District ribbon cuttings aren’t generally known for their controversy, with political rivals willing to make nice at least as long as they’re holding those big scissors. Mayoral hopeful and Ward 6 councilmember Tommy Wells took a different approach at last night’s O Street Market Giant opening in Shaw, though, helping union workers pull off a protest of the tony new store.
Wells, along with rival candidate Jack Evans and Ward 6 candidate and ex-Wells chief of staff Charles Allen, joined United Food and Commercial Workers members picketing the new store over a contract dispute with Giant. After Evans went inside to the ribbon-cutting, though, Wells teamed up with local AFL-CIO head Joslyn Williams and Rev. Graylan Hagler (of “itty bitty cracker corporation” fame) in an attempt to deliver petitions calling on Giant to reach an agreement with its workers.
Wells and the labor activists made for a surprising trio, since both Williams and Hagler were at odds with Wells months earlier over his vote against the Large Retailer Accountability Act. With the store’s manager nowhere to be found, Hagler, Williams, and Wells decided to go to the Giant’s cafe, where District worthies like Vince Gray, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Evans waited to cut the ribbon on the new store.
The thick crowd by the cafe stymied the labor entourage, so Wells took the petitions himself and went over to the mic.
When Wells went to speak, he was decidedly less enthusiastic about the new store than Gray or Evans. “While we love Giant coming to the neighborhood, we need Giant to get an agreement with the workers,” Wells told the crowd.
Later, Wells hung back when it came time to cut the ribbon. But Giant management on the lookout for the newly radical Wells don’t need to worry about him stirring up more trouble—-he says he won’t cross the picket line again until the union gets a new contract.
Photo by Will Sommer