Archive for the ‘News and updates’ Category

Community Garden Update

July 30th, 2015 | News and updates | Comments Off

This spring, Sisters’ Camelot moved our community garden to our new location on Chicago Ave South and 36th Street.  For the past eight years Sisters’ Camelot volunteers and community members grew a community garden on a double city owned vacant lot on 5th avenue, between Lake Street and the Greenway.  Fresh herbs and vegetables grown here were use on our Mobile Kitchen Bus for community meals.  We composted surplus food from the foodshare at this garden, creating rich organic soil to renew city land.  When we started the garden at 5th Avenue it was a vacant lot with sod covering fill, but today things look much different.  Even after transplanting many of the perennials, herbs, fruiting bushes, vines and trees, the 5th Avenue garden is covered in a rich biodiversity, and an urban sanctuary for bees and butterflies.  This spring when the plants were still sleeping we received sad news that the City of Minneapolis was selling this lot to developers and would not renew the lease to the garden.  The developers plan to destroy the garden to build apartments.  After our move the sale fell through and the lot is to remain unused.  At a time where our bees and butterflies are dying off our pollinators desperately need more habitats like 5th Avenue.  Our communities’ future depends on us making sustainable developments for our community, and we believe that developing this vacant lot into a beautiful garden and pollinator habitat is the best development for this space.


Our search for a new garden brought us to a vacant lot on the corner of Chicago Ave and 36th Street.  The lot is privately owned, and the owners agreed to let us garden the space in exchange for maintaining the property.  Moving a garden is a huge task, as gardens should not be moved, but the rich organic soil was too valuable to leave behind for the developers.  As the plant awoke from their winter slumber they were carefully transplanted to their new home.  It is our goal to learn from nature to design and create a garden that mostly grows itself and in the future requires minimal maintenance from us.  Planting fruit trees and bushes is an investment in healthy food for our children and a sustainable future for our community. Biodiversity is another goal of our garden.  Pollinator garden, rain gardens, forest garden, mushroom gardens, perennials, vegetables, herbs and fruiting bushes, vines and trees all living together in harmony on a small 5000sq/ft. lot.  Growing a garden to not just feed the hungry but inspire the world as well.  In addition to plants there are other garden projects we have planned.  Building a greenhouse, composting systems, outdoor kitchen and community space are all projects for us to build together.  Working together collectively we share the skills and knowledge to strengthen our communities.  Honeybees are in the plans for next summer.  Sisters’ Camelot community garden is a space for the community to grow along side the plants.  By working the soil and gardening together we are helping each other discovering ways to grow healthy food to sustain our communities.  Want to come be a part of this growing community?  We will be in the garden Tuesday and Thursday starting at 9:45 for the rest of the summer and fall.  And you can see garden pictures, like, follow and share our progress on our Facebook page.

MayDay 2013

May 4th, 2013 | News and updates | Comments Off

As some of you know, Sisters’ Camelot has provided a picnic for the participants of the In The Heart of the Beast’s annual May Day Parade and Festival for the past few years.  This year, Sisters’ Camelot proactively approached In the Heart Of The Beast Theater (HOBT) and asked them what they wanted for the festival.  After some discussion it was regretfully decided that due to the history of aggression, intimidation, and disruption on the part of canvassers and the IWW, that it would be in the best interests of HOBT and Sisters’ Camelot to protect the festival from potential disruption.

 We regret that the actions of the canvassers and the IWW have impacted our programming and ability to be involved in this celebratory day.  We look forward to continuing our long standing mutually beneficial relationship with HOBT.

The Situation, in Short…

May 4th, 2013 | News and updates | Comments Off

  1. Who we are and what we do

Since 1997, Sisters’ Camelot has been a 501(c)3 non-profit serving low-income communities in Minneapolis and St. Paul. We pick up unsaleable organic produce from two wholesale warehouses and a local farmers’ market and distribute it for free as groceries and as meals, and maintain and operate a community garden in South Minneapolis. We are a small organization and prioritize doing this service in the most ethical and effective way possible. To us, this means sharing the food without requiring anything of the recipients, and having an open collective (an organized group of workers, volunteers, and community members) holding power together and using a consensus decision-making process.

