See videos of speeches, songs, protests and the march…
starting from the Grand Parade in Halifax on May 1st 2013….
Full photo gallery at bottom
Please read this related article.
May Day – International Workers Solidarity in Halifax N.S (1of8 )
link to full video play list is here. May Day International Workers Solidarity in Halifax N.S.
Learn more at http://MayWorksHalifax.ca
May Day – International Workers Solidarity in Halifax N.S (2of8) Speech about Tim Hortons
May Day – International Workers Solidarity in Halifax N.S (3of8) Elder Billy Lewis
The Internationale (song) – Updated Lyrics by Billy Bragg.
Stand up, all victims of oppression. For the tyrants fear your might. Don’t cling so hard to your possessions. For you have nothing, if you have no rights. Let racist ignorance be ended. For respect makes the empires fall. Freedom is merely privilege extended. Unless enjoyed by one and all.
So come brothers and sisters. For the struggle carries on. The Internationale Unites the world in song. So comrades come rally. For this is the time and place. The Internationale ideal Unites the human race.
Let no one build walls to divide us. Walls of hatred nor walls stones. Come greet the dawn and stand beside us. We’ll live together or we’ll die alone. In our world poisoned by exploitation. Those who have taken, now they must give. And end the vanity of nations. We’ve but one earth on which to die.
And so begins the final drama. In the streets and in the fields. We stand unbowed before their armor. We defy their guns and shields. When we fight, provoked by their aggression. Let us be inspired by life and love. For though they offer us concessions. Change will come not from above.
Join Solidariglee – all welcome. Check http://Halifaxlabour.ca for more info or find us on http://www.facebook.com/solidariglee Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Margarette Anne at (902) 240-2262
May Day – International Workers Solidarity in Halifax N.S (4of8) Carl Ewing
May Day – International Workers Solidarity in Halifax N.S (5of8) Marching
May Day – International Workers Solidarity in Halifax N.S (6of8) Marching
May Day – International Workers Solidarity in Halifax N.S (7of8)
May Day International Workers Solidarity in Halifax N.S (8of8) Marching
Shay Enxuga Speech;
It’s great to join you here on this May Day, standing in solidarity with working people and union brothers and sisters.
Raise of hands?
Well, I used to work at Just Us. Both Eli and I used to work at Just Us! – that is until we lost our jobs on Wednesday, March 27th. According to an Unfair Labour Practice suit that we have filed with the Labour Board, we were dismissed from our jobs because we were trying to form a union.
I had been working at Just Us for Just Us under two years, and Eli has been there for just under a year at half. Admittedly, at first I was starry-eyed and excited about working for a co-op that reflected my social justice values. But as time wore on, myself and other staff members didn’t feel like Just Us really put its principals into practice. We were tired of bringing up our concerns at staff meeting and getting pandered to. We were tired of making decisions together as a collective and then having management turn around the next day and make unilateral decisions that didn’t represent the voices of the workers – despite the fact that Just Us prides itself on being a “democratic” workplace. And most importantly, we were tired of watching other staff members getting fired or laid off when they DID try to bring their concerns up with management. Although our issues were small – things like tips, breaks, and room bookings – together they added up to a culture where we felt like our voices weren’t being heard. And our real issue was that we didn’t feel like we had an avenue to bring up our grievances without fearing loosing our job – a fear that turned out to be very very real.
We wanted protection. We wanted a grievance process. We wanted job security. We wanted to improve our working conditions – not only for us, but also for every worker – those who work there now and those who will work there in the future.
So we started talking about forming a union. We talked to our co-workers. We listened to them. Unlike management, we did everything that we could to make sure that everyone got a chance to have their concerns heard in a fair and equal manner. And to be honest, one of our biggest concerns was how the public was going to react. Because we didn’t want to create divisions or hurt the company’s public image. Because we never wanted this to become a conflict.
By about mid-March most of the staff at spring garden knew that we were forming union, were in support, and had signed union cards. We were just about ready to file for our vote when management caught wind of our organizing drive. Several employees started getting questioned by our team lead and asked if they knew anything about “disgruntled employees meeting outside of working talking about unions, grievances, and labour boards.” In fact, on my last shift at my work, during the last conversation that I had with my manager, she asked me those very questions. And the next day that I came into work – I no longer had a job.
Just Us says that they didn’t know anything about the organizing drive, but I find this hard to believe. Bosses don’t ask employees about unions unless they think that employees are trying form a union. It is not a seed that a boss plants in an employee’s brain.
