Freshii Workers’ Union members and supporters staged a picket today to demand an end to abuses by Freshii franchise owner Peter Irie.
The assembled group demanded that Irie re-hire illegally fired workers, cease union-busting tactics and attacks on union supporters, and officially recognize the Freshii Workers’ Union (FWU).
“Peter thinks that he can continue to abuse and disrespect his workers with no repercussions,” former Freshii employee Heather Sprigler said.
With Sprigler’s help, the FWU recently won back nearly $2,000 in unpaid back wages for store employees. Sprigler was subsequently fired for concerted activity. Irie officially cited Sprigler’s role in the campaign to recover unpaid wages as a reason for her termination.
The campaign included a march on the boss on August 1. Freshii workers delivered a letter to Irie that demanded that he end wage theft practices and deliver unpaid wages to the workers in full by August 8.
Sprigler was not the first Freshii employee fired after participating in union organization. Marcos Patino was fired after taking part in the march. Irie claimed that the store did not have enough business to keep Patino on staff, but Irie immediately advertised job openings after firing Patino from the store.
After Patino’s firing, the FWU organized a phone zap for August 5. Phone zaps involve supporters repeatedly calling and sending fax messages.
“The phone zap was extremely inspiring,” one Freshii worker and FWU organizer said. “We started receiving faxes around 5am, and they were messages of solidarity from all around the world.
“Phones never stopped ringing as long as I was in the store. We felt an overwhelming support both for Marcos and for our desire for union recognition,” they continued.
That evening, Irie called Patino to set up a meeting to discuss his re-hiring. Irie later cancelled the meeting and allegedly refused to re-schedule.
Since Sprigler and Patino’s firings, other Freshii workers have expressed concern about Irie’s actions towards store employees. Employee and union organizer Alison Olhava recently had her scheduled work hours reduced from 35 to 8 per week after taking an authorized week off of work due to contagious illness.
Irie has allegedly refused to meet with Alison and her union representatives to discuss this change in scheduling.
The FWU has filed a number of Unfair Labor Practice charges against Irie’s company, Nutritionality, Inc., which are currently being investigated by the National Labor Relations Board.
Union members and supporters stressed the importance of other direct actions while they await the NLRB’s official decisions.
“I’ve talked to other workers who were afraid that Peter might lash out against them,” union organizer Kai Tross said. “I think that a picket is important to show other workers that they are not alone — there are people all over who will come out and have their back.”
Tross has never worked at Freshii, but is a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The Freshii Workers’ Union is organized under the IWW, an international member-run union for workers in all industries.
The picketers organized outside of Irie’s 200 W. Randolph St. store at 11 a.m. today, and used the hashtag #FightFreshii to live blog the event on social media networks. Organizers were optimistic about continuing their campaign after today’s event.
“We might just be a small group of workers at a franchise, but the fact that we can come together and win back wages has shown me that a few people can do amazing things when they stand up together to fight,” Olhava said.
Updates on the Freshii Workers’ Union campaign are posted to their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/FreshiiUnion640.
Last month, Freshii workers at 200 A Randolph in Chicago marched on their boss to demand the return of nearly $2,000 in stolen wages and union recognition. Of the two demands, the stolen wages were returned to the workers. While the fight for union recognition continues, Heather Sprigler has been illegally fired in retaliation for her role in the organizing efforts. Last week, Alison Olhava fell ill and her boss, Peter Irie, cut her hours from a normal 35 a week to a dismal 8. Peter has refused to meet with Alison and her IWW representatives to discuss this change in scheduling.
While ULPs have been filed, Alison and Heather are roommates and their household is badly in need of financial support. Neither Heather nor Alison are paid organizers and both rely on wage work. Their household includes Alison, her partner who is currently seeking employment, Heather, her two year old son Santiago, and Alison’s 9 month old puppy.
All money raised will go toward basic necessities like rent, bills, and keeping food on the table. If additional funds are raised, it will be used to support the IWW Freshii Workers’ Union in other ways. Please stay tuned to our facebook (linked below) for details on an upcoming action to support Freshii workers!
URGENT CALL TO ACTION SOLIDARITY NEEDED!
IWW Freshii Phone Zap – Demand Marcos is Rehired after Illegal Firing and
Demand Recognition of IWW Freshii Workers Union!
For those of you that don’t know, one of our team members was fired this
afternoon for participating in concerted activity. His first day was last
Thursday, Friday morning he participated in the march on the boss to
demand his fellow co-workers unpaid wages and union recognition and this
afternoon he was told he was fired due to “lack of business.” He is really
upset and actually liked working at the restaurant with us.
As a team we have voted to have a phone zap from 10 am to 6 pm tomorrow,
August 5th, in order to get our co-worker, Marcos Patino, his job back.
Sample text would be:
You have illegally fired Marcos Patino for concerted activity. I demand
you give him his job back with full hours by 6 pm and recognize the IWW
Freshii Workers union or there will be consequences.