  1. How we do it

We are not structured as a typical non-profit, or a for-profit organization for that matter.  Instead of following the traditional hierarchical scheme (think executive director who has several subordinates reporting to him/her, followed by continuing layers of management), we have organized ourselves as a collective.  We operate as an egalitarian democracy where no one member has a larger voice than any other, and all participate equally in the decision making process.  Anyone in the community – including the canvassers – can become a member of our collective and therefore have a full voice in its operations.  The collective model ensures that the entire community can be part of our decision making process and help shape the organization.


Our primary focus is the collection and sharing of organic food; not fundraising .  However, to accomplish our mission, Sisters’ Camelot, like all charitable non-profits, must rely on charitable donations.   Over the years, many of the donations received came in through independently contracted canvassers. We contract with these individuals to raise funds locally for the organization. Each canvasser retains a percentage of the funds they raise.  Among other things, each canvasser sets their own hours, prepares and delivers their own pitch, takes as many or as few breaks as they want, and works as often and as much as they want.  In short, the canvassers work independently from the collective to raise funds and are rewarded based on their results.


Notably, the individual canvassers are not limited to working with Sisters’ Camelot in this role.  Canvassers have always been able to join the collective and therefore take part in our democratic decision process.  In fact, 4 of the current collective members have contracted with Sisters’ Camelot in the past to raise funds for the organization as canvassers.  Because Sisters’ Camelot does not limit the number of collective members, any number of the canvassers could have applied to join the collective.  In other words, all of the canvassers had the option to join the decision making body and take part in the democratic process we use to run our organization.


Whether a union, a collective, or any other structure striving for workplace democracy, decision making power is often weighted towards those who have the energy and desire to engage in the process. For those who are unable or unwilling to engage in the collective process we work to integrate their needs and desires as best as we reasonably can. We value the role played by the canvassers in helping Sisters’ Camelot pursue its mission and they have always been welcome to be involved to the level that suits them.

  1. What happened

Instead of engaging in the organization’s collective process, some of the canvassers affiliated with the IWW to gain power and control over the organization through an adversarial negotiation process.  In late February a group of the canvassers came to a collective meeting and announced their organization as a union.  In the course of one week, the canvassers told the collective that they had organized, issued demands, and that they would strike if their demands were not met.  After the group gave a list of demands (some, but not all, being reasonable), they gave the collective one hour to meet their demands.  If not,they declared they would strike.  This approach was not fair to the collective.  One hour was not enough time for the collective to evaluate and act.  More importantly, our decision to share power and responsibility through a democratic collective model is legitimate and requires that members consider the needs of the organization along with their personal needs in order to make the best decision possible. The canvassers could have elected to become part of the collective and therefore take part in that democratic body to evaluate and act. Instead they took an adversarial course.


When the collective refused to accept their ultimatum, the canvassers walked out.  Moreover, they have continuously elected to take a divisive and antagonistic approach to dealing with Sisters’ Camelot.  They have consistently misrepresented our organizational structure (saying that the collective is closed to the canvass, that collective members are paid to be a part of the decision-making body, etc) and positions (especially in regards to our  willingness to engage in a non-adversarial democratic process to evaluate and act).  They have  also  demonized members of the collective and community.  The canvassers have published our photographs, cellular and home telephone numbers, and have encouraged people from around the world to call and harass us based on the misinformation they have spread.

  1. Why we are frustrated

The canvassers’ overall approach and now “non-negotiable” demands are a direct attack on our consensus decision making process and the way in which Sisters’ Camelot functions .  Their demands would force Sisters’ Camelot to become the kind of hierarchical structure that we have worked against for so long.  The collective and its members are not anti-union or pro-management.  While these concepts might be useful for framing traditional workplace struggles, they do not fit an organization where the workers and community are the decision making body, with a critical mission to share food in our community.


