This Sunday, a rally sponsored by LASSO and the UFCW was held next to the Pavilions at Olympic and Beverly/Beverwil in Beverly Hills. Thanks to the hard work of LASSO’s Mike Schwartz, who spent eight hours at Beverly Hills City Hall obtaining a permit, we were able to shut down a nice chunk of the street outside the store. The back of a U-Haul truck served as the stage, and with a sound system graciously provided by some folks at the Peace Center, the rally started with a really great hip hop strikers-support song recorded by one of the picketers (could someone out there maybe respond to this posting with information on this song and perhaps even an MP3 file if possible, or at least how readers can get a copy of it?). This was followed by several rousing chants by emcee Javier. Then we listened to some excellent, impassioned speeches from picketing workers, LASSO participants, union organizers, and other community organization members.
Highlights included John Grant, a lawyer with the UFCW Local 770, as well as picketers Patti, Erick, Danny, Fred (Ralph’s), and Lilly (Pavilions), Jordan with the Industrial Workers of the World (and LASSO), Phil Hendricks with the California School Employees Association (Santa Monica College), a representative from the Mar Vista Neighbors for Peace and Justice group, and words from LASSO participants Mike, Josh, and Grace (all three of whom presented clear, direct analyses and effective calls to action, firing up the crowd). Wobbly Jordan made a great point about “turning the question upside down” when he addressed the anti-Union stance of questioning why the owners and bosses should have to pay for healthcare. “Instead of asking why the bosses should pay for struggling workers’ healthcare," he pointed out, "why aren't we asking why those same workers, barely scraping by and working their asses off, should have to pay for the obscenely rich boss’s fourth mansion?” (not a direct direct quote, but close enough).
Especially moving was the speech from worker Danny, who spoke of his prematurely born first son and autistic second son, and the gratitude he had for the healthcare made possible by the Union. The speeches by the picketers in general were all very moving and from the heart, many of them impromptu and delivered by workers inspired on the spot to take the microphone. Erick was especially direct and effective in confronting the management, several of whom stood outside to watch the rally from the entrance of the store, flanked by hired private goon cop wannabes. It was really moving to see so many of the workers stand up and speak their stories so passionately and eloquently.
The rally drew maybe a hundred, hundred and fifty people (anyone out there please correct me with a more accurate assessment if available). The crowd was enthusiastic, and generous in giving donations to cover the costs of the rally and to help support the strike fund.
The real story for me though began once we left the rally and drove to speaker and picketer Erick’s house, where he had invited several of us to come celebrate his son Adam’s sixth birthday. We spent the rest of the afternoon with Erick and Hilda and their children, six-year-old Adam and toddlers Ariana and Chris.
We talked about issues ranging from union loyalty and participation, to labor history, the use of children in sweatshop labor producing--among so many other products--Gap clothing, and the need for workers to unite in order to confront the unity of Capital’s bosses. Those of us from LASSO mostly just sat back and listened as Erick and Hilda schooled us, displaying from their modest suburban Mar Vista home a deep politicization rooted in the everyday life of a working family, a political understanding that we found encouraging and inspiring given the apparent failure on the part of so many unions today to provide workers with a historical and political context in which to understand capitalism and the larger, ongoing labor struggle. These are REAL family values, I thought, as we ate pizza and played with the toddlers in the kitchen while discussing corporate globalization, Jello Biafra, the FTAA, and Sherman Alexie’s humorous approach to confronting social injustice, among other things.
Before we left, as we stood/sat around the kitchen, Erick holding Chris in one arm, Adam and Ariana playing in the living room, Hilda gave us what I thought was the best, most inspiring quote of the day, an old saying translated and slightly transposed from Spanish, a lesson in courage that I won’t soon forget:
“The greedy will live only as long as the coward allows him to.”
This, here, in this kitchen, on this Sunday afternoon—this is real courage, I thought. This is real bravery. These are real heroes.
And I think of the “president” stuffed like a G.I. Joe doll inside that ridiculous bomber jacket, strutting his ignorant, flaccid bravado on the deck of a bloated aircraft carrier paid for with tax dollars that could easily have funded health care for all of us, for years. This is supposed to be “courage”?
I think of their bloodless video game wars, green night vision sky masking the mutilations, the scores of dead children in the streets of Baghdad, in the forgotten, nameless villages of Afghanistan, in so many parts of the world throughout Capital’s bloody historical quest for Empire, and then the antiseptic U.S. flag flying the next morning, the streets cleaned, the big brawny soldiers posed like more rigid plastic dolls in their spectacle of bravery, ready for the cameras and their play-act of “liberation” and “democracy”, strapped into their massive lethal toys and goggles and robotic, insistently ignore-ant, ruthlessness. This is “courage”?
And I think again of those same soldiers, and this time they’re dying, and their coffins are delivered home draped in flags—the officially sanctioned image of ultimate Patriotism and Courage. I think, These are not the daughters and sons of Senators and Presidents. These are not the daughters and sons of the rich, of wealthy elites like Steve Burd and other executives and owners of Safeway’s, Kreuger’s, Albertson’s. These coffins will not return to Beverly Hills, or Bel Air, or Pacific Palisades, but to working class neighborhoods like Erick’s and Hilda’s, to working class families like Danny’s, and Lilly’s, to working class parents who must now live with the ultimate pain of outliving their own children while the bank accounts of the rich expand even more.
This is “courage”?
No, Hilda called it dead on: It’s nothing more than the price of greed, and the price of cowardice.
LASSO meets every Monday at 7:30 at the Peace Center (8124 W. Third St.). We really need your involvement, and input, and fresh ideas, and courage. This rally on Sunday was organized in basically only five days—imagine what more we could do with your participation and support!
Also: We would like to organize a series of film screenings dealing with labor/union history and struggle. Ideas for films, screening locations, and related possible speakers are welcome and much needed! Please come to our meetings or contact us with your input.
Lastly, on this topic: I want to plug the new film _The Globalization Tapes_ just out and screening around town in early December. This excellent film was made for workers, by workers, through the help of a collective called Vision Machine (http://www.visionmachine.org) who assisted Indonesian workers in documenting their plight in struggling to organize and unionize as they connect the dots of their own situation to corporate globalization and the neoliberal programs of the WTO, World Bank, and all the rest of the usual suspects. As they strategize ways to fight the social and environmental harm of greedy multinational corporations, workers call for a worldwide network of unionization to combat the unified front of corporate globalizing forces. The film screens:
December 12, 7:30 p.m.
Tia Chucha Cafe Cultural
December 5, 8:00 p.m.
The Echo Park Film Center
1200 North Alvarado (just north of Sunset)
December 12, 8:00 p.m.
Flor y Canto
Potluck and screening:
3706 N. Figueroa
DON’T MISS THIS ONE!
information about LASSO: