What’s this all about?

For some background, read the introductory blog post, than come back here.

Do you have a grudge against Berkeley Bowl?

Absolutely not! I love Berkeley Bowl. I’ve spent thousands of dollars shopping there, and I recommend that you do the same. Big box supermarkets are hazardous to your health. Berkeley Bowl is one of the few stores in the world that empowers consumers with choices they can’t find anywhere else. We invest heavily in their bulk foods, usually much more economical than packaged alternatives. There are clever ways to save money and eat healthier at Berkeley Bowl. We buy “expensive” Strauss milk from happy cows, and then make high-quality yogurt at home for less than any packaged brand. Bottom line: you can buy real food at Berkeley Bowl, and the over all value is unsurpassed. I may make a blog post about all the great things I love about Berkeley Bowl.

Should I boycott Berkeley Bowl?

I’m not. First, I have no choice. Nothing compares to Berkeley Bowl. Second, I want Berkeley Bowl to thrive. They work hard, and they earn my money. If you want to boycott, go ahead, but please go to the Berkeley Farmer’s Market and Monterey Market instead of Safeway!

Well, then why are you doing this?

I’m disappointed in Berkeley Bowl. I realize that having a union may be more expensive for them, and even customers, but I believe it is the right thing to do. As a customer who has spent tens of thousands of dollars at Berkeley Bowl, I feel invested in the issue.

Up front, it is ideological:

  • I’m pro-union and pro-American. I believe that collective bargaining equalizes workers and employees, and that it’s better to work under a contract than not.
  • I’m pro-free speech. I’ve been both “the boss”, and I’ve been “the worker”, and I know how difficult it is for employees to speak freely in the presence of management.

It’s also personal:

  • I love Berkeley Bowl, and I want to see employees have a voice.
  • I believe it will make Berkeley Bowl better.

Aren’t you concerned this is going to raise prices?

No. But that’s just me. Let me explain: I think it’s possible that prices could go up if Berkeley Bowl unionized, but I’m not concerned.

Most other supermarkets in the area have union workers. Is Safeway completely unaffordable? Besides, many people shop at uber-pricey Andronico’s (which also has a union). Reality says that union labor does not make food unaffordable.

If you’re ~really~ concerned about food prices, may I suggest some other far more egregious ways you’re paying high prices for food:

  • Corporate giant factory farmers and food producers receive millions of dollars in tax-payer funded subsidies. These subsidies are used to make food more processed and less nutritious, with more artificial ingredients.
  • Food marketers and advertisers spend millions of dollars inventing flavors, and pushing fat, salt, flavors, sugars, and chemicals down your esophagus.
  • Food manufacturers spend millions of dollars engineering food that requires no engineering, and if left whole, would be more nutritious.
  • Eating cheap  costs you in the long run when you pay for it later through failing health and medical bills.
  • Supermarkets transport produce 1,000′s of miles, even when it is locally grown.

These horribly expensive, unsustainable practices concern me far more than the cost of providing employees a contract.

It’s expensive to run an amazing store like Berkeley Bowl, and it may be a little more expensive to shop there. On the other hand, Berkeley Bowl’s emphasis on organic, real, local food provides shoppers with an unparalleled ability to eat right. When you do the bottom line math, it is an investment that returns very high value.

For more on this issue, watch Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices and Food, Inc.

Don’t you think unions are corrupt? Don’t they just suck dues from their workers and do nothing?

That’s always a possibility. I’m under no illusion that it’s all teddy bears, unicorns, and rainbows, with unions sprinkling fairy dust on their members. But I it’s also possible that management is also sucking as much labor from their employees as they possibly can. (Another great topic for a possible blog post). Neither unions nor management are perfect.

What are you trying to achieve?

I just want Berkeley Bowl employees to duke it out amongst themselves. I’m in favor of the union, and I believe that given a fair opportunity, Berkeley Bowl employees will choose it. Maybe I’m wrong, and they won’t. I’m not going to advocate for a union beyond maintaining this blog.

How do I contact you?

Please post a comment. Your email address will remain private.

What is your privacy policy?

I consider this a journalistic endeavor, and I will not reveal your identity, email, or any personal information unless required by law enforcement.

How do we know you’re not a spy from Berkeley Bowl?

You don’t. But I’m not, and I don’t think you have to be Aristotle to reason it out. First off, does this really seem like Berkeley Bowl management’s style?  Is it really likely that management would (1) Read about the Newburgh Union Blog (2) Decide it would be a great way to trap employees (3) Start a blog that draws attention of employees, and gives them ideas on how to organize? This concept alone puts a lot more power in employees’ hands. It seems quite fantastic that management would take that risk.

Frankly, it would have to be some serious chess for managment to do something like this, and I think we’d all agree, management doesn’t play chess, the only game they seem to know how to play is football. Would management really want to open this can of worms? Also, I don’t know what the rules are regarding this type of activity, but it seems to me like it would not be a wise move for management to initiate an elaborate, fraudulent dragnet to trap employees. Would management really want to present as cogent an argument for a union as I did above?

Second, just sign up for a disposable gmail address, and NO ONE will know who you are, including me. You can speak totally anonymously. In fact, I recommend it. So, even if I were a spy, I’d just be providing a place for employees to congregate anonymously online. Read more about how the Newburgh blog worked out. I personally believe that if employees organize online, they will win the union, and I urge them to do so, with or without me.

Third, if you’re that worried, start your own blog! In fact, I think the more employee blogs about this issue the merrier. You can start your blog anonymously at WordPress.com the same way, with an anonymous Gmail account. Send me your blog address and I’ll link to it. I’d love to see a network of Berkeley Bowl employee blogs, and a twitter list. However when you follow someone on twitter, people can see that. Either start an anonymous twitter account, or you can subscribe to the Twitter RSS feed if you know how to do that.

Finally, I’m also happy to take this blog down. I intentionally decided that after launching the blog and mentioning it in the comment thread at Berkeleyside, I wouldn’t promote it all, and just wait and see what happens. I’m not going to labor over proving my intentions. This is your fight, not mine. If you think I’m a spy, don’t use it. I’ll see no traffic and give up. But I think you have less chance of getting your union then.

  1. John H. says:

    how do we know you’re not a spy working for Berkeley Bowl?

  2. John H. says:

    you sound like the right person to do this, just keep in mind we’ve gone through a lot as employees

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s