Thursday, December 16, 2010

Living Your Values

I was on fb yesterday when I saw a friend’s status talking about boycotting several brands, including Sabra hummus (who makes the spicy hummus I’m addicted to lately). After running a Google search, I discovered these brands are being boycotted in conjunction with Sabra. The reason for boycotting brands like Motorola, Sabra, and Tribe (another hummus maker) is that they are based in Israel or owned predominantly by Israeli companies. So what’s the deal with boycotting Israeli products, as noted here, here, and here? Given the history of human rights abuses against the Palestinians perpetuated by the Israeli army, the fact that Sabra donates to an elite army unit (the Golani Brigade) with a history of nasty behavior is justification for boycotting the brand. Fair enough. This article points out that Sabra has removed information about donating to the Golani Brigade from its website, as well as saying that caving into the boycotters was a weak move on part of the Strauss Group (the parent company of Sabra).

What should I do? What is the appropriate choice? I'm leaning towards boycotting until I can find out where Sabra now stands on donating to the Golani Brigade with its record of violating human rights. It's better to err on the side of caution. If the donations have stopped, then I see no reason to not buy their products.

I try to live my life in a way that promotes social justice. I’ve boycotted several brands before, so I’ve got some experience on my side. Listed below are some of the companies I have or currently am boycotting, as long as the reasons why.
- Yum Brands: The parent company of Taco Bell and KFC refused to initially reach an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to increase the price paid per bushel of tomatoes to reduce the terrible working conditions of tomato pickers in Immokalee, FL. The situation in Immokalee has been compared to modern day slavery. Several fast food companies (MacDonald’s and Burger King) had reached agreements with the CIW prior to my learning about the situation. This was during my first year of college with the Students United for Peace and Justice (SUPJ), because some of the SUPJ members were really involved in working with the CIW. I rarely eat fast food now because it’s generally not vegan, so when I do it's burritos usually.
- Chipotle: When I read that Chipotle had rejected a proposal from the CIW, I decided to email Chipotle to find out what was going on. Some of the labs at work get together once a month for Chipotle club, so when it was my turn to pick up the food I was boycotting Chipotle until I received a reply about their agreement with the CIW. I went to Moe’s and brought everyone else their burritos from Chipotle. I did finally receive a reply from Chipotle that the company had reached an agreement with the CIW, thereby allowing me to feel good about eating there again. From the reply: "Under the agreement with East Coast Farms, farm workers who pick tomatoes for Chipotle will see their pay go from $.50 for a 32-pound bucket, to $.82 for each 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick. That translates to a 64 percent increase for all of the tomatoes they pick for Chipotle." Yeah, can you believe that's all they get paid?!
- Best Buy: Now that corporations are allowed to donate to political campaigns, Best Buy donated money to Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, claiming the company supports the job creation agenda of the candidate. However, the candidate speaks publicly against gay rights. I can’t support a company that supports an anti-equal rights candidate.
- Target: Same reason as Best Buy - donating to Tom Emmer. What’s sad here is that I love Target and the company actually offers great benefits to same-sex partners of employees.
- Domino’s: Besides their founder starting a Catholic town, I had really terrible service from Domino’s in Baton Rouge one time. My friends were over and I placed an order for a ton of pizza. We waited and waited for delivery. When I called back asking why it was taking so long, they said my friend’s card was declined. They never called us to tell us that our pizza wasn’t coming. How freakin’ rude. We had a dozen people waiting for food. When I tried to get contact information for the managers and owner, I was basically told that the owner never comes into the store so good luck.
- Walmart: I try to avoid shopping there as much as possible due to their terrible history of shortchanging workers of overtime pay, sexual discrimination, and poor health care options for employees. I honestly don’t think I shopped there in my first year of college.
- Whole Foods: I try to avoid shopping here too, unless I absolutely can’t find what I’m looking for in another shop. (I know I can order certain vegan things online, but sometimes I can’t wait.) My issue with Whole Foods has to do with their CEO’s comments about health care, even though Whole Foods prides itself on offering fair trade items so workers are paid a fair wage for their work. After John Mackey's comments angered people, he issued a statement that Whole Foods as a corporation has no opinion on healthcare reform.

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