The Stop Shopping Church Service coincided with a protest of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in the U.S, challenging the power of American supermarkets. Just like in Europe large supermarket chains hold a key position in the market, which enables them to pay rock bottom prices to their suppliers. Farmers can hardly survive and are forced to cut costs – and often the farm workers are hit worst. Examples of ridiculously low wages, inhumane circumstances and outright slavery are found all over the countryside. The tomato pickers decided that it was time to get organised and stand up against the excesses. The strategy they use is to take their demands straight to the powerful supermarkets that cause the misery. The workers demand is simple: “one penny a pound'': if the supermarkets pay just one penny more for each pound of tomatoes, it would mean twice as much income for the pickers.
After applying some pressure several large supermarket chains have given in and agreed to spend a tiny bit of their megaprofits on paying a fairer price for tomatoes from now on. But multinational corporation Ahold – owner of some major supermarket chains in the US as well as Albert Heijn – keeps refusing. That was the reason for the Coalition to take their mobile museum of modern day slavery to the Ahold HQ in Quincy Massachussets – to expose the reality behind the corporation's profits and increase the pressure.
But the home of Ahold is situated in Amsterdam and that is where the loud procession of the Church of Stop Shopping was heading on this special day. After the congregation knelt down to say their anticapitalist prayers in front of the multinational HQ on the Piet Heinkade, Reverend Billy – who claims to be a direct descendent of Dutch settlers from Staphorst – called upon the Ahold employees to save their souls and come outside to join the Church.
He delivered a passionate sermon praising corporate spying and lying as a source of holy inspiration. He connected the Sacred powers of mother Earth with Visions of the divine ingestion of tomatoes in the form of ketchup, soups, salads and pasta sauces. After the Holy Communion the Ahold spokesperson came out to receive documents and recommendations from a prominent church member. He assured the congregation that the company is taking the issue 'very serious' and stated that Ahold had even suspended buying ultra low-priced tomatoes. However, he could not deny that this was probably due to the fact that the next tomato harvest had not yet started, as Marijke from OKIA (Ondersteunings Kommittee Illegale Arbieders (Den Haag)had to remind him. Not quite reassured the believers left, brooding on future divine interventions.
Praise to the farm workers and Immokaluiah. Amen!
You can listen to some audio about the action as well.