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News :: Gender : Labor
Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
27 Aug 2004
labor! sex! feminism! solidarity!

Organized labor has never been sexier! Grand Opening!, Boston's premier sexuality boutique, has once again revolutionized what it means to sell sex toys. GO! workers have voted to join with UNITE HERE! and form the Grand Opening! Workers' Union. They have taken this step due to the high turnover rate of good employees, the lack of adequate benefits, the lack of a consistently fair living wage, the desire for a meaningful voice in the workplace, and the lack of a formal grievance process, among other issues.
Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique

Kim Airs, proprietrix of Grand Opening!, founded the store over ten years ago with a commitment to providing a safe and comfortable space for her customers. Her energy has been contagious, as shown by the ever-growing family of workers dedicated to ensuring that her vision is lived out on a daily basis. A longtime GO! employee states, "This job is about more than just sales. I’m proud of my coworkers, who show their compassion, support, and knowledge to every customer who walks through our door."

On Monday August 2, 2004, staffers met with Ms. Airs to present her with their decision to form a union and to call for her recognition. Recognition is the necessary first step before workers can officially join UNITE HERE! and engage in contract negotiations. Despite a unanimous vote to unionize by those eligible, management continues to stall. Since August 2nd, there have been three additional meetings between management and employees, all failing to result in union recognition. Due to this situation, the workers have filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It is still the workers’ hope that Grand Opening! management will choose to independently recognize the union without need for the NLRB’s intervention.

Grand Opening! workers are deeply committed to the future of the store and to expanding Ms. Airs’ vision of empowered sexuality across America. In forming a union, staff members hope to make Grand Opening! a destination workplace where people will choose to build their careers, making the store an industry leader.

We are now calling for the community to show their support of the store and its employees’ right to unionize. Together we can ensure the future of Grand Opening! and its mission.

please repost and spread the word!

Letters of support should be sent to: Grand Opening! 318 Harvard St Suite 32 Brookline, MA 02446

or e-mailed to: office (at) grandopening.com.

Any comments or questions about this process can be sent to: GOworkersunion (at) yahoo.com or UNITE HERE! organizer Martie Voland at (508) 951- 5148. We thank you for your support and interest in our endeavors.

This work is in the public domain.
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Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
29 Aug 2004
Whooooooooooo Hoooooooooo. I worked there (Brookline) but then too much changed for the worse. Rock on.

T
in nor-cal
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
29 Aug 2004
it's union time! but why stop there? Starting a worker-owned cooperative is the next big step! That's revolution...
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
29 Aug 2004
What "a" said.

The only way to get a "meaningful voice in the workplace" is to start a worker-owned cooperative. A single owner will always have more power and say over both the business aspects and the work environment.

Start with a union, but don't let that be the last step!

Hot throbbing anarchist cock forever!

-Joe
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
29 Aug 2004
There are a lot of good reasons a small business wouldn't want unionized workers, from loss of management flexibility to additional paperwork.

Good Vibrations in SF is a worker-owned coop. That's a great idea, and especially appropriate for a business/cultural entity like GO!. But a worker-owned coop is nothing like a unionized workforce.

This is a reaction to a bunch of things that have gone on at GO! in the last several years, but essentially what they're saying is: Ms Airs, the thing you have created with us has become larger than the sum of its parts, and we think we deserve more credit for that than you do. Accordingly, we want more power to influence day to day operations of "your" business, and we're willing to resort to legal maneuvering to take it away from you.

I sympathize with Ms. Airs here. Running a small business is hard. Creating a small business is a huge risk, and creating a feminist sexuality boutique in Boston ten years ago is about as huge a risk as I can imagine.

If you force a small businesses to provide all of the perks and have all of the formal procedures that you expect of a large business, you just a guarantee that the business will fail. If it is considered "reasonable" for employees to wrest control of a small business from its risk-taking founder and operator, no one will create small businesses, no jobs will be created, and no large businesses will ever grow from small ones.

If enough employees are unhappy, then the situation is perfect for a new small business to be created. Most likely, any competitor would have a standard autocratic structure, but with a critical mass of like-minded workers, a coop would be ideal.

"To effect real change, you have to do it yourself." Taking control of someone else's creation is dishonest.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
30 Aug 2004
it's always funny to see how this type of situation plays out. "progressive" bosses are usually creepier than your average boss because they somehow think they're different and middle-class lefties show their true colors when they support these people's right to exploit workers (think anti-war protester crossing a picket line).
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
30 Aug 2004
T rocks!!!
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
I think dar makes an interesting point, about all the risks that go into starting up and running a small business. At the same time I also sympathize with the workers trying to unionize. I think this points to the basic element of any radical analysis: it's not individual people who are the problem, it's the system that's the problem. Bad systems often put pressures on good people that lead them to bad things--the pressures of the market on a small business-owner being a case in point here. Of course, bad people can make a bad system worse, as the Bush administration has demonstrated so well, but it's still capitalism that's the basic problem--not who's president or who's boss.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
"but it's still capitalism that's the basic problem--not who's president or who's boss"

this still doesn't excuse kim airs' behavior of denying her workers they basic right to organize.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
in fact, i would say that kim airs is one the many 'basic' problems that keeps capitalism going.
The Unions will eventually oppress the workers (as usual)
31 Aug 2004
I think that unionizing a given business works for a short time, but eventually the "Union" (note the capital 'U') becomes an extortionist entity who create "closed shops" and escalate union dues beyond the ability of workers to pay them. In response, the Unions attempt to negotiate more demanding contracts with the Management until the costs of producing item "x" has been inflated beyond recognition. The time of unions has passed.

Another effect of unionization is that workers (now protected by the Union) can "get away" with less than desireable work habits, and lowering productivity because they know that the Union will protect their jobs. This issue is not new at all. If, however, we use union models from other more unionized countried (such as Germany or Sweden), we can make unions work. International comparisons show that unions
often increase productivity by encouraging (forcing) employers to include workers in improving the product. That is the history in Japan where a massive unionization and strike wave there in the post-war period led to
employers conceding life-time employment and strong job training in order to defuse the radical union movements pressure. In Germany, union leaders serve on their companies board of directors and help push for productivity
increases and more intelligent production methods.

This should be interesting!
Worker Coop Resources
31 Aug 2004
Rock on to GO workers and a big 'hell yeah' to the worker coop idea. If you're interested, here are a few resources for starting a worker coop:
* _Putting Democracy to Work_ by Frank T. Adams and Gary B. Hansen - a how-to guide to forming worker coops and connected with the ICA Group- coop development consultants located in Brookline (http://www.ica-group.org)
* _An Economy of Hope_ - a National directory of democratic workplaces, produced by the GEO collective who also produce a good magazine 'GEO newsletter' on worker coops (http://www.geonewsletter.org)
* WORC'N, the Eastern Mass worker coop network including Red Sun Press (http://www.redsunpress.com), Equal Exchange (http://www.equalexchange.com), Ownership Associates (http://www.ownershipassociates.com) and others...
* the Cooperative Fund of New England (http://www.cooperativefund.org) for financing
* the National Cooperative Busines Association (http://www.ncba.coop) - the national network of all coop businesses, whether worker, consumer or producer

Check out the web and the Lucy Parsons Center for these resources.

In Cooperation,
bigguy
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
nefarious nitwit wrote:

"eventually the "Union" (note the capital 'U') becomes an extortionist entity who create "closed shops""

closed shops are actually illegal in the us.

"and escalate union dues beyond the ability of workers to pay them."

um, most unions collect dues in the 2-3% range, which is minuscule when compared the pay rate increases that the same workes get through organizing and collective bargaining.

"In response, the Unions attempt to negotiate more demanding contracts with the Management until the costs of producing item "x" has been inflated beyond recognition. The time of unions has passed."

uh yeah, right. thanks for the lesson, boss. wanna provide some data on that?

"Another effect of unionization is that workers (now protected by the Union) can "get away" with less than desireable work habits, and lowering productivity because they know that the Union will protect their jobs."

union workers tend to be better trained (through apprenticeship programs, etc.) and the turnover rate is much lower in union workplaces. i'd lean on the side of saying that union wokers are much more efficient, but again, i leave the door open for you to provide some solid data to back up your claims.

as far as fighting work-rate goes, i am all for it. call this "lazy" if you want, i call it self-defense against an early death.

"International comparisons show that unions
often increase productivity by encouraging (forcing) employers to include workers in improving the product."

this is called the team concept and it's usually forced on workers by the employer, not the other way around. it provides the opportunity for the employer to look like they are giving the workers a say in what's happening, but what they really do is milk the workers for knowledge about how the job is performed in preparation for streamlining (lean production), job cuts, and job loading. it's because of these teams, that toyota workers in japan have had so much work loaded onto their jobs that they now work about 57 seconds out of every minute they are at the plant.

"In Germany, union leaders serve on their companies board of directors and help push for productivity increases and more intelligent production methods."

as i've explained above, this is a bad thing for workers because they participate in eliminating their own jobs and job loading. it's present everywhere in the us, from trader joes to general motors to mass general hospital.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
Lingg, I think you're missing the basic point of what I was saying. There are many good reasons a samll business owner might find a union threatening. In a country like the US, with no national healthcare and only a feeble pension system, employers are expected to provide these things to their employees. A lot of small businesses operate on a very tight budget and it's very difficult to provide these things for their employees. If Kim Airs wants to provide these things to her employees, she may have to raise her prices--which could make her noncometitive in the market and drive her out of business. Not that I don't support the unionization effort--I'm just saying that it's a complicated picture. And I would certainly agree with the argument that store probably should have been started as a coop in the first place. The point I'm trying to make is that we shouldn't demonize Kim Airs--although she has a little more privilege as a small business owner, in many ways she's just a cog in the machine like the rest of us. The scope of what she can realistically do is constrained by market forces beyond any one person's control. So support the unionization effort, but let's refrain from demonizing individuals, when it's the system that's screwing us all over.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
matt, to quote the coup... "you can't change shit by riding the fence."
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
"T" said that when she was working there, "too much changed for the worse."

When you were there, what got worse? Last I heard, things had gotten better, and workers were getting benefits that are unusually good for such a small business.

I'm surprised to hear that Kim Airs is so horrible to her workers. I had the opposite impression.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
I'm not quite as radical as Matthew, but I agree with most of what he's saying.

You have to trust small business owners to know what is best for their business. To some extent, that's the same thing as what's best for them -- and there's certainly some room for abuse in there -- but for the most part, "best for the business" is "best for keeping the business operating" is "best for keeping people employed".

Larger businesses take on larger responsibilities, because they have a larger share of the workforce, and thereby reduce the number of other options available to workers. I don't know where the line should be drawn either, but I feel strongly that the differences are important.

If Kim Airs' options are: pay higher wages (etc) and risk losing the business, or pay average and legally permissible wages and keep the business, I know what I'd pick. If you would seriously argue that imperfect jobs are worse than NONEXISTENT jobs, then we have an impasse.

It isn't just about wages though. Similar business-endangering decisions can be made in a thousand different areas. The founder of a business has a lot at stake. Employees have *much* *much* less at risk. No wise founder would give up control to someone who had less to lose.

And she's not denying her workers the right to organize. She's discouraging the effort to Unionize. "organized" means getting together and requesting changes, maybe threatening a mass resignation. "Unionized" means a seat on the board, government interference in business process, a bunch of paperwork and expenses, and other headaches that probably end up being bad for everyone in the long (12months) run.

