Tag Archives: labor

After Protests, Suspended IWW Organizer Reinstated

20 Mar

On Sunday, March 9, just six days after a settlement between Insomnia Cookies and four workers who went on strike last August, the company suspended bicycle delivery “driver” and union organizer Tasia Edmonds. Quick action by the Industrial Workers of the World, which represents Edmonds, the four strikers, and several other area workers, forced the company to reinstate Edmonds. Two dozen IWW members and allies picketed the Boston Insomnia Cookies location, where Edmonds is employed, on Friday, March 14. Organizers planned another rally for Saturday, March 22, after student allies from the abutting Boston University return from Spring Break, but the company capitulated, agreeing on March 20 to bring Edmonds back to work.

Edmonds was disciplined for speaking out against workplace injustices, which the boss called “Insubordination.” According to Edmonds ““I was suspended for my union involvement. I have never been disciplined before. I was not served any paper work detailing why I was suspended. I want to get back to work, and I want back pay for the days I missed.” While Insomnia has reinstated Edmonds, as of press time there is no confirmation that she will receive back pay for time lost during her suspension. The union is prepared to fight to win Edmonds’ lost wages, and to ensure Insomnia Cookies sticks to its promise not to discipline or intimidate workers for union organizing.

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Tasia Edmonds speaks at a picket outside of the Boston University Insomnia Cookies Location. The manager that suspended her and a guard hired from Securitas glower down from the window above. Photo by Fellow Worker D

 

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IWW picket outside of the Boston University Insomnia Cookies location on Friday, March 14. Photo by Fellow Worker D

 

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Days After Settlement, Pickets Return to Insomnia Cookies

16 Mar

Days After Settlement, Pickets Return to Insomnia Cookies

by Jake Carman

 

Picket lines have returned to Insomnia Cookies, less than two weeks after the company settled with four workers who struck in August of 2013. On Friday March 14, two dozen union members and supporters rallied in front of the Boston location of Insomnia Cookies, demanding the reinstatement with back pay of union organizer and bicycle delivery “driver,” Tasia Edmonds. On March 9 the company suspended Edmonds without pay for a month, alleging insubordination, while the union maintains she was disciplined for her union-building efforts.

 

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), of which Edmonds is a member, claims the company violated the terms of the recent settlement, in which Insomnia Cookies promised “WE WILL NOT fire you or take any other action against you because you engage in protected activities with your fellow employees that concern your wages, hours and working conditions, including a strike.” The union filed new charges against the company with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Wednesday, March 12, and launched a phone and email blitz of the company.

 

At the March 14 picket, workers and allies held signs, sangs songs, and handed out fliers demanding the company bring back Edmonds, make up for any lost wages, and uphold the promises outlined in the recent settlement. Edmonds addressed the rally, speaking about life working at Insomnia Cookies, while the manager who suspended her and a new security guard subcontracted through Securitas glowered down from the window above. Alberto Giorgio Peniche, from Boston Resist the Raids, also spoke, expressing his solidarity with Insomnia and other fast food workers and drawing the connection with the struggles of undocumented workers.

 

After almost two hours of rallying, the IWW promised to return with double the numbers, unless Edmonds is reinstated. “Are you tired of having us in your face?” they chanted. “Then get some justice in this place!” The union is planning another rally for next week, when student allies at Boston University, which abuts the Commonwealth Avenue Insomnia location, return from spring break.

 

“I believe I was suspended for my union involvement,” says Edmonds, a twenty-two-year-old who has worked for the company four and a half months. “I have never been disciplined before. I was not served any paperwork detailing why I was suspended. A few days after my suspension, the company even called me to ask for my story, as if they were asking me why they suspended me and didn’t even know themselves.” Edmonds went public with her union affiliation on December 7, 2013. In February, according to the union, a new manager began harassing her about her union membership.

Tasia Edmonds speaks at a picket outside of the Boston University Insomnia Cookies Location. The manager that suspended her and a guard hired from Securitas glower down from the window above. Photo by Jake Carman
Tasia Edmonds speaks at a picket outside of the Boston University Insomnia Cookies Location. The manager that suspended her and a guard hired from Securitas glower down from the window above. Photo by Jake Carman
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March 14 Picket at Boston University Insomnia Cookies. Photo by Jake Carman.

