Québec’s First Unionized Starbucks

Québec City, July 14, 2009—On Monday morning, the Starbucks Worker’s Union, which is affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), submitted a request for union certification to Commision des relations de travail to represent the employees of the Germain-des-Prés Starbucks, in the borough of Ste-Foy, in Québec City. Recent changes to how the work schedule is managed and new requirements regarding employee availability convinced the fifteen baristas—mostly students—to unite and defend their interests before an inflexible and arrogant employer.

“Starbucks is sort of the McDonald’s of the coffee world. They offer low pay and little job security, but until now, at least our work hours were flexible, which was great for students working part-time,” states union member Simon Gosselin, adding “Our union was formed mainly to fight a clause that requires shift supervisors to work a minimum of 24 hours a week and baristas to work at least 16 hours. This is a terrible change. Because of it, the 6 current shift supervisors will be demoted and they’ll take a 10% pay cut and lose their benefits.”

Since 2004, Starbucks has been the target of an organization campaign led by the IWW, an alternative union mainly active in the United States, but also in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. “Starbucks claims to be a socially responsible employer that respects communities and contributes to economic development,” states IWW spokesman Mathieu Jean. “But with its unsteady and poorly-paid jobs and frequent infringements of workplace safety standards, Starbucks has more of a tendency to impoverish communities and lower working conditions.”

Despite the multinational coffee company’s lofty social claims, it has been found guilty of violating its employee’s union rights 17 times in the city of Minneapolis alone and has been condemned for anti-union activity by the National Labor Relation Board, an American government organization. Last December in New York, the company was found guilty on 30 similar counts. Many other similar cases are pending.

“We have no intention of being intimidated. If Starbucks wants to play hardball, we’re ready for them.” states Jean. “But we believe this is an opportunity for the company to prove that its claims of social responsibility are more than just a lot of talk. The ball’s in their court.”

-30 –
Andrew Fletcher

Endorsement of IPSM-Ottawa Call-Out

The Ottawa-Outaouais General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World hereby endorses the demands set forth by the Indigenous Peoples’ Solidarity Movement of Ottawa concerning the recent atrocities committed in Peru by the police and the military:

  1. Immediately suspend violent repression of indigenous protests and the State of Emergency
  2. Repeal the Free Trade Laws that allow oil, logging, and agricultural corporations easy entry into indigenous territories
  3. Respect indigenous peoples’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to self-determination, to their ancestral territories, and to prior consultation
  4. Enter into good faith process of dialogue with indigenous peoples to resolve this conflict

Indigenous led protests against new “Free Trade” agreements in Peru have been met with brutal violence by the Peruvian government. The Peruvian police and military murdered up to 100 protesters on June 5/6 2009, and are continuing to terrorize people under a declared ‘State of Emergency’ while blaming the protesters for the violence. The Peruvian government considers the profits made from exploiting logging, mining, oil and agroindustry more important than the lives of protesters and indigenous people.

If we are serious about safeguarding the human rights of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of the Amazon, we need to act now. The violent repression of Indigenous protests and the loss of civil liberties must come to an end. If we want to protect and preserve the Amazon, and its bio-cultural diversity, especially in the face of climate change, there is no better protection than keeping it under the control of those who have maintained it forever. The free trade laws that open up the Amazon to logging, mining, oil and agroindustry must be suspended. Indigenous Peoples’ rights – to self-determination, to their lands and resources, to their lives – must be protected and guaranteed. If we are to stop other atrocities and bloodshed, the battle line must be withdrawn, immediately, and there must be dialogue.

It is essential to understand that this is not an “indigenous issue” or a “Peruvian” issue; this is a global issue; this is “our” issue in the north. Since the 1980s and 1990s, the governments of the USA and Canada — along with our “development” institutions (from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Inter-American Development Bank, to our “aid” agencies [US-AID, CIDA]) — have been pushing for and insisting on the “free trade” trade model of development / exploitation, on the signing of “free trade” agreements. Canada signed a “free trade” agreement with Peru on May 29 2008, and on June 3 2009, Bill C-24 was passed in the House of Commons to implement this agreement. The Peruvian government has also signed “free trade” agreements with the United States, the European Union, Chile, and China, all of which endanger indigenous territorial rights and Amazonian biodiversity.

