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by invisible ink
Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2003 at 12:13 AM
Another reportback from Von's.
This Saturday, a few of us went again to our adopted Von's store at Virgil and Sunset. We arrived at 1:00 with donuts. There were very few Von's workers picketing when we got there, but by the time we left a few hours later, more had arrived. Felipa was there again with her baby.
The other LASSO participant and I were more aggressive than the picketers in confronting shoppers, and we succeeded in turning away several people. However, at one point, the picket captain discussed with us how they did not wish to harass shoppers, as these shoppers would be coming back later once the strike ended. She also pointed out that some shoppers who felt harassed might buy more than they would normally have bought, just out of spite. We did not agree with this approach or the logic behind it, but we were not harassing shoppers anyway. We were engaging them in more dialogue than the picketers were, though, and this may have made some of the workers uncomfortable.
In the discussion of tactics, the topic of Ralph's support picketers came up. Apparently, there has been some disagreement with the picketers from a nearby Ralph's. According to the picket captain at Von's, the Ralph's workers were "harassing" shoppers and were much more vocal and aggressive in trying to dissuade customers from entering the store. Because of this disagreement, the Ralph's workers had moved to the edge of the parking lot, and were picketing near the driveways furthest from the store entrance, as well as marching around the parking lot. I went over and talked to the Ralph's workers, and they were not happy with the Von's picket captain. They reported that they were not harassing shoppers, but just trying to engage them more in dialogue.
Their position was that whether the shoppers were longtime customers or not, the whole point of picketing at all was to make the experience of shopping at the store an uncomfortable one for customers, so that they would not shop there during the picket. We agreed with them. They said other picket captains at this Von's store (on other shifts) were not as pacified as this daytime captain, and were more welcoming of a more aggressive approach.
At one point, we engaged in dialogue with a middle-aged shopper who claimed he understood the nature of strikes and picket lines since he had been a member of a union for 30 years. However, he needed to buy some items he claimed he could only get at this Von's. A quick glance at his shopping list and at his shopping bag as he left revealed these unique items to be hot dogs, peanut butter, and tortilla chips. As he left, he tried to blame his wife, waving us off and telling us to "Talk to the wife," when we chided him for crossing the picket line to buy chips and other junk food after benefiting from 30 years of unionism. Unfortunately, he drove away in his late-model midnight blue convertible BMW before we could follow up and get his wife's contact information for comment from her.
One other small thing to report that was important to me but probably not anyone else: As I was standing on the picket line, I noticed an old co-worker leaving the store with a shopping cart full of groceries. We worked together several years ago at a big evil corporation, and although she is a Spanish nationalist with strong anti-Basque, anti-separatist sentiments, we had always had a civil, polite working relationship. Anyway, I confronted her in the parking lot and she immediately turned bright red and apologized and said she felt really bad. I made some suggestions of alternative places to shop, and she promised she would not return to cross picket lines. It was a strange intersection of my "old" cubicle life in evil corporate land and my "new" life standing in solidarity with picketing grocery workers.
After Von's, we went to the Albertson's up Hillhurst. While Von's had less vocal confrontations with shoppers, the store was pretty empty. At Albertson's, however, the parking lot was FULL, and the store was busy, despite a much more aggressive presence of picketers. Many shoppers at this store, which is in the much more affluent (though self-identified "liberal") area of Los Feliz, were nasty toward the workers and responded negatively and harshly towards us when we confronted them. Those of you in Los Feliz, get out and support your neighborhood workers--your neighbors are making you look like boors.
This coming weekend is very important for all the stores, as it is the last weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday. This is the weekend to get out and support the picket lines if you have not done so already. Take your friends with you. Take loud voices and high spirits.
Also, coming up is BUY NOTHING DAY, Friday, November 28. Doing actions to support the grocery workers on this day might be a good way to celebrate.
This reminds me: Our adopted Von's will be closed Thanksgiving Day, for the first time ever, according to the picketers. This is a big deal! If the stores in your areas are not closed on Thanksgiving Day, that would also be a good time to go out and support the workers, as it is one of the busiest, if not the busiest, days of the year.
LASSO meetings are every Monday at 7:30 at the Peace Center (8124 W. Third St.).
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