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Re: Compost, Unions, Social Justice & Starbucks.

  • Subject: [cg] Re: Compost, Unions, Social Justice & Starbucks.
  • From: Jodi Rhoden <rhoden@buncombe.main.nc.us>
  • Date: Mon, 3 May 2004 17:29:03 -0400 (EDT)
  • Importance: Normal

who says we have to choose between our class politics and our labor
politics and our environmental politics?  that's the meaning of
integrity... not that there wont be hard choices, or sometimes
compromises, but ultimately, if something is not just, it is not just.  I
buy organic food because I understand how agribusiness exploits people and
the earth.  I also know that alot of people feel that they cant afford to
do that.  But when you think about the fact that most people in the world
pay more than half of thier income for food, your perspectives change on
the "costs" of things.  And we dont have to choose to exploit each other
to survive.  Starbucks isnt the equivilant of cheap clothing for your
"single latina mother;" who is economically forced into buying non-union
clothes.  We all NEED clothes.  Nobody NEEDS 4 dollar lattes.  And since
when are radical politics "elitist"?  All the most radical people I know,
whom I work with in my community for social change and (yes,) social
justice (which to me means ending oppression that prevents people from
pursuing the very democratic values of life, liberty and the persuit of
justice), are poor, often (young, single) parents, often people of color,
because their experiences of opression lead them to looking deeper into
the system that creates the suffering they experience, and they (we) see
our struggle as being intertwined with justice globally.  I also wanted to
let you know that I am an employee in a mom and pop bakery, which, by the
way, is pro-union and provides health benefits to all its employees.
Bountiful Cities Project
Asheville, NC 28801

