Canvass workers at Sisters’ Camelot, a non-profit mobile food shelf and soup kitchen, have unanimously gone public as members of the Industrial Workers of the World and have entered into negotiations with management this morning. This announcement comes after months of organizing among the workers in response to changes in the workplace, resulting in a decline in conditions and mismanagement of the worker’s time and the organization’s resources. If an agreement is not reached as a result of these negotiations, the workers are fully prepared to cease fundraising operations and go on strike.
The workers announced their IWW membership to the managing collective last Monday. “We care deeply about the mission of Sisters’ Camelot,” read the worker’s prepared statement, “We respect the hard work that collective members provide for the food share bus, kitchen bus, and garden. We are demanding the same level of respect and control when it comes to running the fundraising operation.”
Canvassers at Sisters’ Camelot are employed as independent contractors and make below average pay for the industry. Workers began organizing with the IWW after a restructuring of the organization’s door-to-door fundraising operation left workers with an increased workplace stress and less control over conditions. They are demanding that management positions in the canvass program be replaced with coordinators elected by the workers, and that hiring and firing be conducted by a worker committee. In addition, workers are asking for better conditions such as sick pay and medical coverage of job-related injuries, as well as common sense items such as more frequent training and regular repair of work vehicles.
“In the past, I’ve always been proud to say that I work with, not for, Sisters Camelot,” said John Snortum, a canvass worker and IWW member, “but due to recent changes in the work environment, it’s been increasingly feeling like the opposite. We hope that through these negotiations, we can foster a culture where our contributions to the organization are valued and respected.”
Although the workers hope to come to an agreement over their demands, should management be unwilling to meet them or otherwise attempt to stall or stonewall negotiations, they are prepared to immediately go on strike with the full support of the IWW both locally and internationally.
“We don’t want to go on strike,” said Shuge Mississippi, who has worked at Sisters’ Camelot for over ten years, and was a founding member of the collective that now manages the organization. “A strike is the last thing any of us wants. If our needs aren’t met, however, we are fully ready and willing to go on strike for as long as it takes.”
The campaign at Sisters Camelot represents a new step for Food and Retail Workers United, an organizing committee of the Industrial Workers of the World labor union. Gaining prominence in recent years for organizing Starbucks and Jimmy Johns workers, the IWW is a global union founded over a century ago for all working people.