(This is an edited version of a story that originally appeared in the St. Louis Labor Tribune. It is republished here with permission.)
Bo Garrick is cut from the old cloth of the labor movement. Solidarity and perseverance are sewn into the very fabric of his soul.
For 153 days and counting, Garrick, 72, a retired member of Teamsters Local 600, has shown up every day at the same Schnucks store in Florissant, Mo. to spread the word and remind shoppers of the Local 688 boycott over the firing of 201 Teamster warehouse workers (plus 30 management and non-union clerical staff) – thrown to the curb so Schnucks could staff the company’s new North County warehouse with low-wage non-union workers. Garrick’s son, Dan, 41, was one of those fired. He had worked at the old warehouse for 12 years.
“You give them 12 years and this is what they give you,” Garrick said of his son and the other warehouse workers, many of whom have 30 and 40 years of dedicated experience. “If they were over there sleeping on the job, doing drugs or stealing, then fire them, but not because they’re there trying to make a living for their families just because you can get people to do it cheaper.”
Garrick took a day off for Thanksgiving, when the store was closed, then returned the next day in a Santa suit to walk the line, wave at supportive drivers who honk when they see him and keep the message of the boycott before the public.
“I appreciate the waves, the thumbs-up, but the honks are for these people going in there. If someone is going in and they hear people honking their horns, maybe they’ll think maybe I shouldn’t be going in there.”
“He’s the best union man I’ve ever know,” Dan Garrick said of his dad. “I walked the picket line with him when I was 12 thirty years ago. I kind of understood then what it was about.”
Dan has his own 16-year-old son now, and he’s walked the line with his dad and grandpa. “He knows what it’s about, too,” his dad said.
“We’ve gotten a lot of good support,” Dan Garrick said. “But I don’t’ know if it’s enough for him (Schnucks CEO Todd Schnuck) to change his mind.”
Even with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), Bo Garrick is on the sidewalk in front of the Schnucks store every day, wearing his sign, pointing and waving at motorists and encouraging drivers to honk their horns.
One of the challenges facing Local 688 is public confusion about the boycott.
After Schnucks settled its contract with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655, some shoppers thought the boycott was over.
It’s not, Local 688 Executive Secretary-Treasurer Mike Goebel said.
“There’s a lot of confusion about what we’re doing,” Goebel said. “It’s like we’re starting from square one. It’s a re-education process. We’re continuing and we will continue. I’ve got a core group and every weekend they’re out there walking and continuing to get the word out.”
Bo Garrick is out there, too, every day, walking and waving and encouraging drivers to honk their horns.
“I need more people like him,” Goebel said.