Finally, the tactics used by the canvass and the Twin Cities IWW are unacceptable at best and at worst endanger the well-being of not only the organization but also the safety of collective members, volunteers, and supporters. They have posted pictures, names, and phone numbers of collective members and community members they perceive as accomplices in our refusal to be bullied by their collective busting tactics including the cell phone number of someone the canvassers knew was hiding from a past domestic abuser. Beyond the harassment received from strangers (including a picture-text of a blown-out sphincter and another with the threat that they were going to “get” them), individual canvassers have sent text messages and made Facebook posts threatening individuals and the organization. The tactics used by the canvassers and the Twin Cities IWW only further entrenches this “us vs. them” mentality the collective has been working so hard to avoid.  We also doubt their destructive and divisive behavior would change even if their demands were met.

  1. The legal struggle

The  IWW and canvassers have misrepresented the provisions of the the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to serve their purpose, ignoring those provisions that do not support their apparent goal of fundamentally altering  a democratic institution in a completely undemocratic way.  We have been struggling with this whole process immensely; there is no guide for collectives of what to do when attacked by a group of people you believed to be your peers.  Nevertheless, Sisters’ Camelot is trying to retain its democratic structure and has therefore decided to legally respond rather than roll over to the canvassers’ non-negotiable demands.  Currently, the matter remains pending before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  The situation as a whole is one we would prefer not to fight before the NLRB or a court, but the canvassers’ choice to pursue this form of categorically inappropriate manner of government intervention has effectively tied our hands. While the situation is complex we are making every effort to make the right choices while maintaining our personal and organizational integrity.


Contrary to what the canvassers have stated, the NLRB has not decided anything. Rather, an investigator in the NLRB’s Minneapolis regional office made an initial determination that Sisters’ Camelot may be an employer engaged in interstate commerce. We believe that initial determination is wrong. The investigator does not have the power or authority to speak for the NLRB or to make any legal determinations, that job is left to a judge who reviews all of the evidence and makes a decision. Often the judge concludes the investigator’s initial determination is wrong. We feel that will be the case here, because the great weight of the evidence demonstrates that Sisters’ Camelot is not an employer and is not engaged in interstate commerce. We are confident that a judge reviewing the evidence in light of the law will agree with us. We are contesting the decision of the NLRB’s Minneapolis regional office because we do not feel its decision is consistent with the law or the values of Sisters’ Camelot.  Settlement no longer makes any legal or financial sense if the organization is going to survive in its current democratic state.

  1. We will carry on

Sisters’ Camelot collective, volunteers, and community members are dedicated to helping grow the organization in whatever ways possible and are making plans to operate on a budget significantly smaller than in the past few years. We are pursuing additional ways of fundraising and have been working hard to resolve this situation.  This is necessary to allow the work we do as an organization to continue.  It is going to take a lot of effort on the part of everyone involved to attain this outcome but we are committed to carrying forth the mission of the organization: to share food and strengthen communities.


We would like to thank all of our volunteers, supporters, organizations, and other community members who have stood by Sisters’ Camelot during this difficult and contentious time despite the threats and harassment they may have received from the canvassers, the IWW, and their supporters.


-the Sisters’ Camelot Collective


Clarifications regarding the NLRB

April 21st, 2013 | News and updates | Comments Off

The SCCU’s recently issued press release is yet another example of the misinformation that has come from the SCCU and IWW since the SCCU proclaimed itself a union and issued its first ultimatum and demands. The SCCU has consistently mischaracterized the law outlined in the National Labor Relations Act and the investigation conducted by the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office in Minneapolis. At this point, we feel it is important for all in our community to understand the facts, circumstances and law that affect the relationship between the members of the canvass and the Collective.

To better comprehend the situation, we think it is important for people in the community to understand the labor law that seems at this point to be standing between the canvass and the collective. It is also important to know that the NLRA may well not cover Sisters’ Camelot and almost certainly doesn’t cover the canvass members. That is because the NLRA covers only “employers” engaged in interstate commerce, and does not cover independent contractors like the canvassers. We believe the evidence demonstrates that Sisters’ Camelot is not an employer – the canvass is made up of independent contractors – and we do not engage in interstate commerce. We have communicated our concerns to the NLRB’s regional office during its investigation.