Lunch rush is 11:30-1:30. We ask that no calls come in after 6 pm (central
standard time) so that the owner has the opportunity to actually call
Marcos to give him his job back.
We appreciate any and all help with this task as we continue our fight for
recognition as a union.
On Friday August 1st, a group of workers employed at a franchised Freshii
restaurant located at 200 w Randolph in the Chicago loop marched on their
boss to demand unpaid wages, an end to wage theft practices, and union
recognition with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
The workers walked up to the store owner as he entered the location at
11:00 am to read and deliver their demand letter while wearing IWW pins.
Wage theft has been a consistent problem at this Freshii location, with
some workers owed more than $700 in unpaid wages. Many workers are also
owed unpaid overtime wages.
The demand letter asked for these unpaid wages to be delivered to the
workers in full by Friday August 8th. They have also demanded that their
boss officially recognize the Chicago Branch of the IWW as their official
representative so that they can begin collective bargaining immediately.
Workers ranged from new hires to employees who had worked at the location
for over a year. Previous employees at the location also joined them to
present their demand letter and to fight for their unpaid wages.
The majority of current employees have signed union authorization cards
for the IWW and are prepared to take all action necessary if their demands
are not met by this coming Friday.
It is the official position of the Chicago branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) that the actions of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the marshals affiliated with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) at the May 1st March to Stop Deportations were grossly inappropriate and condemnable. In collusion with the CPD, these marshals singled out and physically restrained two activists, leading to their arrests. While the arrests occurred, the marshals attempted to surround and enclose members of the IWW’s Red and Black Brigade contingent of the march, blocking their freedom of movement. The marshals also directed other participants to move past the enclosed contingent, preventing the other marchers from showing solidarity with the arrestees.
Jose “Zé” Garcia and Anne Meredith Wooton, the activists arrested during the march, have the full support of the Chicago branch of the IWW. Zé was released without charges, and Anne Meredith is facing misdemeanor charges. Zé is an outspoken advocate against ICIRR’s reformist policies, and actively spreads awareness of their tactics against dissenters. They are currently in the midst of fighting their own deportation. These facts, along with witness testimonials, suggest that these arrests may have been politically motivated. ICIRR’s official statement is that it was not their intention for these arrests to occur, while SEIU has not, to our knowledge, commented on the incident.
The actions of the marshals enabled the arrests. It is important that public marches be open to all who wish to participate without fear of state harassment, repression, and persecution. Above all, no one should be singled out for arrest based on their residency status—especially at a march against deportations. Given the historical legacy of May Day, it is crucial that anti-authoritarian and dissenting voices not be silenced by the state or its collaborators. If organizers expect broad participation at marches in the future, they must ensure that marshals do not aid in arrests and that solidarity with anyone who may be arrested is allowed. The IWW will always stand by the principle that an injury to one is an injury to all.
Zé has set up a GoFundMe page where you can read their personal account of the incident and donate to, in their own words, “help me fight my deportation so I can continue my fight against a brutal and illegitimate regime, my fight against the sellouts, my fight against EVERY deportation.”
Chicago Educational Workers Industrial Network presents:
Granito de Arena- a documentary about the struggle of teachers in Mexico
that looks so similar to what is happening in Chicago
Corregated Films Jill Freidberg
May 10th 1-4pm
Rudy Lozano Library, Pilsen
1805 S. Loomis
Discussion after movie with Anne Carlson parent of CPS kids & 4-6th grade Montessori teacher, plus one parent TBA.
La Red de Trabajadores de la Educación de Chicago presenta:
Granito de Arena- un documental sobre la lucha de los maestros en Mexico
que se parece mucho a lo que esta pasando en Chicago.
Corregated Films- Jill Freidberg
10 de Mayo 1-4pm
Bilioteca Rudy Lozano, Pilsen
1805 S. Loomis
Después de la pelicula habrá una conversación con Anne Carlson madre de niños de CPS y maestra Montessori de los grados de 4 a 6, y otro padre que será anunciado más tarde.
Chicago is known as the place where the nation’s railroads meet. And last weekend, the city also became the meeting spot for about 40 of the country’s most progressive and activism-driven railroad union workers when it hosted the biennial conference of Railroad Workers United (RWU), an independent labor organization founded in 2008 that includes members of the major rail unions, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and other labor groups. Their gathering dovetailed with the Labor Notes conference, which brings together activist trade unionists from around the world every two years…Read more at In These Times
Thursday August 15th 2013: Mobile Rail Workers Union win the NLRB Election 17 -5! The Margin is so wide that the 3 contested ballots were not needed! Now the employer has 7 days to challenge the results. After the 7 days IWW Chicago General Membership Branch becomes the certified bargaining Unit for Mobile Rail Solution’s Employees!
August 1, Western and 14th
Outside Union Pacific Global 1 yard