Friday 8 June 2007

Supermarket Critical Mass

On June 7th, anarchists from the Union of Syndicalists and FA Praga, together with the family of one striking cashier, held the first Supermarket Critical Mass in Carrefour in support of supermarket workers who were holding a slow-down strike. --- Supermarket workers around Poland decided to announce a work slow-down to protest against having to work on holidays. (The strike fell on the occasion of the so-called "Corpus Christi", which is a state holiday in Poland.) The workers demand days off on all state holidays. With this strike, they were hoping to dissuade people from shopping on holidays by making it a hassle. --- Supermarket workers, often (but not always) poor, middle-aged women are among the most exploited in Poland. Compulsory overtime is normal in many markets, as well as having to perform other tasks, such as moving boxes; cashiers as complain about having to sit at the registers for long hours without any breaks at work which often results in repetitive motion injuries. Wages at the supermarkets are rock bottom, often 225 euros a month or less as many supermarket workers are employed "part time". Supermarket chains however tend to report record profits.

The idea of the action was to help to "slow things down" in the supermarket by creating a traffic jam by parading up and down the most narrow aisle - next to the cash registers. A group of shoppers, some in T-shirts that read "Stop Exploitation", took carts and went down the aisles in rows of two, stopping at almost every product to examine the ingredients, thus creating a bit of chaos. There was no trouble with security guards who immediately recognized this as an action in
support of the strike and asked the anarchists to bring them the same T-shirts.

The anarchists had originally planned on blocking the registers even more by bringing items without codes to the registers and playing other "tricks", but in fact there were so few people there in the supermarket that there were no people to slow down. So instead, each protestor bought a carrot, a grape and a potato each and headed to the counters where leaflets and newspapers were given out. The workers were happy that people supported the strike. Afterwards there was an
action with giving out leaflets in the mall where the supermarket was located explaining a little about the strike and the economics of supermarkets.

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