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(en) US, Texas, Fresh Plus Grocery Fresh Start for Austin Wobs

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 21 Feb 2005 14:51:11 +0200 (IST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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As 2005 began in Austin, Texas, two IWW coworkers were fired for
union activity, spurring a series of solidarity actions indicative of the
rejuvenation in the Lucy Parsons General Membership Branch.
On January 7th, just one week after the first firing occurred, fifteen
Wobs showed up at Fresh Plus, the charming, independent
neighborhood grocery store and flagrant union buster in question, to
fight the sacking of fellow worker Ryan Hastings. Members were
energized as they voiced support and passed out leaflets to some of the
storeís 25 employees and the customers inside the store, forcing
supervisors to hunt around and pick up leaflets left behind. Outside in
front of the store, Wobs leafleted and talked to customers about the
firing until they were asked to leave, at which point a new batch took
their place doing the same.

Ryan Hastings worked at Fresh Plus six months before being fired, a
job he says he enjoyed despite its numerous drawbacks: low pay
($7/hr), no benefits, and no sick days. "The worst thing of all, the thing
people were most pissed about was our domineering, overbearing boss
who frequently made mistakes in his micromanaging," Hastings said,
referring to general manager Paul Beurskens. Hastings began agitating
for a union as soon as he was hired at the end of June 2004. "Everyone
was receptive to the idea of being organized and running the shop
ourselves," he explained. By November he and interested coworkers
were meeting outside the store, and during the first weekend of
December Hastings and fellow Wobs made house visits.

Sure enough, the following Monday Boss Paul gave Hastings his first
write up; from then on store management accused this
once-commended worker of breaking numerous rules. The other shoe
finally dropped when a supervisor sent Hastings home early on
December 27th; two days later Boss Paul called to tell him not to come
into work -- he had been fired.

Back at the protest action, the store's anti-union stance was made even
clearer when the same supervisor, Nicole Warrington, sent cashier
Nellie Moore home early after she spent her break passing out leaflets
in front of the store. Warrington said -- and two Wobs immediately
verified -- that it was for talking about the union on the job. The next
day at work Moore was written up twice and then fired by Boss Paul.
Since her firing no other employee has openly come out in favor of the

Between FWs Moore and Hastings, the Austin GMB has filed ten
charges with the NLRB, including two unlawful terminations and an
overly broad No Solicitation policy. Our response has not been solely to
rely on the NLRB, of course, and the branch's reaction to this injury to
two has been exciting.

Wobs returned several more times to flier the generally receptive
customers, both informally and for larger, planned events. On one
humorous occasion a crowd of Wobs observed police officers tell an
exasperated Boss Paul that they werenít going to issue a dozen or
more No Trespass warnings and that heíd just have to call them again
if we got back on the property after they left. On two occasions we
brought out the red IWW banner, including once to lead a march of
supporters from a nearby park to the store.

Such actions illustrate a jump in the branch's overall activity level in
recent months. In addition to increased membership, another shopís
brewing situation, and the Fresh Plus campaign, a long overdue Wob
shop has been recognized and reinvigorated at Ecology Action, a
recycling center that fired its boss two years ago and has since been
operating as a collective, with better working conditions, scheduling,
and pay. Noting the upsurge, Dan Elgin, branch president, stated, "It's
the first time in many years thereís been a core group of Wobs wanting
to organize a functioning One Big Union in Austin." But the difference
is not only quantitative. According to Elgin, "This is the beginning of a
change in focus of the branch where we increase membership in the
minority union context by identifying targets based on organizing
industrial branches rather than responding to hot shops."

Both former Fresh Plus workers agree on the support they've received.
"It's been great," Nellie Moore said. "I feel like they've been a great
resource to me and I wish the other employees would recognize that.
They've outdone themselves."

Ryan Hastings concurs. "That was an amazing feeling. It
demonstrated for me that we provide mutual aid for each others'
actions. There are people there who are probably going to have
struggles coming up, and I'll be there for them. If any Wobs have
troubles, we have a posse."

By Marcus Denton, Lucy Parsons (Austin) IWW General Membership
Branch - February 13, 2005.
copied from infoshop.org

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