I like to keep an eye on developing trends in business. Sometimes I even write about them when I think I see one on the horizon. So with no fanfare, here is something that I think is a developing labor relations trend: the growing use of flash mobs as a form of protest.
Here are some videos showing a few examples of the use of this “Flash Mob” tactic by organized labor or their supporters to spread their message.
Flash Mobs protest German Supermarkets
In this news report, it shows how shoppers gathered trolleys, or shopping carts filled with items and the abandoned them without paying as part of a labor protest, as reported in Speigel Online.
They started off with pillow fights, water pistols and beach parties. But now German flash mobs are getting serious. The impromptu meetings of large groups of people usually organized online or via mobile phone, are now being used by a labor union as a tool in a dispute over wages and hours. As a result, the question of whether they are legal or not may soon become a case for Germany’s highest court.
Flash mobs are generally defined as “a group of people who organize on the Internet and then quickly assemble in a public place, do something bizarre, and disperse.” And in the most recent German example, the trade union Verdi, which represents almost two and a half million employees in the retail and public sectors, organized around 150 men and women to head to a shopping center in Aschersleben in the state of Saxony-Anhalt on Thursday.
The flash mob entered the shopping center and proceeded to load up shopping carts with an assortment of goods before simply leaving them standing in store aisles. Instead of paying for the goods, the flash mob passed over cards with slogans like “Fair Wages” and “Fair Means More.” Business came to a stand still for about an hour and staff told reporters that it would take them all day to put the goods back on the shelves.
The protest had been organized as a result of disagreements over pay and conditions between Verdi and retail sector bosses in the states of Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Saxony. “With this new form of strike we wanted to draw attention to our problems. But we also wanted to let our colleagues in other sales areas know about our problems,” union secretary Doris Finke told local newspaper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.
Whole Foods Flash Mob protests health care position
In the United States, the Whole Foods supermarket chain in Berkeley, California was the target of a musical flash mob after CEO John Mackey published a controversial op-ed in which he shared his thoughts on the national debate on health care. Here is a description of the flash mob protest called “Operation: Hey Mackey” from Indy Bay:
At 6:11 p.m., 35 protesters, who had been fake-shopping the aisles of the green foods giant, convened at the middle of the store, and launched into singing “Hey Mackey, you’re a swine,” some shouting it into a megaphone and others dancing a choreographed jig as a live orchestra blared from all directions.
The market’s security questioned the group and eventually police were called. No complaints have been filed. Store security allowed the performance to unfold for several minutes in the store, and again didn’t interfere as the protesters filed out through the entrance to stage a continued demonstration on the sidewalk.
The market’s manager declined comment. An employee at the customer service desk griped that the group was likely ill-informed about healthcare and CEO John Mackey’s statements regarding healthcare and suggested the large turnout had more to do with the ease of arranging protests through social networking Web sites.
Other staff, and most patrons, seemed amused by the outburst. One patron decided to start boycotting Whole Foods.
Here is the video. If you are interested in labor tactics, the first couple of minutes showing assembly, staging points, and discussions with the planners of the event is quite interesting.
Hotel Protestors go Gaga
Here at Human Race Horses, we are obsessed with Lady Gaga. In this flash mob protest at the Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco, members of the AFL-CIO group Pride at Work perform an adaptation of Lady Gaga’s song “Bad Romance.” The event was organized to draw attention to a boycott called by the workers of the hotel who are involved in an on-going labor dispute. According to the introductions of the video on YouTube, “Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer activists put the song and dance together as a creative way to tell the hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people from all over the country coming to San Francsico in June for Pride to stay out of the boycotted hotels”.
Fiat Chrsyler Bailout Bandits dance at DC Auto Show
Even the Teamsters are getting in on the act, organizing a flash mob in February 2010 to protest job cuts at Chrysler. Here is the Teamster message:
The $14 billion taxpayer bailout of Chrysler was meant to help save good jobs. Instead, Chrysler is threatening to throw professional auto delivery drivers onto the unemployment lines and replace them with less experienced independent contractors and “alternative” carriers, some of which are using flat bed trucks or other transporters that are not designed to protect cars over long distances. More than 5,000 jobs are at stake.
You can help the Teamsters and their consumer allies to end Chrysler’s dangerous new transportation policy in three ways:
- Watch the video. Fiat Chrysler may be forced to back down from their plans to jeopardize car safety and union jobs if enough people view this video. It’s better than writing a letter.
- Send it to your address bohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azE0qjeYhSM&feature=player_embeddedok or post it to all your friends on Facebook or MySpace, AND ask them to get their friends to do the same thing.
- Go to the consumer sight www.CarBuyersBeware.com and find out more on how unscrupulous auto giants such as Fiat Chrysler are misusing American taxpayer bailout money to destroy good jobs and compromise car safety.
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