> To give my  final take on Starbucks, free compost and those who would look
> a
> gift compost in the mouth.  This will be long, and mostly not about
> gardening,
> so those above the lower 48 and/or are rugged individualists who reload
> their
> own ammunition are not required to read this. Missives on strictly
> community
> gardening topics to follow. Even the Cinco de Mayo and the Fourth of July,
> I
> promise.
>>From Adam's all-too-real life on the strange offshore island of
>> Manhattan:
> This morning, I'm sipping a cup of black coffee, brewed and ground by my
> own
> hand, a Sumatra Mandheling, from beans I bought from Fairway, a very good
> supermarket on Manhattan's Upper West Side. It cost me $5.99 a pound, as
> compared
> to the $9.99 I paid at Starbucks for the same. I doubt if it is more
> "kosher"
> in terms of labor, "fair trade" or any of the kind words that new-lefties
> like to tack on to their food products and personal consumables, but it
> does
> taste good, and is cranking me up after yet another, lousy night of
> furtive sleep
> and mourning.
> Now, the folks that I've been shopping from at Fairway are Unionized, and
> have benefits, unlike the brand new anti-union "Whole Foods" which has
> opened up
> to me in the appalling AOL/Time Warner building and sells "Fair Trade"
> bean
> coffee to yuppies who feel good about that, and could care less about the
> fact
> that the "Whole Foods" employees have no negotiated job protections and
> had
> best stay healthy, or try to afford the company health benefits that kick
> in
> after a year.
> During the 20 or so years I spent in the restaurant business ( from age
> 10,
> if some need to know) and "rose" from dishwasher, urinal mopper, porter,
> busboy
> up to assistant food and beverage manager at  NYC hotel. And I went to
> school, supported myself from age 15, married had a son, and went to
> school, on my
> own dime.  I spent 15 of those years as a union member, union delegate,
> assistant and full shop steward, and member of a city wide negotiating
> committee. My
> unions were Local 1, Local 69 ( no joke, it was a Mafia Local that
> eventually
> was disbanded and some of the members sent to jail) Local 6, then Local
> 100.
> At the end of the day, because, as Kurt Vonnegut says, " married guys work
> in
> all kind of jobs to keep food on the table, "  I was on the management
> side
> of the table. the poor zhlub handing out the closing notices to the shop
> stewards and employees, because the owners had decided to sell the hotel
> to the Ziff
> computer magazine people, who ended up selling after they had lost alot of
> money due to their chronic lack of any concept of the  the hotel business.
> The irony did not escape me, nor  my union negotiating partners,  because
> I
> had hired a large number of my former comrades when their earlier joints,
> like
> mine, a 4 star joint owned by Warner LeRoy,  closed down. And when I
> wasn't
> pretty enough to work as bartender, after my 4 star hand closed, I became
> a
> manager, and my perspective was "broadened".
> Many of my former comrades are still in NYC HREBIU Union Contract Hotels,
> some keep my picture on the wall with "Our Lady of Gudadlupe," so they
> tell me,
> because of the fact that their babies were born in hospitals, their teeth
> were
> fixed and they have the prospect of more than a cardboard box to live in
> during their dotage. As long as the union stays solvent....
> But after working as a hotel "manager-on-duty" one Sunday, and handing out
> closing notices to room maids with 30 years experience, I handed in my
> keys off
> to the concierge, now fired myself, and went home, looked at my wife's
> uneasy
> stare across the breakfast table, opened up the job pages, and decided
> that
> whatever a "paralegal" was, because that was what the jobs were in the
> Times at
> that time were, I would hum a couple of bars and fake it.
> And now, after another amusing business cycle, I'd doing that, and a great
> deal of freelance editing and "ghosting."
> At 50, I lack the sense of moral certainty I had at 20, when everything
> was
> so clear. As I'm over 30, as the old saying says, I'm sure I can't be
> trusted.
> I wouldn't take my composted coffee grounds or any by-product from Union
> Carbide or General Electric for my compost bin, but a coffee company?
> Puh-leeze!!!
> Now I know that Capitalism ( Note: Who uses the euphemism, "free
> enterprise"
> anymore?) will try to pay the least, get the most, go for monopolies, lie,
> cheat and steal to get what it needs, including putting a human face on
> itself.
> The song is the ring of a gold coin on the table, nothing else is relevant
> to
> capital.
> And one only need to look at the Soviet & Chinese Communist experiments,
> with
> their Gulags, terror, purges and Five Year Plans to see how a non-rational
> system that calls itself socialist and collective can go.
> The Eurpean system of labor protections is fraying, and I don't know who
> long
> that will last, even for the French or Swedes.
> And, I  have spent enough time working with labor to realize that our
> hands
> were not clean either. Anyone, and I repeat anyone who intellectually
> understands what it is like to challenge a mob union with the Feds ( and
> know that
> there was landfill, or the East River waiting for you) in order to get AZT
> for HIV
> + waiters who had signed on the union contract dotted line, will
> understand
> the nuances of which I speak.
> To end in the garden:   A sweet young Hispanic mother, single as is the
> current fashion, with two kids is a member of the NYC Municipal Worker's
> Union. Her
> Mom provides day care, she's going to school, and has a future,  is
> sitting
> on the bench across from me in the Clinton Community Garden as I'm tying
> off
> daffodils, moving hollyhocks, weeding and planting some pansies until the
> parrot
> tulips finish their show, and the foxgloves, perennials, dahlias, oriental
> lillies, nasturtiums, kick in for the summer and fall.  We talk.
> I'm "Tio Adan" , because her Dad was one of my guys in the Union. She has
> loaded up with huge bags of clothes from downtown on 14th and Orchard
> Street for
> her kids and herself. "Sneakers, everything."  So I ask her, being the
> absolutely miserable human being that I am, if she looked for the "union
> label" on
> any of her goods, or if she avoided buying stuff made in sweatshops in
> Russia,
> Africa, the Central American maquiladoras, or in the so-called USA - i.e.,
> the
> Marianas.
> Now this young lady is a 29 year old  working class hero, serves on a
> negotiating commitee, went down to Washington for the Women's Rights March
> - her kids
> in tow and got all of her family in this country to become voting US
> citizens, in addition to holding down her job, feeding her kids, and maybe
> even
> finding an acceptable man to spend some part of the rest of her life with.
> She looks at me with the expression reserved for children,  beloved old
> people in their dotage,  and
> over-educated-beyond-their-intellectura-capacity
> socialactivists and said, " you want my children to go naked? What union
> label?
> What non-sweatshop apparel? Ralph Lauren's more expensive stuff is union
> made,
> but for my kids?"  I look down in the dirt, mixed in some coffee grounds,
> and
> shook my head.
> Everbest, and happy gardening,
> Adam Honigman
> Volunteer,
>  Clinton Community Garden
>> Subj: Re: [cg] More on Starbucks
>>  Date: 5/2/04 2:42:01 AM Eastern Daylight Time
>>  From:
>>  To: walter_francis@yahoo.com
>>  CC: community_garden@mallorn.com
>>  Sent from the Internet
>> Walter,
>> Perhaps a different reference point is needed.  Making a choice which
>> is in your best interest is an accepted tenet of capitalism, but the
>> evaluation of what that best interest is, is usually too short sighted
>> to be of regenerative value, and ultimately is probably not the best
>> value.
>> Just as a healthy soil consists of a rich bio-diversity, a healthy
>> economy must provide a place for those who wish to particpate in a mode
>> above conditions of neo-slavery.  Large corporations can yield the
>> power of quantity purchases, and delivery their wares via the labor of
>> part time, underpaid, underinsured employees.  That works for you in
>> the short run, and your acceptance of lowest cost at the moment, works
>> very well for the monied principals behind the organization.
>> I like to squeeze a nickel like everyone else, but not necessarily when
>> it comes to things I ingest.  At the locally owned coffee shop where
>> I'm a regular, the owners make sure that they have my favorite
>> blueberry scone on hand for me.  At the local fish market, they always
>> give me a center cut of wild salmon, rather than giving me an end cut.
>> At the Farmer's market on Sunday, where I frequently get fresh local
>> oysters, the proprieter has sometimes set aside some oysters for me
>> before they ran out, thinking that I would be by later.
>> These are all examples of other people looking out for my best
>> interests.  With that in mind, start reading this email again.
>> \/
>> Sincerely,
>> David Smead
>> http://www.amplepower.com

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