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