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27, 2005 - Big Box Tour Rolls On
UFCW Local 789
members, Bob Adams and Bernie Hesse completed the first annual Big
Box Worker Dignity Tour last week. Bob Adams, a member from
Rainbow Foods thought up the idea of biking to communities with
Wal Marts and engaging residents, consumers, and local media in
a discussion about corporate responsibility.
The bike tour
went to Faribault, Owatonna, Rochester, Red Wing, and was wrapped
up at an abandoned Wal Mart in Hastings, MN. The primary issue that
was brought on the tour was; healthcare and a disclosure bill that
was derailed in the waning minutes of the Legislative Special Session.
The disclosure bill would have mandated a report from
the Health and Human Service dept. on which large employers have
workers on MN Care and other state run healthcare programs. In ten
out of twelve states, Wal Mart has led the list as having the most
workers on State and Federal programs. The bills primary focus
was on corporate responsibility.
We kicked off
the Tour from our Hall in South St. Paul and we fought extreme headwinds
and heat on Sunday. Bill Moore, MN AFL-CIO and Don Seaquist accompanied
us for the entire day, and proved to us how tough our leadership
can be. We arrived in Faribault in the early evening.
The next day
found us at the Faribault Wal Mart, we leafleted, did the Wal Mart
Watch from the parking lot (Air America 950 AM), and met with the
Editor of the Faribault Daily News. We headed off to Owatonna and
enjoyed a pleasant ride through a number of small communities. Upon
arriving at Owatonna we met with organizers from Centro Campensino
and explained our ride to them. We exchanged information on a number
of campaigns and promised to check in later this summer of both
groups activities. We then pedaled down to the Owatonna Peoples
Press and met with the Editor, Jeffrey Jackson and explained our
Tour. Owatonna is the site of a Super Center and has
one abandoned Wal Mart on the outskirts.
found us pedaling towards Rochester, MN with the support of Diane
Winter, a long time member and activist. After some creative map
reading and some directional issues we ventured into the town of
the Mayo Brothers, and were greeted by the staff of Local 21 HERE/UNITE.
A big thank you goes out to Brother David Blanchard and his staff
for their hospitality. Russell Hess, President of the Central Labor
Council in Rochester coordinated the leaflet at the North end Wal
Mart and helped me get kicked out of my 14th Wal Mart. We were able
to do an interview with the Rochester Post-Bulletin and talk to
many consumers. The response was positive and we think our message
For every hill
you go down, there is one to pedal up, and the next we headed on
to Red Wing, MN. It was a pleasant ride for most of the day, though
the heat was oppressive at times. I managed to blow a rear tire
on the final approach and with out the help of Brother Bob Adams,
I would be living in Red Wing, MN as of today. Bob Adams proved
to be a man of steel with his 35 pound pack and the ability to have
every gizmo available for repair or relief of a mechanical issue.
We made it into town and met up with the the Leaders of Local 527
UFCW and handed off information and gave them a briefing on the
national Wake -Up Wal Mart campaign. The Red Wing Wal
Mart has been operating for a few years and one can observe the
shift in traffic patterns and a preponderance of antique/collectable
stores downtown. From talking to local business people there has
been a struggle to compete with the mega-retailer that is at the
edge of town.
we finished the last leg of the Tour with a quick ride
to an abandoned Wal Mart in Hastings, MN. We thought it would be
symbolic of what is going on in small town, USA. Big boxes thrown
up, small businesses destroyed, and acres of asphalt left with weeds
growing, and no businesses to replace the big, ugly, concrete shell.
The Tour was a success with much information going out,
some money raised for the Universal Healthcare Coalition, and an
appreciation for small towns in Minnesota. We would like to thank
all the support we received and all the folks we talked to along
the way. Start planning to participated in 2006 for the Tour.