Skip to content or view screen version

Riot Police Defend the Mall of America from workers

Kicker | 01.09.2008 18:07 | Repression | Social Struggles | Workers' Movements | World

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

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

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!!!