Happy Labor Day:
Riot Police Defend the Mall of America from Workers
By Mike GW & James Kautz (NYC IWW/Indymedia)
Starbucks workers and their supporters, 50 to 70 of them, converge for a rally today at the rail station at Lake and Hiawatha in downtown Minneapolis. The crowd comes to stand in solidarity with Starbucks workers in their fight to organize a union, the Starbucks Workers Union (SWU), with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and to escort Erik Forman back to work at the Mall of America.
This is Forman’s first day back on the job after being fired for exercising his right to organize at his workplace—which recently became the first union shop in the entire Mall of America. He is one of many workers across the country who have been fired for their organizing in recent years—among them Starbucks workers and other Wobblies, as the IWWs are known.
This action is joined by Wobblies from coast to coast, along with rank-and-file members of the AFSCME Clerical Workers, SEIU Security Officers, Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), and Truckers and Citizens of America. “Solidarity!” the call goes out. “Forever!” comes the response.
“We have the right to organize because people have stood up”—says Erin of Twin Cities IWW.
“Down with the tyranny of the bosses. When you fight, you can win”—says Joel of MAPE.
“Direct action is the only way to get the goods”—says Michele Rockne-Semkow of AFSCME.
Last to speak are the three Starbucks workers from the Mall of America, who share the story of how they have organized the shop and now invite the crowd to join Forman on the light rail back to his job. “We are fighting to win”—declares Erik Forman of the SWU.
A mass of Minneapolis police and transit police, present since the beginning, enter the rail station along with the workers and supporters, and proceed to follow them to the train. Inside the train cars, the Wobblies sing the old labor anthem “Solidarity Forever,” hand out union literature, and speak with interested passengers of the union’s struggle.
One stop before the Mall of America, at Bloomington Central, the train is greeted by officers from the Bloomington Police and the Minnesota Department of Criminal Apprehension, armed with guns, tasers, and videocameras. After a liaison explains the nature of the visit—no pickets, no signs, no protest, just a group of workers accompanying a fellow worker to work—the train is allowed to pass.
Fast forward to the Mall of America station:
“Get back on the train! Anyone exiting the train will be arrested for trespassing.”
This is what greets all passengers as they enter the Mall of America rail station. It is spoken by armed riot police here to protect the Mall from its workers and their friends. Deployed by the Bloomington Police Department and backed up by other agencies, the riot police run to block the exits of the train.
They proceed to pen in all passengers inside the train. Legal observers attempt to negotiate, reporters attempt to document—all are forced back onto the train.
Some Wobblies take notice of a young mother, trapped on the train with her daughter—she is a diabetic in desperate need of insulin. A street medic attends to her and insists she be permitted to exit. The riot police, after thrice refusing, are finally forced to step aside for her and her daughter. All others are denied passage.
The Wobblies are turned back. So are the other passengers.
“Happy Labor Day!” they tell the police. Chants of “Bullshit! Bullshit!” are taken up by all, reverberating across the train cars.
The train reverses course and returns to the Bloomington Central station. There, Forman and other Starbucks workers are able to exit the train and walk back to the Mall. He will be late to work on this, his first day back on the job. Other Wobblies attempt to accompany their fellow workers, but the train doors are closed on them.
The Industrial Workers of the World regroup at the Lake and Hiawatha station, site of the original convergence, to rededicate themselves to the struggle ahead—beginning with Monday’s Anti-Capitalist Bloc in the March on the RNC.
Happy Labor Day—a holiday greeting from the Mall of America.