Citybikes Boycott Update: BikePortland Website Discusses Boycott, Provides Citybikes Worker Response -- Antifascists Clarify Boycott Goals

Originally posted on 10/4/2012

One week after Rose City Antifascists called for a complete boycott of Citybikes Workers’ Co-op in response to continued antisemitic organizing by Citybikes President Tim Calvert, this boycott was reported in an October 2 article on the BikePortland website. Rose City Antifascists have readily-available contact information; it is a shame that BikePortland editor Jonathan Maus made no effort to contact us when writing his story, and subsequently blocked feedback from our organization in the article’s comments section. This gap in reporting made the reasons for antiracist anger towards Citybikes somewhat unclear--the BikePortland article does not even mention by name Fritz Springmeier, the antisemitic author and neo-Nazi affiliated convict, who Citybikes President Calvert twice secured event locations for in Portland. Our September 9 article discusses Springmeier as well as Calvert’s other associates at length.

The BikePortland article notes that two workers have recently departed from Citybikes following the most recent disclosures surrounding Calvert’s activism, and BikePortland interviews one of these ex-employees. The BikePortland article also quotes extensively from a current Citybikes worker, portrayed as speaking personally rather than as a Citybikes representative. While this Citybikes Cooperative worker states that Rose City Antifascists are “not [...] willing to sit down with Citybikes and have a face-to-face dialogue”, the worker neglects to mention that the Citybikes co-op has refused any dialogue that is not wholly on its own terms, and instead rebuffs attempts by our organization to open up lines of communication. Rather than work to establish trust and communication, Citybikes has continued with a pattern of hostility which they established several years ago, when they stood by Calvert following Calvert’s hosting of white separatist Valdas Anelauskas in Portland.

Citybikes, in forwarding our boycott demands to the media, has now presented our organization with an opportunity to discuss these demands:

  1. Calvert fired: Tim Calvert continuing his far-Right racist organizing while being enabled and propped up by an allegedly progressive space is unacceptable. Calvert organizes for and with anti-choice, racist extremists--these are not small issues and the people in question are not harmless “wingnuts.” We will not let Citybikes off the hook or allow the business to continue its tacit support for Calvert. We do not believe that Citybikes should continue to give Calvert credibility and prestige through maintaining him in their business or in co-op circles. A large body of information has been delivered to Citybikes. There has been plenty of time to explore options. Calvert just has to go
  2. Public apology: Citybikes has spent over three years siding with and defending Tim Calvert, while maligning anti-racists who brought forward information on Calvert’s political organizing. We believe that Citybikes needs to take meaningful responsibility for their years of covering for Calvert’s activism, indeed allowing his antisemitic activities to grow even more extreme. Citybikes has frequently made erroneous statements about Calvert’s activism and politics, and has released statements in the past that merely shifted blame and created further harm. Due to the co-op’s years of tacit support for Calvert, our organization would certainly need to dialogue with Citybikes and ensure that their much-needed apology actually helped to heal the situation.
  3. Anti-oppression policy and education: A meaningful anti-oppression policy, including anti-oppression internal education, would benefit Citybikes. It would present Citybikes with a set of tools for dealing with oppressive behaviour or activism by members of their cooperative. A meaningful policy involving concrete methods of recourse would create a safer work space for those employed at Citybikes. It would benefit customers returning to the co-op as well as the community as a whole. Creating such a policy would show the community that Citybikes is trying to learn from its mistakes. A pledge that Citybikes discusses issues of oppression and conducts some internal education would likewise promote a healthier workplace.

We note that the BikePortland article, in quoting its source that recently left employment at Citybikes, states that it would be illegal to fire Tim Calvert due to Citybikes’ own bylaws. This is the first time that anybody associated with Citybikes has publicly made such a claim. Three years earlier, Citybikes refused to fire Calvert because of the more general claim that “A person cannot be fired from his employment for his political, religious or philosophical views.” Our organization pointed out that it is not against Oregon or federal law to fire an employee because of that employee’s bigoted political advocacy. If Citybikes has internal bylaws that serve to protect Calvert, the co-op has had over three years so far to amend them. We encourage Citybikes to now change their bylaws if necessary to deal with this situation.

Citybikes has not acknowledged that Tim Calvert is the source of the problems their collective is in. We would like to remind them that Tim Calvert is responsible for his bigoted organizing. Calvert is furthermore using his power within Citybikes along with legal threats, to hold questioning Citybikes workers at bay. The responsibility for people leaving their jobs at Citybikes rests squarely on the shoulders of Tim Calvert and the co-op that refuses to challenge him. Any business that projects a progressive image should expect public criticism when its President promotes antisemitism, or organizes events for racists and Holocaust-deniers. We hope that this will be acknowledged straightforwardly by Citybikes when they finally issue a statement regarding this situation. According to the BikePortland article, such a statement is to be expected from Citybikes in the wake of a co-op meeting that takes place at some point this week. In the meantime, we urge anti-racists to let Citybikes know that a boycott will continue until Calvert is gone and the co-op makes basic steps towards setting matters right.