IWW-affiliated canvassers at Sister’s Camelot, on strike since Friday, walked out of a meeting of the Sister’s Camelot governing collective at 10AM today following a shocking statement announcing the retaliatory firing of union canvasser Shuge Mississippi. The collective had invited canvassers to attend, claiming to recognize the union and verbally indicating that they were ready to negotiate to end the canvasser’s strike. After an opening statement by the canvassers stating they were seeking to negotiate and would end the strike as soon as negotiations proceed, the collective made a prepared statement, accusing canvassers of “forcing” them into a “boss role” and then proceeding to fire union canvasser Shuge Mississippi, who was accused of “manipulating” other canvassers into forming a union.
Following this, the canvassers walked out of the meeting, after making an unprepared statement that the firing was an attack against the whole union, as “an injury to one is an injury to all.” The unionized canvassers, who had expected to resume negotiations and end the strike within the day, left the meeting in a state of shock at the sheer aggression of the collective’s response.
Additionally, collective member and union supporter Bobby Becker accused the collective of making its decision without his input in violation of their own governing rules and collective process.
While collective members have insisted repeatedly that there are no bosses at Sister’s Camelot, today’s actions have only proven the canvassers’ accusation that the organization has become controlled by a top-down, exclusive power structure unwilling to negotiate with its own workforce.
Tracy Steidl, a union canvasser, summed up the union’s position: “They’re not even recognizing the union as a representative body of the canvassers. It’s obvious from this morning’s display that this is a grasp at straws by collective members slandering another human being in order to stop a legitimate organizing effort. It’s obvious they’ll do anything necessary to preserve power and influence for themselves.”
Luke Welke, another canvasser, expressed his “disgust that the collective could ask us to betray our friend and fellow worker who we work with every day and still believe that they are negotiating in good faith.”
“They’ve shown that they are willing to sacrifice the mission of Sister’s Camelot, for the sake of shutting down the voices of their own workers, who make this organization possible,” said fired worker Shuge Mississippi, “I love Sisters’ Camelot, but it’s clear that the collective has turned into the very thing we built it not to be.”
While today’s actions are a clear sign of bad faith, canvassers have said that they remain willing to negotiate once the collective is willing to rescind the firing and meet them at the table. The strikers have pledged to remain united in the face of further intimidation and attacks like today’s.
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.