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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.

Phone zap Chicago-Lake Liquors Today (June 1st)!

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The workers at Chicago-Lake Liquors in Minneapolis, MN are calling on YOU to support us once again this SATURDAY 6/1 for a phone zap. We need as many people as possible to call the store and our managers on Saturday in order to make it clear to them that we will not be giving up and we have overwhelming support.

Campaign Update:

In late March, 13 workers at Chicago-Lake Liquors signed a letter asking management for a $1 raise to the minimum pay, a $2.50 raise to the maximum pay, and a $1 raise for all workers to adjust for the change. In retaliation, 5 workers were fired the following week. Since the 5 firings in the first week of April, we have held 4 successful pickets and other actions, we have continued to put pressure on the company by leafleting outside the store regularly and informing customers of the company’s violations, and have received a merit ruling from the NLRB deeming our firings illegal. We are now waiting to see if the company will attempt to settle or take the case to court, and in order to keep the pressure on, we are calling on all our supporters worldwide to help us tell the company we will not stop until we get better wages and conditions for all workers at Chicago-Lake Liquors.

Phone Zap Details:

From 2pm to 10pm CST on Saturday June 1st

Please call the following numbers in order, starting with the store number and then managements’ personal phone numbers:

1. Store #: 612-825-4401

ask to speak to John (the owner) first but if the answer is no, ask for a manager.

2.  Bill, Manager: 612-327-7606

3.  Pete, General Manager: 651-795-9853

What to say:

· Ask them why they refuse to listen when their workers organized for better wages.

· Ask them why they retaliated against the 5 union members for taking action.

· Ask them when they will reinstate the unjustly fired workers.

· Ask them when they plan to grant workers the wage increases they deserve.

Remember: Please don’t say anything that might be bad for the campaign: no threats, no cursing, please be as polite as possible. The goal is not to get into a fight with managers, but to let them know that we have lots of people who have our backs and will be there to support us.

Love and Solidarity,

The Chicago-Lake Liquors organizing committee.