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(en) US, Los Angeles Critical Mass Rides Through Vons

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 1 Feb 2004 13:03:42 +0100 (CET)

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The grocery workers union (http://www.ufcw.org) called the
strike on October 11th, 2003 in response to the
company's implementation of salary caps and
significantly reduced health care coverage. The CEO of the
Vons-Safeway company, Steven Burd, has stated that the
cuts are necessary to brace for the future when multiple
Wal-Mart Super Centers will be opening in Southern
California. Wal-Mart, the home of low wages, minimal health
care, and union busting has pushed the limits for how poorly
every corporation must treat their workers in order to
compete. Wal-mart purposefully employs mostly part-time
workers at minimal wages and limited hours. Even during
times of record profit gains they have a system set up for
their employees to apply for welfare. In addition to the poor
treatment of workers, the wal-martization of local
communities has led to an increase in the gap between rich
and poor, lowered environmental standards, and increased
urban sprawl.

These were just a few of the reasons stated by the critical
mass cyclists for supporting the workers. “This is about
corporations doing what they can to increase profits for
themselves and to treat workers however they please. If
these employees lose then other corporations are going to
come down on their workers.” Another LA resident on
the bike ride told me how she has watched local businesses
go under after a Wal-Mart opened up near her. “I want
people to know that Wal-Mart is not the role model for how a
business should be run,” she added.

Entering the parking lot of the Vons at Sunset and Hillhurst,
the critical mass group chanted, “Don’t cross the
line, boycott Vons”. After circling the parking lot once to
the cheers of the picketing strikers, someone yelled,
“Let’s ride into the store!” It was one of those
amazing things to watch- when the energy of an event takes
over and everyone seems to be doing what should of been
obvious to do. Half of the bicyclists, about twenty or so,
entered the store in a single file line and proceeded to ride
down various aisles, simultaneously chanting “Don’t
shop at Vons, support the strike!” Employees and
customers alike stood dumbfounded as the group, with
helmets on and lights blinking, made their way out of the
store and back into the parking lot.

The energy level remained high as the mass pedaled its way
to the next closest Vons, at Vermont and Third. The Sunset
store must have called ahead because this store was ready
when the group arrived. Doors were blocked by the
strike-breaking employees and the cycling group was kept
from entering the store. Laps were done in the parking lot by
some while others talked with the striking workers about
their situation. After a short while the group headed north on
Vermont to a Pavilions, also owned by Safeway, for a short

Entering the store immediately, the group was as energized
as ever. Chants of “Don’t shop here, support the
workers!” were suddenly drowned out by yells of
“Lock the doors, don’t let them out!” About a
dozen people on bike were stranded inside. Employees, and
even customers, tried to grab the cyclists as others dialed
the police. One group headed out an emergency exit in the
back, but this exit was quickly blocked by the scabs.
Meanwhile, in the front of the store, critical massers and
strikers pounded on the doors and chanted, “Let them
out!” demanding that the scabs stop unlawfully detaining
the strike supporters. The current employees, who have
turned their backs to the union, threatened the outside group
with violence. Another group from the inside had managed to
sneak out by the time the police helicopter arrived overhead,
spotlight and all.

Numerous police cars then arrived and the situation
intensified. The last person stuck inside was let out, no
questions asked, but the managers started pointing people
out. One person, a third year law student who had been
openly calling out the police on their ignorance of the law,
was suddenly accosted and handcuffed. He was taken away
and charged with battery. Apparently a manager claimed that
he had kicked him when struggling to exit the store, but the
young lawyer-to-be was never stuck inside the store. The
charges should eventually be dropped. Overall, the feeling
among the critical mass participants was that their
autonomous action drew attention to the situation and
creatively showed the strikers that, yes, there are many
people who support them. While the corporations refuse to
back down, autonomous actions by small groups are
becoming more and more necessary.

Link: http://www.critical-mass.org/
Related at Infoshop:

posted by Carl Carlson on infoshop.org

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