Contrary to the misinformation contained in the SCCU press release, the NLRB has not decided anything. Rather, an investigator in the NLRB’s Minneapolis regional office made an initial determination that Sisters’ Camelot may be an employer engaged in interstate commerce. We believe that initial determination is wrong. The investigator does not have the power or authority to speak for the NLRB or to make any legal determinations, that job is left to a judge who reviews all of the evidence and makes a decision. Often the judge concludes the investigator’s initial determination is wrong. We feel that will be the case here, because the great weight of the evidence demonstrates that Sisters’ Camelot is not an “employer” and is not engaged in interstate commerce. We are confident that a judge reviewing the evidence in light of the law will agree with us.

Despite its rhetoric, we do not believe the SCCU shares our values or commitment to democracy and self-determination. Rather than open dialogue, we have received threats, ultimatums, and non-negotiable demands. We have been vilified publicly and members of the SCCU and IWW have menaced us by publicizing our personal contact information on the web; generally after providing disparaging misinformation about what has happened and about us.

The SCCU talks a lot about what the law says; unfortunately, a lot of what they say (and perhaps why they say it) is wrong. Rather than attempting to engage in a good faith dialogue, the SCCU has been bludgeoning the Collective with the NLRA – “give in to our non-negotiable demands, or we will accuse you of violating the NLRA.” They either misunderstand or are attempting to misrepresent what the NLRA says. We feel this is inappropriate and this strategy has made it virtually impossible to engage in any real and honest dialogue.

Clarifying points from 4-15-13

April 16th, 2013 | News and updates | Comments Off

Sisters’ Camelot is scaling back programming this week in ways that do not interrupt our core food distribution because we are dedicated to finding a resolution in the dispute with the Canvassers that allows us to continue the work that Sisters’ Camelot exists to do: providing free, healthy food to the community. In this process, we welcome the genuine and constructive input and help of community members invested in that outcome.

To that end, it recently came to our attention that Sisters’ Camelot may not have been current in some of its filings with the offices of the Minnesota Secretary of State and Minnesota Attorney General. We took immediate steps to remedy any lapse of oversight in that regard. We want all concerned parties to know that we are in full compliance with both offices.

The Collective has also been accused of stealing commissions that were alleged to have been earned by canvassers from online donations. We take these accusations very seriously. Many online donations in fact do not come through the canvass, but through other avenues of outreach and engagement. However, for those that do, there is a process whereby canvassers are regularly given an opportunity to review online donations in order to identify any that may have come from houses they canvassed in order to receive their commission. The accusation of “wage theft” by the Sisters’ Camelot Collective is without merit.

Letter to community members, neighbors, and friends

March 20th, 2013 | News and updates | Comments Off

March 20th, 2013


Dear community members, friends, and neighbors,


  We at Sisters’ Camelot, a local foodsharing program, have been informed that there are canvassers going door to door in the neighborhood, spreading misinformation about the organization into the community at large. We would like to apologize for the intrusion, and clear up any confusion. There is currently a conflict between the canvassers, who recently unionized under the IWW, and the open Sisters’ Camelot collective that does programming. Canvassers went on strike an hour after presenting us with their demands on March 1. Ever since an initial and brief period of internal reflection, we have been ready and willing to negotiate with the canvassers on their demands, and have informed them of such. Our only condition is that one individual, who has previously abused power within the organization and refuses to be accountable for it, have no further access to do so; we feel this condition is essential to the future health and sustainability of Sisters’ Camelot. Unfortunately, canvassers are refusing to negotiate despite multiple good faith offers on our part, and so we find ourselves at an impasse. They recently informed us that if we did not reinstate the individual in question, they would go door to door telling neighbors about the conflict. Sisters’ Camelot has, since the beginning of the strike, suspended all canvass operations; which means that no money collected by door-to-door canvassing will go to funding our programming, until we find a way out of this impasse. We are deeply sorry that this conflict, which should have been resolved internally, is distracting from our mission of sharing free food in the community. If you want to know more, please go to our website ( and look in the “Updates” section, where we have posted an FAQ, as well as other public statements we have made about the conflict.  If you have any questions about this matter or want to tell us about your contact with a canvasser, email us at Once again, thank you for being understanding, and for your continued support of Sisters’ Camelot.

