Citizen’s Co-Op Workers Union in Gainesville Needs Help!

citizens

IWW members working at a consumer co-op grocery store in Gainesville, Florida, unionized recently to address conditions in their workplace. Following their first meeting with the store’s general manager, an ad appeared on Craigslist advertising one of the unionized workers’ jobs.

This morning, five out of seven of the unionized workers were issues notices of dismissal, apparently for their union activity, which is illegal and will be fought by the union. Yet sadly this is a typical reaction among employers to that their employees have unionized. Why is it so threatening a concept that workers should organize to have a say in how they do their jobs?

Your support is urgently needed at this critical time. Please read the union’s Facebook page for more details and info on how to help: https://www.facebook.com/citizenscoopworkers

IWW Organizer Tasia Edmonds reinstated!

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On Sunday, March 9, just six days after a settlement between Insomnia Cookies and four workers who went on strike last August, the company suspended bicycle delivery “driver” and union organizer Tasia Edmonds. Quick action by the Industrial Workers of the World, which represents Edmonds, the four strikers, and several other area workers, forced the company to reinstate Edmonds. Two dozen IWW members and allies picketed the Boston Insomnia Cookies location, where Edmonds is employed, on Friday, March 14. Organizers planned another rally for Saturday, March 22, after student allies from the abutting Boston University return from Spring Break, but the company capitulated, agreeing on March 20 to bring Edmonds back to work.

Edmonds was disciplined for speaking out against workplace injustices, which the boss called “Insubordination.” According to Edmonds ““I was suspended for my union involvement. I have never been disciplined before. I was not served any paper work detailing why I was suspended. I want to get back to work, and I want back pay for the days I missed.” While Insomnia has reinstated Edmonds, as of press time there is no confirmation that she will receive back pay for time lost during her suspension. The union is prepared to fight to win Edmonds’ lost wages, and to ensure Insomnia Cookies sticks to its promise not to discipline or intimidate workers for union organizing.

Reposted from:

http://iwwboston.org/2014/03/20/iww-organizer-tasia-edmonds-reinstated/

Tasia Edmonds, IWW Union Member at Insomnia Cookies, Fired! Union Claims Retaliation, Please Support!

Dear IWW Supporters,
 
Immediately after agreeing to pay four IWW strikers for illegally firing them, and promising not to retaliate against workers for union activity, Insomnia Cookies has suspended IWW Organizer Tasia Edmonds for an entire month without pay on flimsy pretexts. You’re invited to take action against this outrageous act of union-busting by the boutique cookie business. IWW’s and allies will picket Insomnia’s Boston location, 708 Comm Ave, this evening (Friday) starting at 7 pm. The store is very close to the BU East stop on the Green Line’s B train. Please come if you can! The Facebook event is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/604465696296628
 
Please also email the company any time at pfs@serveubrands.com, and call CEO Seth Berkowitz at 877 632-6654. Suggested message: “It is intolerable that IWW Organizer Tasia Edmonds has been suspended without pay for her union activity. Please take immediate action to bring Tasia back to work, and compensate her for any loss in pay. Union-busting is disgusting!”

To help Tasia with her living expenses, please contribute here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-tasia-fight-union-busting/x/6674514>.

Watch Tasia speak about the IWW and conditions at Insomnia here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibOGYg40OHQ&list=UUpb3nRb9V0R4gdES7R96ZoQ
 
*Background: *Tasia went public with her union affiliation on December 7.  She has been building the union in her store. In February, a new manager began harassing her about her union membership. On March 9, Tasia was told she has been suspended without pay for a month! The union has filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). An IWW organizing drive began at Insomnia in August after 4 workers spontaneously went on strike. Their demands included $15/hr, health care, and a union, and they were immediately fired. Despite recently promising to give about $4,000 in back pay to the strikers, and post a notice pledging not to retaliate against workers for union activity, Insomnia is apparently still determined to crush the union drive. The union is even more determined to get justice for Tasia and her co-workers! Please help however you can.

Insomnia Cookies Strikers Win Back Pay; Company Must Post Notice, Agree Not to Retaliate for Union Activity

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“…Something told me to stand up for what I believe in. To me, this victory was worth every bit of the struggle.” – Jonathan Peña, IWW member and Insomnia Cookies Striker.

