City Market and Healthy Living do not ‘do boycotts’; won’t agree to boycott foods made with coercive labor or predatory business practices

Dec
12

Recently I reached out to two local health food grocers to see if they would remove Bove products from their shelves. They both responded that they do not do boycotts even if local community members are being hurt.

City Market, a Community Coop for folks who don't mind if they sell Slumlord Sauce

City Market
City Market wouldn’t discuss even a hypothetical boycott. When I tried asking upper management if, say, they would remove a produce if it turned out that a company used child slave labor, I was told they ‘don’t deal in hypotheticals’ and only remove products for quality control reasons or if someone was charged with a crime.

City Market refuses to even write a policy about boycotts. They said it would be too difficult to investigate every one of their products, even though we didn’t ask for that and only asked they follow a complaint-based model based on their written values. One of City Market’s values is ‘community’, and it’s worth asking who they include in their definition of ‘community’. From our conversation it does not appear to be low-income and working-class folks.

I asked if we could at the very least inform members of our concerns through tabling. We were told we could not table since we were not an officially recognized organization and our ideas may not align with the newer and wealthier members joining City Market post-South End expansion. 

Healthy Living in South Burlington. The 'Healthy Living' part doesn't include how workers are treated.

Healthy Living
I talked to the CEO of Healthy Living, Eli Lesser-Goldsmith, after reading a VTDigger article about Healthy Living tightening their food standard requirements. It turns out that although they are willing to spend the time to investigate all of the products on their shelves when it comes to sourcing and environmental sustainability, they are unwilling to do research for one business, or just take the testimonies in our blog seriously. Turns out that just like City Market, the plight of low-income tenants doesn’t factor in to whether a product is ‘sustainable’ or ‘good for the community’ or any of that jazz.

On a side note, the owner is friends with Mark Bove, was at the Boves’ Homecoming Event in September where he said he respected our First Amendment rights. He expressed deep appreciation for what we were doing (not enough to ban the products or stop being friends with the Boves though!), and said he would talk to Mark about the blog. Unfortunate that another wealthy/powerful person who has a position to change low-income folks’ lives for the better is too entangled in the wealth-power web of Burlington and Vermont to use their position for the greater good.

If only City Market or Healthy Living were willing to take their respect or appreciation for our advocacy and turn into actual meaningful values-based action, we might be able to put pressure on Rick and Mark Bove to do the right thing instead of letting them continue to prey on low-income families and children. But if our economically comfortable elected officials can’t be moved to act, elected to serve the people and not their own economic and personal interests, should we expect wealthy business owners, whose #1 goal is profit over community, to do the right thing either?

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