MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Canvass workers at Sisters’ Camelot, a non-profit mobile food shelf and soup kitchen, have gone on strike 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, and met to negotiate with the collective. 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 workers’ time and the organization’s resources.
On January 18th, a group of workers from Yaw’s Top Notch Restaurant took a stand. Leading the delegation into the restaurant, the group of 10 workers were accompanied by 30 community members from We Are Oregon and the Industrial Workers of the World. To the shock of bosses and customers (and to the smiles of kitchen staff) a worker publicly read a letter addressed to the owners and management demanding over $1,200 in back wages that Yaw’s has refused to pay. Less than a week later, with signed checks in hand, these same 10 individuals celebrated victory won through solidarity.
Yaw’s Top Notch Restaurant was an East Portland staple for over 50 years. Three decades after they closed their doors, Yaw’s is now back and wants you to believe that it’s still the landmark it once was; a place where you can experience what it was like in the “good old days” when customers and employees were treated like members of the family.
The new Yaw’s claims to be “looking for people who want more than just a job,” something that “goes beyond just making money.” But Yaw’s management has failed. To go “beyond just making money,” you must first be making money. Now, Yaw’s employees are demanded what was rightfully theirs and are not going to take no for an answer.
The workers were supported by members of Food & Retail Workers United (FRWU), an IWW coalition of the union’s food, retail and distribution workers committed to workplace democracy and global solidarity. They received additional support from We Are Oregon (a project of SEIU locals 49 and 503), which organizes against wage theft in the Portland metro area. The Yaw’s workers, who took the lead in coordinating the campaign, made a commitment to each other to not give up until all 10 workers demands were met.
Each worker involved demanded a different amount which was owed to them due to unpaid but mandatory meetings, trainings, and “soft opening” shifts. Yaw’s also charged some workers uniform laundry fees which resulted in less than the required minimum wage. Standing together on Friday, the workers made their demand collectively because of Yaw’s repeated refusal to pay them individually. “This is the first step…” said one worker, “Let’s make sure what has happened to us doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
On January 18th, the worker-led delegation of community members filed into the restaurant and requested to speak to the owner. Management’s reaction? Workers were mockingly condescended to, the owner refused to come out of his office and workers were told they had to leave and were not welcome. The pictures of smiling employees that line the walls fail to hide the truth: If Yaw’s is a family, it would seem that support only goes one way, and any attempt to be heard is met with passive-aggressive animosity. The talk of community and values means nothing if theft, abuse and mismanagement are business as usual.
On the triumphant walk after the action, the sense of empowerment was evident as workers openly shared stories of being fired when they protested unfair conditions or refused to crumble in the face of the owner’s chaotic, abusive behavior. “We didn’t let them scare us!” said Sabrina, one of the workers.
They didn’t have to wait long, as the owners and management immediately attempted damage control. Management began contacting workers individually in order to avoid paying all those involved. But solidarity won out and workers held firm to their “all or nothing” agreement. By midweek, it looked like Yaw’s had caved as the group was told that they could come pick up their checks on Thursday. However, as they insisted on coming together, they would have to be there before the restaurant opened. Management claimed that the group was “a mob” and “scary”. Was it this group of parents and community members that were threatening, or was it the truth that the Yaw’s management was hiding from?
Sitting around the table of a nearby diner, the group discussed how this meeting with management might play out. If management was going to change something, or leave anyone out, the workers weren’t going to stand for it. “We’re in this together all the way!” said a member of the organizing team as someone brought out the wage theft fliers that were to be passed out to the community if all didn’t go as promised.
As the Yaw’s workers walked toward their former place of employment, the mood was tense. But moments later: Smiles & triumphant cheers! As the workers filed out of the restaurant and gathered to take a photo with what they had earned, suddenly there were shouts and threats. “No pictures!” yelled the general manager who had overseen the settlement. As he threatened to call the police for trespassing if they didn’t leave immediately, the workers happily walked away, checks triumphantly raised in the air. They had won. Yaw’s had no power over their lives anymore.
“There are still people working there who have been stolen from,” observed one of the workers, “Younger folks have kids… older folks are scared they won’t find another job. They take advantage of this.” Continuing on, another worker shared how they felt when their former co-workers saw the delegation enter the restaurant, “It was scary at first, but I saw the smiles on the faces of other workers… I hope we gave them courage to fight, too.”