Four workers at Insomnia Cookies’ Cambridge store went on strike on August 19, protesting poverty pay and wretched working conditions, and demanding $15/hr, health benefits and a union at their workplace. The company illegally fired all four. For the next six months strikers, IWW members, allies, and student organizations at both Harvard and Boston University held pickets, marches, rallies, forums, phone blitzes, and organized boycotts, while workers continued organizing at both the Cambridge and Boston locations. The union also pursued legal charges through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

On March 3, a company representative signed an agreement promising almost $4,000 in back pay to the four strikers (two of whom had given notice before going on strike; and all of whom had moved on to more rewarding jobs or pursuits). The company also agreed to post a notice in the Cambridge store, promising not to fire or otherwise retaliate against workers for taking collective action, including joining the union and going on strike. The company was also made to revise a confidentiality agreement that improperly restricted workers’ rights to discuss their conditions of employment with one another and third parties (including union organizers and the media). All references to the terminations have been removed from strikers’ personnel files.

“Since the first utterance of the word ‘strike’ that late August night, it has been an uphill battle for all of us,” says striker Chris Helali. “The Industrial Workers of the World answered the call when no other mainstream union was interested in organizing a small cookie store in Harvard Square. We picketed, we chanted, we sang. I thank my fellow workers, the IWW and all of our supporters for their continued work and solidarity through this campaign. I am proud to be a Wobbly (IWW member)!”Jonathan Peña says, “I remember just feeling real conservative that August night, but something told me to stand up for what I believe in. I had nothing to lose but I had much to gain. Being apart of the IWW means something to me. I will never forget the four amigos, Niko, Chris, Luke, and [me]. We actually made a difference. Being a Wobbly can change your life! I just want to really thank everyone for their solidarity and commitment to crumbling down on this burnt Cookie.”

The IWW vows to continue organizing efforts at Insomnia Cookies. Helali says, “ I am extremely pleased with the settlement, however, it does not end here. This is only the beginning. The IWW along with our supporters will continue to struggle until every Insomnia Cookies worker is treated with respect and given their full due for their labor. There is true power in a union; when workers come together and make their demands unified voices and actions.”

http://iwwboston.org/2014/03/04/insomnia-strikers-win-back-pay-company-must-post-notice-agree-not-to-retaliate-for-union-activity/

Industrial Worker – Issue #1763, March 2014

The Industrial Worker is the official newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World labor union.

Headlines:

Being A Woman Organizer Isn’t Easy
Mobile Rail Workers Win, Wobblies Organize Worldwide
International (Working) Women’s Day

Features:

Staughton Lynd: A Tribute To Rosa Luxemburg
Jane LaTour: Toward Equal Employment For Women
Addressing Sexual Violence In The IWW

Download a Free PDF of this issue.

What Kinds of Workers Deserve a Union?

by x365097

The standard of living for US workers has been stagnating or in decline for the last four decades despite enormous leaps in productivity. Labor unions, organizing on the shop floor to shut down production to enforce workers’ demands, are a well-proven and direct method of closing the gap between what workers want and what they get from their bosses. Yet labor unions today count under 8% of private sector workers and under 40% of public sector workers in their membership. Furthermore, public opinion often turns against those workers who risk their jobs and reputations to try and start up unions in their workplaces, calling them undeserving and a host of other insults. Is there anything in the history of unionism that explains why we see these self-defeating and contradictory behaviors playing themselves out at a time when workers need more than ever to come together to fight for common goals?

Looking back a century or earlier to the rise of labor unions as major force in industrialized countries, we see that some of the biggest unions (AFL in particular in the US) made no bones about setting their priorities on organizing and protecting highly trained and socially privileged workers (native-born white males in particular) not only from capitalist factory owners, but also against supposed threats “from below” in the form of immigrant workers; female workers; workers of ethnic, religious and racial minorities, and other relatively underprivileged workers. The arguable goal of these unions was to create a well-paid, elite class of “deserving workers” who were able, as a unified group, to put their needs ahead of other workers’ needs, sometimes aligning their interests with the employing class in the process. When it suited them, these unions would break each others’ strikes and generally do whatever it took to obtain for themselves, as they said, what they considered to be “a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” even if it meant hurting other, supposedly less deserving workers along the way.

That is not what we in the IWW would call a broad-spectrum working class solidarity, but a perverse kind of unionism fueled by reaction, racism, sexism, nativism, and other prejudices. Most of all, though, it’s a unionism that doesn’t get to the root of the problem facing all workers, whether or not we inhabit traditionally privileged racial, gender, and other statuses. That is that capitalism, in allowing a 1% to 10% of social members to control, own, and unduly influence industry, thereby directly or indirectly ruling over the other 90% to 99%, creates at a structural or institutional level a permanent underclass of people who have fewer opportunities and greater hardships no matter what they do.