But of course, that’s not what they told me when they dismissed. If fact, they have said a lot of other things, none of which seem to quite add up. At first, Debra Moore, the general manger of Just Us, said that what happed was a “mutual parting of ways”. A statement which makes me wonder if Debra Moore has a misunderstanding of the definition of the word “mutual”. And later Just Us stated that we were NOT dismissed at all. Although I also find this difficult to believe when I have TWO Records of Employment that they issued to me… a first one which says “dismissed” and a second one which only vaguely states “Other”. And finally, Just Us says that although me and Eli were dismissed “without cause”, they also state that if they DID fire us with cause, it was because “work performance, relationships with colleagues, and service to customer” was the least compatible with the co-op. But considering that during my last performance with my manager I was told that I was the “glue” that held the café together, and it seems dubious there were suddenly any major shifts in my job performance – never communicated to me – that would have justified me loosing my job. Moreover, they state they dismissed us to improve “slumping sales”. But, I find it difficult to believe that dismissing two long-term, fully-trained, full-time staff members only to replace them with FOUR new untrained, part-time, staff members could really improve “slumping sales”. Sales which, by the way, are a completely separate issue from the working conditions at the cafe and sense of protection and empowerment amoung the non co-op workers – which were our real concerns.
Co-ops imply cooperation but I believe that people can only cooperate without coercion as equals. And how can people work together as equals when only 14 out of 75 workers are members of the co-op? A co-op with ardous membership requirements that most baristas cannot hope to meet. In wanting to form a union we were only trying to create an environment where non co-op workers could negotiate with their employers as equals.
So we want Just Us to come back to the table and negotiate. We feel confident in our case and we would not have filed an Unfair Labour Practice if we weren’t sure we would win. But we want to settle this before it gets dragged out to the labour board – a process that will not only be expensive, lengthy, and continue to increase tension and anxiety inside and outside the café – but a process that, at the end of the day, will reflect poorly on Just Us when the labour board forces them into doing what they should have done all along. And the longer that Just Us continues to refuse to take accountability to their actions, the more we will continue to increase our campaign – including a formal boycott. But I don’t want this to have to go that far. I honestly believe that this does not have to be a conflict, but rather an opportunity for growth – for Just Us to become a leader for worker’s rights in Nova Scotia. And an opportunity for Just Us! to prove how it’s different from Walmart, Tim Hortons, and Starbucks. And an opportunity for Just Us to remember why it started this business in the first place, to revisit their values of authenticity, co-operation, and justice, and to enshrine these principals deeper into their co-op.
Throughout our campaign people have been asking me why I don’t just go and find another job. But the truth of the matter is, not only can I not just leave the other workers there to go through the same struggles that I went through, but if I don’t stand up, defend my rights, and fight for justice in my own life, who will? Because, as Just Us states on their website, I am also “organizing in the struggle for economic justice, dignity, and self-determination.”
This is not the first time that workers at Just Us have tried to form a union but it will be the last.
This fight is not over and we will not stop until we get our jobs back and Just Us recognizes our right to form a union.
They say that they support unions in principal, so I say great, now it’s time to support them in practice.
What’s disgusting?! Union Busting!
Shay Enxuga talks about how his job at Just Us! Coffee in Halifax was terminated while he and other workers were organizing a union. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)
The battle between baristas and their “cooperatively” owned coffee shop continues in Nova Scotia, where Shay Exnuga and Eli Williams were recently released from Just Us! Coffee Roasters. The pair were in talks with organizers from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) local 2, attempting to unionize, when they were released. Since their release, two more complaints have been filed with the labour board and former employees at Just Us! have told similar tales of being fired for trying to unionize. Spokespeople for Just Us!, which has emerged as a two-tiered co-op and whose slogan is “People before Profits,” note that they support the union movement “in principle.”
Just Us and Them?
Baristas at Just Us! Café attempt to unionize, lose their jobs
Elijah Williams was caught off guard last week when he and fellow Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op employee Shay Enxuga were told they were no longer a “good fit” for the Café where they had been baristas since January 2012 and July 2011, respectively.
“I was absolutely surprised,” says Williams, who had asked his supervisor a week or two before if there were any problems with his work performance. “She said ‘No, you’re a great employee,’ and she was praising me.”
For the past three months, Williams and Enxuga had been meeting outside of work with other employees from Just Us!’ Spring Garden café to discuss forming a union.
