Four Farm Workers Picket 'Stop & Shop': A Grape Boycott Begins in Boston

Four organizers and one UFWOC volunteer arrived in Boston on September 1. The volunteer was Alan Moonves, a Harvard junior and SDS activist who had spent his summer at the Giumarra farms working as a trainee for the UFWOC. "At first our job seemed pretty clear cut. But the label game made it a lot harder. Giumarra managed to sell his grapes somewhere and it was our job to track them down."

There are ten large chain stores in Boston. Each was visited by one of the organizers accompanied by the head of the largest union local employed by the chain. They asked the company to switch their brand of grapes. Only two have cooperated so far and cancelled their order from Giumarra until the conclusion of the strike.

Giumarra grapes are no longer sold at Haymarket Square. And, according to Moonves, most of the city's 300 small retailers have cooperated.

The UFWOC organizers are concentrating their efforts on New England's largest chain, "Stop and Shop." The man who owns all 138 stores is Irving Rabb, financier, philanthropist, and member of Brandeis' Board of Trustees. Several months ago the Rabb Foundation, which is a family project, was discovered to be one of the many conduits for CIA financing. Last week, Irving Rabb was picketed by more than 200 people when he attended an honorary function at Brandeis.

Rabb has adamantly refused to cooperate with the boycott. He has patiently explained to the organizers that, as a wealthy and prominent member of the community, he is always walking a tightrope between altruism and capitalism. He has admitted that this time he cannot see his way clear to take the altruist position. One felt great sympathy for his position, Moonves reported after his visit with Rabb.



David Fine, head of labor and industrial relations for "Stop and Shop," has said "no" in less picturesque terms. He, in fact, cited three reasons. (1) Most of the company's workers belong to unions, thereby proving the good will of "Stop and Shop." (2) Giumarra grapes are the highest quality grapes on the market and settling for anything less would be selling the customer short. (3) If "Stop and Shop" were to accede to the organizers' request, they would be bound to the same reaction "the next time." And if they had to stop selling every product made by non-union workers they would soon go out of business.

Having refused to stop selling Giumarra grapes, Rabb and associates have not been content to rest on their laurels. Signs have been placed on the grape stands of "Stop and Shop": "This brand of grapes is not one of those being picketed." Actually, according to the UFWOC organizers, they are the brand of firms which agreed to market Giumarra grapes. Also, says Moonves, the company has made a behind-the-scenes attempt to keep publicity about the grape strike and picketing out of the local papers.

An informant from the Globe told the organizers, Moonves says, that a "Stop and Shop" official has called every Boston newspaper requesting their silence. Thus far, the only story in the Boston papers about the boycott was a brief report of the Brandeis demonstration which appeared in the Globe.

One of the UFWOC organizers put his assessment of the situation in these terms. "The grape money, it is peanuts, you know, compared to what these big money boys have. But they sure do stick together anyway."

The four organizers have had little support since they came to Boston. A few Harvard SDS members have helped them picket for a day or two. In fact, there is manpower enough to picket only two stores in Cambridge and Waltham. At each, the customers' reaction to the request has been almost unanimously favorable.

High Hopes

For the organizers, no matter how discouraging the situation appears now, it is not a question of whether or not the boycott will succeed, but rather one of how long it will take. They will continue picketing until Giumarra relents or until the grape season is over. If the strike continues, they will be picketing again next year. They have a driving sense of mission. "If Giumarra goes, one million farm workers will be organized in five years," says one organizer.

Managers of "Stop and Shop" have an equally serious sense of their own importance. They claim the boycott is doomed to failure and the picketing is an unsightly waste of time. Concludes labor-management coordinator Fine, "It is something like pinching a pimple on an elephant's back.

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