-The Sisters’ Camelot Collective


March 9th, 2013 | News and updates | Comments Off

Sisters’ Camelot FAQ


The Sisters’ Camelot collective would like to offer some answers to some common questions in regards to the current impasse with canvassers who have gone on strike.


Posted 3/9/13

1.Q: Is Sisters’ Camelot anti-union?

A: No, we are not anti-union. In this situation we prefer to find a solution that does not compromise the values of collective organizing, but we recognize the right of the canvassers to organize themselves as workers.

2.Q: What does Sisters’ Camelot do?

A: We operate a mobile organic food share, where every week we pick up thousands of pounds of overstock organic produce in our bus and share it in low income neighborhoods around the Twin Cities. We also have a community kitchen bus which serves free hot meals three times a week around the Twin Cities, and we have a community garden where we provide educational opportunities and fresh herbs and produce for community meals.  Our values include a commitment to community autonomy, equality, economic and social justice, and sustainability.

3.Q: What is a collective?

A: A collective, or worker cooperative, is a kind of structure that individuals use to organize themselves that is non-hierarchical and often uses consensus-based decision-making. In the context of Sisters’ Camelot, it is how we organize ourselves as workers (both paid and unpaid) to ensure that all members can have the opportunity to be involved in the decision-making process. Like Sisters’ Camelot, most collectives have some sort of process for membership because it is important to establish the accountability and commitment of people who have decision-making power. For more info on collectives or worker cooperatives, please see

4.Q: I heard Sisters’ Camelot is a “closed collective.” Is this true?

A: No. The collective is open. Any person can go through the process to become a collective member. The process is as follows:

1. Collective members must complete at least eight volunteer hours OR canvass 12 paid canvass shifts per calendar month. [The 12 shifts option was added in response to the concerns of the canvassers.]


2. Collective members must participate at least once each year (beginning on the date of collective membership) in each current program area.


3. Collective members must attend and participate in all Sisters’ Camelot weekly meetings.


4. Collective members holding contracts must record all hours worked or volunteered and submit a weekly time card.


Applicants must fulfill these requirements for three months before their membership can be consensed upon by fellow workers in the collective.

5.Q: What kind of people make up the collective?

A: All workers in the collective volunteer their time to participate in the collective process and “managing” of the organization. Most of the collective members also hold other positions in the organization for which they do receive small stipends. Over the years, there has been a wide range of volunteers, canvassers, community members, and independently contracted workers taking part in the collective.

6.Q: Do collective members get paid to be a part of the collective?

A: No.

7.Q: Is it true that the collective has no experience with canvassing for Sisters’ Camelot?

A: No. The current collective has over 10 years cumulative canvassing experience for Sisters’ Camelot.

8.Q: Is the collective accessible to canvassers?

A: Yes, the collective is open to canvassers and, in fact, four of the six current collective members came to Sisters’ Camelot through the canvass. However, having heard that some current canvassers felt the collective wasn’t accessible enough, we have made a significant change to the collective membership requirements to address this. (See question 4 above.)

9.Q: What is the difference between a traditional boss/employee relationship and that of the collective/contract worker relationship in this situation?

A: The IWW defines a manager as one who has the ability to hire or fire another individual. Managers, by this definition, are excluded from being members of the IWW.

Canvassers at Sisters’ Camelot are currently independent contractors that are not hired or fired by an individual, but by a group of people who engage in a form of workplace democracy called ‘consensus based decision-making,’ which some say is more egalitarian than majority voting and and which is certainly more egalitarian than a command structure of bosses. This arrangement allows the organization as a whole to function in alignment with principles of workplace democracy shared by many IWW members. No one at Sisters’ Camelot was or is under the thumb of a fat-cat executive. People generally work here because they feel it is important to uphold the mission of the organization. If someone makes major mistakes that put the organization and/or its mission at risk, the collective has the right, via consensus, to let them go.