“Every employee except the most recent hires attended the meetings, which happened as often as twice a week,” says Williams. “It was a long process because we wanted to take the time to make sure that all the staff had all their questions regarding starting a union answered to the best of our ability and to their satisfaction.”
“We were just at the end of tying up all the information for the questions people had. And then we got dismissed,” Williams says.
Leading up to what Williams and Enxuga call their dismissal, and what Just Us! General Manager Debra Moore calls a “parting of ways,” (both employees were given a severance package), Williams says he and other employees were approached by their supervisor Ali Larson and asked about their unionization drive. “’Do you know anything about disgruntled employees, issues that weren’t brought up, talk about unions and labour boards?’ are the words she used with me,” says Williams.
Larson declined an interview, saying all questions should be directed to Just Us! General Manager Debra Moore, who works at the co-op’s head office in Wolfville.
“I never heard a thing about it,” said Moore, who says she knows nothing of the meetings to discuss unionization.
According to Moore, Williams and Enxuga’s departure from Just Us! was a mutual decision. “They weren’t happy and we weren’t happy and we just parted ways. There was no dismissal at all.”
“The type of workplace we are, which is really self-management and participatory workplace, for some people that’s more difficult than it is for others,” explains Moore. “So, sometimes it’s better to part ways.”
But Enxuga says it was precisely Just Us!’ alternative model that attracted him to the company to begin with. “I was excited at the possibility of having a work environment that has social justice values,” he said.
Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-operative specializes in fair trade organic coffee, with the tagline “People and the planet before profits.” Part of the company’s stated purpose is “to foster a more democratic workplace and supply chain, where everyone can participate and benefit.”
Just Us! is incorporated as a worker co-operative. According to its website, a co-op is “another way of doing business based on community ownership and democratic principles. It is not designed to maximize profits or returns to investors. All employees are eligible to become members after working two years and making a modest investment.”
According to Moore, Just Us! currently has 14 worker-members, or about 20 per cent of its workforce.
According to the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation (CWCF) website, it is possible, although not necessarily common, for worker co-ops to unionize. “In some co-ops the non-management workers may come to feel unfairly treated and seek to unionize over the objections of the management employees,” says the site. “This is an unfortunate situation, and is a sign that some members feel excluded from decision-making.”
“At first I was starry-eyed and really excited [about working with Just Us!],” says Enxuga. But the longer he worked with the co-op, the more he felt there were discrepancies between stated ideals and on-the-ground experience.
“I’d say there was a lot of small issues – things like breaks and tips and room bookings – that isolated are pretty minor but built up to create this larger culture where we felt our voices weren’t being valued in the co-op.”
“One of the biggest reasons we wanted the union was to put a system in place to negotiate things within our collective agreement,” says Enxuga. “We don’t want to just count on the benevolence of our bosses. But also because unless we have a union there’s a power dynamic going on between us and our bosses where we’re not protected. One of the reasons we want to have a union is to have a grievance process, where we could be legally protected in case of mistreatment, like being dismissed.”
Moore says she doesn’t know anything about the situation at the Spring Garden café. “I don’t have a clue as to the reason they decided to speak to the union,” she says.
“I’ve been a union supporter all my life,” adds Moore when asked about Just Us!’ stance on unions. “…. In general, I’ve been involved with the NDP and unions all my life. I think they’ve got their place for sure.”
Jason Edwards, labour organizer for SEIU Local 2, was approached by Williams and Enxuga in December about unionizing and has been in regular contact with the employees since then. Edwards, who had always been a supporter of Just Us! and its mandate, says he was shocked to learn that Williams and Enxuga had lost their jobs. “Some employers you’d expect that of them…but with Just Us!, I was incredibly surprised that they were so heavy-handed.”
“I think when the evidence comes out it will be very clear to everybody that Just Us! dismissed employees because they were forming a union,” says Edwards. “That is incredibly illegal.”
Enxuga says they are fighting back. On Friday, SEIU Local 2 filed an Unfair Labour Practice complaint with the Labour Board of Nova Scotia, on behalf of Williams and Enxuga. They’re also planning a rally on April 7 in front of the Spring Garden cafe to protest their dismissal. Williams and Enxuga want their jobs back and for Just Us! to recognize the union.
“[We] basically want [Just Us!] to uphold its mandate of being a social-justice kind of organization,” says Williams. “We want it to uphold what it says it is.”