From The Organizer:
On Saturday, April 6th, passers-by were treated to the sight of a large picket outside of Minnesota’s highest volume liquor store, Chicago-Lake liquors. Picketers held signs and chanted slogans of support for the workers of the store, five of whom were fired after asking for higher wages as a part of a union drive with the Industrial Workers of the World.
Although workers had been discussing forming a union and acting for better conditions in their workplace for almost a year, the event will mark the first time any of them publicly declare their IWW affiliation. This declaration and action comes on the heels of the firing of five union employees–Hallie Wallace, Arella Vargas, Max Specktor, Davis Ritsema, and Joe Giwoyna–shortly after they presented a petition signed by the majority of the shop’s workforce asking for a dollar raise and elevating its $10.50 pay cap to $13 an hour. In January, the workers also turned in a petition asking for holiday pay.
“If there’s anywhere that needs a union, it’s a store like Chi-Lake,” said Wallace, “Despite the immense amount of money that we bring in, our wages are incredibly low. We have no paid sick days or holiday pay, scheduling is inconsistent, and we put up with unsafe working conditions and sexual harassment on a daily basis. We’ve come together to demand respect and dignity on the job for everyone working at Chi-Lake, and they’ve responded with nothing more than aggressive union-busting.”
At the picket, the workers and supporters made clear their demands, which are to rehire those fired illegally, provide raises to all employees as initially asked, and that management stop union-busting.
In addition to the picket action on Saturday, the five fired workers also filed Unfair Labor Practices with the National Labor Relations Board.
“We will keep fighting until they rehire all five of the fired workers and give us all the raises we deserve,” said Specktor, “We’re not going to allow ourselves to be bullied by management. We’re going to win this fight.”
The campaign at Chicago Lake Liquors 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.