Tyrell's Jewelry stores, as most people know by now, is a national chain of jewelers whose outlets are found in most stateside base towns, Their philosophy is simple: GIs are there for the taking. Their practice is less simple: it involves psychological warfare playing on guilt, homesickness, love of family, fear of death, and other exploitable emotions shared by most servicemen who are away from home and possibly headed for overseas assignment. Tyrell's is one of the most vicious examples of the base town business community: people whose livelihood rests on the exploitation and fleecing of GIs who are trapped in that community. To respond to Tyrell's and to educate the GIs and the community about this particular form of capitalism the Fort Hood United Front undertook a boycott of Tyrell's, announced at their May 15 Armed Forces Day demonstration The action at Fort Hood led to harassment, busts, and national publicity; it has also led to a multi-base boycott.
The boycott of Tyrells which grew out of Armed Forces Day at Fort Hood has since spread to Fort Bragg, Great Lakes Naval Training Center, San Diego, Camp Pendleton, Long Beach Naval Station, Fort Sill, Newport Naval Base, San Francisco, and the National Office of Tyrell's. The demands of the boycott, now on a more or less national level, are:
1) Stop sidewalk solicitation and high-pressure sales tactics.
2) Stop exploiting GI homesickness.
3) End Army intervention and cooperation in payments.
4) Take down the hypocritical "Vietnam Honor Roll"
Techniques of the projects have included picket lines, active leafletting during the picketing and on bases, publicity in the various papers, rappipg with GIs who are entering the store, and many other variations. Some boycott organizers have demanded that the negotiations at any one base he nationally binding: if the Honor Roll goes down in one store, it must go down in all Tyrell's stores. The is'-sue has proved to be one of major importance to GI projects, bringing in many GIs who have never engaged in political activity before but who have felt the pinch of the many business rip-offs that confront them in base towns.
Beyond being an excellent organizing tool, however, the boycott has served as an important link between GI and community organizing on the common ground of economic exploitation. It represents a move from strictly anti-military and anti-war organizing to a broader attack on capitalist oppression as it exists on the community level. Clearly, the door is open to attacking all rip-off businesses in military towns, especially bars and strip joints, food stores, and whorehouses. This threat is evident in the reaction of of the base-town community in towns where Tyrells has been hit: they have either supported complete repression and put down of the boycott, or have suddenly become great supporters of the boycott, even, in some instances, of persuading the straight press to print stories condemning Tyrell's. Both reactions stem from one major fear: they may be next, They are trying to cover their asses, either by supporting crushing of the project before it starts to hurt their pockets, or else trying to curry favor with the GI community in the hope that they will be spared. Obviously, neither attempt is going to be successful.
The Tyrell's boycott is providing national solidarity, unity, and a new front for the GI movement. It is also providing education about capitalism, military oppression, imperialism, and sexist oppression of military dependents and women in the community. The questions that it raises and the perspectives that it provides will strengthen the GI Movement in the coming months.
CAMP News, vol. 2, no. 8