successfully kept out of Eugene (2006)
It's long past time for the City of Eugene to emulate Hood River, Oregon (and dozens of other cities) and prohibit new mega big box stores from further destroying our local economy. It would be even nicer to copy the law passed in Arcata, California that prohibits new franchises like McDonalds which have externally mandated (by their corporate owner) design criteria for their look and products they're allowed to sell. The transformation of Eugene into a collection of fried food huts, gas stations, big box retail and similar ugliness is gradually converting the town into Anywhere, USA.
The idea that the City of Eugene will contribute millions of dollars toward a new parking garage for the "Little Texas" neighborhood (Whole Foods - a Texas corporation, Triad hospitals - a Texas Corporation, the new Homeland Security Courthouse - from a Texas based political clique) makes a mockery of proposals for "sustainability" in city operations. And the proposal to spend the City's surplus cash on a new Police Station even after being rejected at the polls numerous time makes a mockery of the illusion of democracy. (The police station proposal is different than the non-binding votes for the West Eugene Porkway, since the WEP is a federal project, not a City project, it violates numerous state and federal laws, and only about 10% of the funds for the project are available.)
"Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul."
-- Edward Abbey
Published in Eugene Weekly:
Eugene’s new “Little Texas” neighborhood
The downtown neighborhood around the new federal building should be named “Little Texas” -- all of the “edifice complexes” planned for that area are extensions of Texas politics and economics.
Our new “Homeland Security” courthouse building is from the Texas based Bush regime. It is a component of a repressive preparation for the economic crises of Peak Oil - to enforce the new bankruptcy laws, the Patriot Act, etc.
The proposed sale of the EWEB complex to the Texas based Triad corporation -- at fire sale prices -- would further cement acquisition of strategic Eugene real estate by Texans. (Having both of the region’s primary medical facilities along river fronts could result in loss of hospitals during major floods or if a major earthquake destroyed upstream dams.)
The City wants to swap publicly owned land with the Giustina family in order to bring in Texas-based Whole Foods, a company nicknamed the “Wal-mart of Health Food” for their predatory business practices. The Giustina timber company is a massive sprayer of highly toxic herbicides in Lane County forestlands and was a huge financial contributor to the Bush-Cheney campaign. Whole Foods is vehemently opposed to unions and has a track record of destroying locally owned food businesses -- this would be a disaster for Eugene. The City also wants a new parking garage next to the Whole Foods big box, right next to the new Bus Rapid Transit line. This parking garage would be completed just in time for Peak Oil and subsequent higher gas prices (and possibly gas rationing).
I urge everyone who voted for Mayor Piercy to urge her to shun Texas based union busters and support local businesses as part of a peaceful preparation for Peak Oil.
Dear Mayor Piercy:
The proposal to give City owned public lands to
the pesticide spraying Giustina family to
facilitate a Texas based union buster (Whole
Foods) is a terrible idea. It makes a mockery of
rhetoric in favor of sustainability, since union
busting and other predatory business practices
are not a good thing.
This proposal would be an enormous mistake and
would alienate many of the citizens who voted for
you -- which is not a good idea for any elected
Whole Foods may be seeking a downtown location,
but is still sprawl and a terrible idea for the
local economy. It would be the same thing as
placing a city sales tax on existing businesses
and mailing it to Texas.
Please rethink what you are doing -- or -- drop
the idea of promoting sustainability.
Sustainability is not about rhetoric -- it is
about practices that can be continued generation
after generation. Big box stores that move
products thousands of miles via massive amounts
of fossil fuels, repress worker participation in
the business via union-busting, and have a long
track record of decimating locally owned
businesses do not deserve such sweetheart deals.
Eugene has a vibrant collection of locally owned
businesses, farmers markets, local farms and
other components of local food security. I am
sharing with them the City's proposals to
essentially subsidize the entry into the regional
economy of this Texas based union buster, and a
LOT of people will be watching the City's actions
here. Please bring the rhetoric about
sustainability into harmony with City practices
so that a better future can be possible.