A small retail shop that votes to unionize is almost always the result of a couple of effective and outspoken but misinformed or malicious leaders.

Vote NO to employee-contrived eminent domain.
Vote NO to worker-perpetuated aboriginal abuse.
Vote NO to unionizing workers in small business.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
small businesses are usually just a microcosm of the wallmarts of the world and should be treated no differently. the fact that they are smaller is not a logical explanation to excuse worker exploitation.

labor value - pay rate = surplus value = value stolen from workers = exploitation

"in every american community there are varying shades of political opinion. one of the shadiest of these is the liberals. tend to agree left of center in good times. tends to agree right of center when it affects them personally." -phil ochs
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
I am for ANY worker organizing a better life for themselves at the expense of ANY boss. It is sickening to hear the sort of fence-sitting that goes on among the left defending petty-capitalist bosses. Typical of middle class activists.

Congratulations to the Grand Opening Workers!

"The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.
Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth." - IWW Preamble
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
I'm hearing a lot of commentary like "Yay unions!" and "Boo employers!" but no real evidence about what's going on at Grand Opening. Gotta hand it to you knee-jerk liberals who just assume that the Grand Opening boss is bad, because she's the boss, and the employees are the good guys, because they have grievances. C'mon, who has the guts to tell us how bad it is there, with real evidence? I'm still skeptical.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
I'm glad for the push for worker-owned, worker-managed businesses and co-ops, but into order to promote illicit and extramarital sex? Excuse me, "empowered" sexuality?

Isn't this GO! just another outlet for our over-sexed society to treat fellow humans as just objects for our selfish pleasure? We are men and women, not sex toys with flesh on them.

www.distributism.com
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
"labor value - pay rate = surplus value = value stolen from workers = exploitation"

So, in other words, the founder who invested $50,000 and several years without pay to get a business off the ground has no right to "skim" off the top for a DECADE in an attempt to get her investment back, possibly with a modest evil profit??

Why would anyone start a business if that was how it worked? Kim Airs might have had a "higher" motivation than self-sufficience: providing a valuable cultural service, say. But why would anyone open a coffee shop? Or a corner store?

"The working class and the employing class have nothing in common."

Yeah, except that the "employing class" small business owner was almost certainly a "working class" employee a few months earlier, before she got the business permit, applied for the licenses, rented the space, did the advertising, and hired the "working class" employees and gave them jobs.

Something quoted isn't inherently something sensible.

And you miss the point anyway. If better benefits for the workers drives GO! out of business, no one anywhere gains anything. The only person qualified to make the judgement about what a business can afford to provide to employees is the business owner. The state mandates minimum levels of compensation, et cetera, and those become the baseline for the owner's "business viablity" math. If raising all employee wages by $1.00/hr only took profit out of the owner's pocket, then your arguments would seem logical, but it's never that simple.

Even if it was all "profit", then who's to say that the owner wasn't planning to save "profits" for a few years, then open another store, and give average jobs to 25 more people..?

Obviously, hypothetical and speculative math is useless...my point, though, is that no one except the owner is "invested" enough emotionally, financially, legally, etc to make decisions about how to run a small business. In that respect, I agree with the IWW quote.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
Wait, someone argues against all bosses and you call them a "knee-jerk liberal"? I'm confused...

As for how bad working condition may be at a given workplace, who cares?

Unions, as imperfect as they may be, are about organizing as workers to take absolute control over your labor out of the hands of the boss and establishing power in your workplace.

Whether your workplace is downright horrible or relatively good, this does not change the innate disparity of power between workers and bosses.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
31 Aug 2004
Now that Kim has been fully demonized by a lot of people who don't even know the facts, I can only hope she sells the business so she can live a normal life again.

She can move out of that tiny apartment she's lived in for the past 10 years and get herself a decent condo or house.

She can stop investing all the profit back into the business she is trying to grow, and pay herself a well-deserved salary for once. A salary that is EQUAL to the value of the work she has put into the business, and not LESS, like it is right now. She has taken a minimal salary out of her business all these years, just enough to live on, modestly. She still delights in finding products she needs that are "on sale" and is not into pissing cash away on designer items. Divide her salary by the 60+ hours/week she works, and you'd be surprised at how low it is.

But you guys claim she's in this horrid class of "bosses" and therefore is part of the grand "problem." I guess the problem is that we live in a capitalist society and once Kim joins the class of "bosses", she's evil.

I know a lot about the good things she's done for her employees, including some surprising benefits that are unheard of, except in the most progressive of workplaces. Shall I list them all here so you all can judge her? Or is the fact that she's "the boss" enough evidence to convict her of crimes against workers?

If only there were more business owners like Kim and less like Sam "Walmart" Walton!

I am going to beg her to close down the business and get a life.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
01 Sep 2004
before everyone starts talking about wages and benefits, let's get back to the reality of the current situation. the GO workers have formed a union and right now all they are asking is that kim airs recognize this fact. thus far she has refused to do so.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
01 Sep 2004
"Now that Kim has been fully demonized by a lot of people who don't even know the facts, I can only hope she sells the business so she can live a normal life again."

Or she could do the decent thing and just recognize her workers' right to form a union.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
01 Sep 2004
There has not been a secret ballot election yet for the Grand Opening staff. Here is the procedure:
http://www.nlrb.gov/nlrb/shared_files/brochures/election.asp

This has not taken place yet at Grand Opening. Up to the point that it does, the owner may use the time to try to convince her staff that a union is not necessary, if this is what she believes. This is known as the campaign period.

If management can successfully address the staff's concerns, it is possible that a majority of the staff may decide to not vote for the union. As long as Kim Airs does nothing illegal during the campaign, like hiring a lot of her friends who will vote against unionizing, she is within her rights to ask her staff to reconsider. In this case, it seems that Ms. Airs believes she has provided progressive benefits and wages, and that is why she is hoping her staff will reconsider. Grand Opening is not a mini-Walmart! Look at the facts.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
01 Sep 2004
Once again, she could do the decent thing and just recognize the union. Instead, she chooses to drag out the process through the NLRB.

You know why bosses do that, right? It is so they can divide the workers, try and buy some off, and try and create a general atmosphere that is antagonistic to the unionization.

So, if Kim Airs wants to act like any other boss, why should she be treated any different? Because she's a feminist? Please.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
01 Sep 2004
> Once again, she could do the decent thing and
> just recognize the union. Instead, she chooses
> to drag out the process through the NLRB.

Without letting ALL her staff have a say in the matter? What's wrong with having a fair election?

> You know why bosses do that, right?
> It is so they can divide the workers,
> try and buy some off, and try and
> create a general atmosphere that
> is antagonistic to the unionization.

Are you suggesting that this is what Kim Airs is doing? Trying to divide and "buy off" the workers? Isn't that illegal? And do you believe she is creating an antagonistic atmosphere? If so, how?

> So, if Kim Airs wants to act like any other
> boss, why should she be treated any different?

How is she acting like other bosses? Until she "buys off" her employees or engages in other unethical behavior, I am unwilling to join in the attack on her. If she has provided progressive wages and benefits to workers, then she is truly different from other bosses. That's one reason why I brought up the question of wages and benefits in a previous comment.

> Because she's a feminist? Please.

Who brought up feminism? I'm looking at the facts of how she runs her business and how she treats her employees. Feminism has nothing to do with it.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
01 Sep 2004
Wow. There are so many comments to address, but just a general overview for now. The workers of Grand Opening! are very committed to helping this workplace thrive. We want it to become a desination workplace, a place where we have the ability to work here, educate, and help this business grow as the economy and structure of opening up more stores changes. Within the past two years, there have been an amazingly talented influx of wonderful, dedicated and hard working employees. We want to be able to afford to stay here for longer than several months, and we'd like to see the turnover rate decrease. There are reports which I can later link here that shows studies that prove that unionization of the workplace has improved work ethics, and over time has helped businesses profit more than they had in the past.
This also is not a personal attack against Kim. We all agree that she has great business skills, as is apparent in her 10+ years of running this place. Times change though and things evolve, and new needs arise. The staffers, all of whom are the frontline for this store, realize that there are very large needs that must be met. And, as being the frontline of the store, also deserve a space for open and honest communication.
We are not attempting anything malicious in our endeavors. We are not trying to shut the store down, lose profits, or decrease sales here. It is our hope that having a union to help with a more distinct contract negotiation will assist in building a stronger foundation with which Kim and her workers can grow from.
Also, we're not going to shit sling and talk about inner goings on out of respect for Kim, for the store, and for ourselves. Facts will come as things progress and the workers vote to unionize.

To those of you who have been supporting the workers, thank you!


In Solidarity.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
01 Sep 2004
in response to the comment about kim's 'modest' income, i had no idea that 'modest' means having two apartments bi-costally, and a couple different forms of transportation, including more than one motorcycle that do not appear 'modest' in their nature. and, as far as having a small apartment, i don't necessarily see the huge problem in having a small apartment if it's a place that she's hardly ever at in the first place, as the l.a. store seems to be the place that she's been most often since it's inception.

i'm not saying that she does not deserve what she earns, and that she does not work hard.

i just want to clarify that what you may consider a 'modest' income is drastically different than what someone who is poor would consider....

also, if she's living so modestly, why not explain that to the staff. cuz those folks certainly are living much more modestly. in fact, when they're not making enough money to get the std tests they often educate their customers about, i think that's a huge problem. those girls work really hard and do a really good job, and it seems only fair that they organize and stand up for what they deserve.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
01 Sep 2004
I know Kim Airs, and I know that whatever it is, she will do the right thing.

I'll gladly stand by her decision, whatever it is.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
01 Sep 2004
that's great, but we all know what the right decision is and kim has yet to choose that route.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
02 Sep 2004
I am very excited that this press release has prompted so much discussion, but at the same time, it occurred to me that people should be wary of making such bold statements without knowing all the facts.

The workers at Grand Opening! have no desire to "steal" Kim's business from her or demand anything unreasonable from her, especially anything that would force the business to close.

Right now, the workers want nothing more than for Kim to recognize their union, which is her legal responsibility as an employer to do.... Let me state that again:

IT IS KIM'S LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY TO RECOGNIZE THE GRAND OPENING! WORKERS UNION.

Yes, Kim has done a lot to start this business. Yes, Kim had a great vision. Yes, this is a small business. Yes, you can feel however you want to about Kim personally. How does this excuse her from her duty towards her employees? Owning a business is a lot of work, and there is a lot of responsibility there. If a business owner cannot fulfill their many responsibilities and obligations, then they should restructure the business or rethink their chosen career.

Right now, it is amazingly apparent that Kim does not want the workers to be unionized, for whatever reason. She says that she does not think that a union is appropriate or necessary for the store. Many other people might also think this way. It doesn't fucking matter. It is not an employer or a bystander's decision that determines whether or not there should be a union in a designated workplace... it is a basic, fundamental right as a worker to form a union, and, forgive me if I am repeating myself, but

IT IS KIM'S LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY TO RECOGNIZE THE GRAND OPENING! WORKERS UNION.

As for providing every employee with the right to a secret ballot election through the NLRB, let me be frank (because I haven't already done so). That's complete BULLSHIT. There is not one single employee eligible for the election that is not 100% dedicated to forming a union. There is not one single eligible employee who hasn't already signed a card stating they want to be part of a union, and there is not one single employee who would not sign a card again stating that fact. In fact, the only "employees" who are opposed to the union are personal friends of Kim who hardly ever actually work in the store and wouldn't be part of the union anyway, as they are casual employees. All that forcing the process to go through the NLRB is doing is allowing management to drag out the process, frustrating the employees, and engage in futile attempts to convince the staff that unions are evil and would be bad for everyone. It is a waste of time, money, and resources. The lame union busting techniques have accomplished nothing but personally offending and enraging every single staff member, convincing them that their rights are at the bottom of the list of priorities and thus making the union even more necessary.

