Tag Archives: Industrial Workers of the World

Reading Group on Fast Food Strikes: Saturday September 21st: 6-8 PM

12 Sep
Hello friends and comrades,
           The article I posted here yesterday will be among three articles discussed at an upcoming reading group in Boston. Check it out, it looks like it will be a good and timely discussion.
 

Common Struggle Reading Group – Fast Food Workers, Recent Strikes, and “Alternative” Labor

-Saturday September 21st: 6-8 PM reading group at Community Church of Boston, 565 Boylston St, Boston, MA, 02116, in Copley Square.

This summer, fast food workers across the country have launched strikes and pushed for unions and better jobs. SEIU has played a large role in this movement, utilizing a “new” or “alternative” labor model, supporting smaller, independent workers’ initiatives, organizing symbolic strikes, and pushing for a higher national minimum wage. Locally, workers at Insomnia Cookies recently launched a strike and joined the Industrial Workers of the World.

Join us to discuss the strategies of and relationships between “Alt” labor, industrial and direct-action unionism, and the growing movement of fast food workers, with three short readings to guide our discussion.

 

Readings:

1. Fast food strikes to massively expand: “They’re thinking much bigger” By Josh Eidelson.
http://www.salon.com/2013/08/14/fast_food_strikes_massively_expanding_th…

2. Venture Syndicalism: Fanning and dousing the flames of discontent. By Nate Hawthorne.
http://libcom.org/blog/venture-syndicalism-fanning-dousing-flames-discon…

3. Striking Workers at Insomnia Cookies Join the IWW. By Jake Carman.
http://iwwboston.org/2013/09/11/striking-workers-at-insomnia-cookies-joi…

-Optional supplemental reading:

1. Upper Crust Pizzeria To Reopen as ‘The Just Crust.’ By Nikki D. Erlick,

http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2013/1/23/upper-crust-reopening/

Sponsored by Common Struggle-Libertarian Communist Federation:
www.CommonStruggle.org

Striking Workers at Insomnia Cookies Join the IWW

11 Sep
Hey all, check out this article I wrote for the Industrial Worker (due out next month).
Also, support Insomnia strikers by joining their rally tomorrow night at 8pm at the store’s location, 65 Mnt Auburn St, Cambridge: https://www.facebook.com/events/1405934196300747/
or by donating to their strike fund: https://www.wepay.com/donations/insomnia-cookies-workers-strike-fund

Striking Workers at Insomnia Cookies Join the IWW

By Jake Carman,

 

At 12:00 am on Sunday, August 18th, the night shift at the Harvard Square Insomnia Cookies voted unanimously to initiate a strike for higher wages, healthcare, and freedom to build a union. On Tuesday, August 20th, all four strikers joined the Industrial Workers of the World, and launched a public campaign to achieve their goals.

Insomnia Cookies, with 30 locations in the US, caters to college students and runs late night deliveries of warm cookies and milk to dorm rooms. Delivering cookies until 2:45 am, Insomnia workers who double-duty as bakers and cashiers receive only $9 an hour. “Drivers,” who are expected to deliver cookies by bicycle within a half hour, receive only $5 an hour plus tips. Neither receives healthcare and the turnover is so high, the typical employee lasts only a month. As Niko Stapczynski, a striking driver at Insomnia, told the Industrial Worker, “I was being paid below minimum wage. We had no breaks because we were understaffed. Sometimes we’d work without breaks until 3:15 am. We were supposed to keep delivery time as fast as possible, which encouraged unsafe riding.”

Peak hours are late at night when college students return from parties. As the lines of customers thickened on the evening of Saturday, August 17th, Chris Helali noticed his coworkers were stressed. “I gauged the overall feeling that night and people were pretty down. I basically said guys lets go on strike. It took about an hour to get everyone to agree and to figure out what we were going to do.” The entire night shift—four workers, Chris Helali, Jonathan Peña, Niko Stapczynski, and Luke Robinson—used the store computer to type up a strike agreement, and made signs for the store’s windows. Then, Helali continues, “we told the customers we were going on strike. Some of the customers asked ‘can we at least get a cookie before you close down the store?’ So we said sure, why not. We served everyone in the store. Then we went outside to put up the signs and lock the door.”

At 3 am the regional manager, who runs the only Insomnia Cookies in Massachusetts, arrived to file the paperwork to fire all four strikers. He then called Luke Robinson to threaten him with a lawsuit for “violating contractual obligations,” says Helali. The store did not open again until 1 pm on Sunday, August 18, two hours later than usual.

Picketing began that morning at 10 am, and all of the strikers were on the line by 11 am. The police, according to Helali, “came about eight or nine times and told us to stay away, do not bother the store…They said we’d be arrested if we went inside. They told us to stay on the center median, about thirty feet from the store, or we would be arrested.” While workers have a legal right to picket on the sidewalk outside their store, so long as they remain moving in a circle or otherwise, the police, called in by the boss, intimidated the workers.