You have the choice of supporting the wishes of
the majority of voters who elected you on a
platform of supporting a more ecological,
socially just approach to the local economy, or
supporting Bush campaign funding, pesticide
spraying developers trying to bring in a
notorious union buster to the community. Please
For information on the Giustina family's political contributions
The biggest source of Bush bucks in Eugene is the local Giustina family, which has made millions from clearcuts and speculating on urban sprawl. The Giustinas and their company executives have contributed $62,000 to the campaign.
page no longer accessible at this location due to website redesign that
makes it impossible to "hot link" to specific City of Eugene
Special Interests and Concerns
* Sustainable economic development
How Whole Foods and the Biggest Organic Foods Distributor Are Screwing Workers
Saturday, 02 February 2013 14:14
By Ronnie Cummins and Dave Murphy, AlterNet | Op-Ed
United Natural Foods Incorporated, the largest wholesale distributor of organic and "natural" foods in the US, is currently under investigation for 45 violations of federal labor law.
This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.
"The union is like having herpes. It doesn't kill you, but it's unpleasant and inconvenient, and it stops a lot of people from becoming your lover." -- John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market
Whole Foods Market (WFM) CEO John Mackey has done a brilliant job of creating the illusion that his empire is all about abundance, bounty and the good life. But there's nothing bountiful or good about the way the second-largest non-unionized food retailer exploits workers.
United Natural Foods Incorporated (UNFI), the largest multi-billion dollar wholesale distributor of organic and "natural" foods in the U.S., is currently under investigation for 45 violations of federal labor law, including physically threatening immigrant workers in California who were trying to form a union.
"Sustainable" "community" "social equity" are not met by this Texas based predatory union buster.
A websearch on:
"Whole Foods" union busting
will retrieve LOTS of articles on this corporation's ugly behavior toward its employees, including the following:
Whole Foods Union-Busting?
Whole Foods has admitted to hiring a union buster.
Whole Foods Market: Anti-Union, low wages
From an interview with Paul Hawken in Grist Magazine
"The natural-food movement is being bought up by Phillip Morris and H.J. Heinz and Jimmy Dean."
Grist: What are some companies that you think are successfully forging new, sustainable corporate practices?
Hawken: Hmm ... uh, well ... there aren't too many, and people don't know them so well. Hartmann in Denmark, they do molded-fiber packaging. Uh, let's see. Natura in Brazil is a cosmetic company that works very closely with indigenous people and farmers in Brazil. It works with poor people to develop cash crops that are productive and sustainable for their cultures. Novo Nordisk, they do a lot of work with enzymes that save energy and eliminate chemical use. There's Plambeck in Germany that does great wind parks. STMicroelectronics is a company doing very interesting stuff with a new solar photovoltaic technology that could make solar energy cheaper than all other forms of electricity. Svenska Cellulosa is doing some great things with respect to sustainable forestry. Vestas, the big wind company in Denmark. Easto, a large organic produce company in Europe which does a lot of biodynamic stuff. And of course there is ShoreBank, the enterprise work that Ecotrust is doing, Patagonia, Cooperative Bank in England, and more.
Grist: So it doesn't sound like there are many companies in America that you're excited about. Can you compare some of these European companies to American companies? For instance, can you elaborate on why, say, Whole Foods doesn't strike you as an example of a good company?
Hawken: Whole Foods dismantles local food webs and doesn't foster what the organic movement is about. The organic and natural-food movement that I helped kick off in the late '60s was the beginning of recreating regional food webs. Local stores started all around the country and they began to source locally, and whatever they couldn't get locally they got regionally, and whatever they couldn't get regionally they got nationally. In terms of produce and bakery goods and other food items, there was a huge diversity of suppliers in the United States because there was a huge diversity of stores. Whole Foods went in and bought out the bigger, more successful stores and then rebranded them and did centralized purchasing for produce, which now comes from Chile and New Zealand and places like that. In the process, many local organic producers went out of business. Massive scale and centralization of power and capital is the antithesis of what we had in mind when we started the natural and organic-food business in the U.S.
Grist: But does that totally discredit the positive things they are doing?
Hawken: Good deeds don't erase bad outcomes. But let's talk about the positive things they are doing.
Grist: Well, let's say they use recycled packaging and keep pesticides out of the soil. Isn't large-scale organic farming better than non-organic factory farms?
Hawken: Yes, but still it's large-scale agribusiness.
Grist: But they're better than Safeway.
Hawken: They are guided by profit. So are small companies. So far so good. But when a company gets large and dominant, the same instincts to survive and prosper can become unintentionally harmful. The natural-food movement is being bought up by Phillip Morris and H.J. Heinz and Jimmy Dean. That dog won't hunt. It leads to a lowering of standards, and emphasis on price as opposed to cost. It leads to uniformity, power, concentration, and control. Luckily, there's a slow food movement in the U.S. and lots of things happening that counter that.
Grist: And I guess what's more troubling is that Whole Foods can get away with it more easily than Safeway because everybody thinks of them as green. The branding is so powerful that nobody thinks to question it.
Hawken: To me the company that is exemplary is the New Seasons Market in Portland, Ore. They buy everything they can locally. These are real community food stores with wonderful food and fresh produce and fish. They know the purveyors, they talk about them. They really feed and enhance the local food web of Oregon and southern Washington and Northern California. They are to me your model of what a grocery store can do to help farmers and citizens and communities. And they're price-competitive. I asked them why they didn't come to the Bay area [where I live] and they said, "No! We're local!"
Grist: So how could we push this model nationally? Can we introduce federal-level incentives?
Hawken: Not really -- it's about culture and community. Anyone can do a New Seasons if they are in a community that wants it. And the people who started it -- they have the DNA, they understand what it means to be socially and culturally responsible.
Dan Carol implies in his recent EW column (3/2) that I am advocating a false choice between local business and national retailers. While I personally prefer local, owner-operated retailers when offered a choice, I agree that no Eugenean should be prevented from voting with his or her dollars for the retailers who will thrive in Eugene.
However, we may not have that opportunity if the retail choices are determined by an interfering city political establishment. We should be allowed to choose among the competitors who succeed because they provide superior value and personal service to their customers; and that requires a level playing field where national retailers are not directly and indirectly subsidized by the city.
In the case of the Whole Foods deal, the city:
• Fast tracks the project by, for example, entering into a development agreement and awarding no-bid contracts.
• Undertakes to build a $6.7 million dollar parking structure adjacent to the development.
• Rehabilitates storm water lines at an estimated cost of $250,000.
• Agrees to a dubious land swap with the developer.
• Shares the cost of redirecting EWEB's steam tunnels ($600,000).
• Shoulders the expense of street improvements to assist access to the Whole Foods store.
Our mayor and council would have done all of these things without even holding a single public hearing, but for the surprise discovery that a public hearing is required when awarding a no-bid contract to build a parking structure.
My friends in the whole foods business have competed successfully with national whole foods retailers, and with national chain grocers that sell whole foods. I have never heard them complain about it. I don't think any local whole foods store has received a nickel from the city. On the contrary, they pay their taxes without complaining, keep their profits in our local economy and contribute to the community in many other ways.
National retailers are not the real issue. The real issue is the unfairness of the city entering into a special deal with a developer to benefit a huge national retailer at the expense of all of its competitors.
Dan's fears are unfounded. He will always have plenty of national retailers where he can spend his dollars. If we let the invisible hand of the market work, we will also have local retailers to choose among as well.
Paul Nicholson, Eugene
City doesn't need Whole Foods
The city of Eugene is now considering making yet another land swap-property deal to bring Whole Foods, the Wal-Mart of natural foods, to Eugene. Maybe the City Council, mayor and city manager are unfamiliar with the labor practices and operations of Whole Foods.
Whole Foods is nonunion where employees receive low wages and are powerless. In addition, there is no labeling of genetically modified ingredients in their Whole Foods brand products.
With so many unknown health and environmental considerations surrounding the safety of genetically engineered foods, labeling products that do and do not contain genetically engineered ingredients is simple common sense.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has spouted anti-union rhetoric for years. "Here's the way I like to think of it. The union is like having herpes. It doesn't kill you, but it's unpleasant and inconvenient and it stops a lot of people from becoming your lover," said Mackey, in Business and Society Review, June 22, 1992.
