Submitted on Sat, 09/10/2011 - 2:15am
By FW Zachary M.- September 9th, 2011
A new organizing campaign is in full swing at a sub-sandwich shop. No, it’s not Jimmy Johns, but a local Kansas City deli and pizzeria. The campaign, initiated by a brand new member in a brand new branch, started about four months ago when a worker joined the Wobblies and then realized that the IWW is the perfect platform for making changes at the oppressive restaurant he works at. I am that worker, and this is the beginning of our ongoing struggle to take over our workplace.
I started working at the shop about two years ago but only started to organize after becoming a Wobblie in April. After a mixture of stabbing in the dark, taking advice from the group that would later become the Greater Kansas City Branch, attending a wonderfully helpful meeting with some Wobblies from the Starbucks Union in Omaha in May, and then receiving an exceptional Organizer Training in June, some real organizing started to take place. Energized and educated by the Organizer Training, I started to rally my co-workers to defend each other at work. These activities lead to our first meetings where we committed to solidarity in the workplace and began to figure out the concrete problems at our shop. After a few more weeks of organizing and trying to establish some concrete ground from which to move forward, management decided to rearrange the structure of the store and started clamping down; enforcing new and old policies alike. This new enforcement of the rules led to understaffing as workers were fired or left due to frustration over harassment in the workplace. Management refused to replace these workers and then expected the few remaining workers to pick up the slack.
Then, at the beginning of August, things at our workplace started to heat up. Corporate management decided that they want to open more locations so they need a whole new set of rules and a rigid cost cutting strategy to squeeze every last penny out of every store. To do this they are using our location as a guinea pig and transferred in a management loyal worker who has worked for the company on and off for the last 20 years. This person, whom we refer to as the Corporate Manager (CM), for lack of a better term, is not a manager but is in charge of enforcing the new rules and cutting costs. During this transition, the assistant manager was fired due to rumors that he was taking home extra food.
The weekend after the firing, I was away on vacation, so the store was more understaffed than usual because the precedent is that no one is called in to cover shifts no matter how much notice is given that a worker will be off. On Saturday there were only two line cooks, Fellow Worker Charlie and another worker. The other line cook was sent out on a catering delivery. Our store never does catering on Saturday and the worker who was sent out had never done catering before. This left FW Charlie alone to do the work of what normally is done by three workers. The store starts to get busy with the lunch rush, so FW Charlie starts running back and forth between the lines making sandwiches and running them down to our expo line which is being worked by our store manager. FW Charlie forgot to write the name of a sandwich on the wrapper (writing the names on the wrappers is a new, superfluous policy being enforced as one of the many brand new “corporate” rules because the manager refuses to read the tickets we give him with the sandwiches). The manager picks up the sandwich and yells “WRITE THE NAME ON THE GOD DAMN SANDWICH!” and throws the sandwich at FW Charlie. Not surprisingly this upsets FW Charlie. He calmly takes off his hat and apron, clocks-out, and leaves without saying a word.