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Portlanders rally for California supermarket workers

Yesterday, a crowd of about 50 rallied at the Safeway at 1100 NE Broadway in Portland to support the 70,000 workers who have been locked out of Southern California supermarkets for insisting on keeping hard-fought health benefits in the face of austerity plans being imposed by the big supermarket chains. See here for previous feature.

Supporters marched into the store, up and down the aisles, chanting "Boycott Safeway!" and demanding fairness for workers and affordable health care for all...

RELATED ARTICLES: Fun Pics from inside Safeway at Saturday Protest | "Don't Shop Safeway" Pictures | Biggest labor dispute in US in 20 years

Rally inside the store
Rally inside the store
Portlanders support you!
Portlanders support you!
Stop corporate greed!
Stop corporate greed!
Crowd rallies outside
Crowd rallies outside
Card cutting ceremony
Card cutting ceremony
Card cutting closeup
Card cutting closeup

Portland Rallies for Supermarket Workers



Yesterday, a crowd of about 50 rallied at the Safeway at 1100 NE Broadway in Portland to support the 70,000 workers who have been locked out of Southern California supermarkets for insisting on keeping hard-fought health benefits in the face of austerity plans being imposed by the big supermarket chains. The rally, called by Portland Jobs with Justice, attracted supporters from the general public, in addition to members from many union locals, including both rank-and-file and representatives from the Association of Federal, State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the International Association of Machinists (IAM), the International Longshoreman's and Warehouseman's Union (ILWU), the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and other organizations.

Supporters marched into the store, up and down the aisles, chanting "Boycott Safeway!" and demanding fairness for workers and affordable health care for all, and criticizing the greed of supermarket chains trying to take advantage of the economic downturn to strip down worker benefits.

Security guards raced around the store telling people to leave, but seemed pretty unprepared for the situation. After marching through the aisles, people gathered together at the front of the store for a few impromptu speeches, before proceeding back outside for a ceremonial Safeway "membership card" cutting. People passed piles of cards up to be sliced in half, to general glee and merriment. Representatives of various locals, organizers from Jobs with Justice, and members of the community spoke about the importance of fighting for health care for all workers, and pointing out the crucial importance and precedent that will be set by the outcome of this struggle.

As we gathered outside the store, the manager came out briefly to engage in petty harassment of rally attendees, at one point demanding that we not lean our picket signs against the building because they were "damaging the glass."

Everyone seemed to agree that the rally was a success, and further actions are planned. All shared the hope that the message of this rally and others like it will be heard far and wide, especially by the 70,000 workers in California who are still fighting hard: Chin up! You are not alone! We stand with you and steadfastly support you!

--from a Portland indymedia reporter



Over 100 were at the Safeway action 25.Jan.2004 17:23

Papa hambone

Actually there were between 100 and 150 at the action...our count was 136 but we may have missed a few.

clarification 25.Jan.2004 22:01

in solidarity

Here are the corporate family ties and websites:

Safeway=Vons, Pavilions, Carrs, Dominick's, Randalls, Tom Thumb
 http://www.safeway.com/default.asp

The Safeway quarterly report is not linked, that I could find, but there are plenty of links to annual reports and other fiscal information, from the home page.

It was interesting to find a link to a separate website for the Safeway Foundation--a subsidiary charitable "entrprise". While reading through it, one is a little taken that, on the one hand, the corporation strives to subvert direct participation in and access to the fruits of one's labor, while at the same time subsidising a charitable institution. Is it because there is "value added" in PR associated with "community service", whereas devolving the utmost to the employees, well, is just lost?
 http://www.safewayfoundation.org/

Albertson's is an independent outfit based in Boise, ID. Here is their recent quarterly report:
 http://www.albertsons.com/abs_news/latest/default.asp?id=11580

Here is the Kroger family tree:
Kroger=Ralphs, King Soopers, City Market, Dillons, Smith's Food & Drug, Fry's, QFC, Kessel, Cala Foods/Bell Markets, Owen's, JayC, Hilander,Gerbes, Pay Less Super Markets, Baker's, Food4Less, Foods Co Drug and Food Warehouse, Fred Meyers.

