Tag Archives: Cambridge

Insomnia Workers End Strike with Settlement, Declare Victory

4 Mar

Insomnia Workers End Strike with Settlement, Declare Victory

For Immediate Release

March 4, 2014.

Contacts: Geoff Carens, (Organizer) 617 803 4221, geoff.carens@gmail.com

Jonathan Peña, (Striker) 857 200 5575, jonathanfpena@gmail.com

The Industrial Workers of the World (Union) 617 863 7920, iww.boston@riseup.net

…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 union member and Insomnia Cookies Striker.

On March 4th, 2014, Insomnia Cookies settled National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charges with four workers who were fired after going on strike in August 2013 for changes at work, including unionization. The workers, Chris Helali, Jonathan Peña, Niko Stapczynski, and Luke Robinson, members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), have voted to accept the deal. The strikers will receive backpay totaling over $4000 and have their terminations rescinded from their records. Insomnia Cookies will hang a poster in their Harvard Square store stating that the company is union-neutral and will not fire workers for union activity. The settlement comes the day before a scheduled NLRB hearing between with company and the workers over charges that the company illegally fired the workers for protected union activity.

The four workers, who comprised the entire night shift at the Harvard Square Insomnia Cookies on the night of August 19th, decided to strike for “$15 an hour, benefits, and to organize a union.” For the next six months the strikers, other IWW members, allies, and student organizations at both Harvard and Boston University held pickets, marches, rallies, forums, phone blitzes, and ran a boycott campaign, while workers continued organizing inside the two area locations.

“Since the first utterance of the word ‘strike’ that late August night, it has been an uphill battle for all of us,” said 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 I. 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 union 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.”

More details of the strike and quotes from the union can be obtained at:

http://iwwboston.org/tag/insomnia-cookies/

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Presenting my Book in Central Square, Cambridge!

16 Jan

Presenting my Book in Central Square, Cambridge!

Hey friends,
It’s been a while since I’ve posted. It’s also been a while since I spoke about my book. Come out to Central Square!

Jake Carman Presents his Book: “Nine years of Anarchist Agitation: The History of the BAAM and Other Essays”
Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 7pm

Reflecting on the last decade and the History of BAAM
for revolutionary organizing today

At Center for Marxist Education
550 Mass Ave, Cambridge, Massachusetts
https://www.facebook.com/events/796660133681212

Jake Carman presents his book, “Nine Years of Anarchist Agitation – The History of the Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement (2001-2010) and Other Essays.” A discussion on anarchist organization and practice, with author and organizer, Jake Carman.

About the Book: In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and in the midst of the subsequent nationalist fervor, Boston radicals came together to form the Boston Anarchists Against Militarism (BAAM) Coalition. Through interviews and an extensive study of BAAM’s public statements, activities, and publications, this history explores the evolution of BAAM from an anti-war coalition into a general union of Boston anarchists. The lessons of the past decade are useful to today’s generation of activists as they grapple with the questions of political organization and activity in the struggle against global capitalism.

http://www.JakeCarman.com Facebook.com/baamhistory

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/