Sisters’ Camelot is an organization run by a collective body. The collective is comprised of workers who decided to take on the additional responsibility of collective decision-making. The collective members, through a consensus-based process, retain the ability to decide who will be allowed to join the collective body based on a list of criteria that, in the case of Sisters’ Camelot, is open and transparent to workers and public alike.

Once a worker meets the criteria, they have the ability to petition the collective to be considered to become a member. The collective members then have the ability to come to a consensus on whether or not the worker meets the criteria necessary to accept the responsibility of membership. They can be accepted if they have the collective’s best interest at heart, and also be denied if they are seen to be counter-productive to the organization. (See question 10 below.) In a boss-employee relationship, even when workers have won some protections through their union or through independent worker struggle, these criteria and these decisions are made on a boss’ whim with little to no democratic process. Also, a major difference is that any worker has a right to attend any collective meeting and have direct input into the organization and any decision which affects their work, whether they choose to join the collective or not.

It is essential to any worker collective or co-op to vet its members in order to harbor members that work in the organization’s best interest, and to protect the organization from potentially harmful persons and/or actions. This process has roots back to the earlier radical union days of vetting new union members to make sure they were not inviting in thieves, infiltrators or thugs.

10.Q: Doesn’t the collective just refuse membership to anyone they don’t like?

A: No. We believe in the right of free association, and so we do reserve the ability to refuse membership if circumstances mean we can’t work in a healthy manner with someone. We take this refusal very seriously, and see it as a measure to be used sparingly. Over the course of Camelot’s existence, we have asked only a handful of individuals to leave, and haven’t actually refused collective membership to anyone who had met all the requirements–ever.

11.Q: What is consensus?

A: Consensus decision-making is based on cooperative intent, with a commitment from everyone in the group to reaching the best possible resolution for everyone involved. Unlike a majority vote, consensus does not seek to cast aside one viewpoint for another, but rather to develop suitable options while taking all voices into account and addressing all concerns before a decision is reached. Many different models of consensus process exist, and few groups use exactly the same process as any other, but all have the consent of all those who choose to participate as their goal.

12.Q: Do collective members rely upon Sisters’ Camelot for their livelihood as much as canvassers?

A:Yes, like canvassers, collective members who hold independently contracted positions do rely on the income from that position. Most of the positions come with a range of time commitments. Sisters’ Camelot has no salaried or hourly staff.

13.Q: How does the collective address grievances?

A: Anyone can bring a problem to the weekly collective meeting and put something on the agenda to be discussed; likewise, they can raise a grievance to a collective member to take to the meeting for them. This process is not flawless. Sometimes it’s hard to attend a meeting at 10 am if someone has another job or commitment at that time. Sometimes if an issue is sensitive enough, someone might not feel comfortable bringing it up at a meeting that anyone could attend. And sometimes, because we are all human and criticism can be hard to hear, the reception may not be as open and supportive as we’d wish. We are glad that the canvassers have highlighted that our collective process for addressing grievances is lacking, and we want to develop a process with them that is acceptable for all workers and is in line with our collective values.

14.Q: Is the collective refusing to negotiate?

A: No. We have already offered a good faith measure by significantly expanding the ways someone can become a collective member and put out an open ended offer to begin negotiations. (For more info, please see our statement from March 6th.)

15.Q: Has Sisters’ Camelot stopped or reduced programming during the strike?

A: Aside from suspending canvass operations, not yet. We are working hard to prevent it, but we are regretfully preparing to scale back programs if necessary.

16.Q: Does Sisters’ Camelot currently have any additional manner of fundraising?

A: We receive donations thru the mail or online from individuals and groups.

17.Q: Is Sisters’ Camelot planning an alternate canvass to replace the striking workers?

A: The collective has made no move towards establishing an alternative canvass.

18.Q: Has a collective member been left out of the consensus process?

A: One collective member told the collective on Friday, March 1st, that he was going on strike with the canvassers. In doing so, he removed himself from the consensus decision-making process concerning the union and the collective. Consensus process is dependent upon all parties choosing to participate in it in good faith. None of us gets to hold up the process of consensus by refusing to engage in it; if we did, tools meant to foster mutual respectful consideration and compromise would become tools of coercion.

