IWW Picket Violently Attacked – Call for Full Boycott of Sisters’ Camelot

via Twin Cities IWW – May 7, 2014
 
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 on strike 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.”
 
one 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.

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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.

Insomnia Cookies Wobblies in Boston Are On Strike and Going Strong

For the last few weeks, IWW-affiliated workers at the Boston franchise of the Insomnia Cookies company, which has stores in college towns across the US, have been striking and picketing in support of a number of demands, including lack of break time, sub-minimum wages, and the right to form a union.  Check out the Boston IWW’s web site for more info and lots of pictures, and please contribute to the strike fund through WePay (accepts credit/debit cards) here.

http://iwwboston.org/2013/08/31/2-hour-picket-insomnia-cookies-as-strike-continues-82913/

http://iwwboston.org/2013/08/30/call-for-insomnia-workers-stirke-fund/

http://iwwboston.org/2013/08/28/no-justice-no-cookies-picket-supporting-insomnia-cookie-strikers-82613/

http://iwwboston.org/2013/08/22/wobblies-turn-up-the-heat-on-insomnia-cookiesphotos/

http://iwwboston.org/2013/08/22/insomnia-strike-continues-rally-tonight/

http://iwwboston.org/2013/08/19/workers-at-insomnia-cookies-go-on-wildcat-strike/

Your Power as a Worker

by x365097

When you’re at work, you’re likely to receive dozens, if not hundreds, of do-it-or-else orders from the boss or manager on a day-to-day basis. What happens when you disobey? Maybe nothing will happen the first time — maybe it’ll just be a write-up or a lecture — but if you keep working the way you want to work on “their time,” even if your way is simply more comfortable than the way they’ve approved, you’ll eventually be out the door.

What happens then? Once you’ve been cut off from the income you depend upon to pay your rent or mortgage, grocery bill, and other expenses, meeting your needs can be enormously difficult, if not impossible. If hiring is slow across the industries in which you have experience and training, a firing can be a social death sentence for a worker, resulting in anything from a depleted savings account and damaged credit rating to hunger and homelessness.

That’s a lot of control for an employer to have — too much control. Take a step back and look at how many hundreds of millions of people and their dependents around the world are caught in a similar situation, and you could even call it global tyranny.

The ability to hire and fire is the key to the employing class’ power, and it stems from our outdated and dysfunctional system of property rights. These rights state that productive industrial equipment, even that which has been paid for many times over by the goods and services it has been used by hundreds or even thousands of workers to produce, may be owned and operated by individuals or small groups of individuals and run for their own personal profit rather than to meet human need. This is what has resulted in the enormous imbalances of wealth which now threaten workers’ rights all over the world.

The good news is that workers hold a counter-power which, to our collective detriment, we have rarely exercised in recent decades. It requires organization, cooperation, and togetherness — solidarity — which are currently not in fashion. Still, if employers hold workers by the throats due to the fact that they control the workplaces, and the only commodity we workers have to sell is our labor, then the key to workers’ power is the withholding of our labor from them. Workers refusing work together can shut it all down and, if we organize correctly and often enough, bring democracy to the workplace.

Withholding labor can take many forms, from walkouts and strikes — total work refusals — to intentional, coordinated screw-ups and slowdowns. The term, “sabotage,” is commonly associated these days with property destruction, but the IWW has historically used it more broadly to mean any action on the job which interferes with production. There are thousands of examples of workers successfully uniting to withhold labor in various ways to enforce our demands, just as employers have always threatened to withhold access to “their” workplaces in order to enforce theirs.

For a number of complex reasons which are outside the scope of this article to examine in full, unionization among US workers has dropped way down in the last few decades to about 8% in the private sector. Some of these have to do with intrinsic factors such as the mainstream business unions’ willingness to make concessions to employers and be unresponsive to their membership, while others have to do with external factors such as employers’ support for union-busting legislation. However, if you are among the majority of US workers who would join a union if there were one organized in your workplace, contact the IWW today for info on how to get one established. In exchange for very low dues, we provide training and support to help you win your demands for better pay, better conditions, and more control over the way you work — and we are all-volunteer, with no paid officers at the branch level.

Statement of Solidarity with Striking Walmart Workers

Workers everywhere, union and non-union, in retail and in other fields, owe a debt of gratitude to the courageous Walmart workers who exercised their right to strike to force America’s largest employer to change for the better, and the Southern Maine Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) stand in solidarity with them. We stand ready to support their fight to improve their workplace conditions, to be treated with respect, to raise their economic standing, and if they so choose, to empower themselves through collective bargaining and direct action.

We recognize that workers everywhere have a moral and legal right to have a voice in the workplace, and when Wal-mart workers recognize and exercise their power to improve their lives, all retail workers, and workers everywhere, will see their living standards improve.

***Southern Maine workers, do you need a union at your workplace? Contact the Southern Maine IWW.***

Bread and Roses Heritage Festival on Labor Day, 9/3

The Southern Maine IWW will be hosting a table at the Bread and Roses Heritage Festival this Labor Day, Monday, September 3rd, in Lawrence, Massachusetts. We’ll be bringing merchandise for sale and information for free, and we’ll also be signing up new members to the union.

The Bread and Roses Heritage Committee curiously does not mention the IWW in their account of the famous Bread and Roses Strike of 1912, as we played a central role in organizing the strikers, but here’s their description of the festival:

“The Bread and Roses Heritage Festival is a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, Ma. This annual festival is celebrated on Labor Day in order to honor the most significant event in Lawrence history: the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike.

We memorialize the event with a variety of music and dance, poetry and drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, and walking and trolley tours, all on or starting from Lawrence’s Common. We also host organizations continuing the struggle for social justice today.

Bread and Roses is the only broadly multicultural festival in Lawrence, the Immigrant City. And it is the only festival in the region, which celebrates the true spirit of Labor Day, in the most appropriate location, the site of the Bread and Roses Strike.

The festival is a one-day ‘open air’ celebration.

The date for this year’s celebration is September 3, 2012 and historically runs from 12 to 7pm.

Thank you to everyone who attended, organized, volunteered, performed, donated, and supported the 2011 Bread & Roses Festival!

To see the 2012 full line up please visit our Schedule page.”

UPDATE: Bread and Roses 2012 was a great time! Here’s a pic of some Boston, Southern Maine, and NH Wobs with the mayor of Lawrence: