We Are Family

The following letter was posted to the SCCU Facebook page on May 8 by Mark Anderson of the We Are Family Senior Outreach Network.

May 8, 2013

Dear Sisters’ Camelot Collective,

This letter is written with a heavy heart, but with a desire to see justice done and wounds healed. May this letter be received in the spirit of respectful, loving truth telling that it is intended to convey. We Are Family wishes to thank Sisters’ Camelot for its visionary work on behalf of food justice while also expressing our solidarity with the just demands of the Sisters’ Camelot Canvass Union.

We have been inspired from afar by the work of Sisters’ Camelot, and believe that We Are Family shares some of its spirit of creative grassroots service and justice. We Are Family serves around 550 seniors in inner-city Washington, DC each month with groceries, advocacy, and more. We bring nutritious food, services, organizing, and companionship into the homes of isolated, low-income elderly, while helping to build friendships across boundaries like race, class, religion, age, culture, and sexual orientation. Most of our work is done by volunteers – especially including senior leaders – and is coordinated by a paid staff of consisting only of one fulltime co-director and a half-time co-director.

Recently, however, we have learned about the ugly situation that currently is injuring the reputation of Sisters’ Camelot; in specific, the strike that was sparked by the refusal of the collective to recognize the Sisters’ Camelot Canvass Union or to negotiate with them in good faith. Most damning of all is the apparent illegal firing of one of the Union’s lead organizers, a veteran Sisters’ Camelot canvasser.

We Are Family, of course, does not know the intimate details of the situation. However, three points are clear, even at a distance. First, the canvassers employed by Sisters’ Camelot have a right to unionize. Second, Sisters’ Camelot has not only a legal but ethical duty to recognize this union and bargain with them in good faith. Finally, to fire anyone involved in a union organizing effort not only breaks existing law, but also violates the higher standard that should guide our actions as workers for a better world.

The Sisters’ Camelot collective is concerned that the demands of the Union would destroy the organization, but it appears to us that fighting the union in these ways is far more destructive. To us, much of what the canvassers are asking for is to have a voice in the decisions that affect their work. Humbly, if to honor such demands would destroy Sisters’ Camelot, then this suggests a fundamental flaw in the organization’s structure, one that can and must be addressed immediately.

Again, we thank Sisters’ Camelot for its visionary work. Your mission is so terribly important, and we know this sad, destructive dispute must be resolved swiftly. The best way we know to do heal these wounds is to recognize the Union, to begin good faith negotiations, and reinstate the fired employee.

Thanks for considering these humble, but heart-felt and deeply pondered thoughts.

Mark Andersen, Co-Director, We Are Family Senior Outreach Network

Mark Andersen
We Are Family Senior Outreach Network
1525 Newton St. NW
Washington, DC 20010