19.Q. Why did you fire a canvasser after the strike had begun? If there was cause to terminate him, why hadn’t you done it before?

A: The first time a contract was ended with Shuge Outerspace Mississippi, it was both because he had stolen pay from fellow Camelot workers at least twice, and because canvassers took it upon themselves to have a meeting to discuss problems with canvass morale and function. They came to full consensus that there had been a huge breach of trust and that his lack of responsibility led them to have no confidence in his ability as a canvass director. In July 2011 he signed a contract to canvass with Sisters’ Camelot through a canvass director (who was not a collective member) without the knowledge of the collective. When this was brought to our attention, we wanted to take immediate action but our consensus process broke down; one person blocked the termination of that contract and consensus could not be reached. Our own internal shortcomings in practicing consensus and mutual care created a situation where we have been non-consensually subjected to Shuge’s presence ever since his return. He made no attempt to account for his past actions, and his return against the consent of many Camelot workers has created an unhealthy work environment for many. We should have dealt with this issue sooner, and deeply regret that we didn’t.

When the canvassers articulated such strong desires for more control over their work environment, which would ultimately affect every worker at Sisters’ Camelot, the current collective went through days of deep discussion about what we could do to address their demands. Through this process of internal discussion, our understanding of the atmosphere of division Shuge has brought to our workplace crystallized. It became clear to us that his involvement in the organization needed to come to an end in order for us to be able to move forward, both internally and in dialogue with the canvassers. In response, we have recognized our past errors. We are strengthening our consensus process, and furthering our accountability to one another and the organization.

20.Q: Would the financial demands of the canvassers “sink” Sisters’ Camelot?

A: Based on the budget from 2012, a base pay raise of 5% would have pushed the organization into a deficit of -$8,784.67. A double bonus at four shifts worked within a week would have had the potential to bring that deficit to -$21,028.57.  Of course, many other factors are in play, but this gives you a sense of the small margin at which we operate.

statement 3/6/13

March 6th, 2013 | News and updates | Comments Off



At Monday’s meeting, the Sisters’ Camelot collective began by reading the following statement and offered what we believe is a good faith measure towards continued negotiations:

This organizing campaign seeks by design to force our collective project into a worker/boss mold, denying the legitimacy of alternative models of workplace democracy as it tries to unite some Sisters’ Camelot workers at the expense of their fellow workers and the project itself, and under false pretenses about the current structure of the group.  Our collective process is of course imperfect and we’re committed to constantly improving it, but such a collective endeavor requires a genuine and equal participation of all affected parties, which is not possible under the terms set forth by the canvassers.

We respect your right to organize yourselves as workers and we expect you to recognize our right to organize ourselves as fellow workers collectively.

We cannot accept any terms which force us into the role of bosses.

As a good faith measure to accommodate all workers to participate in the running of the workplace we all choose to share, and because power cannot come without accountability, we are making a substantial change in our policy regarding collective membership requirements.  We recognize that there are many ways to show dedication and investment in Sisters’ Camelot.  We regret that we did not fully identify that our previous collective requirements did not reflect this until now.  For your immediate representation, we would like to offer one member (to be chosen by the canvasser union) from the canvasser union immediate collective status and welcome all additional applicants.     

The new policy reads as follows:

1. Collective members must complete at least eight volunteer hours OR canvass 12 paid canvass shifts per calendar month. 

2. Collective members must participate at least once each year (beginning on the date of collective membership) in each current program area. 

3. Collective members must attend and participate in all Sisters’ Camelot weekly meetings.

4. Collective members holding contracts must record all hours worked or volunteered and submit a weekly time card.

Applicants are still required to fulfill these requirements for three months before full collective membership can be consensed upon by fellow collective workers.  In good faith we accept the member you choose today without the three month prerequisite. 

After reading this statement, we followed up with another statement explaining our decision to terminate our contract with Shuge Mississippi. We know many people are asking, why now?