 

 

“I believe the disciplinary action they are taking against me is excessive and unfair,” Edmonds says. “I want to get back to work, and I want back pay for the days I missed.”

 

According to the union, “Insomnia Cookies continues to violate the law by intimidating employees with threats and disciplinary actions to discourage union organizing. We call on Insomnia Cookies to uphold the terms of the recent settlement, bring back Tasia and pay her for any wages lost during her suspension, and to allow Insomnia workers to continue their efforts to improve working conditions through legally-protected unionizing efforts.”

3 Important Events, Starting Today

12 Mar
Join Black Rose/Rosa Negra at these upcoming events!


Dear Black Rose friends and comrades // Queridxs amigxs y camaradas de Rosa Negra, [español a continuación] It seems like the struggle just won't wait for Spring! Between victories, attacks, and ongoing fights, things are heating up and the snow is finally melting! Please join us in the streets for 3 actions this week and more in the coming weeks. Here are some upcoming actions we will be participating in. Details below. Hope to see you there! // ¡Parece que la lucha simplemente no va esperar hasta la primavera! Entre las victorias, los ataques y las luchas en desarrollo, se está calentando la cosa y por fin la nieve se está derritiendo! Por favor, únanse a nosotrxs en la calle para 3 acciones esta semana y más en las próximas semanas. Les enviamos la información de las próximas actividades en que vamos a estar participando. Detalles a continuación. ¡Esperamos verles ahí! Solidarity // Solidaridad, Black Rose//Rosa Negra - Boston *1) Boston Youth Power March: #YOUTHPASS NOW!* Wednesday, March 12th, 3:30-5:30PM Park Street Station, Boston Sponsored by the Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition<http://youthwayonthembta.org/yac> Facebook event: Boston Youth Power March: #YOUTHPASS NOW!<https://www.facebook.com/events/587024581379104/> The T is a lifeline for youth in Boston. We need a *#YouthPass *and Affordabili(T) NOW! Are you with us?*We call on MBTA General Manager Beverley Scott, MassDOT Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey, & the MassDOT Board:**1) *to protect students in the upcoming fare hike by *exempting student fares from the hike* &/or *adding weekends into the current M5 $25 Student Pass* *2) *to fulfill their promises by using part of *the new State House funding that youth played a key role in securing *to increase equity and begin a *Youth Pass Pilot by Summer 2014* *3) *to make the T more affordable for youth riders by *creating the "Youth Pass" now*! *2) Rally // Manifestación: Bring Them Home! // ¡Traerlos a Casa!* Friday, March 14th, 5:00-6:30PM JFK Federal Building, Government Center, Boston Sponsored by: Bring Them Home - Boston<https://www.facebook.com/bringbackboston>, Resist the Raids <https://www.facebook.com/resisttheraids> Facebook event: Rally // Manifestación: Bring Them Home! // ¡Traerlos a Casa! <https://www.facebook.com/events/293635940787435/> [español abajo] Starting on Monday, March 10th, 150 people crossed the US/México border, demanding to the right to go home to their respective communities in the United States. These brave folks used direct action to reunite with their families and send a strong message to the Obama administration that we will no longer tolerate deportations and forced displacement! Please come show solidarity with the Reform 150, including local participants, Ines Vargas and Alberto Peniche! They need community support to pressure ICE to release them from detention and allow them to return home. Will you join us?? // Comenzando el lunes, 10 de marzo, 150 personas cruzaron la frontera entre los Estados Unidos y México, exigiendo el derecho a regresar a casa a sus comunidades respectivas en los Estados Unidos. Esta gente valiente usó la acción directa para reunir con sus familias y enviar un mensaje fuerte a la administración de Obama que ¡ya no vamos a soportar más deportaciones ni el desplazamiento forzado! Por favor, venga a mostrar la solidaridad con los "Reforma 150," incluyendo los participantes locales, Ines Vargas y Alberto Peniche! Se necesita el apoyo comunitario para presionar a la migra (ICE) a soltarlos de la detención y dejarlos regresar a casa. ¿Se unirá a nosotros? *3) Emergency Picket for Suspended Insomnia Cookies Worker!* Friday, March 14th, 7:00PM Insomnia Cookies, 708 Commonwealth Ave, Boston Sponsored by: IWW - Boston GMB <http://iwwboston.org> Facebook event: Emergency Picket! + Phone, Email Zap! Fight Union-busting!<https://www.facebook.com/events/604465696296628> Insomnia Cookies has suspended IWW organizer Tasia Edmonds without pay for a month, falsely claiming she was "unprofessional" and neglected to server her any formal written notice. You're invited to take action against union-busting by the boutique cookie business. Join the IWW and our allies as we picket in support of Tasia! Please also email the company at pfs@serveubrands.com, and call CEO Seth Berkowitz at (877)632-6654. Suggested message: "It is intolerable that IWW organizer Tasia Edmonds be suspended without pay for her union activity. Please take immediate action to bring Tasia back to work, and compensate her for any loss in pay. Union-busting is disgusting!" Background: Tasia went public with her union affiliation on December 7. She has been building the union in her store. In February, a new manager began harrassing her about her union membership. On March 9, Tasia was told she has been suspended without pay for a month! The union is filing Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). An organizing drive began at Insomnia in August after four workers spontaneously went on strike. Their demands included $15/hr, health care and a union. They were immediately fired. Despite recently promising to give about $4,000 in back pay to the strikers and to post a notice in the store pledging not to retaliate against workers for union activity, Insomnia is apparently still determined to crush the union drive. The union is even more determined to get justice for Tasia and all workers at Insomnia!