That afternoon, members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) arrived to lend support. Helali, who reached out to the IWW, said, “I knew that the IWW in Boston was pretty militant and was ready to go straight to action, as opposed to some of the business unions who probably would not even come or try to organize us. I knew the IWW would do everything in their power to help us out. So I decided to reach out on the Facebook page and post about our strike.” One organizer arrived around noon, and by 3:30 pm five others had arrived. On Tuesday, all four strikers joined the IWW and held a meeting with union organizers.

On Thursday, the strikers and their union held a march from the Harvard Square T Station to the store, with fifty IWW members and allies, including Harvard dining hall workers, members of Harvard Student Labor Action Movement, Common Struggle/Lucha Común, Boston Solidarity Network, and others, participating.

Insomnia workers marched to their shop again on Monday evening, following a union rally against racially-motivated firings at Harvard University, organized by Harvard No Layoffs Campaign, led by “dual card” members of the IWW and the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUTCW). Jonathan Peña addressed the crowd. Around 50 people, including students from the Harvard Student Labor Action Movement, joined the march from Harvard to the Insomnia location, surprising the manager and leafleting the public.

While the workers at Insomnia had not joined a union prior to striking, some workers had been discussing workplace conditions, unions, and strikes for weeks. According to Helali, he and other workers “would speak about the issues that pertain to our job and the conditions there. I heard a lot of the other workers’ gripes, what they wanted to be changed, how they felt they were treated. I tried to gauge the general overall feeling, and concerns of the workers. It prompted me to eventually put the idea out for a strike, as a joke at first maybe about two weeks before the strike. I’d sort of casually say, hey we should go out on strike. Why not?”

Along with low pay, no benefits, and unrealistic expectations on the part of the company, workers complained about a lack of breaks. According to Helali, “Customers would flood in and sometimes we’d have to have all of us up front helping. It was constant on our feet. Rarely did we get an opportunity to sit down and relax.” It was the pressure of the crowd of hungry customers that finally drove these workers to strike. However, in not contacting the union prior to striking, and not organizing the day shift to join the strike or union, the strikers began at a disadvantage. With dedication to their cause and plenty of support from the IWW and other allies, strikers hope to overcome the obstacles in front of them and turn Insomnia Cookies into a job worth having, and to spread the union to Insomnia Cookies locations across the country.

The Insomnia strike began just a week and a half before a national wave of fast food workers’ strikes organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). On Thursday, August 29th, fast food workers across the country participated in a one day strike for a $15 minimum wage, highlighted in Boston by a 4 pm rally at the Boston Common. As Jonathan Peña told the Industrial Worker, “we want to show solidarity with the struggles of other fast food workers, because their fight is our fight.” Insomnia workers were present at the Fight for Fifteen pickets in Boston beginning that morning at 6 am, and ending with an evening picket at Insomnia in Harvard Square at 6 pm.

While half of the striking Insomnia workers have moved from Boston this September, the other two workers are continuing to plan public demonstrations and discuss unionization with their coworkers, Harvard students, and other service workers, while they pursue legal charges against their employer for withholding breaks and back pay and failing to meet minimum wage.
The company opened a new location on September 2nd near Boston University at 708 Commonwealth Avenue.

For updates and information on how to contribute to the strike fund or get involved, please visit https://www.facebook.com/insomniaunion or http://iwwboston.org/.

Fast Food Workers Strike Tomorrow!

28 Aug

Hello friends, comrades, and fellow workers. Please join the IWW at these two rallies tomorrow for striking fast food workers!

-1. 4:00pm- Fast Food Worker Strike Rally
Boston Common, Boston, MA

Like millions of people in today’s economy, fast food workers don’t earn enough to pay their bills and put food on the table. That’s why thousands of workers at McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast food restaurants in cities across the country have been going on strike to demand decent wages they can aord to live on. Fast food workers in Boston will be taking part in this national action on August 29. It’s crucial that we show strikers that we have their back. Will you join us?
For more information visit MassUniting.org or call (617) 284-1260

-2. 6pm This Thursday, August 29, Support Insomnia Cookie Workers on Strike
https://www.facebook.com/insomniaunion
https://www.IwwBoston.org<https://www.iwwboston.org/&gt;
 
As fast-food workers across the country join a national day of strikes on August 29, striking workers at Insomnia Cookies in Harvard Square will hold an evening rally in front of their store at 65 Mt Auburn St Cambridge, MA, at 6pm, Thursday.

Four Insomnia workers decided to go on strike on Sunday, August 18, for higher wages, benefits, and a union. They joined the Industrial Workers of
the World, set up picket lines and rallies, and have remained in the streets for over a week. Excited by the wave of strikes at other fast food
chains, Insomnia workers look to participate in the national day of strikes to support workers like them across the industry, lend solidarity to other unionizing workers, and draw attention to their own cause.

