This post comes from the Hamilton, Ontario branch of the IWW. It describes a successful direct action campaign to recover a worker’s stolen wages, using the “solidarity network” model. A solidarity network is a group of community members (as opposed to workers within a workplace) who use direct action to help their members, or others who come to them for assistance. “Solnets” most often take on one-off issues, such as instances of wage theft or landlord malfeasance.
The first ever Hamilton Reclaim Your Pay Campaign case was a ridiculously easy and an absolute success. We took on Gallagher’s Bar owner, something which can be intimidating if not outright scary, and we made it easy!
Last month, Jamie Gallagher (yes… he named a bar after himself) engaged in wage theft from a former employee. After this employee resigned and went to cash their last paycheque for approximately $1,000, they were charged with an NSF [non-sufficient funds fee] as the cheque bounced. So not only did this worker not get paid for the work they did, they were also charged by the bank for the employer’s failure to pay! When the worker notified the boss that the cheque bounced, the boss did not respond.
We got together with the former employee and came up with a game plan they were comfortable with. We asked them what their needs are and how they can best be achieved with a solidarity network model. Regardless of what they needed we got their back. We had three steps of escalated actions planned out. But were successful on the first step.
We hand-delivered a letter to the boss in front of his customers and read it out loud for everyone to hear. The dude was shooook. Then we marched out chanting. One of the boss’s friends gave us trouble on the way, but thanks to the help of people on the street, we got him to back off. 3 days later, the boss paid up $1,000 and the NSF charge. We never thought it would be this easy.
This is what solidarity organizing looks like. If you or anyone you know is in a similar situation, we’ve got your back. We will work with you within your comfort zone. We will give you all the support you need. We will make sure you feel safe as you reclaim your pay and respect. And we will see it through till the end. Whether it’s wage theft, harassment or injustice at work, we got you!
The full story:
The former employee reached out to Reclaim Your Pay Hamilton and we got the collective privilege of kicking ass. We worked with the former employee to come up with an action plan within their comfort zone. We decided that our first step would be to write a letter and collectively deliver it to the boss. We also made some sick flyers explaining the situation.
On a rainy Friday, a bunch of IWW members and the former employee’s friends gathered in a parking lot outside the bar. We did a quick check in, planned a series of events and assigned roles. The former employee described their feelings as “warm and cozy” before heading into the bar to confront the boss.
We walked in and asked to speak to Jamie Gallagher. We read the letter out loud in front of all his customers. Meanwhile, some folx were distributing the flyers out to the customers. The boss waited quietly as his face went red. Then we delivered him the letter along with a copy of the bounced cheque. He was shook.
We chanted as we marched out of the bar. Then one of the boss’s friends came out and started harassing us. He was following us and yelling at one of our members. People on the street told him to back off and then he left.
We all met up again at the parking lot to debrief. The former worker told us they were happy with how it went.
On that same day, the boss texted the former worker and told them that he will “put cash in their hands on Monday.” And that he did. The former employee confirmed that they were paid their owed wages along with compensation for the NSF charge on Monday. Then we celebrated!