Insomnia Cookies Strikers win Settlement

6 Mar

Insomnia Cookies Strikers win Settlement.

By Jake Carman

 

On March 3rd Insomnia Cookies and four striking workers agreed to a settlement of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charges, officially ending a six month strike. The four workers, Chris Helali, Jonathan Peña, Niko Stapczynski, and Luke Robinson, struck on August 18, 2013, demanding changes at work, including higher pay, benefits, and unionization, and were fired immediately. According to the terms of the settlement, they will all receive backpay, totaling close to $4000, and have their terminations rescinded from their records. Insomnia Cookies will post a notice in their Harvard Square store promising not to fire or otherwise retaliate against workers for union activity, including going on strike. Additionally, Insomnia revised a confidentiality agreement, which improperly restricted workers’ rights to discuss their conditions of employment with one another and third parties (including union organizers and the media).

 

According to organizers for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the labor union representing the strikers, “This settlement is another small victory in a long struggle to bring justice and a union to Insomnia Cookies.”

 

When the four workers, comprising the entire night shift at the Harvard Square Insomnia Cookies, voted unanimously to close the store after midnight on August 18, 2013, they served cookies to the customers already in line, then locked the doors. They put protest signs in the windows, wrote up a strike agreement and informed their boss they were striking for a raise, health and other benefits, and a union.

 

Jonathan Peña, one of the strikers, remembers “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.”

 

The following morning they returned to set up a picket line, and reached out to the IWW, which sent union organizers to help. Within the first few days, all four were fired, and all four signed union cards. For the next six months strikers, IWW members, allies, and student organizations at both Harvard and Boston University held pickets, marches, rallies, forums, phone blitzes, and a boycott, while workers continued organizing at both the Cambridge and Boston locations. The union also pursued legal charges through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The March 3rd settlement comes two days before a scheduled NLRB hearing on the charges.

 

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

 

Other outstanding issue remain unresolved between workers and the company. Wages, benefits, break-time, scheduling, safety, “independent contractor” status of delivery workers, the November 2013 firing of IWW member and Insomnia baker Tommy Mendez, and police violence against a picket line and resultant charges against IWW member Jason Freedman, top the list of grievances.

 

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 with unified voices and actions.”

 

But for now, union members are celebrating. Peña says, “Being a part 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.”

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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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Issue 6 out now!

11 Feb

Issue 6 out now!

In this issue:
-Boston Union News Roundup
-Minimum Wage Hikes
-Immigrant Detainees Continue Struggle for Rights at South Bay
-Sergio Reyes’ birthday and fund-raising event From Punta Arenas to Boston: 60 years of struggle

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/