By contrast, the IWW and our similarly radical forebears have fought — even when it was illegal, for instance, for black and white workers to belong to the same unions — to have a totally unified class of working people: skilled and unskilled, male and female, with no one left out. We did this because it is not only just in itself, but also because it is the only strategic or logical method of liberating workers from the capitalists’ domination of modern society. Either we all stand united and on equal footing in opposition to the controllers of industry on the basis of class alone, or we will be divided and conquered from within our ranks and defeated, as has happened over and over again. (The reaction from certain subsets of the white working class against racial equality and integration in the late 1960s and early 1970s, for example, was arguably an important part of how the capitalist class was able to regain a strengthened hand after decades of working class organization and upsurges to bring us the overtly anti-worker, neoliberal regimes of Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and so on from the 1980s to today.)

In 2014, more than 60 years after McCarthyism and the institutionalized purging of radicals from within mainstream labor unions, more than 50 years after the near-collapse of the IWW that followed it, and more than 40 years after average US wages reached their high point, labor radicals still struggle to overcome pro-capitalist union ideologies and reverse the class defeats which have plagued workers for far too long. In current IWW organizing campaigns, whether it is around the Sisters’ Camelot Union in Minnesota, the Insomnia Cookies Union in Massachusetts, or any number of other active shop-floor struggles, we IWWs still hear criticism regularly from people who consider themselves to be progressive or otherwise left-of center in comments such as, “I support unions, but not for these people. They work part-time and don’t have job skills!” Or they will tell us, “If you want better wages, get out of the fast food industry and go back to school!” We also hear these sorts of remarks around other contemporary struggles going on in the broader “Fight for 15” movement at McDonald’s and other large, highly profitable franchise chains.

Comments like these betray almost superstitious beliefs not only in an upward social and economic mobility that always had a low ceiling for the majority and no longer, in large measure, even exists, but also in a labor division and class system that is based on the notion that some workers deserve to be treated and paid badly by their employers — and indeed that there should be two separate employing and working classes to begin with (rather than, say, a cooperative system of industry in which this dichotomy is transcended). To IWWs, all workers deserve a union, and we believe that until all workers do organize into One Big Union, we can expect to see continued inequalities between “undeserving” workers (or so it is rationalized) who are stuck with jobs comprised of 90% disempowering tasks and low compensation and “deserving” workers (or so it is rationalized) who get to do the better jobs that carry more prestige and never involve undervalued but necessary “dirty work” like picking up trash, flipping burgers, or changing diapers. But most of all, there will be a capitalist class above both types of workers, keeping most of the fruits of our labor as their own private property and letting us fight amongst ourselves for the leftovers. The IWW exists to end these injustices and form a democratic society in which industry is operated according to need as determined by workers ourselves. Are you with us?

Insomnia Cookies Workers’ Union — Strike & Organizing Campaign Fundraiser, 22 January 2014, 7 PM

In August, employees of Cambridge, MA’s Insomnia Cookies struck, and joined the IWW. They were fed up with lousy pay and conditions. Their demands included $15/hr, health care, and a union, and they were swiftly terminated. Ever since, workers have stayed strong and maintained their struggle, which has grown into an organizing drive at the boutique cookie business.

Insomnia pays rock-bottom wages, charges $1.35 for cookies that cost the company $.10 to make, and refuses to pay workers’ compensation. Bike delivery workers report that if they get hurt in traffic, the boss’ response is, “Why are you late?” In response to a series of protests against the company’s labor practices, Insomnia falsely reported picketers were blocking the sidewalk in front of the Cambridge store, giving Harvard and Cambridge cops an excuse to bring police violence, and phony charges of assaulting cops, down on a union member.

Undeterred, the workers and their allies are keeping up pressure on the company with continuing pickets of local stores. Students at Harvard, BU and elsewhere have called for a boycott of the company. The National Labor Relations Board issued a Complaint against Insomnia for illegally firing workers for union activity. Recently SEIU Local 509 donated $1,000 to the campaign, a magnificent act of solidarity.

You can help too! Please join Insomnia strikers and their supporters at the Strike & Organizing Campaign Fundraiser, Wednesday January 22, starting at 7 pm, at the Center for Marxist Education, 550 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge (2nd floor), steps from the Central Square MBTA stop. If you can’t come to the event, please consider making a donation to the Insomnia Cookies Workers’ Organizing Fund, which is fueling the union drive.