Through an analysis of SORWUC's experiences organizing workers at Bimini pub and Muckamuck restaurant, I demonstrate that although the unions alternative structure and strategies aided its organizing and strike efforts, these factors made little difference in SORWUC's dealings with the state.
ALTHOUGH BIMINI WAS A PUB and Muckamuck a restaurant, both types of establishments had historically low levels of unionization and a high concentration of poorly paid female employees.
At the same time that union officials were fighting the decertification vote at Bimini, members were busy garnering support for another strike in the Vancouver service industry, this time at Muckamuck restaurant.
Although differing in appearance and fare, Muckamuck shared many similarities with Bimini.
Wanting to change their working conditions, several Muckamuck workers contacted SORWUC about unionizing the restaurant.
Relations between SORWUC and Muckamuck management were tense from the start.
Hoping to pressure the Muckamuck owners to bargain in good faith, union members distributed leaflets to customers and passersby that explained some of the workers' grievances and outlined the situation to date.
In addition to support on the picket line and at the march, striking Muckamuck workers also received a great deal of financial support from several sources, some far from the traditional labour movement.
This case study draws on archival materials and other sources as well as my own recollections as a former organizer and clerical worker in the union which organized the Muckamuck workers and as a "regular" on the Muckamuck picket line.
The Muckamuck Restaurant opened in 1971, and advertised "authentic" First Nations cuisine.
In an interview for this study, former Muckamuck employee and organizer Ethel Gardner described her role in the early stages of the union organizing campaign:
I was referred to an employment agency which recommended that I take a federal training program connected to the Muckamuck restaurant.
Ethel said Muckamuck staff had tried to organize before with another union but were unsuccessful and the instigator had been fired.
After the union certification, Muckamuck employee Christina Prince told the press that management had told workers they "should be happy" to have a job because of their race.
Notes taken by a SORWUC representative at an initial meeting with the Muckamuck workers show that most staff made between $3 and $4 an hour, averaging $60 a night with tips.