So, for anyone who has ever shopped at Grand Opening! and have been fortunate enough to have benefited from the amazing dedication and knowledge of the workers there, please show your support of us in this very long, arduous endeavor by whatever means you can. Post on this website (we all check it!), send an email, mail a letter, or stop in and let us know you support us. You have no idea how much it means to us.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
02 Sep 2004
Ms. Air's legal responsibility is to recognize the union after the secret ballot election. She is not legally required to recognize it before the election. For whatever reason she chooses to wait for the elections, it is within her rights, just as you all have the right to form a union. For you to lambaste her publicly is wrong and shameful, if she has done nothing illegal.

Signing your union cards simply means that the union whose cards you signed is now legally entitled to represent you. Please don't twist the facts.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
02 Sep 2004
Here's an article that appeared today in the Brookline TAB.

http://www2.townonline.com/brookline/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=772
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
02 Sep 2004
I keep seeing all kinds of anti-Kim innuendo posted here, like "The lame union busting techniques" and "futile attempts to convince the staff that unions are evil and would be bad for everyone" -- did Kim really say that, that unions are "evil"? And "bad for everyone"? Hope you're not putting words in her mouth. That doesn't sound like Kim.

Maybe she *does* believe this union would be bad for her business, but you don't have to agree. She's entitled to her opinion. Tell me, why can’t she have the opportunity to speak her mind? Because you have all signed union cards and gone on the offensive, she is supposed to shut up?

Please reveal what union-busting techniques Kim has used. I really want to know if she has stooped that low. If speaking her mind is all she has done (and nothing illegal like buying off employees) then why all the venom? If she chooses to defend herself and the way she runs her business, why take that personally?
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
03 Sep 2004
Ugh.

You want to unionize, but you claim to have utmost respect for Kim Airs as a business woman. Obviously just a PR soundbite so you don't seem like bitter antagonistic employees. Smart move, no doubt coached by Untie Here!.

But you can't have it both ways. Going the union route to force Kim Airs to change the way she runs her business means you don't think she's doing a good job. Or that you could do better.

I fail to see any justification for taking control of a small business by legal maneuvering. It's her business. She's sacrificed a lot for it over the years. Even the most dedicated employee could not possibly have sacrificed as much as an owner. It just doesn't work that way. She put lots of money and legal liability at risk. Employees put in time, in bi-weekly intervals ending with mutually negotiated compensation for that time. At any given instant, an employee is risking (generously!) 100 hours of labor. An owner is risking a lifetime.

I'm all for enlightened employers and workplace change. But I can't support the idea that workers can call on legal bullying tactics to take control of someone else's creation ...EXCEPT in cases where the "creation"/employer is an important part of the local employment/economic landscape. GO! is not. GO! is the kind of place you want to work, but not the job you wish you had. So you're going to seize the assets (business control) of the person who created it from nothing. That's absolutely dirty and morally wrong.

Giving paid vacations, sick and personal days to PART TIME employees is absolutely UNHEARD OF. Maybe she did that in reaction to the legal maneuvering, but it's still a huge gift.

Girls, I have news for you. Working retail is a TOTAL DRAG. There are reasons for that, but they are NOT KIM AIRS' FAULT.

It's ironic that rights-conscious workers gravitate toward relatively enlightened employers, but then mobilize against them. Girls, if you're going to fight the good fight, do it against people who DESERVE to be fought. Going after the relatively good ones for not being exactly what you want them to be will not do anything except prove that no good deed goes unpunished.

Be careful what you wish for.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
03 Sep 2004
Hey 'dar', you make some interesting points, but I honestly don't think the workers are trying to wrest control of the company from Ms. Airs. It just sounds like they feel entitled to more than she has already given them.

This sense of entitlement appears to come from their feeling that as the "front line" of the store (a term used in an earlier post) that they are mostly responsible for the success of the business. In one of their posts, I cringed when someone said the customers are "fortunate enough to have benefited from the amazing dedication and knowledge of the workers". Hey! I'm one of those customers, who has also benefited from the vision of Ms. Airs, and the risks she has taken to create the Grand Opening. The workers deserve credit, too, and I think the unusual benefits that Ms. Airs gives them certainly shows her appreciation.

And all this knowledge they have? I wonder, is not some of this knowledge the result of the training they receive as an employee? So, if you do a good job educating your customers, then you are simply doing your job as management trained you to do. Just as the clerk at the hardware store explains safety tips to me regarding the new tool I am buying: it's simply part of the job. It does not necessarily mean she is incredibly dedicated to the cause of power tools, and, if she did a poor job educating the customers about the safe use of the power tools they purchase, she'd be fired from the hardware store.

In the TAB article, it states that Ms. Airs gave a lot of additional benefits to part-timers as a result of a meeting with them. It certainly looks like she is able to meet with staff and make positive changes without the assistance of a union. So, I have to wonder, what more does her staff want that was not given to them via this recent meeting? Maybe they are only paid minimum wage, and that's why the benefits are not enough.

Oh, the earlier link to the TAB article does not work. This one works for me, at least today it does:
http://www2.townonline.com/brookline/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=772

And, 'dar', I loved what you said:
"It's ironic that rights-conscious workers gravitate toward relatively enlightened employers, but then mobilize against them. Girls, if you're going to fight the good fight, do it against people who DESERVE to be fought."

Except for you referring to them as "girls", I agree 100%. That's what's been bothering me all along about this issue: why aren't they (the big union) going after Walmart, or other large or small retail businesses that clearly mistreat their employees? Walmart employees need the lawyers provided by a big union to fight the good fight. If Grand Opening's staff uses a big union lawyer to break Ms. Airs' balls, it would be overkill. I wonder if Ms. Airs can afford an equally bigtime lawyer to defend against any bullying that may come in the future?
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
03 Sep 2004
The Indymedia website keeps truncating the link to the TAB article. It chopped two numbers off the link I just posted. The link should end in:

articleid=77221

and not:

articleid=772
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
03 Sep 2004
Sorry for the genderist connotations. Of course, I meant "womyn" or whatever we're using these days. "Gals"? What's the proper gender-specific non-ageist word for female familiarity? Or is that not allowed any more? :-)

Anyway, I think you're right. They're not trying to wrest control away, explicitly. It's not a coup attempt or a mutiny or anything like that.

But it IS an attempt to have more control for themselves as a group over the business operations...to give themselves better benefits or pay or working conditions, etc. Business control is zero-sum math. When the union representatives gain a degree of control, the owner loses a degree of control.

"Control" is a loaded word. Personally, it's a touchy subject. I despise attempts by government or church or "the majority" or even individuals to inflict themselves on individual people, and I despise the control structures that have been put in place over time for the benefit of the controllers.

I wish I had a better word for it that wasn't just a synonym with fewer connotations. This kind of control is different. In a lot of ways, it really is about Kim Airs keeping control of her own life, which she has poured into her business even when there was no reasonable expectation of success.

Some will argue that the workers are just taking control of their own lives...OK, true. But if I hire you to paint my house, that doesn't mean you get to pick the color or manufacturer of the paint, much less get the rights to use the spare bedroom whenever it's convenient for you!

If Kim Airs makes bad business decisions, her business will fail. Oops. Oh well. But if she's forced into bad decisions by a group of differently-motivated people with much less to lose, that would be unfair and morally wrong, in my opinion.

I maintain that business size matters. Anyone who has ever run a small business knows that no matter how generous and altruistic you WANT to be, there are practical limitations to your abilities. And the choice to keep the business running is almost always better than to shut down. If you keep it running, maybe you'll be able to afford better benefits later. If you shut down, you definitely won't.

The cards are stacked in this society/economy heavily against small business. The economies of scale aren't there, the public is generally not interested in anything so much as convenience, and everyone everywhere is trying to make a buck off of everyone else. To start a business, you have to (often) take a loan, sign a lease, promise lots of things to lots of people that you will be personally accountable to fulfill in the case of failure (or success that comes too slowly!). Suppliers, vendors, media, freight carriers, utility companies, banks, lenders, friends, network service providers, customers, employees, et cetera ad nauseam. It's not to be taken lightly. Employees (and children!) rarely see all of the realities and even the exceptional ones that do have NONE of the responsibilities that a business owner has.

An owner who willingly gave up a portion of her ability to do the right things for ("control" of) her business without being freed from a commensurate share of the responsibilities in case of failure...would be tragically unwise.

There's a pithy comment about stereotypically self-destructive and enabling women in there somewhere, but I probably shouldn't pursue it. :-)
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
03 Sep 2004
By the way, I especially liked your implicit comparison of the products you purchase at GO! to power tools. :-)

And I agree completely that the employees deserve part of the credit for making GO! the store it is. Kim obviously hired people that would make women feel comfortable in a somewhat uncomfortable environment (for many). This was no accident, and certainly such qualities should be rewarded by whatever means she has available to her.

I do worry about employees who say they are the "front line" of the business and therefore deserve some special compensation. The same could be said for the bagger at the checkout line. She is 100% of my interaction with the employees at the grocery store on nearly all of my visits. If she does something like keep the cold stuff together, or not put the produce under the cat litter, I'm happier for her efforts. And I think she should be rewarded for a job well done.

In most businesses, that means keeping her job long enough to get a pay raise, an increase in responsibilities, etc, lather, rinse, repeat.

But just because she kept my ice cream cold and is on the "front lines" of the business, doesn't mean she would make good decisions if asked to sit in for the manager for a day. She just doesn't have all the information.

Eventually, she might become entrusted with decision making power in the operations of the business. But this is not a six-month process. It usually isn't a six-year process. You don't hire checkout clerks with the expectation of growing them into operations managers.

You certainly don't react favorably when the checkout clerks you hired very carefully for their customer service qualities inform you that they want to share control of the business you created and will bring in a third party with a political agenda to coach them through the legalities of doing so against your will.

Sigh. I hope the GO! people really do read this thread. I don't believe it is a malicious action, but I do think it's overzealous and inappropriately "empowered". I think they've been led astray by a charismatic but misguided leader or three, and I really hope they recognize the possible ramifications of their actions. I'm a customer too, and I have my selfish reasons...but mostly I believe that the majority of the employees truly do not wish ill effects upon Ms. Airs, and that if they really understood the actions they were taking (from more perspectives than their politically-motivated UH! (how apropos) coaches') then they might reconsider.

And I know the checkout bagger comparison wasn't fair, I just got a little carried away with it. Maybe the (vege) deli clerk. Someone who understands the products and customer service, but isn't expected to negotiate supplier contracts, for example.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
03 Sep 2004
Well, it sounds like a lot of "she said / she said" on this issue. Is Kim a union-busting tyrant boss, or a progressive owner who truly cares about her employees? Are her workers naive, disgruntled staffers with an axe to grind, or embattled wage slaves with serious concerns?

Let's wait until the election (the Tab article says it's on Sept. 29) and see how this thing plays itself out. I, for one, am curious to see what happens. While I'm generally pro-union and have helped organize the one in my workplace, I'm also open to the possibility that unions can have a negative impact on a business. I watched as a mom-and-pop restaurant I loved was closed down when the new employee union made financial gains that sunk the whole business. The employees claimed a big cut of the profits when the business was doing well, and when there was a downturn in business, and the employees certainly weren't going to take an equivalent percentage cut in their wages that were increased greatly during the contract bargaining. So bye-bye restaurant. And goodbye to all the investment, both personal and financial, that the owners made.

