The power of the picket

It doesn't pay to cross Daisy Joe

Daisy Joe divides the world simply. You are either on the side of good, or the side of evil. You either do right, or you do wrong. And if you do wrong, she will come for you with a picket sign.

As director of Black Citizens for Justice, Law and Order, Joe has marched in hundreds of picket lines through the years, protesting abuses by governments and corporations, working on behalf of African-Americans in particular and underdogs in general.

She has carried signs in front of the biggest of targets: EDS, Mrs. Baird's Bakeries, Lomas Mortgage USA, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Which is why the owner of a East Dallas Texaco station was toast the minute Daisy Joe suspected that his garage had screwed up a repair job on her daughter's car.

Sami Ebrahim, owner of the Texaco station at 10433 Garland Road, didn't know about Daisy Joe's picketing expertise when Daisy's daughter, Earnie Joe, brought in a 1986 Subaru station wagon for repairs. The car had overheated and stopped running.

The showdown began on May 29, when Daisy Joe went to the station to retrieve her daughter's car.

Joe, 50, was already irritated. The family had waited almost two months for the car to be repaired, she says, even though the station had promised it would be ready in two weeks. Ebrahim says the car was difficult to fix, and that his mechanics kept the Joe family informed of their progress.

When Daisy Joe arrived at the station with her husband, Arthur, she was told the repairs would also cost more than originally promised.

"The bill had escalated from $1,700 to $2,000," she says. "We went ahead and paid it, but then we noticed the back of [the car] was messed up."

The garage had dented the car, and done a shabby repair job to boot, Daisy Joe says. When she complained, she contends, a mechanic told her the body damage was done before the car came into the shop.

Ebrahim acknowledges that the Joes proceeded to form a dim view of his garage. But, he says, he tried to work with the family in the spirit of good customer relations.

He says he had explained early on to Earnie Joe, who is a lawyer, that repairs on the Subaru were complicated and could cost more than the car was worth. The 10-year-old wagon, Ebrahim points out, was full of dents and scratches when it came in, and he does not believe his employees added to the problems.

After the family complained, Ebrahim says, he offered to inspect the car for shoddy repairs and correct any problems free of charge.

But Earnie Joe rejected the offer, she says, because she did not trust Ebrahim's employees to make good on what they had already messed up.

When Ebrahim balked at paying for someone else to make the body repairs, Daisy Joe called the police. "They were lying through their teeth," she says. "Knowing how crooked they were, and all their shenanigans, I knew they were probably going to ask for more money."

As far as she was concerned, the whole affair reeked of highway robbery. An argument erupted between Daisy Joe and the mechanics. When police arrived, it was an irate Daisy Joe who was carted off to jail, arrested for disturbing the peace.

If Ebrahim thought that ended the matter, he was sadly mistaken. Daisy Joe, whose chubby form is full of enduringly indignant energy, would be back.

Other disgruntled customers might simply call the Better Business Bureau and lodge a complaint. But Daisy Joe has more experience than most when it comes to making her point.

She helped found Black Citizens for Justice, Law and Order in 1969 and has since led hundreds of pickets in front of dozens of companies and agencies, often ultimately winning concessions.

Her group's demonstrations helped convince the EEOC to speed up its process of informing people of their rights to file lawsuits after they lodge complaints of civil-rights violations.

The group also won a discrimination lawsuit against Lomas Mortgage USA on behalf of black employees in April. Joe has had less success with Mrs. Baird's Bakeries, which she describes as "one big plantation," but she hasn't given up yet.

"They treat their employees out there like dirt, and, of course, we are going to start back picketing the Bairds anytime soon," she says.

In the early 1970s, she and her husband walked a two-person picket line in front of The Dallas Morning News, objecting to the writings of a black columnist. The couple even led a small picket in front of a black doctor's home after he publicly opposed free health clinics in black neighborhoods.

Garage owners are not her usual fare, Daisy Joe acknowledges. But she considered the Texaco dispute a "consumer issue," and worthy of demonstration.

"I love to picket," Daisy Joe says. "When folks act a fool, the problem is already there, I just love to expose it. Racism is there. I just expose it."

After her May 29 arrest, Joe cooled her heels in jail for four hours. When she got home, she went to work right away, making signs. The next morning, Joe and 12 others showed up at the Texaco station, armed with the picket signs warning consumers about "shoddy repair work," "auto repair shams," and "crooked mechanics."

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