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SAS members picket Fry's with striking warehouse workers


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Sophomore linguistics major and Students Against Sweatshops member Lydia Lester protests in front of the Fry's on Grant and Swan last night with sociology grad student Karen Christopher behind her. University of Arizona activist groups teamed up with the Teamsters Local 104 to express their disapproval of the grocery store's treatment of some of its employees in Tolleson, Arizona.

By Ryan Gabrielson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 3, 2000
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In a show of support for workers' rights, Students Against Sweatshop members joined the picketing of a Fry's supermarket yesterday.

Waving signs and scattering leaflets in the store and the parking lot, Teamsters Local 104 - along with several other unions, workers' rights groups and student organizations - gathered at the 2480 N. Swan Road store.

The picketers stood on the sidewalk advising shoppers and passersby not to shop at Fry's.

"Fry's Policies are Half-Baked," stated one sign.

"Don't Shop Fry's," stated another.

Since Oct. 2, many Fry's warehouse workers have been on strike as a result of the merger of Kroger Global Foods and Smith's Supermarkets. The merger took place last May and Kroger closed two of the Smith's warehouses that served several stores in the Southwest.

"All they care about is their pride and image," said Kathy Campbell, Local 104 leader. "Kroger has been doing this nationwide."

The warehouse workers were offered positions at other Fry's warehouses, but would have to take a $4 per hour pay cut as well as losses in benefits and seniority.

"This has been going on for five months and we have always been willing to sit down and talk," said George Oliver, Local 104 spokesman. "Their purpose is to break the union, they look at us as outsiders."

Fry's warehouse workers are not unionized, while Smith's were. The two closed Smith's facilities were unionized, but the new positions would come without organized labor representation.

"Labor unions have taken a serious beating," said Richard Borer, a member of Jobs with Justice, a workers' rights organization. "It's been very damaging to the interests of working people."

Members of Students Against Sweatshops said they participated in the picketing to show support for workers' rights organizations and as a show of loyalty.

The Local 104 aided the SAS sit-in last April in UA President Peter Likins' office.

"They donated some food during the sit-in," said Lydia Lester, SAS spokeswoman and linguistics sophomore. "What we do is related to these workers; our struggles are connected."

About 10 students participated in the picketing, comprising nearly one third of the group.

"(Local 104) offered us a lot of support during the sit-in," said John Hardenbergh, SAS member and political science senior. "We're both fighting against the same forces."

The picketers were not permitted to gather on the store's premises or in the parking lot. Some student picketers attempted to hand out leaflets inside of the store, but security removed all picketers who entered the building.

The reaction of passersby was mixed, but about one out of every 10 cars honked in support.

Leaders of Local 104 were pleased with students' participation.

"I'll make it simple, short and final: We're not going away," said Will Blake, Local 104 member.

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