I see several possible outcomes for this Grand Opening union.

1. Election occurs, majority of staff chooses union, owner recognizes union. Because owner has only paid minimum wage so far, she bargains in good faith and gives everyone huge raises. The national economy holds up, business continues to profit, and all is well for the workers and the owner.

2. Election occurs, majority of staff chooses union, owner recognizes union. Because owner has only paid small wages so far, she bargains in good faith and gives everyone massive raises. Terrorist incidents, poor government, or other outside factors leads to next recession, and customers stop spending so freely at Grand Opening, in favor of basic needs like food and shelter. Because of union contract, owner is unable to freeze wages, while workers continue to enjoy huge wage gains and annual raises guaranteed by contract. Because the workers claimed a chunk of the profits the business made in the previous year, the company's financial safety net is gone, and owner is forced to go into bankruptcy or close business. She loses all the personal and financial investment she put into the company for 10 years. Worker only lose their jobs, but find that it's hard to get the same wages when they look for work elsewhere.

3. Election occurs, majority of staff chooses union, owner refuses to recognize union. In breach of the law, owner gets fined, loses face with the general public, loses business, and closes down. Everyone loses.

4. Election occurs, majority of staff chooses union, owner recognizes union. Because owner has only paid minimum wage in the past, workers bargain for higher wages. Owner refuses; contract negotiations fail; workers go on strike. Owner loses face with the public, and 10 years of her good marketing are down the tubes. Sales drop, she loses business, and is forced to sell off motorcycle collection to save business.

5. Election occurs, majority of staff chooses union, owner recognizes union. Because owner had already been paying wages appropriate for the value of the work done, which is several dollars over minimum wage, and, as a progressive owner, has been already provided generous benefits to both full and part time staff, she feels that no changes are needed. So, when everyone sits down at the bargaining table, owner only agrees to lock in, in writing, all the gains the workers made before unionizing. Owner feels she has already been extremely fair, because she "cares about her employees." Employees make demands that the owner feels are extreme. Contract negotiations break down and staff goes on strike. When grievances are aired publicly and the public finds out how well the staff was previously compensated, workers do not get much public support. In the meantime, owner and management work in the store to keep it open, and the financial impact on business is negligible, because most customers cross picket lines when they find worker demands to be unreasonable.

6. Election occurs, majority of staff chooses union, owner recognizes union. Because the owner feels she has been more than fair with workers in the past, and finds the union causes unnecessary expense because of all the additional time and funds she must devote to contract negotiations and the accompanying paperwork and legal fees, she chooses to sell business and use the proceeds to support her new store on the west coast. After she moves out west, Boston loses a mover and shaker in the local sexuality scene. Workers attempt to pull together a cooperative, worker-owned store to replace Grand Opening, with mixed success. They find out how difficult it is to run a business, but don't regret their actions, in the name of their greater cause. "Take back the means of production from the oppressors!" (Should be interesting.)

7. (sounds highly unlikely) A majority of workers do not choose the union on Sept. 29, and the status quo is resemed.

It would be great if the workers would stop attacking the owner in this forum, just because she hasn't accepted the union yet (her only sin, from what I'm hearing here.) And those defending the owner need to chill, too. Yes, we get it, it's difficult to run a business and risky, too. Let's wait until the vote and see what the owner does next.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
03 Sep 2004
Wow, I didn't know about Kim Airs' motorcycle fetish. Just how big is this bike collection you guys are talking about? It certainly fits her bigger-than-life personality. I can just picture it: hot, sexy Kim perched on a big, throbbing motorcycle! Kim, I hope you will accept the union and move on. Part of the risk you took on as the store founder was the risk that, no matter how well you treat your staff, they can always turn on you. Chalk it up to one of the expenses of doing business. If it hurts the business (even if they didn't mean to hurt the company), you can always sell the business and start another enterprise. You're good at that!
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
03 Sep 2004
i hope that kim does the right thing and recognizes the union. the more this drags out the more the phrase "union buster" will be associated with her name and that will do far more damage to her business (or any future business endevour) than recognizing her workers' right to organize could ever do.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
03 Sep 2004
you said:

> the more this drags out the more the phrase
> "union buster" will be associated with her name

Someone already suggested that you women of GO should stop trashing Kim on this public forum. I agree. While we await the results of the election, you still insist on calling her a union buster, yet no one here has explained exactly what union busting techniques she has employed. Other than speaking her mind on what the union will do to her business...which is NOT union busting. YOU DON'T HAVE TO LISTEN TO HER IF YOU DON'T AGREE.

Keep slinging the mud at Kim, and it only damages your cause.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
03 Sep 2004
Commenter "Just the facts, please," quoted a post by "the customer is always right"
and then said "Someone already suggested that you women of GO should stop trashing Kim on this public forum. I agree."

If "just the facts please" is really concerned about the facts, my guess is you would want to find out whether "the customer is always right" is a "wom[a]n of GO" before slinging your own mud. Not knowing any of you, I'm not sure I'd be so confident to assume someone with a posting name relating to customers is a GO employee.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
03 Sep 2004
Much of the debate here seems to be about whether Kim Airs could afford the demands a union might make or whether it would drive her store out of business. Although it is a possibility that higher wages and better benefits for the workers would put her out of business, the fact is that none of us really know.

I see a relatively simple solution to this: Kim Airs recognizes the union. She sits down with all the employees and opens the accounting books to them. Then everyone can get a clear idea of what she can and cannot afford. This seems like the most open, honest thing to do in the situation--the best approach when you have a hierarchically organized but otherwise progressive workplace, in a business subject to some rather nasty market pressures, over which no one in the dispute has any control.

I say "otherwise progressive" because the really progressive thing would have been to have started by founding the store as a workers' cooperative. Democratic decision-making is pretty central to feminist values, so it doesn't seem like a stretch. As I have been saying, I think the question of whether Kim Airs (who I never even heard of before this) is a good person or not misses the point. I suspect she's a perfectly decent person, no better or worse than most of us posting here. The problem is structural--her position as the owner of a small business. If you think about all that goes into starting a small business, it's kind of natural for the owner to feel rather possessive and to undervalue the contributions of her employees. The structure cultivates a certain unhealthy outlook and psychology. Working collectively goes a long way to address this problem--although you often still sometimes have to deal with control freaks in collectives, who have just been deeply socialized into authoritarian norms, no matter what their proclaimed values.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
03 Sep 2004
"Someone already suggested that you women of GO should stop trashing Kim on this public forum."

i am not a GO worker and i bet that the majority of the posts on here are not by the women that work at GO.

are you one of the managers at GO? if so, i am not suprised that the GO workers felt the need to organize.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
04 Sep 2004
this has all gotten way out of hand. a flame war is erupting over a situation that, for probably many good reasons, there is not a lot of factual information out just yet.
also, the assumptions that staff are out to put kim under, or are malicious in their attempts to unionize are just plain ridiculous. forming a union does not mean staffers are 'turning on kim' or are even trying to gain control of the store.

there are very explicit needs that seemingly will only be met with a third party involved. the reasons for union organizing does not stem a malicious need for control or greed, it comes from the historical roots of honest working, fair wages, and, in the case of the G.O. union organizers, an attempt to create a contract that aims to provide more stability of jobs, a lower turnover rate, and a more sustainable voice in the future of G.O. There is no doubting that the store is not the same little store it was ten years ago, but that there are plans for expansion, one example being a second store opening.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
04 Sep 2004
'another voice' just said:

"also, the assumptions that staff are out to put kim under, or are malicious in their attempts to unionize are just plain ridiculous."

Um, not so ridiculous; if you read the previous postings, maybe you can see where this impression of maliciousness comes from. For example, on 02-Sept, 'Frustrated' wrote:

"The lame union busting techniques have accomplished nothing but personally offending and enraging every single staff member..."

Sounds malicious to me, as levelling charges of 'union busting' is a very serious matter. Why else does that 'facts' person (whether management or whomever they are) keep asking the workers to explain how the owner or management is engaged in union busting?

'Frustrated', who made the initial charge of union busting, basically states that she's a Grand Opening worker--read the sentence that follows the union busting charge. Or could that have been written by an imposter pretending to be a staff member?

The more I hear these attacks, the more I feel I must support Kim.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
04 Sep 2004
One of the problems cited was "high employee turnover rate." Well gee, when most of your employees are students, your turnover rate is going to sky-high, thanks to the general unwillingness of students to work hard and study hard at the same time, as well as the students' tendancy to move out of state for 3-4 months at a time. All of which means high turnover due to factors out of Kim's control. She can stop hiring students. I for one would be thrilled to work for her.

"No living wage." This is Boston. The average one bedroom apartment will cost you 1200+ a month when you factor in utilities. A part-time job in retail will not cover that unless you are getting 30-40 dollars an hour, something that I don't make teaching and that no one should make working retail without commission. Why should Kim spend 800/week/employee to ensure a living wage? Does she make 1200-1600 a week after expenses? Now, if you get a studio, or live in a cooperative situation, you can make a living wage. Or, oddly enough, you can work full time or work several jobs. That's what I do.

I've worked part time in many places. You are not entitled to benefits unless you work for a minimum of 20-30 hours a week, if you get them at all. I worked full time as a temp: no insurance, no nothing, that's life. Why? Because those things are expensive and even a decently operating temp agency cannot afford to lay out policies for several hundred workers.

Their demands are irrational given the situation.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
04 Sep 2004
"Their demands are irrational given the situation"

the go workers haven't made any demands reguarding wages, benefits, etc. they are demanding recognition. it would not cost kim a cent to recognize the union
THOUSANDS OF WORKERS HAVE DIED TO UNIONIZE!
04 Sep 2004
WITHOUT UNIONS? CORPORATIONS, COMPANIES AND GOVERNMENT WOULD STRIP ALL OF US OF VOICE, LIBERTY FROM WORK AND (FOR SOME) LIVABLE WAGE.
Anyone can argue unions suck. They're bad. They're worthless.
Well. I'd disagree.
Unions suck. Because the people in the locals don't speak up. They aren't involved. Everyone is into themselves. No direct action or participation in union activities.
Too many people died for decent wages. For 8 hour work shifts. And benefits.
So when any of you anti union people talk shit? Remember FIRST Monday in September. LABOR DAY. For all of us hard working Americans. And the workers who DIED for us.
NONE OF US SHOULD EVER WORK ON LABOR DAY!
PEACE TO THE HARD WORKING PEOPLE OF AMERICA!
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
04 Sep 2004
"it would not cost kim a cent to recognize the union"

That's like saying it wouldn't cost you a cent to get pregnant. True, but not even a tiny fraction of the whole story. The ramifications of doing so absolutely will cost you a whole lot of energy and money, over a very long period of time.

"the go workers haven't made any demands reguarding wages, benefits, etc"

Not entirely true -- check the public statements. Maybe they haven't made them to Kim Airs (which would indicate complete unfairness to me), but exactly what is the goal in forming a union if they have no demands? Obviously they do have demands, probably similar to the issues they raise in the press.