The websites for Ralphs and Fred Meyers are from the same webdesigner
 http://www.fredmeyer.com/
 http://www.ralphs.com/

Each (Freddie's or Ralphs) will take you to the same quarterly report for the Kroger conglomerate--here is the quarterly report by way the Ralphs website:
 link to www.ralphs.com

Salute to Indy News Hawk 25.Jan.2004 22:03

informed citizen

Nice piece of reporting

Bay Area Coverage 25.Jan.2004 23:31

±

Picket and Direct Action in San Francisco on 1/24; March in Oakland on 1/31.
Lots of photo links @  http://bayarea.indymedia.org/archives/archive_by_id.php?category_id=19&id=1681

BEYOND UNIONISM 26.Jan.2004 10:51

"Lefty" Hooligan

Beyond Unionism

"Lefty" Hooligan writes for the punk rock zine Maximum Rocknroll, and this piece is an edited version of a forthcoming column. To get a copy of Maximum Rocknroll write to PO Box 460760, San Francisco, CA 94146-0760.

Labor unions curtail the anger and rebelliousness of their members while pimping their labor to the highest bidder. Largely ineffective in defending let alone advancing real working class interests, even the most revolutionary unions serve to prop up capitalism once they gain a little power and position. Yet I hold a union card.

I'm a member in good standing of the National Writers Union, which is a branch of the United Auto Workers. AFL-CIO baby. I've held cards in everything from AFSCME to the IWW, none of which has made me any less dubious about unionism as a labor strategy. Don't get me wrong, I believe in a strong, organized labor movement. I just don't think labor unions are the best organizing tools with which to fight capitalism. I certainly don't think they're up to the task of creating and wielding social power based on the self-organization and self-activity of the working class as a class.

That said, union struggles in this country have contributed to incremental social reforms that make the lives of ordinary people a little less abject and destitute. The labor movement helped bring us the eight -hour day and the forty-hour week, health and safety regulation, workers comp and health benefits, unemployment insurance and social security. That working folk should have a lot more goes without saying, but there's no reason why we should allow what little we have to be taken away piecemeal by the capitalist ruling class. Taking away these meager social benefits may or may not make working people more revolutionary. It will certainly make our lives more miserable.

There's a huge labor action going on in southern California as of this writing. Thousands of grocery workers led by the United Food and Commercial Workers union have struck Safeway-owned stores, resulting in thousands of more UFCW workers being locked out by Albertsons and Kroger-owned Ralphs grocery stores. These supermarket chains want to create a two-tiered work force where new workers would get no health benefits and older workers would have to pay hefty premiums, all supposedly so they can compete with the hideous Walmart superstores. The Teamsters are honoring picket lines, and scabs are now driving Safeway trucks around southern California. Informational pickets have started up at Safeway stores here in northern California, AFL-CIO union leaders are calling for a nationwide boycott of Safeway-owned stores, and the UFCW is promising action at Safeway stores across the country.

I haven't gone into a Safeway since the union folks came up from southern California to picket. My girlfriend's a red diaper baby, so crossing a picket line for her is like a devout Catholic chomping into that little wafer at Communion. We've enjoyed searching out the various smaller grocery alternatives in the area and intend to minimize our shopping at grocery chains even if Safeway, Albertsons and Kroger do give their workers a good contract. Not crossing the line, talking to and showing support for the picketers and strikers, cutting up your Safeway card and mailing it to CEO Steve Burd, boycotting Safeway-owned stores; these are all nice, union-endorsed suggestions for actions the rest of us can take. Now for a few hooligan suggestions that are intended to take things beyond unionism.