We realize that we made a serious error in not dealing with Shuge’s breach of trust and confidence sooner. We regret that as a result we’ve had to take action at a moment fraught with so many other tensions and when doing so unfairly detracts attention from the real workplace issues at stake. However, we recognize that negotiations cannot proceed in good faith until Shuge leaves. This measure is far past due and while we genuinely want to engage in negotiations with all other canvassers, we cannot do so while he is involved.

The action we’ve taken in relation to Shuge is unrelated to the legitimate issues raised by the canvass. We are willing to negotiate on all 18 demands that have been presented to us; our only condition is that Shuge not be present. Our offer to negotiate is open-ended. We stand ready to return to negotiations in good faith whenever canvassers are ready to move forward.

Because progress on this front has stalled and for the sake of transparency, we have decided to address the full set of 18 demands made by canvassers on March 1st publicly. The demands are as follows:

1) A system to take credit card donations at the door

2) Professional van maintenance

3) Camping canvass to Duluth

4) Medical bills covered for work related injuries

5) Rotating union representative on the collective

6) Union chooses two co-canvass coordinators via democratic election

7) Closed union shop with a hiring and firing committee chosen within the union

8) Decentralization of coordinator pay and tasks

9) Canvass has control over who field manages

10) Coordinators, field managers, and canvassers do not have to be in the collective to do their job

11) Review of Coordinators done by the canvass, not the collective

12) Separation of work and personal differences

13) Canvass credit card only to be used for office supplies, gas, and canvasser appreciation

14) Canvass coordinators have full access to online donations, mail in contributions, and the ability to pay canvassers out weekly

15) More paid training, up to three days for new people when needed

16) Sick/vacation pay

17) 5% base pay raise

18) Double bonus at four shifts worked within a week

The collective has a genuine desire to arrive at consensus with their fellow workers in the canvass on these issues. Because we are not interested in engaging in an adversarial manner, we’ve decided to try and jumpstart the negotiation process by addressing some of these demands now. We are willing and ready to meet these four demands outright:

1) A system to take credit card donations at the door

2) Professional van maintenance

4) Medical bills covered for work related injuries

15) More paid training, up to three days for new people when needed

We offer these not only as a measure of good faith, but because we agree with canvassers that these are good ideas that should be enacted or formalized immediately.

We believe that we could find workable solutions for many of the additional demands. However, this is only possible through the canvass and the collective sitting down together to engage in open discussion.

statement 3/2/13

March 2nd, 2013 | News and updates | Comments Off

3/2/2013   As many of you know, canvassers for Sisters’ Camelot have organized through the I.W.W., and have presented our collective with a list of eighteen demands. A statement of intent was delivered at our collective meeting on Monday, and the demands themselves were presented at negotiations we were asked to attend on Friday.

The situation is a complicated one, that has understandably produced high tensions and emotions on all sides. In that environment, and feeling put on the defensive, our collective released a statement that was poorly worded and we now realized does not reflect our true feelings in the matter. Many people have read it and rightfully criticized it for its tone of apologism, one which unfortunately mimicked the justifications nonprofits often use for real exploitation of their workers.
We regret having released that statement, and are retracting it at this point. This retraction shouldn’t be taken as an affirmation of all the complaints levied against us, but rather as an acknowledgement that we as an organization need to take more time to calmly and genuinely assess the situation and engage in constructive dialogue on equal footing with the canvassers.
We also want to note that a lot of important conversation have taken place in the comments attached to our previous post. Unfortunately, the realities of facebook mean that removing the post will also result in removing the comments. It is not our intention to silence debate with this move.
As an organization, we are committed to collectivity and creating a healthy work environment for everyone that makes what we do possible. We hope that supporters and everyone touched by this situation will respect our need for space conducive to thoughtful deliberation. We do not intend to minimize or ignore legitimate concerns raised by canvassers, and we thank our community for their constructive feedback and understanding.


February 16th, 2013 | News and updates | Comments Off


Come to our open house on March 9th!  Take a look at our latest warehouse, find out what’s new, tour the buses, and eat a free lunch from noon to three pm.