Yesterday, Friday, as I had done last year’s day after Thanksgiving, I headed to Falmouth, stopping along the way to get two boxes O’ Joe at Dunkin Donuts to give to the picketers at Walmart in case it got cold and they needed to warm themselves.
As a long time AFL-CIO member, and a long-time activist with the Oklahoma Central Labor Council, it was my way of extending the hand of labor brotherhood across time and state lines.
I had decided to arrive fashionably late and timed my arrival for at least 30 minutes after the picketing was to have begun.
As I did the last time, I intended to simply drive up, jump out of my car, and hand the coffee, creamer and sweeteners to the first and closet picketer I encountered, and crack my joke that even as I supported them I did appreciate that irony that I was giving them a pee inducing beverage that would be extremely inconvenient if Walmart did not allow them to use their restrooms.
Just as I arrived, so did the Falmouth police who had been called by Walmart security.
From what I could glean, their management was claiming that the picketers were trespassing as they were assembled on store property.
The police and picketers both agreed that there had been no impeding or threatening of the shoppers entering or exiting the store, and that they were not interfering with anyone’s desire to shop or the store’s right to make money.
The police spoke to a person who seemed to be in a position of authority, and there was a little discussion as to how much of the area was actually within Walmart’s real footprint.
Aside from some really off key carol singing by a few of the picketers, there was nothing offensive or even remotely illegal taking place.
I decided to stay, found a parking spot, and returned to the picket line with a camera to get both video and still pictures of what was happening.
There was a lot of discussion among the picketers without any raised voices, and a conference between the head picketers, the police, and Walmart security taking place. Everyone was acting professionally.
At one point these three entities entered the store, reemerging and standing in front of the store with a lot of gestures and hand waving that seemed less about threats than basically indicating Yay-by-yay measurements.
Finally, the lead police officer walked a few feet away from the main entrance, closer to the stuff-a-cruiser toy collection station, and asked the picketers if this would be an agreeable place for them to stand, and if the Walmart security people had a problem with the location as it was outside the store footprint, but close enough for the signs to be seen and any chanting to be heard.
At this point I returned to my car intending to leave.
As I drove by the front of Walmart, the picketers were gathered in one spot, customers were entering and exiting the store, and the walmart security people were nowhere to be seen.
Whether or not this situation was acceptable to the corporate big-wigs, the calm discussion between the picketers, the police, and the store security personnel had resulted in a mutually acceptable arrangement.
Security had followed the instructions by moving the picketers away from the areas near the doors, the police had answered the call to do something without any embarrassing actions or press worthy arrests, and the picketers were in a visible, yet not legally questionable location.
In spite of the embarrassed actions of the shoppers who slinked in and out of the store with their heads slightly down, and people driving by in cars, honking, waving, and displaying the thumbs-up gesture of approval, things seemed to have been handled with little if any animosity to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.
Washington could learn from this.