For in-depth coverage and updates on what is happening in Peru, follow the links below:


Why are we paying to keep panhandlers in jail cells? Why have street artists, novelty vendors, and buskers vanished from city streets? Why are we allowing business in this city to use the police department as their PRIVATE security on PUBLIC streets?

It’s time to take back OUR STREETS!

Join the Ottawa Panhandlers’ Union on Friday, May 1st as we kick off our Black Ribbon campaign to reclaim public space for ALL of us, not just the ones wearing suits and ties.

4 PM
Friday, May 1st
Human Rights Monument (Elgin and Lisgar)

For more information, please contact the Ottawa Panhandlers’ Union at 613-748-0460

GDC Local 6 Rallies for Professor Rancourt’s Reinstatement

The University of Ottawa fired Denis Rancourt, a physics professor, renowned researcher, and IWW member on March 31, 2009, while he was speaking at an academic freedom conference in New York City.

The university sought to dismiss him on the basis that he had awarded high grades to a graduate level physics class, which Rancourt says he did in order to remove competition and performance as they are obstacles to learning. The university claimed that Rancourt’s marking damaged the institution’s credibility as an academic institution.

Rancourt has said that the university’s board fired him before an April 1 deadline to submit a legal brief in his defense and that it ignored his submission of his students’ exams as proof that he was evaluating students properly. The university disregarded the union’s collective agreement and the grievance procedure by firing Rancourt without allowing him due process in his defense.

The Association of Professors (APUO), a registered trade union that represents university faculty, has announced it will launch an inquiry and it will likely appeal the firing in court.

The IWW General Defense Committee Local 6 is calling for all workers –especially education workers— to take a stand for Denis Rancourt.

Send a message protesting this unfair and unreasonable firing to University of Ottawa President Allan Rock allan.rock@uottawa.ca and send a copy to the chair of the defense committee claude.cde@gmail.com.

Rancourt’s defense committee is also asking people to sign its online petition http://rancourt.academicfreedom.ca/petitions/online-petition.html to reinstate Denis Rancourt

Joey Only, Anne Feeney & Matt McLennan Show!

Come check out Joey Only and Anne Feeney’s Ottawa leg of their Ontario tour. Featuring Ottawa’s own (by way of the ‘peg) Matt McLennan.

The IWW will also be tabling at this event, so now’s your chance to pick up some of those classic (and new) wobbly titles we just know you’ve been dying to read!

Time: 9:00pm
Place: Rainbow Bistro
Date: Wednesday, April 8
Cost: $6-$20, sliding-scale (pay what you can)


This whole shindig is brought to by your friendly neighbourhood Industrial Workers of the World.

The IWW, firing bosses since 1905.

Letter in Opposition to University of Ottawa’s Intent to Dismiss Prof. Rancourt

March 29, 2009

Dear Hon. Allan Rock,

The Ottawa-Outaouais General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World write in protest of the University of Ottawa’s intention to dismiss Professor Denis Rancourt.
The university’s stated grounds for dismissal—saying he was awarding high grades to all at the beginning of one course—do not justify his removal. Instead, we see this move to fire Dr. Rancourt, an outstanding teacher, academic and researcher by all standards, as a pretext for removing a passionate academic reformer and advocate for pedagogy that does not rely on the carrot-and-stick approach of the current system.

Dr. Rancourt’s dismissal is not only an attack on academic freedom, but it is an attack on academic workers’ rights. The university’s argument that Dr. Rancourt put the reputation and credibility of the university at risk is not credible. Indeed, the university’s brutal treatment of Dr. Rancourt and its insistence on his dismissal is the gravest threat to the university’s reputation as a place for critical thinking and respect for academic staff.

We demand the University of Ottawa Board of Governors and President reinstate Dr. Rancourt without penalty and ensure he has the academic freedom and respect for his rights as a worker to provide education worth having to this and subsequent generations.

In solidarity with Dr. Rancourt,


IWW Ottawa-Outaouais General Membership Branch

PO Box 52003,
298 Dalhousie St.,
Ottawa, ON K1N 1S0

General Defense Committee Local 6 Rallies to Defense of Dissident Professor Denis Rancourt

The University of Ottawa in Canada is planning to fire Denis Rancourt, physics professor, IWW member, and renowned researcher, today, March 31, 2009 .

