Strikers Deliver Demands to Insomnia Cookies; Company Targets Union Member

27 Oct

(Article first appeared at CradleofLibertyNews.org. For photos, check iwwboston.org)

 

Strikers Deliver Demands to Insomnia Cookies; Company Targets Union Member

By Jake Carman

On Thursday, October 24th, striking workers delivered a demand letter to the Harvard Square location of Insomnia Cookies. Niko Stapczynski and Jonathan Peña—who were fired after declaring a strike with two other employees on August 18th—and fifty members of their union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), visited the late-night cookie chain at 10 P.M. In their letter to management, the workers demanded reinstatement with back pay, compensation for nearly $1000 in short paychecks and withheld lunch breaks, company neutrality to the union and a card check election, and an end to the practice of forcing employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The union is threatening to turn these demands into legal charges if Insomnia fails to respond within two weeks.

Also on October 24th, Insomnia baker Tommy Mendes, who still works at the Harvard Square Insomnia location, declared to management that he, too, had joined the IWW. Mendes sent an email to his boss, simply stating “I just wanted to let you know that I’m a member of the Industrial Workers of the World.” While Mendes joined the IWW soon after his coworkers began their strike, according to the union, he only recently “made the courageous decision to go public and has announced his union affiliation to his manager…in part due to intolerable pressure and threats on the job.” The company suspended Mendes immediately, and the union promises to fight what they call “unlawful retaliation for his union activity.”

The public struggle at Insomnia Cookies in Harvard Square began at midnight on August 18, when the entire four-person night shift voted to initiate a strike for higher wages, healthcare, and freedom to form a union. Peña, Mendes, and coworkers Chris Helali and Luke Robinson—who have since moved out of state—closed the shop, contacted the IWW, and began holding pickets and building connections with Harvard and BU student organizations. Pickets have since spread to the new Boston University store.

Workers claim Insomnia has a bad track record when it comes to following labor laws and fairly compensating their employees. According to the demand letter, “For months prior to the strike, workers employed as ‘drivers,’ had not received minimum wage. Also, employees often did not receive the 30 minute meal break for shifts longer than 6 hours, to which they are entitled by MA State Law.” Drivers, who deliver cookies by bicycle until 3 A.M., and rely on tips to pad their $5 and hour wage, complain the company has unrealistic expectations of delivery times, and pressure from management causes unsafe riding and accidents. Whats worse, according to the union, “Insomnia does not give paid time off when drivers get hurt on the job, and instead blame them for the accidents.” The company doesn’t offer health benefits to the workers either.

Before the strike, the average turnover rate for a local Insomnia employee was only three weeks. The droves of Boston-area Insomnia workers who have recently quit the job, as well as the firing of the company’s regional manager—in part due to his inability to keep his stores staffed and functioning—attest to the aptly-named Insomnia work environment. Insomnia, which has 33 locations on college campuses across the US, sustains itself only by exploiting students two-fold: as employees, where they are underpaid, barely trained, easily-replaceable, and overworked, and also as consumers, where they are sold frozen cookies at unjustifiably high prices. In order to hold Insomnia accountable and to end the company’s reprehensible labor practices, IWW members are encouraging workers nationally to join the union, and if they are planning to quit already, to go on strike.

Ways to Get Involved:

 

-Dont Quit, Strike! http://iwwboston.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/dont-quit-strike.jpg

 

-Donate to the Insomnia Strike Fund:

https://www.wepay.com/donations/insomnia-cookies-workers-strike-fund

 

-Sign the petition to support the strikers’ demands:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1TLCetxHNxmGHk57FD1Sy9KAtUNHXP5alQWrgxPcb-Lk/viewform

 

-Find us Online: https://www.facebook.com/insomniaunion http://iwwboston.org/

 

To reach the Boston IWW:

Email: iww.boston@riseup.net

Phone Number: 617-863-7920

Mailing Address: PO Box 391724

Cambridge, MA 02139

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BostonIWW/

 

 

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