According to the Yaw’s website (http://yawstopnotch.com), they
…want you to feel that Yaw’s is really your restaurant. Our goal is to treat you like the boss, and do everything we can to make sure that you leave your restaurant happier than when you arrived.
For the first time, Yaw’s employees have made this true. Acting together as one, they have shown that they will not stand for being stolen from. But it wasn’t just about the money, “Yaw’s didn’t show respect to anybody!” said one organizer, “you busted your butts and were never showed any appreciation!” Something significant has happened in the lives of these people and they certainly left Yaw’s happier than when they arrived. Workers’ solidarity had won the day, but the fight is never over, as one worker said, “I have a very strong feeling that this is just the beginning.”
Local Call Center Goes Union
Employees of Large Ticket Distributor Join Together and Demand Recognition
Employees of Large Ticket Distributor Join Together and Demand Recognition
Grand Rapids, MI – Employees of Star Tickets have “walked on the boss” today demanding a reduction in workload, an employee grievance procedure, and recognition of their union. The employees have formed the IWW Star Tickets Workers Union for mutual support and respect on the job. Their intentions are to begin collective bargaining with owner, Jack Krasula, over a work environment that they say has become untenable.
“We are just exercising our legal right to form a union for our mutual benefit” said Deirdre Cunningham, a Client Services Representative. “We have been meeting, assisting one another, and acting as a union for some time so today we made it official to our boss.”
Star Tickets, which is located at 620 Century Avenue Southwest #300, becomes the second Grand Rapids establishment whose workers have joined the Industrial Workers of the World labor union in just over a year. Workers at Bartertown Diner, 6 Jefferson St., all joined the IWW in 2011.
“During my time here Mr. Krasula has routinely sent us his insights and anecdotes for success. We hope that he will respect our choice and work with us in affecting the context of our daily lives ” said Alisa Stone.
The Industrial Workers of the World is a rank-and-file labor union open to all workers. Gaining notoriety with the Starbucks Workers Union and the Jimmy Johns Workers Union the IWW has become the “go-to” union for workers not interested in the bureaucracy of “traditional” unions.
It’s been one year since Hannah was fired from Starbucks and denied unemployment. Hannah filed an Unfair Labor Practice lawsuit which was determined to have merit and sufficient evidence of a WRONGLY TERMINATED EMPLOYEE. She settled out of court, which meant that the concerted activity charge was dropped, and that Starbucks was no longer required to post notice of the charges in stores.
WHAT WAS HANNAH DOING?
Hannah was a Starbucks worker between licensed and corporate stores for 5 years as a ‘shift lead,’ and in that role supervised Health & Safety standards. She discovered that the first aid kit didn’t have its mandatory bandages, and also learned that fellow coworkers were not receiving proper legally required breaks. She voiced these safety and legal concerns to management.
December 15, 2010: With no prior verbal or written warning, she was pulled aside by her manager and told she was being investigated for ‘fraud’ and suspended ‘until further notice.’ A short day later Hannah was fired via telephone and told to call 1-800-STARBUC if she had questions.
January 2011: Hannah files for unemployment, is denied, appeals, and is denied again.
February 2011: Hannah files an Unfair Labor Practice lawsuit, which is reviewed by the National Labor Relations Board, and is determined to have merit and sufficient evidence of a wrongly terminated employee acting in legal concerted activity.
June 2011: Starbucks settles out of court with Hannah to drop the concerted activity charge and pay some lost back wages. However, due to settling with the company, the charge would no longer be required to be posted and read aloud in the stores.
JOIN US in front of the Starbucks where Hannah worked to let everyone know what happened, and that it is LEGAL to discuss workplace issues with coworkers.
Know your rights! Know what to do and who to contact when you are bullied on the job!
- Also, read THIS!
It’s time once again for the Portland IWW’s monthly Music for the Working Class!
- When: Wednesday August 31st at 7pm
- Where: Red and Black Cafe, SE 12th & Oak
- Bands: Kory Quinn, I Wobble Wobble, Ryan G, and David Small
No cover charge! Drink discounts for union members and service industry workers! So come on down to Music for the Working Class and enjoy an evening of songs to fan the flames of discontent!
Sunday May 1st at the South Park Blocks – SW Park & Salmon
- 2pm: Activist Fair
- 3pm: Rally
- 4pm: March
[Flyer image via: Portland Jobs With Justice]