The university claims it is firing Denis because he announced that all of his students would get A+ grades on the first day of the physics class so that they could get on with learning, rather than compete and perform for grades. The university claims this educational approach damages its reputation and credibility as well as that of its students. In short, grades equal credibility.

The IWW General Defense Committee Local 6 (GDC Local 6) rejects this pretext as an exaggeration that does not justify the university’s repressive approach, which is a threat against academic freedom and education workers’ rights.

More information about Denis’ case is online at the Academic Freedom and Governance at the University of Ottawa weblog http://www.academicfreedom.ca/

We urge all GDC and IWW members to adapt the sample letter below and email it today to University of Ottawa President Allan Rock allan.rock@uottawa.ca and please be sure to copy the chair of Denis’ defense committee claude.cde@gmail.com. Your email can help save Denis’ job so send it today and keep up the pressure.

To: University of Ottawa President Allan Rock (allan.rock@uottawa.ca)

Cc: claude.cde@gmail.com (defense committee chair)

March 31, 2009

Dear President Rock,

I am writing to protest the University of Ottawa ’s planned dismissal of Professor Denis Rancourt. The university’s claim that Dr. Rancourt’s assignment of high grades on the first day of one of his classes damages the university’s credibility is an exaggerated pretext for removing a passionate professor dedicated to high quality teaching and research as well as academic reform.

To fire Dr. Rancourt on these weak grounds is a signal that education workers’ rights and academic freedom at the University of Ottawa are under threat. We are gravely concerned that removing Dr. Rancourt will intimidate both faculty and students from speaking up, being creative and taking the initiative in the future.

I urge the university to accept Dr. Rancourt’s offer to resolve this conflict through mediation. I also demand that the University of Ottawa end its suspension of Dr. Rancourt and restore him to his position immediately with no penalty.

For the reinstatement of Dr. Rancourt,


Ottawa Drops Charges Against Panhandler Organizer

From the Industrial Worker

Shortly before midnight on April 30, 2008, police arrested Ottawa IWW Panhandlers’ Union organizer Andrew Nellis and searched his bag. Inside the bag, they found several packaged locks and a lock cutter. They charged him with mischief under $5,000 and possession of break and enter tools, the latter a felony charge.

Police alleged that he planned to cut the lock off of a recently constructed fence built in the underpass on Rideau and Sussex streets in downtown Ottawa to prevent the homeless from taking shelter, socializing, and panhandling there. The underpass was the site of previous panhandler protests and meetings.

Nellis told the Industrial Worker that he wanted to replace the city’s lock with a panhandlers’ lock and then distribute key copies to Ottawa’s homeless at the May Day rally the next day.

Prosecutors have since dropped all of the charges.
Nellis’ attorney had pushed for a jury trial and said he would file a constitutional challenge to the City of Ottawa’s right to strip access to shelter on public property from its homeless population. The city had previously fenced off spots under the Mackenzie bridge near a mall and the Rideau Street-Colonel By Drive underpass.

Nellis said he was “disappointed” that the city had dropped the charges against him. He is now planning to sue the City of Ottawa for “vexatious harassment” and false arrest. Nellis spent five days at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre on Innes Road, a prison well known for its poor conditions. Nellis organized the prisoners to protest their “inhumane” conditions, resulting in citywide and national media coverage. The combined inside-outside pressure resulted in immediate improvements for prisoners.

He has petitioned the IWW General Defence Committee Local 6, based in Ottawa, for support in raising funds for his legal fees. To donate, send a cheque or money order to GDC Local 6, PO Box 52003, 298 Dalhousie St., Ottawa, Ontario K1N 1S0, Canada.

Ottawa IWW Picket Wins $2,500

From the Industrial Worker

Ottawa-Outaouais IWW members and community supporters won $2,500 owed to member Miguel Yanes Lobaina. Lobaina, who had worked as a dishwasher before being fired, had won a Superior Court of Canada ruling on March 5 ordering Hooley’s restaurant to pay him, but it refused to comply. On August 6, 20 picketers marched in front of its doors, with IWWs holding signs saying, “Pay What’s Owed.” It took less than an hour for the owner to ask for a meeting with the picketers and sign a cheque to pay Lobaina. It didn’t bounce either.