by the collective each of the 8 canvassers are only owed donations from one “turf,” although many turfs were canvassed during that time period. Also, the fired canvasser– who worked the most and typically received high volumes of online donations– received zero donations according to the information provided. Both these scenarios are highly suspicious.

The SCCU would like to remind the public that the collective stated in the past that “the accusation of ‘wage theft’ by the Sisters’ Camelot Collective is without merit,” directly contradicting the fact that they only recently paid wages that were owed months ago. Clearly they are capable of duplicitous behavior, and only provided those wages to the canvassers after heavy public pressure. The SCCU would like to thank those who stood up for the canvassers’ rights, and is asking for continued support to allow them access to the documentation.

3. NLRB Finds Merit With More Unfair Labor Practices

On Friday, May 17 the NLRB announced that they found merit with more Unfair Labor Practice filings made by the IWW. The NLRB decided it was illegal when management publicly offered easier access to their existing decision-making process (the collective) as an alternative to negotiating with the union. The NLRB also decided it was illegal when management later publicly offered concessions to several issues related to the union’s demands outside of negotiation. Lastly, the NLRB decided that management acted illegally when it attempted to use pre-existing channels (such as the collective process) in place of formal negotiations.

The Broken Bottle: Volume 2

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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.

The Broken Bottle Vol 2

The Struggle Continues at Chicago-Lake Liquors

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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

May 1st in the Twin Cities

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.

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