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(en) US, NYC, IWW* class struggle against ex-ELF spokesperson - Statement Regarding the Striking Calendula Workers

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 18 Aug 2004 09:11:32 +0200 (CEST)


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Industrial Union No. 640, Industrial Workers of the World:
This is a statement by the IWW clarifying a strike by four
servers at Calendula Cafe. It describes events in the course
of the strike, issues the strikers are bringing forward, and
clarifies the IWW's role in the strike.
Labor law in the United States is not a worker friendly system.
Typically,when an employer has actually violated the rights of
workers as they exist on paper in the United States, they have
engaged in rather agregious practices. The National Labor Relations
Act states that collective activity is protected activity. This
means that any group of workers, union members or not, have the
right to protest, strike, and organize unions without retaliation
from their employer.

When the four servers currently on strike at Calendula notified the
owner that they were witholding their labor, they were immediately fired.

Many of these workers have worked at Calendula since its inception, and have
spent close to a year trying to be a part of building what they hoped would
be something different, something that lived up to its mission of being
a socially responsible workplace. These same workers had repeatedly
attempted to engage the ownership of Calendula in dialogue around what they
considered to be a disrespectful and at times hostile work environment.

Since its opening, Calendula had repeatedly fell back on promises made to
these workers upon hiring, and they had already accepted a round of wage
cuts that brought them from $8 to $7.20 an hour. When Calendula notified
the servers that their wages would be cut a second time, down to minimum
wage, with no discussion or debate, the workers protested to Craig
himself. After hostility, threatening responses, and an absolute refusal
to discuss the issue, the workers determined they could take no more.

After being fired for striking, these workers came to the IWW requesting
support.
The IWW did not organize the strike, but we support workers' efforts to
gain democracy in the workplace. The IWW has agreed to assist the workers
in negotiations with the restaurant.

Three days after being fired for striking, a delegation of the striking workers
and negotiators from the union came to the restaurant to set up a meeting
with Craig Rosebraugh, to notify him of the worker's demands and attempt to
settle the dispute. Craig's response was to notify the strikers and
the union representatives that he was not even interested in hearing the
worker's demands, and that if they did not leave he would call the police.
Since then, Craig his refused to communicate with the strikers or the union
other than through his lawyer, and has refused to meet to discuss what could
be done to remedy the dispute.

The IWW has not requested a boycott of Calendula, and hopes that the
ownership will hold to their mission of being a socially responsible
establishment by meeting these worker's demands.

Both the IWW and the strikers gave Craig repeated opportunity to sit and
talk about their demands before filing legal claims or making their
claims public. Only when Craig repeated that the workers were fired and stated
that he had no intentions of even hearing their demands did the union file
charges or the workers begin to contact the media regarding their case.

When the IWW filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor
Relations Board, Craig hired a lawyer, and through his lawyer expressed
that he was still unwilling to meet the workers to discuss what their demands
might be. For an employer to claim financial hardship, but then to hire
a lawyer to fight worker's organization before he has even been willing to
negotiate or hear the demands of the workers seems less than economically
responsible, to himself, or to the workers still employed inside. Craig
has the option not to fight the legal charges, but to negotiate their
settlement with the workers directly at any time, thereby saving himself the
expense and salvaging the name of his establishment, but has chosen not to do
so.

We encourage Calendula to swiftly negotiate a settlement with the fired
strikers, thereby salvaging the reputation of a restaurant committed to
social justice.

The IWW supports workers in their struggles to establish democratic
workplaces, and supports the right of workers to organize and even to
strike. This is based in a sincere belief that it is the workers themselves
who must begin to develop and envision alternatives to the problems we
confront as a society. We encourage workers in any industry to call us with
questions about the union and ways we can establish democratic workplaces,
and work to build the new society.

Sincerely,
J.L. Speed
Industrial Union No. 640
Industrial Workers of the World,
503-231-5488

homepage: http://iww.org
phone: 503-231-5488
address: 616 E. Burnside
------------------------------------

Servers fired for striking say:

Please take notice that we(the servers) were organizing together before we
actually went on strike.

Mission Statement for Calendula Café:

"At Calendula, we are committed to a healthy and ethical business for you
(the customer), for the environment, and for our staff. Beyond our menu,
we are committed to responsible business practices... .we believe in
health and longevity not only for our customers and our staff, but also
for the natural environment."

There is a reason why we all wanted to work at Calendula and to be a part
of what we thought the restaurant is trying to create, it is because of
statements exactly like the one shown above promising things to us (the
employees) and to the community. But as far as wait staff at Calendula
Café are concerned all of those things have become a façade. The things
that were promised to the employees are thing that we feel every employee
should have such as health care, competitive wages, a voice in the work
place, good working conditions, and a safe and healthy work environment.
At one point or another during the last six months all of these elements
have felt lost to the wait-staff at Calendula Café.

The last six months have been spent helping Craig to build Calendula,
meanwhile as Calendula seems to be getting more and more popular we have
noticed the lack of respect for our hard work growing more and more
present. Craig has not come through with any of the things he has promised
to us. In return for our hard work he has lowered our wages, with the
expectation that we will do more work for lower wages. He has also decided
that he cannot afford health care benefits for his employees, even though
it is stated in our handbook that we would be eligible after ninety days.
Craig has also proven that he wants to profit off of us by taking away our
free shift meal and beverage. He is now offering 25% off a meal and
beverage while on shift.

This is not an attack on Craig Rosenbraug as a person or his political
perspectives. This is a statement to address our right as community
members to be heard by our community and by our employer. Any time we have
tried to voice our concerns to Craig individually it has been met with
disciplinary action or with simple disregard. More than anything we want
to negotiate with our employer to make Calendula a truly great place to be
for the employees and the customers. After all if the servers at Calendula
are not happy in the work place this will indeed influence the customers.
We are asking that Calendula hold to the promises that it has made to the
community, its customers, and most of all, to us, those who do the work
and have invested interest in the success of the business.

We realize the financial borders may make it difficult to fulfill the
promises he made to us. However our greatest issue lies in the lack of
respect that Craig has given to us. We are willing to talk with Craig
about these respect issues, we have in fact already made a strong effort
to do so. Our efforts have been met with Craig's irreverence to the issue.
So we have been forced to take collective action to get Craig's full
attention to help him understand that this issue will not just go away and
that we as a group are interested in Calendula's future. We are asking
that Craig do the right thing; negotiate with us, the people that have
help build up his restaurant. We are hoping that we can move past these
issues and prove to the community and ourselves how strong Calendula Café
really is. Something needs to be done to develop camaraderie and morale in
a restaurant that's main objective is to promote a health conscious
community. We are asking your help in this issue to support us on our
mission to improve Calendula Café.
=======================================
* [Ed. Note: IWW is antiauthoritarian anticapitalist
direct action social struggle syndicate.]


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