Don't be intentionally simplistic here. It doesn't work with adults.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
04 Sep 2004
does anyone on this forum really, REALLY know anything about what's going on here? this arena for "suggestions" and "comments" for the G.O. Workers is simplistic in and of itself. ok, has anyone on this site tried to START a union from scratch? it's a long, tedious, time comsuming process. (that the workers do not get paid for doing) and most of the time, union organizers don't go door to door, soliciting poor, innocent small business employees. workers don't usually start up unions without giving it a lot of thought and research. i'm sure the G.O. employees, because G. O. IS so small, gave it even more thought and tried to negotiate with Kim before they would even come to this BIG decision. THINK ABOUT IT.

If you've ever shopped at G.O. you know these women are bright, articulate professionals who take their work and their customers very seriously. and I want the person helping me at g.o. to be educated and have alot of experience in dealing with specific issues. this isn't wendy's. this a great sexuality boutique where high turnover will make the store costumer's service suffer. i've been shopping at g.o. since i was 20 and a student myself. the current staff rocks (not just because they are all super cute) but because they know what is going on and are attentive. i don't know. i just don't think that employees in this sort of small business would just jump into a union without serious thought.

i've never met kim airs. she's never sold me anything, so i have more experience with her staff. and if you've read this, you have probably figured out that my support is with them for said reasons.

but then again, i don't know the whole story. like everyone else on this comment board. don't be mean to kim or the workers. please. and go visit the store because it sounds like everyone on this board needs to get laid.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
04 Sep 2004
" i'm sure the G.O. employees, because G. O. IS so small, gave it even more thought and tried to negotiate with Kim before they would even come to this BIG decision. THINK ABOUT IT."

Really? That's not what the article says.

""All of this came to me as a big surprise ... because I'd prefer to dialogue together instead of having a huge union come between us," said Airs. "

Sounds like instead of first having a meeting with Kim to discuss all the possible ways to resolve this, they got together, got annoyed, and started a union. No list of demands beforehand. In fact, the union seems to be more of a way to threaten or blackmail Kim than a way to productively and peacefully make better working conditions.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
04 Sep 2004
satisfied customer's theory:

"i'm sure the G.O. employees, because G. O. IS so small, gave it even more thought and tried to negotiate with Kim before they would even come to this BIG decision. THINK ABOUT IT."

You say you're SURE, but then I read the TAB article, which says:

"Airs went on to note that as a result of recent meetings with employees, she's added MBTA pass reimbursement as well as paid vacation, personal and sick days for part-time employees"

Is Kim lying to the reporter? C'mon, staff meets with Kim, and Kim gives them even more benefits, including benefits for PART-TIME workers. I'd call this a successful negotiation. Successful without the help from a big union. No wonder Kim is surprised by all this, and seems to be to want to continue working directly with her staff (from the TAB article):

" 'All of this came to me as a big surprise ... because I'd prefer to dialogue together instead of having a huge union come between us,' said Airs."

Seems that stating her preference to "dialogue" with her staff is now being called "union-busting." That's really sad.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
05 Sep 2004
good luck go workers!

about a year ago i was involved in a successful organizing drive at a relatively small business (2 location chain) and the comments here remind me a lot of that experience. middle class liberals sided with the boss and and his chronies posted comments on websites like this trying to convince people that the business would shut down if we were successful. the community came to our defense, tons of people began to boycott the place and in the end we put enough pressure on the boss that he voluntarily recognized the union and we ended up with a 40% raise and a good benefits package. and of course, the business did not have to close down. in fact, it's probably more profitable than ever due to the increased publicity and decreased turnover rate.

i'm sure the same solidarity from boston's union members and working class folks will be there for the GO workers when needed!
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
05 Sep 2004
i could be wrong, but didn't kim co-sponsor a showing of "live nude girls unite" a while back? i guess organizing is ok as long as it's not her business, eh?
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
05 Sep 2004
Show your support for the GO workers!

http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/GOUnion
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
06 Sep 2004
I love GO! The women who work there are absolutely amazing. They help the customers feel comfortable in what can be an uncomfortable place for some. Think of all the people who frequent the store. I love everything the store stands for. We're all lucky to have a store like this to go to. Go GO! girls. Rock on.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
06 Sep 2004
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE GO! UNION!!!
Unless you work at GO!, how can you speak for the employees? How can you speak for what they want, what their feeling are about this serious decision they have made.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
06 Sep 2004
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE GO! WORKERS.
Go For the Best Union - The Wobblies! Join the IWW!
07 Sep 2004
How about the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)? They would never sell out and create closed shops like an AFL-CIO union would!

Go union and go Wobbly!

www.iww.org

Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
07 Sep 2004
How about the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)? They would never sell out and create closed shops like an AFL-CIO union would!

ok, back in the day (like 70 years ago) the iww used to refuse to sign conracts with the employer because is symbolized a temporary truce with the employer. however, the reality of today makes is impossible to be successful using such a tactic. in fact, even the wobblies sign contracts now. just about every successful iww campaign in recent history history has ended with a contract with the employer. this means that the iww also creates psuedo-closed shops, because us labor only allows for one union to represent workers in a given barganing unit within a workplace.

the GO workers made the right choice by going with unite-here.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
07 Sep 2004
Can anyone tell me what union-busting tactics the owner is using? That question has been ignored throughout this discussion, even though the accusation of union busting has been made a couple times.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
07 Sep 2004
It's real exciting to read people debating the pros and cons of unions and worker co-ops. I want to weigh in mostly on that.

"a" started it right off the bat by asserting that starting a worker's co-op is a revolutionary act. I'm an anarchist of the anarchist-communist variety, and I make a living by helping people start cooperatives, including workers' cooperatives. So I have some things to say about that. I guess the short version is that organizing the whole economy based on workers co-ops only solves part of the problem of capitalism. An anti-capitalist is against bosses making a profit off the labor of others. So forming a worker's co-op means that if there's a profit to be made, the workers should divide it among themselves, which initially seems like the right and just thing to do. But if every business that existed right now converted to a worker's co-op, we would still have capitalism, still have a market system. It's just that instead of owners or shareholders being the capitalists, 'the workers' would be the capitalists. There would still be competition among firms, and a market mechanism for determining the price and quanitity of goods sold. A big improvement over what we have now, but not good enough, in my opinion.

Part of the problem with an economy comprised of worker's co-ops is that only 'the workers' are then in a position to make decisions about the economy. Unless we are also going to make a huge change in what is considered 'work', this doesn't seem like a very just system to me. If 'work' is defined as all those things a person does out in the world in exchange for money, then there are a lot of people out there (largely women and largely poor) who are doing a lot of things that don't count as work - mostly taking care of other people (children, elderly, husbands) for free, and other activities outside the money economy. These people get systematically left out of economic decision making if only waged workers get a say in business decisions.

Also, I am not interested in retaining the framework of the market economy and just substituting worker-owned businesses for regular ones. This is because a lot of the damage done by the market economy, in this vision, still remains. Different worker-owned co-ops in the same industry still have to compete with each other for customers. Each business still has the incentive to make the biggest profit they can get away with - we'd no longer be robbing the workers, we'd then just be robbing the consumers.

In general, the way I'd like to see things done is for communities to decide together what their needs are, and decide together how to produce the things they need. Instead of an owner or a group of worker-owners identifying a market opportunity, and then setting up a business that is then in an adversarial relationship with their customers (the customers want the lowest possible prices, the owners/worker-owners want the highest possible profits), I'd like to see a community that says, "Hey, we really need a sex shop here. We think it would take maybe a hundred thousand dollars to start it and maybe 10 people to run it". Then the whole community is responsible for capitalizing the business, and the workers there are accountable back to the community for providing what the people there need. There's no reason why you can't have a democratic work place, which is what I think most people are after in both union drives and worker's co-op drives. It's just that you're ultimately accountable back to the community you serve, not to your own back pocket. There's also room for leadership and vision in there, which are some of the essential qualities of an entrepreneur in today's capitalist economy.

As for the union drive, I'll just say quickly that unions were created to defend workers against the exploitive system of capitalism. And as long as that system remains, we need unions. In fact, a lot of worker's co-ops also have unions - they see the need for both. Which supports what I was saying earlier - worker's co-ops are still participating in a capitalist structure. So in my view, the fight of unions is not so much against the bosses, but against the capitalist system. Or it should be. Yeah, there are a lot of fucked up things going on in the union world. But if GO employees say they need one, I believe them. It's not an easy thing they're doing, and they deserve our support.

That's not to say Kim Airs is getting rich off of Grand Opening, or that she's a horrible person. Both of those things could be true or not, for all I know. And I don't really care. It seems like Kim is a well-enough meaning person who started this business with good intentions and worked very hard to make it successful, it's true. It also seems like she is now a person who feels like she has something very valuable to protect, and probably feels pretty threatened by the union drive. Maybe if it seemed like the option was open to her at the time, she would have started the business as a worker's cooperative instead of a regular business. But is she someone who wants to do something good for the world or just an ass hole? Probably a little of both, just like the rest of us.

Speaking of ass holes, I think a lot of 'dar's assertions need a little debunking.

His main theme seems to be that a small business owner, as an entrepreneur, is a little bitty hard working, self-sacrificing, risk-taking hero. It's true that small business owners often work for free in the initial years of operation, taking the gamble that the risk will pay off in later years in the form of profits. Also, it's true that small business owners typically invest a lot of their own money, as well as the money of their family and friends, in their business. This is a huge risk for unincorporated businesses because if the business fails, you can lose not only that investment, you may be liable for any debt you have incurred along the way as well.

In a worker's co-op, this risk is spread across the members. Instead of one owner putting tens of thousands of dollars into a business, many owners put in a couple thousand dollars. Also, a co-op uses the governmental structure of limited liability, so the most a co-op member can lose is your own investment - you can't be held personaly liable for debt incurred by the co-op. So dar's hero is a person who had access to some amount of startup capital, and who can afford to work for very little money for a couple of years until the business gets off its feet. Maybe not a real master of the universe, but still a relatively priviledged person. Why should only a person with such privilege have the opportunitity to start a business? Forming worker's cooperatives extends this opportunity to a broader range of people.

Anyway, given that small businesses are today a reality, complete with the sacrifices made by our hero entrepreneurs, should we support union organizing at small businesses? dar thinks that this is a dangerous thing to do to a small business, because some of the decision making power of the business owner (over things like how much they need to pay the workers, and under what conditions they are expected to work in) gets turned over to the employees, without them assuming the risk that they would in a worker's cooperative. I've already written that I think it's a better system to spread the risk and rewards of ownership more broadly, at least to the workers, but ideally to the community at large. We should also be asking, why is it that paying workers a decent wage and providing satisfactory working conditions is so impossible for small business owners? Their constraints are the prices set by their competitors (bigger companies are able to offer lower prices), and the prices their customers can afford to pay, given their own incomes (which are probably not enough to live comfortably). If we're going to attack at some point in this system, why choose the union, which is set up to defend the workers from exploitation? Why not attack the bigger picture, the broader economic system that makes it nearly impossible for small businesses to compete against the bigger ones?

There's so much more to respond to, but I think this response is long enough as-is.

Nastya

And bigguy, don't forget the Cooperative Development Institute http://www.cdi.coop/
thoughts on union bustin'
07 Sep 2004
to "still wondering" (and "dar" wherever she is...)

