This is a reportback on some of my experiences working with grocery picketers through LASSO (Los Angeles Strikers Solidarity Organization). I hope everyone gets on here and writes about their own experiences. Encourage workers and others working in solidarity to get on IMC and report, even if it seems trivial or unimportant. Everybody’s story is important right now.
Last Saturday, several of us went to our newly adopted store for the first time. We chose the Von’s market at the corner of Virgil and Sunset. When I arrived, there was a large group of picketers marching around the parking lot. This intersection of Virgil, Sunset, and Hollywood, is a high-traffic, high-visibility area, and the picketers received a great deal of support from passing drivers. However, there was some discussion among several of the picketers as to how effective it was to march around the lot as opposed to standing around the store entrances and engaging with shoppers. Some of the picketers felt that marching around was not the best tactic.
The picketers included workers as well as others who were there in solidarity, including ourselves and several members of the L.A. Weekly staff, whose office is in the area. The L.A. Weekly employees were demonstrating their own union’s solidarity with the grocery workers, and while they had hoped for a larger showing from other Weekly staff, it was nice to see them out supporting the strike.
I talked to several workers, including Felipa, who was there with her husband and her five-month-old daughter. Although she was very concerned because she had only been working a little over a month after maternity leave before the lockout happened, she was still one of the most vocal and spirited picketers, engaging shoppers at the entrances and helping coordinate the workers out there that day, all while attending to her baby.
I also spoke with Jose, who has been working part-time for quite a while at the store while supporting and raising his ten-year-old son as a single parent. Jose is taking business classes at the local community college where I work, so we talked about his academic and career goals. While unsure what career path he’d like to follow, he told me he likes to work with children and would like to transfer to a university soon.
At one point, Felipa spoke with a woman who had come to Von’s to buy food for her son’s hamster. Sonia agreed with the picketers, but she and her six-year-old son James were walking, and the nearest pet store was about a mile or so up Hillhurst. So I gave them a ride in my care, and Sonia told me about her home-based business making organic fruit juices and fruit mixes, which she sells around the city. She was very supportive of the workers, but confused about the recent UFCW decision to lift the strike on Ralph’s. I tried to explain as best I could, but I am not particularly supportive of this decision and not entirely clear on the logic of it myself.
One shopper became very angry when I asked her to support the strike by shopping at another market. I offered several alternatives, including Ralph’s, and she became irate and said she was very upset with the union telling her where she could and couldn’t shop. Shoppers are free to shop wherever they want; alternative markets are simply that—alternatives—for those shoppers who wish to support the workers. It was interesting to see though that this shopper interpreted the offer of alternatives as a directive. It’s amazing to me how quickly people gravitate toward reasons and justifications not to care when they are faced with even the smallest inconvenience to their own life.
Later, I went up Hillhurst to the Albertson’s at the corner of Hillhurst and Ambrose. It seemed like the picketers had a much larger and more spirited and aggressive presence there. However, the parking lot did not seem particularly empty.
At both locations, the picketers did not report having problems with management.
This coming weekend, our local Silverlake/Los Feliz/Echo Park-area group would like to return to Von’s on Sunday, as the workers reported that this is the store’s busiest day. People from the surrounding communities are invited to come and participate and get involved with LASSO. You can also adopt your own store. As of this past Monday, LASSO had adopted seven or so stores around the city, based on the geography of the current participants, but we need to increase participation and stores quickly. The workers’ funds are stretching tighter and the holiday season is approaching.
LASSO meetings are every Monday at 7:30 at the Peace Center (8124 W. Third St.). http://www.geocities.com/backlassoweb email@example.com