The hearing to seek a court order for IWW Sisters Camelot Canvass Union member shugE Mississippi to be rehired and be awarded back pay took place this past week on June 6 & 7. Both sides called witnesses and cross-examined them in a courtroom in front of an administrative law judge at the Minneapolis NLRB office.
The most surprising testimonies came when NLRB lawyers representing shugE Mississippi cross-examined Sisters’ Camelot managing collective member Eric Gooden and ex-managing collective member Clay Hansen.
Near the end of the hearing’s first day Eric Gooden admitted under oath that shugE Mississippi was never fired from Sisters’ Camelot in 2009, contradicting a claim given in the written statement approved by the managing collective and read aloud on the March 4th, 2013 when shugE Mississippi’s contract was terminated. Gooden also clarified in testimony that the language of the firing statement did mean to assert that shugE Mississippi was fired in 2009, which clarifies that the managing collective approved lying publicly about the events of 2009. Gooden continued to admit under oath that if it were not for the demands of the workers union shugE Mississippi would not have been fired in March of 2013.
The following day Clay Hansen, a former Sisters’ Camelot managing collective member who quit the organization during the strike, testified under oath that to his knowledge shugE Mississippi did nothing that warranted being fired between February 25 when the workers union went public to the bosses and March 4 when he was publicly fired. Clay Hansen continued to testify that to his knowledge shugE Mississippi did nothing that warranted being fired any time during Hansen’s entire time working at Sisters Camelot starting in spring of 2011 and ending in April of 2013. This testimony is especially important since the March 4th public statement which fired shugE Mississippi not only wrongfully asserted that he had been fired in 2009 as justification but also claimed his behavior was disruptive in the workplace since returning to Sisters’ Camelot in 2011.
“It feels so good to finally have the truth on public record. The management of Sisters’ Camelot lied about me ever being fired in 2009, and they lied again when they claimed I was being fired in 2013 for anything other than union activity. Now we have this admitted under oath by one of the bosses and I feel so much relief to have these lies exposed in a way that cannot be refuted”, stated shugE Mississippi.
Sisters’ Camelot’s attorney, John C. Hauge, a notorious far right wing union busting lawyer, gave up attempting to prove the firing was not based on activity. Instead Hauge focused on technicalities. These included arguing the canvassers were not covered under the National Labor Relations Act. The Labor Board had found merit with the Unfair Labor Practices because it found the canvassers to be misclassified as Independent Contractors instead of employees. Additionally, Hauge attempted to argue Sisters’ Camelot did not engage in interstate commerce and therefore would not be covered under the NLRA.
Union member Bobby Becker was asked about the overall hearing and stated, “I feel great about what happened in that court room and am really hopeful that the judge will rule in shugE’s favor. One great thing to realize about this hearing is that even if the judge rules against us, we still win the moral argument because they’ll just be getting off on a technicality. When the transcripts of this hearing become public record in ten days, nobody will ever be able to argue again that shugE was fired for any other reason than retaliation for union organizing.”
The Sisters’ Camelot Canvass Union has been on strike over 100 days now. The campaign 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.