Regards to union busting, there's three things that have come up in these posts that are classic, modern, anti-union tactics:
1. Stalling. creating a union is exhausting, and refusing to recognize the union drags the process out months longer than it needs to - making it easier to defeat in a place with high turnover

2. Spreading rumors that a union will cause a shop to close down. The workers vote on a contract - why would they vote for one that would make them lose their jobs? this is a common rumor used by anti-union bosses - and one that has shown up a lot on this website..
3. implying that workers are ungrateful when they form a union is also a common anti-union tactic. Should workers, even part-time employees, be grateful for being underpaid? (p.s. dar - most grocery baggers are union!!!)

Let's not confuse the issue -even small stores have a right to organize - if they can't, how will walmart ever go union? very few shops have 100% employee support for the union, the way GO does. And unlike walmart employees, they organized themselves and then went to a union for help. These workers are providing a valuable resource to our community - why shouldn't they ask for more? If they feel they can't get what they need in negotiations, it is their right to form a union, period. Unions, especially UNITE HERE, have a history of easing negotiations when employers are having legitimate economic trouble (ie, hotels post 9/11) but pushing for decent wages and benefits when times are flush. I say, let's keep the women who sell us dildoes and harnesses happy! Go GO women!
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
07 Sep 2004
Nastya,

An LLC structure doesn't limit liabilities in all areas. The principals of the company are still at significant risk. Besides, even if it was a true and full limitation of liability, there's still the issue that an owner's liability is much much larger than employees'. An LLC doesn't protect the principals from the effects of bad decisions by smaller stakeholders.

Obviously, I'm neither an anarchist nor a communist. So we will not agree on many issues. One flaw I saw with your "ideal" scenario, though, is specific to this situation:

If the community were responsible for making business-creation decisions and fundng/staffing them appropriately, how is forward progress made? If it is necessary to convince some sort of "community-planning-commercial-review" board (probably as entrenched as the zoning board) of the "need" for a new type of business, do you think new ideas would ever get started?

I don't. I don't even think Kim Airs could have started GO! if she had to convince ten people who had been reviewing Brookline commerce for years of the "need" or "desire" or even "viability" of her idea.

Furthermore, don't you think "community-review" is often just another control structure put in place to impose the controllers' morality/mindset/ideals upon the populace?

So, then, you might suggest a quasi-democratic selection process. Voting and whatnot. Obviously unwieldy, but more importantly, what would the required "yea" percentage be to approve a proposal? 51%? (tyranny of the majority) 25%? Lots of scary fundies out there...10%? How can you expect the populace to fund a proposal that only 10% think is a good idea?

It seems pretty certain to me that, in your ideal world, Kim Airs would never have started her business.

You ask why small businesses can't provide decent wages and working conditions... Well, they do. Like all businesses, they are subject to all sorts of legal minimums, inspections, etc. OSHA doesn't make exceptions for small businesses. (not entirely true, btw -- businesses without employees can get away with a few things).

Obviously, your objection is that the legal minimums are inadequate. OK, maybe, but most people disagree with you. Not here, but in the larger voting "community". (see above re: tyranny of the masses). Some business owners would provide better benefits if they could afford to...but since they can't, they don't. (and, by the way, increasing pay/benefits/etc when you think you *can* afford to is also dangerous -- what if circumstances change? will your employees be OK with corresponding decreases...most definitely NOT. what then?)

But again, the legal minimums are set and that's what a business owner will use as a baseline. What pay rate does the market demand for the services I require? If I lower wages below a certain (but still legal) point, I will attract fewer qualified applicants. If I raise wages (above a certain point), I will attract fewer customers. It's a delicate balance, but some would argue that it is, by definition, perfectly self-correcting over a period of time.

You ask why only people of relative privilege should be allowed to start businesses. I consider that a side effect of the actual requirement: a person starting a business should believe in the idea enough to risk something for it. If your ideal world effectively removed the prospect of future rewards for starting a business, perhaps the risk requirement could be waived as well. But not all ideas are created equal.

And please refrain from calling me a "he".

Daria
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
07 Sep 2004
I heart GO,

I don't mean to encourage rumors that GO! will have to close down if forced to go union. That's obviously the worst-case scenario for all involved. ("Worst" is relative, and that's a large part of my argument, but still, no one wants that.) And it's wrong of me to take quotes from employees from the message board or from the press and believe that they represent the unionization leaders' demands of Ms Airs.

But Kim has to know why employee turnover is high. She obviously doesn't think the improvements required to change that make business sense right now. Who knows why? We don't, but neither do her employees. We don't know if she's right or wrong either...and neither do her employees. But we do know that she is the most qualified person to make that decision in the entire world, because a) she has all of the information available, and b) it's HER INVESTMENT at risk if she's wrong.

I do not believe that workers should be grateful for being underpaid. But "underpaid" is relative. I don't have any idea what GO! workers make, but I'm sure it's legal. OK, see above, but that's the harsh reality about retail. It's *impossible* to pay retail workers well, unless they are selling high-volume and/or high-margin products. GO! is not.

I would like to work at GO! too, if it paid well enough to support my lifestyle, as I have chosen it. I'd be a great employee, with lots of domain expertise :-). I'd also like to be a guide for an architectural history walking tour. But I value other experiences and interests more highly, so these are not viable options. I don't consider it Kim Airs' responsibility that these paths are closed to me.

Workers shouldn't be grateful, but they should be realistic about what they're getting themselves into. I would LOVE to work at GO!. I can't. If I saved enough for several years, maybe I could start a store like it, and after a few years maybe I'd be making a few dollars/hour more than my employees. Maybe the store would really take off, and I'd be making twice as much. When would I become evil? Before or after breaking even on my investment? When would my employees decide that they deserved more than I thought I could afford to pay?

It's all very discouraging. I admire Kim for her vision, courage, enthusiasm, and hard work. I respect the GO! workers for their hard work and professionalism. They've always been very good to me, and I respect them all the more for their perseverance in the retail environment. They love what they do, that's clear -- but they dislike the realities of their jobs. I wish them good fortune in resolving that issue, but I think they're chasing the wrong rabbit, and I'd hate to see Kim suffer for it.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
07 Sep 2004
why are we talking about employee run co-op's, all the statistics, blah blah blah blah....that what the matter at hand is..is that the ladies at GO! want to unionize. That it. Thats it. Keep it that simple and you won't need to keep typing entire novels on this site. Seriously, they are trying to unionize. Stick to the subject. Also, unless you work there, how do you know what goes on in the workplace? I hear a lot of bad mouthing and he said she said. To me, that sounds like gossip. Stick to what you know, and you either support the unionization or you don't. I'm sending this out to all the people on this forum who feel the need to type at least 10 paragraphs on the same thing every day. But then getting off the subject. Come on, get a life. Go GO! WORKERS.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
07 Sep 2004
"I heart GO" described 3 ways the management is engaged in union busting:

1. Stalling. creating a union is exhausting, and refusing to recognize the union drags the process out months longer than it needs to - making it easier to defeat in a place with high turnover

*** Maybe management feels they need some time to present their side on any issues the workers have with management. Looks like the so-called "stalling" will be less than 2 months if there's a vote at the end of September. There can't possibly be that much turnover in 8 weeks' time, could there be? Sounds like the workers are impatient because they spent a lot of time and energy on this, and don't want management to take advantage of their own rights, including the right to respond to the issues presented. If the workers are so "unanimous" on this, then there's nothing to fear, really.

2. Spreading rumors that a union will cause a shop to close down. The workers vote on a contract - why would they vote for one that would make them lose their jobs? this is a common rumor used by anti-union bosses - and one that has shown up a lot on this website..

*** Are you saying the management is spreading rumors? I haven't seen that anywhere. It's not in the TAB article. If people on this forum discuss various realistic possibilities, and use examples of other small businesses closing after a union changes the business, why do you assume the management is behind this discussion? And if the workers are confident that their future actions will not harm the business, then why be concerned about these so-called rumors?

3. implying that workers are ungrateful when they form a union is also a common anti-union tactic. Should workers, even part-time employees, be grateful for being underpaid?

*** How has the management implied ungratefulness? Again, I don't see it in the TAB article. Is this what management does when they have meetings with staff, imply "that workers are ungrateful"? (only the Grand Opening workers can answer this...)
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
07 Sep 2004
Sorry, dar for my wrong assumption about your pronoun preferences. Your earlier use of the term 'girls' and the snide way in which you dismissed someone's objection to it made you sound like a 'he' person to me. Also, to me capitalism is bound up with patriarchy, so a personless voice exalting capitalism on my screen just sounds male in my head.

Anyway. At the risk of sending "for the love of..." totally over the deep end...

I didn't say that limiting liability takes away all risk, just that it takes away some of the risk of an unincorporated business like a partnership or sole proprietorship. That's why they call it limited liability, not eliminated liability. And any kind of corporation - LLC, LLP, C-Corp, S-Corp, or cooperative - limits liability, not just an LLC. But that was just a little detail, you actually brought up a lot of interesting questions that won't bore people to death like that one.

I'm not one of these people who thinks I've got the blueprint of the new economy all worked out in my head. But I have thought a lot about what I want to see in the world.

You're raising a question about innovation and creativity that I think is really important. I would not want 100% community consensus to be required before someone is able to follow up on a good idea. I think a lot of ideas that are initially viewed as totaly cracked-pot actually turn out to be brilliant, and I think we should encourage their development.

Under my 'ideal situation', I think Kim Airs definitely would have started a sex shop. But the way it got started would have been way different. When Kim started her business, she had to start with some market research. She had to estimate what the demand would be for sex toys and porn, and what part of that demand was not being met by existing businesses. What I'm talking about is a system where, instead of all that, the relevant community just says whether it wants the shop or not - probably through some kind of survey or something.

The other difference is that I would expect that Kim would not have to go it alone and take on the huge burden of risk that you've described. If she had started the business with a group of other people as a worker's co-op, they would share the risk together, taking the burden off just that one person, and making the opportunities for creativity and innovation open to more people than just herself. If she had started it in the context of the ideal system I'm describing, the risk would lay with the community at large.

And yes, I actually would expect the whole community to invest in (that is, capitalize) a business that is identified as a need of a smaller subset of the people in that community. I would expect the community to make some provision for the availabiltiy of yucca if yucca is an essential part of the diet of some, but not all, of the people in the community. And I'd expect everyone to support the availabiltiy of child care, even if they are not all parents.

I can see why what you're calling 'community review' would seem stifling and controlling. The existing ways that this is done (through zoning boards and such, as you suggest) are definitely this way. It's been my experience that the people involved in these things are mostly at it to protect their own property values. What I'm talking about would be vastly different (I hope!) partially because participation would be extended to everyone in the community, not just the neighborhood busybodies with the time and stomach to sit through these meetings. Also, there wouldn't be property values to protect, since there would be neither private ownership of land and buildings, nor the buying and selling of them on markets. I'm sure that last part is pretty objectionable to you and we'll have to just disagree on that part.

You say it's obvious that I believe that legal minimums are inadequate. I wasn't arguing anywhere for an increase in the legal minimums. As an anarchist, I'm not too excited about petitioning the state to protect me from capitalism, although I'll concede that it's necessary to do things like this sometimes. I'm aware that the state is what props up capitalism and makes it possible. When I said that we should attack capitalism instead of unions, I didn't mean that we should try to increase the minimum wage or fight for stricter OSHA standards. Although it has been well documented that the minimum wage is nowhere near enough to meet people's basic needs, and if this 'voting community' disagrees, well I'm not surprised. Voters are a minority of people in this country, and if they want to believe that the minimum wage is adequate (which I'm not sure if they do or not), then so be it. I'd rather form a union and fight for higher wages than to try to convince the sleepy electorate to raise the paltry minimum wage.

