Love Slurpees, hate exploitation
by Kathleen Moors
Organizing our most vulnerable workers and drinking Slurpees combine two of my favorite activities, so when Michael Szpak came to a Metro Washington Council meeting earlier this year to ask for volunteers to help canvass 7-11 stores as part of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee's (FLOC) campaign to boycott VUSE e-cigarettes, I immediately jumped up to volunteer. The campaign is pushing Reynolds Tobacco to allow their migrant workers the right to join a union and improve working conditions across the supply chain.
I went to the 7-11 where I grew up, which is owned by Abe, who’s been ringing up my Slurpees since I was a little kid. I told Abe about the campaign and he told me that his contract with 7-11 corporate doesn’t allow him to discuss the products on his shelves with anyone, but that I should talk to the 7-11 Franchisee Owners Association (FOA). The owners association is like a union, which helps franchisee owners negotiate their contracts and disputes with corporate.
Communication began between the president of the FOA and FLOC president Baldemar Velasquez, and the FOA not only offered valuable insight into 7-11 corporate's relationship with the tobacco industry, they invited president Velasquez to present to the FOA board. The FOA says that they want to help and have given suggestions on how to pitch to corporate and FLOC is drafting a new letter for the Franchisees to sign on to.
FLOC still needs volunteers to canvass the remaining 7-11s, especially in DC; email Michael Szpak at [email protected]. If we all go visit the friendly face at our local 7-11, we can wrap this campaign up in a jiffy. Or should I say in a Slurpee?
Kathleen Moors (at right, holding sign, in photo) is a shop steward at IUOE Local 99.
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