Eugene doesn't need another corporate natural food store. Safeway, Albertson's, Fred Meyer, Market of Choice and Grocery Outlet offer conventional and organic food products to the public. Plus Growers Market, Sundance, Kiva, The Red Barn and the New Frontier Market offer organically grown local produce and food products to our community. And let's not forget our Tuesday and Saturday Farmers' Markets.
We need to continue to support our local farmers and businesses and keep the essence of our community unique.
RECALLING WILD OATS
Let us look at the failure of Wild Oats, another big box food store that tried to establish itself in Eugene, before we repeat that mistake. Hailed as an excellent natural foods store, Wild Oats bought out the locally owned, highly successful Oasis Market, which had two excellent stores. Spokespeople for Wild Oats promised to change neither its character nor its products.
They promised to buy locally grown produce and to retain Oasis employees. Within weeks of taking control, prices rose sharply, and several long standing employees either quit or were dismissed; local produce was stocked sparingly. Wild Oats failed to win the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of the people of Eugene. Eight years later, they were forced to close.
Whole Foods, too, will fail. Eugene already has a host of locally owned and operated natural foods stores, plus a locally based chain of supermarkets that provide both conventional and organic products. Why would people support a large corporation that sends its profits to its shareholders, instead of remaining loyal to their locally owned markets? Why would people travel downtown to pay to park in a large parking structure, when they can park for free at any of those local stores?
Within time, the 53,000 sq. ft. building will be empty, and the parking structure, at best, half full, from time to time. Enhancing the coffers of this large corporation at the expense of our local economy will not benefit our community.
Kathleen Epstein, Eugene
SEE THE ELEPHANT
Many say we need a neighborhood grocery for the downtown. Not many disagree. Many say that we need another parking garage in the downtown. Many say we don't. Local grocery owners say a proposed new store will hurt their business and that the city is facilitating that harm by subsidizing a parking garage. Some downtown businesspeople say competition is the American Way and please don't confuse a needed parking garage with a subsidy.
There's an elephant loose in this conversation.
Area leaders have long been focused on keeping traffic congestion and air pollution in check by shortening auto trips and promoting walking and biking. Think urban village business nodes selling groceries and other daily needs.
Watch out! We're about to be crushed by something which isn't really a neighborhood grocery after all. Whole Foods is planning to build a 52,000 sq. ft store with abundant parking for their exclusive use, located in a high traffic area that has a 200,000 population within a 20 minute drive. (All requirements as listed on their website.) The plan is to have thousands drive there daily from Eugene/ Springfield and beyond.
Whole Foods is free to build whatever size store they want (including one appropriate to the neighborhood). But how can it make sense for the city of Eugene to balance on one leg to the tune of an $8 million dollar parking garage if the whole concept flies in the face of years of transportation, environmental and neighborhood planning? Where's the sustainability in that?
Paul C. Moore, Eugene
Don't court big-box food stores
I have to differ with The Register-Guard's May 27 editorial promoting the Whole Foods option for saving downtown Eugene.
The powers that be - meaning the Eugene City Council and those who work behind all those closed doors - just don't get it. Supporting an out-of-town, big-box store of any kind is not walking the talk.
Eugeneans want our city to be a haven for local businesses. We want our city to actively hand out the incentives to small, local businesses that are now reserved for out-of-state, large corporations. We do not want the Wal-Mart of health food to set up in downtown Eugene. We want to continue to support the health food stores, as well as the local growers at open air markets, that are already here and have served us well for so many years.
The organic food scene in Eugene is fantastic and has been for years. There's no other place in the West where you can find the quality and quantity of the food we Eugeneans have at our fingertips. And there is already incredible competition between the existing stores as well as the various farmers' markets. We need to start thinking about what we are doing. This makes no sense in a city that claims to support local business.
I'm sure the people who want to do this swapping, wheeling and dealing will find something else to occupy that space. Spencer Whitted had some good suggestions in his May 29 guest viewpoint.