In the same way, you won't catch me making the argument that Kim needs to recognize the union because she has a legal obligation to do so. I don't care about legal obligations - I didn't participate in the making of those laws. I agree with the people above who said that Kim should recognize the union because it's the right thing to do.

Nastya
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
07 Sep 2004
Thank god for the women at GO! And thank god the women who work at GO! are coming together to unionize. I love GO! the women are great and know their stuff. I feel like when I go in there, I'm going to be treated w/ respect and knowing they have knowledge of what their selling. High turnover rates in companies everywhere suck, but in a store like GO!, it really sucks. I want to know that when I go in there, I'll be talking to someone who really is there because they want to be there. Not just for a "cool" job. Sexual education is so important and thats what you get when you go there. Not some robot worker who could care less what they sell you. You go girls!!! I feel so many people are getting off the subject here. They want to unionize, it's not the end of the world as some of you folks posting seem to think it is. Really now, come on.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
07 Sep 2004
I know Kim and am not afraid to say so right here. No doubt someone will call me one of her "cronies" and claim we're all anti-union because we support Kim.

What concerns me is that some of you, including at least one GO! worker who signed her post, have decided to malign Kim's character in this public forum.

It's the accusations of union busting that I'm talking about. And claims that "she started it" or that she deserves this treatment because she has not yet recognized the union are truly ridiculous. She is obeying the law and is well within her rights to wait for the election before recognizing the union. As a result of this choice, some of you are ripping her to shreds.

Put yourself in her shoes for a second. She feels she has done a lot for her employees. She is shocked when they come to her (on the day she is starting her vacation) with the news that they have formed a union, and they demand recognition within 48 hours. She decides to not recognize it immediately, but she has not denied it, either. Instead, she goes on her scheduled vacation, in order to think about what has happened, wondering what she has done wrong that caused her staff to turn to a union for help.

And that's when the adversarial behavior began, with a petition filed claiming she has denied the union. And then these public postings claiming she's engaged in union busting, when all she did was to choose to take advantage of her legal right to wait for the election. Why? Is it because at a staff meeting, she tried to convince her employees that she has done a lot for them without assistance from a union, and therefore feels a union would not benefit GO! or its workers? This is her opinion, and she is entitled to it. You don't have to agree, but you should NOT call this UNION BUSTING either. It isn't. It's simply the boss asking her staff to reconsider, and they can say NO. There is a big difference between her *asking* them and *threatening* them.

Until she comes to each worker privately, offering a carrot stick like a raise or promotion if they vote "no" in the election, or otherwise holding a gun to someone's head, then it is not union busting. C'mon, has management approached any of you (the workers), claiming the store might close if there's a union? Or suggesting that some of you may be laid off because the store won't be able to afford to keep everyone on if there's a union? Please don't argue that the conversation on this forum includes "rumors started by management" unless it's true. If it's true, please give the evidence to the workers so they can have the union lawyers take appropriate legal action. Otherwise, do not suggest that management is spreading rumors here. And, for the record, I have not been directed by anyone in GO! management, nor Kim, to come on this forum in an attempt to stop the union. It's a shame that I even have to make such a statement.

All I am doing is defending Kim because I care about her and feel she does not deserve this. I know a little bit about where she's coming from because I have asked her questions about what is going on. It does not mean she's 100% right in the way she's handling this, but she is doing what feels she needs to do, and certainly is obeying every letter of the law.

Until the attacks on Kim stop, I bet her supporters will continue writing those 10-paragraph comments defending her rights, which, by the way, have not infringed upon the workers' rights. The workers have the right to to vote, and the owner has the right to have an objective third party count the votes. It's that simple. Let's save the attacks for after the voting, if Kim does not recognize the union at that time.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
07 Sep 2004
show your support for the GO! workers....
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
08 Sep 2004
Among the claims of "union busting", someone said:

2. Spreading rumors that a union will cause a shop to close down. The workers vote on a contract - why would they vote for one that would make them lose their jobs? this is a common rumor used by anti-union bosses - and one that has shown up a lot on this website..

So, the fact that multiple comments regarding closed shops are posted here proves that management is behind the rumors?

Anyone who reads Indymedia articles frequently will recognize a few of the comment writers' names from posts on other articles on Indymedia. I'm willing to bet that "Nefarious Cabal" is not part of Grand Opening management, here to spread rumors for management, even though he or she mentioned the concept of "closed shops". Others here whom I've seen posting elsewhere on Indymedia are Louis Lingg, Nastya, and Matthew Williams. I believe the latter is a moderator for Indymedia posts.

While I can't identify every writer here, if the management of G.O. actually did write comments here, and they say something about unions causing shop closure, then others here can (and do) correct any misinformation. In the same manner, some of us here are correcting the misinformation we see posted about Kim Airs, such as the charges of union busting.

As for "supporting" the workers, I do support their right to form a union. But I do not support their right to trash Kim Airs. It is their right, in terms of free speech, to refer to Kim Airs with any slurs they wish; but making false claims, such as "union busting", only weakens the workers' cause, in my opinion.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
08 Sep 2004
Not to nitpick, but this is the first time I've posted on indymedia in years. And when I did before I didn't call myself Nastya. Not sure what your point was - did I or someone else imply that I was part of GO! management? In case it wasn't clear I've got nothing to do with the place except as an infrequent customer. I don't think anything I said supported the view that a union might force the business to close, and I never said anything about closed shops. Maybe you were thinking of some other 10 paragraph poster :)
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
08 Sep 2004
I think I missed a great opportunity.

If I understand correctly, once you tell an employer you intend to unionize, it's nearly impossible for them to fire you?

If that's true-- and if I'd known that-- I might have kept my last job and unionized my company's employees for better working conditions.

We would have started by demanding access to the thermostats in the office.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
16 Sep 2004
I have been a long time costumer of Grand Opening! And I've offered workshops there. I have always had great interactions with the staff members and love teaching there. I was so sad to read this. I understand the desire for more pay and better benefits. I also understand how hard it is to run a small business, keep it a float and (hopefully) make it grow. I am wondering if the grievance listed above were brought to Kim's attention.I am also wondering if some of these items are beyond Kim's controll. Face it we live in a capitalist country and a small business owner is faced with an uphill battle. Kim pays above minimum wage and offers some sort of health care plan to full time employees and flexiblity in scheduling (which is more than I got when I worked retail). Maybe the problem isn't Kim, but the system at large. This cannot be replaced by a union and is found in so few places, Kim Airs has created a work place that hires people regardless of their sexual orientation, gender pronoun preferences, or apearance. Many of her past and present employees would have to vastly change their representations of their individuality in order to get a job in retail in MOST of the other businesses in Boston (I can think of a few places that woudl welcome them as is with open arms, but they probably aren't hiring right now). Kim has also created for a number of people who didn't have the exact skill set for the (fill in the blank) teaching/management/buyer/office worker positions they wanted, an oppurtunity to develope those skills in a supportive environment. Would working a McDonald's or WalMart be better than working at GO!? Would they even hire you as is? Woudl you be happy at Target? Finally, I want to say that as a union employee, I am not sure you realize exactly what it is you are get in the package deal. For example, Unions demand equal pay raises. Sounds good until you discover you are working your bum off and your coworker is doing the minium to get by without getting fired.Equal pay raises. That means everyone no matter how hard they work gets exactly the same raise. Unions can do a lot of good. I just think you could have achieved a much better deal and more real value changes by talking directly with Kim.
Kim made more sacrifices that you can imagine to start the store up she deserves to keep it. I wouldn't be surprised if you all find yourself with a union and uniforms and inflexible schedules to go along with it. I am very sad about this news. I hope that everything works out for both Kim and the staff and that GO! survives this trauma.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
16 Sep 2004
Chill out. It's just a union. I am sure not much will change. Everything will be okay. Deep breaths.

I am wondering, why do you think a union would somehow lead to uniforms? That seems like such a weird statement to make.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
16 Sep 2004
Chill out. It's just a union.

"just a union" ? Have you ever worked under a union contract before? If the owner used to run the store like a family business, then those days are over. She will now be forced to behave in a more corporate way. If she's locked into a contract, the workers will be, too. It's not "just a union"; it's a whole new system for both the owner and the workers.

I am sure not much will change. Everything will be okay. Deep breaths.

How can you be so sure? The workers and management will have to live with whatever they put in the contract. That's a big change right there. I'm not saying the contract is a bad thing, especially if the workers get some benefit they didn't have before. The point is that it's a major change from how things are now.

I am wondering, why do you think a union would somehow lead to uniforms? That seems like such a weird statement to make.

I'm not Amie, but I can see how this is possible. Maybe the owner was too lax in the dress code in the past. When the workers start bargaining for more money, in return they may be asked to accept some changes like a dress code or uniforms. The bargaining process is about give and take. If the workers go on strike because they can't get their 10% raise without accepting a dress code as part of the package offered by management, then the public will likely see that as pretty ridiculous, considering that most businesses do enforce a dress code, whether you work in an office or at a cash register. I'm not saying that there *should* be a dress code or uniforms at Grand Opening, but anything is possible.

I can't imagine what the uniforms would be like at Grand Opening, though. Logo-emblazoned smocks with name tags, a la Walmart? That probably will never happen, as it wouldn't fit the image of the store. And I think the owner is too classy to go for "Hooters" style uniforms to fit the sexy image of the business.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
17 Sep 2004
"Have you ever worked under a union contract before?"

Yes. At three different workplaces. Highly recommend it!
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
17 Sep 2004
free translation

I am also wondering if some of these items are beyond Kim's controll.

I’m really digging for an excuse here.

Face it we live in a capitalist country and a small business owner is faced with an uphill battle.

Hmm… how do I turn this around. I know, I’ll blame the system. It’s that damn system that’s always oppressin’ the boss!

Maybe the problem isn't Kim, but the system at large.

One more time for emphasis.

This cannot be replaced by a union and is found in so few places

The system cannot be replaced by a union. Now I’ve really baffled ‘em with this illogical sentence.

Kim Airs has created a work place that hires people regardless of their sexual orientation, gender pronoun preferences, or apearance.

Now, I know that the only grievance listed above is the high turnover rate, but I’ll try to distract everyone anyway and suggest that these workers can’t get a job anywhere else. How’s that for taking the high-road!

Would working a McDonald's or WalMart be better than working at GO!? Would they even hire you as is?

I am the master of insults. Take that you freaks!

Finally, I want to say that as a union employee, I am not sure you realize exactly what it is you are get in the package deal.

The next thing you know you’ve got job security, a formal grievance procedure, better wages and benefits, and lower turnover rate. Beware!

For example, Unions demand equal pay raises.

Because you’ve affiliated with those Bolsheviks over at Unite-Here, you will no longer be able to have raises arbitrarily assigned to you. Christ, this might even create some incentive to stick around.

Sounds good until you discover you are working your bum off and your coworker is doing the minium to get by without getting fired.Equal pay raises.

Watch as I create strife among the workers. They will despise each other any minute now!

Kim made more sacrifices that you can imagine to start the store up she deserves to keep it.

Everyone else it do it, so why don’t I play up the fallacy that the store will have to close once the evil union is recognized.

I wouldn't be surprised if you all find yourself with a union and uniforms and inflexible schedules to go along with it.

Watch out! If you all are too happy with the job and stick around too long there might be enough long-time employees to formalize a set schedule.

I hope that everything works out for both Kim and the staff and that GO! survives this trauma.