I have five, but before I hit them, I need to make clear these suggestions are in no way endorsed or supported by any of the labor unions involved in the southern California grocery strike. And, in this age of the Patriot Act, I also need to make clear these suggestions are offered in a spirit of discussion, debate and free speech.

Remember free fucking speech?

RUMOR MONGERING: Proctor and Gamble still gets shit from people who think their symbol is Satanic. That's nothing, I heard that the Safeway "S" logo is actually a clever Nazi SS design. And now that scabs are working Safeway stores, I hear that the rat and vermin problem has gotten way out of control. You get the picture...

STONER SHOPPING: Also called short term memory shopping, you go into a Safeway and fill your cart to overflowing with perishable meats, frozen foods, ice cream, eggs and the like, only to remember halfway down some back aisle that you left your wallet or purse in the car. Once you get outside, you realize you didn't really have the money to buy all those groceries after all, leaving your full shopping cart parked in that supermarket aisle. Hopefully, the scabs will put it all away before it goes bad. This absent-minded shopping is not, I repeat, not illegal.

SALT OF THE EARTH: We practiced some stoner shopping during the UFW boycotts of grapes and iceberg lettuce back in the day. Another clandestine tactic is to salt down various produce items such as grapes or lettuce, particularly after they've been moistened. And Safeway has those clever produce watering sprinklers that sound like thunderstorms. Come to think of it, Safeway was also the major grocery chain that carried scab lettuce and grapes. This action is highly illegal by the way, as it involves the malicious destruction of private property.

LOCALIZING ANTI-GLOBALIZATION: Give those college kids a war in Iraq or a WTO conference in Cancún and there's all sorts of creative direct action. But what about poverty and misery at your local Safeway grocery store? What about people chaining themselves to the doors or locking themselves down in the aisles to protest Safeway's treatment of its workers? The image of the Black Bloc storming the checkout stands segues nicely into my final suggestion, that being...

AUTOREDUCTION: Imagine thirty, forty people entering a Safeway to shop, filling up their baskets, and all arriving at the checkout stands at the same time. They take up every cash register, with enough backup to cover any other checkout lane that might open up. Then these well-organized shoppers all simultaneously demand they get their groceries for free, to be given to the striking workers. Better yet, these thirty, forty shoppers all at once head for the doors with their full shopping carts, giving away their groceries to strikers and passersby once outside.

I'm sure your regular AFL-CIO honcho is having apoplexy over my suggestions, hoping that a couple of Teamsters would help me into the trunk of my car. The various and sundry political parties that claim to represent labor—from the deadbeat Democrats to the vile Leninists—are reading me a list of invective from extremism to adventurism. But you know what? Fuck 'em all! Labor unions and political parties have failed miserably at halting, to say nothing of reversing the steady erosion in wages, social benefits and living standards for working people in this country over the past fifty years. It's time working people took matters into our own hands.

"Lefty" Hooligan

lefty: stupid, stupid, stupid 26.Jan.2004 15:32

u.g.

dumb. sorry, your 5 suggestions are a waste of time and resources. you slam college kids and state the need for an organized movement while failing to take note that the safeway action was part of an organized movement that included college kids. the action succeded in it's intent to alarm and raise awareness without resorting to destruction of property or physically harming another human being. you shit on the efforts of past and present unionists by suggesting actions that are not endorsed by the individual campaign.

lefty: yes yes yes! 26.Jan.2004 21:49

Orson Welles

Wake up, UG! Where you been the last 3 months?! Lefty tells it like it is. And what Lefty is saying now is no different than what most rank-and-file folks down south are saying now themselves: The union bureaucrats sold them down the river. Their performance is inexcusable, and only a drastic escalation of the level of struggle has a chance of salvaging the situation now. So I say, Bravo Lefty!

Thank you 27.Jan.2004 18:13

Euripides Q. Steinfelt

I was at the action, and your article is good. Many thanks for getting the news out.