Insomnia Cookies, with 30 locations in the US, caters to college students
and runs late night deliveries of cookies and milk to dorm rooms. Still delivering cookies until 2:45 am, Insomnia workers who double-duty as bakers and cashiers receive only 9$ an hour. “Drivers,” who are expected
to deliver cookies by bicycle within a half hour, receive only 5$ an hour
plus tips. Neither receive healthcare, at a job where turnover is so high,
the typical employee lasts only a month.

At 12:00 am on Sunday, August 18, the night shift at the Harvard Square
Insomnia Cookies voted to initiate a strike for higher wages, healthcare,
and freedom to build a union. All four were fired later that morning, and
one was threatened with a lawsuit. To win back their jobs, gain a living
wage, and build a union, Insomnia strikers are calling for your support.

Please join us at 6pm, Thursday evening – 65 Mt Auburn St Cambridge, MA,
for a mass rally.

https://www.facebook.com/insomniaunion
https://www.IwwBoston.org <https://www.iwwboston.org/&gt;

Rally to Support Insomnia Strikers!

21 Aug

Tomorrow, Rally at 6pm in Harvard Square!
https://www.facebook.com/insomniaunion       https://iwwboston.org

Striking Workers at Insomnia Cookies Demand Higher Wages, Benefits, and a Union! All strikers have been illegally fired for their pro-union efforts, and have joined the Industrial Workers of the World. They need your help to win!

 Schedule for Tomorrow (Thursday, August 22)
12noon – Picket Begins at the Harvard Square location, 65 Mt Auburn St  Cambridge, MA 02138.

2pm – Sign and banner making for the evening rally (come to picket to participate in sign-making.) Bring materials if you can.

6pm – Rally! Meet near the main entrance of the Harvard Square T stop. We will march to Insomnia. Bring everybody you can!

Background:
At 12:00 am on Sunday, August 18, the night shift at the Harvard Square Insomnia Cookies voted to initiate a strike for higher wages, healthcare, and freedom to build a union. Insomnia Cookies, with around 30 locations in the Northeast and Midwest, caters to college students and runs late night deliveries of warm cookies and milk to dorm rooms. Still delivering cookies until 2:45 am, Insomnia workers who double-duty as bakers and cashiers receive only 9$ an hour, while “drivers,” who are expected to deliver cookies by bicycle within a half hour, receive only 5$ an hour plus tips. Neither receive healthcare, at a job where turnover is so high, the typical employee lasts only one month. Insomnia workers have had enough, and they need your help if they can win their jobs back and achieve their goals.

Insomnia strikers have all joined the Industrial Workers of the World, and the workers and their union have held pickets for the last four days at the Harvard Square location, 65 Mt Auburn St  Cambridge, MA 02138.

Check the Boston IWW website, or the Insomnia Union facebook for updates: http://iwwboston.org/   https://www.facebook.com/insomniaunion

Strike at Insomnia Cookies, Harvard Square

19 Aug

Strike! Calling all Allies of Low-Wage Workers
Turn Out to Support Striking Workers at Insomnia Cookies!

Click here for article with photos

At 12:00 am on Sunday, August 18, the night shift at the Harvard Square Insomnia Cookies voted to initiate a strike for higher wages, healthcare, better job stability, and freedom to build a union. Insomnia Cookies, with around 30 locations in the Northeast and Midwest, caters to college students and runs late night deliveries of warm cookies and milk to dorm rooms. Still delivering cookies until 2:45 am, Insomnia workers who double-duty as bakers and cashiers receive only 9$ an hour, while “drivers,” who are expected to deliver cookies by bicycle within a half hour, receive only 5$ an hour plus tips. Neither receive healthcare, at a job where turnover is so high, the typical employee lasts only a few months. Insomnia workers have had enough, and they need your help if they can keep their jobs and achieve their goals.

Picketing, which began Sunday afternoon, will continue tomorrow, Tuesday, August 20 at noon. Workers will picket at noon on Wednesday and Thursday as well, and also hold a mass rally at 6pm Thursday evening. Workers will hold their picket at the Harvard Square location, 65 Mt Auburn St  Cambridge, MA 02138.
The company also plans to open a new location near Boston University at 708 Commonwealth Ave in the near future.

Check the Boston IWW website for updates: http://iwwboston.org/
From the Strikers:

Harvard Insomnia Strike Agreement

The following Employees of Insomnia Cookies hereby vote to go on Strike on August 18, 2013 at 12:00am.

Our Demands:

1) Higher Wages.

2.) Benefits to Include Health Care and Dental.

3.) Union Membership.

We stand in solidarity with all those low wage workers across the country who are oppressed and exploited.

Long Live the Workers Movement!

(signed by four workers, a shift leader, 2 bakers, and a driver).

For updates:
http://iwwboston.org/