Really, I really do hope it works out for the workers. I’m serious.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
17 Sep 2004
So, "emma goldman" wants to start a flame war. Let's not stoop to her (his?) level. Let's keep the discussion civil, ok?
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
17 Sep 2004
Actually, rather than "flamebait" this would be SATIRE, making light (and if you read between the lines, some good points) at an obviously pro-boss post above. Lighten up.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
17 Sep 2004
Thank you, pissed worked and emma goldman, for making some "good points" and for "reading between the lines" for us. Some of us were just too ignorant to see through that "obvious" pro-boss comment, and we clearly needed your help.

I was too dumb to understand that this was a pro-boss vs. pro-worker issue. Thanks for clarifying, I will try to see everything as either black or white from now on.

boss=oppresser
worker=oppressed

How am I doing so far?
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
17 Sep 2004
Yep, don't you dare say anything that might sound "pro-boss" else you'll be labelled a "union buster".

Like shrub said, "either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." In this case, either you are with the workers, or you are with the union busters. The boss is always 100% wrong, and to say otherwise is anti-worker.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
17 Sep 2004
The boss is always 100% wrong, and to say otherwise is anti-worker

if you're working class you know this to be true.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
18 Sep 2004
Sounds like just another plan for the lazy to come in and try to rip away all the benefits from someone else's hard work, inspiration and sacrifice to start a busineess. sounds like the owner's biggest offense was hiring these people that then decided they wanted to take more and more.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
19 Sep 2004
Yeah, these people sound REAL lazy. Did you miss all of the above comments from customers saying how good the employees at GO are? They work day in and day out to keep this store running, and have found time to organize a union in the meantime. Union organizing is fucking hard work. If they were truly lazy people, I would think they wouldn't bother...
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
21 Sep 2004
Hi, I'm an occasional customer, and have found that sometimes the salespersons don't notice when I have a question because they are busy chatting with their friends who are visiting the shop.

Usually I just chalk it up to "college kids at their parttime jobs", and it's the kind of behavior I expect from a minimum-wage-paid person. But if the staff is supposed to be professional educators making a career at this job, then it would be nice if they were always professional when dealing with the customers.

It's possible there are just a few bad apples working there, as other times the salespeople have been quick in getting what I need and ringing up my order.

Maybe the owner doesn't pay them enough or train them enough for what the job should be? I'm curious to see how a union will affect the experience of the customer. I hope the owner doesn't raise prices too much.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
21 Sep 2004
I shop there and yes, at times I can't get some questions answered, or it may take a while. It's usually because the store is busy. But, I have no problem with going up to an employee and ask them if they could help me. With the size of the store, the amount of people in the store, and the workers busy helping customers, some people are going to have to wait. Lets take two sales people, one helping customers, one ringing up sales. I mean, come on. What does this have anything to do with the union? A few bad apples? Do you work there? Do you know the women who work there? Do you know the experience they have? Do you know anything about the store? Maybe people shouldn't just sit around and complain that you don't get your questions answered and go up to a staff there and ask your question. It works both ways. I've sat in stores waiting because it's been busy. It's just a part of life. Deal with it. What does this all have to do with the Union? It's a wonderful store w/ employees who are very helpful and who have made my friends and myself feel very comfortable. It's a great store and I find it weird how people want to bash the staff, and the store and the owner and the union, just because the women who work there want to start a union. All of a sudden, everyone is the bad guy. Does it have to be like that? There is no bad guy, just women who want to start a union.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
21 Sep 2004
It's getting redundant. Really is. It's all about a union. Not a bunch of "bad apples" or blaming it on "college kids" and their part time jobs there. Or if their getting trained properly. Seems as though the store is doing fine. It's still open, another one in LA. I love the store, the employees are really nice and helpful. Lets just see what happens.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
21 Sep 2004
OK, since you ignored the first line of my previous post, no wonder you misunderstood my point.

The salespeople were chatting with friends. It was obvious that that's who they were, friends, not other customers. Making plans for the weekend or whatever they were saying, I don't recall. And no, the store was not busy, which is probably why the salespeople were chatting and relaxing. No problem there unless the customer needs help.

You said that you yourself have no problems going up to a salesperson to ask for help. But I have friends who do feel uncomfortable asking for help, especially in the kind of store that already makes them uncomfortable and shy, like a sex store! And I myself am uncomfortable interrupting other people's conversations, even if it is the salespeople just chatting with their friends.

What all this has to do with a union is that the 'bad apples' will be given regular raises and benefits same as the hard workers. Too late for the owner to fire the problem workers. If customers have negative experiences, they just won't come back, and who knows how much business has already been lost by mediocre customer service. Lack of customer service is not the norm at this store, I expect, but has certainly happened in my experience.

If you think my describing my experience is intended to bash the workers, you can bash back at me again, I can take it. Your angry words were: "I've sat in stores waiting because it's been busy. It's just a part of life. Deal with it." Thanks, I'll deal just fine, but I hope you're not one of the Grand Opening salespeople, because that's a mean attitude to have when dealing with nervous customers.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
22 Sep 2004
I can't believe that people are demanding living wage and health benefits for part-time retail. If you think that's feasible, you should stop getting furious at Starbucks, one of the few places that does do that.

The ladies of GO are wonderful, but no more wonderful than shopkeepers everywhere else.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
22 Sep 2004
as far as i'm aware, lazy people probably wouldn't bother to put the time and energy into research, organizing, and all of the other efforts that go into organizing a union. 'lazy people' might just sit around and bitch about bad conditions, and either put up with it, or leave and find something else to occupy their time.

and in regards to equal pay raises. don't you think that if everyone gets the same incremental raises, and one person is slacking while the other person is working their ass off, the fact that everyone's treated equally might up the accountability factor of the other staffers? these ladies seem smart enough to call each other on their shit. that's the responsibility that comes along with being a progressive and educated community builder, and i think that the fact that these girls are organizing is a good sign that they're pretty motivated and responsible.

also, why are there so many assumptions that these girls have not already tried on several occassions to address the owner personally about the issues they've had? all of a sudden, there are workplace changes when the implementation of a legal and binding contract is put in front of the owner. seems like it's taken a lot to be heard.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
22 Sep 2004
When I first started to read all these post I wanted so bad to respond. Then the more I read I realized this is just like any other message board. Most of you are not even listening to each other.
It has become a place to bash and flame a situation and a person that most of you do not know.

Honestly unless we are directly involved we do not know all the fact. We are not the judge and jury in this.
So unless the People on BOTH sides would like to tell us the facts and ask our opinions, I think it's time we all go back to our own lives and let this go thorough the propper leagal course and wait to see what happens.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
22 Sep 2004
Both sides? I am not interested in the boss's side. My sympathies go with the workers. Always.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
22 Sep 2004
I don't think these workers need your sympathy. These seem to know how to use unfair tactics against someone who's progressive as bosses can be. Can't wait to see the outcome. (Kim, sell the store and let a typical boss [jerk] take over, and see how they like it!)
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
23 Sep 2004
These are just some of my thoughts and my thoughts alone.

From my personally experience, everyone on staff has to be part
of the
union weather they would like it or not. Union dues was a flat
rate
where I was. It might not have seemed like a lot at the time but
if you
did not work full time or if you took a week off you still had
to pay
dues and it came directly out of your check.

As a part time employee with no vacation, no sick time and no
personal
time when I took a week off I was still responsible for my union
dues.
So the first check I collected when I got back not only had the
week I
was gone take out it also had that weeks dues taken out as well.

From what I understand everyone there has some pretty good
benefits. I
just want to make sure that you all understand that just because
a union
forms does not mean you will still have those benefits.
Mass law does not require part time people to receive health
coverage,
vacation time, sick time or personal days. It also does not
require T
pass remebersment.

Even though this might look and sound like the right thing,
Please be
sure you have researched everything. Go to Target, or any other
retail
place and see what their benefits are and their turn over rate
are. I
have worked in retail a long time and I can guarantee if you ask
around
even just on that street there you will find out you are not
being
treated badly.

Thanks for reading.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
23 Sep 2004
I wouldn't compare the pay and benefits to what the workers get at a huge corporate entity like Target. How about comparisons to other small businesses similar to Grand Opening? How does the typical Boston small business (which does not have the support of capital investment that the Walmarts and Targets have) manage to pay health benefits?
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
24 Sep 2004
I don't think you can compare what Target, or big corporations offer to small stores like GO!. It's two completely different things. I do though feel that I hope these ladies have done their homework and are prepared for what may happen/change with the union. Things as they know it will change. From what I've read, they have it pretty good right now. The T pass deal, part time benefits and a very cool working enviornment. I'm not downplaying GO! workers at all, and what they do day to day, because they are what keeps the store runnning in a sense. The staff who continue to educate themselves and learn, so they can continue to be on top of the ever changing sex culture. But why change what seems to be a smoothly running store. Speaking from the outside. I think the store is great, I personally love it. I would hate to see things change. And for what? A bunch of "part time" workers who want to unionize? What about the long time workers who are there. Why are they still there if things are so bad? Why do they still continue to work in that enviornment? Also, I guess I just want to say that I'm not "bashing" the women who want to start this union, I just hope that they have researched this, and are ready for having a third party involved in all decisions. I will continue to shop at Grand Opening, and I hope the staff will continue to be as helpful as they have been in the past. Kim seems to hire great workers. Ones that do last more than just a few weeks and months. I feel like I've read so much about this, I wanted to give my two cents. Good luck to the staff and to Kim.
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
24 Sep 2004
I really love what Kim Airs has brought to Brookline and I would hate to see her very comfortable boutique style shop become not as comfortable. I think Kim does an amazing job between all the classes she offers, home toy parties, which are done by the great staff she has hired, and the annual You Outta Be In Pictures amateur porn night. She really has done so much over the years. Having Annie Sprinkle come in, Midori, Carol Queen. What it seems is that she has some staff who want more. That is understandable, we all want more. But, lets be reasonable. Part time benefits, it seems that they are getting pretty decent benefits right now. Kim is not, or does not seem to be this horrible boss who makes the working enviornment one where people have to quit, or hate coming into to work. If so, why is there still people there that I continue to see year after year. No, I don't know both sides. I don't know what prompted these part time employees to want to unionize. I don't know what goes on behind closed doors at Grand Opening. But, from what I've seen, the store is a success. If not, she would not have been able to open one up in LA. That speaks volumes. I hope the part time, twenty something employees know what they are doing. They can be replaced. Maybe they should be glad they have a job, and be glad that they are getting the benefits they are getting. There are plenty of people out there who would love to work at Grand Opening I'm sure. Maybe they should think of what they have, than what they don't have and what they feel they need. Kim has never seemed to be someone who treated her employees poorly. I hope this works out for both the employees and for Kim. These stores are too few and far between. Also, I think she does hire a very diverse group of women. I think that is great. Good luck again to both parties. And possibly a third party. What would that mean? Does anyone know?
Re: Grand Opening! Workers Fight to Unionize Sexuality Boutique
11 Apr 2005
This is just another porn shop, not a fucking "sexuality boutique' fer chrissakes. Geez. If you have to go to a porn store to purchase "sex" because you haven't figured out sex is not about how much you spend on it you're a loser

To all the liberals who think buying your 6th dildo is a feminist action: you're stupid co-opted capitalist twats to equate purchasing useless corporate junk in a store with equality. Put your wallets down and pick up some unsexy policy papers and pending bills affecting gender issues in your government.

Y'all act like people never enjoyed sex before they could spend $$$$$$ on it.