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At ExpoEast this week, OCA joined the Teamsters and Jobs with Justice to protest Whole Foods
Market and its leading supplier United Natural Foods, Inc. We startled and delighted the crowd at the 2009 Organic Spirit Awards by launching a balloon-powered banner that awarded Whole Foods the Mean-Spirited 365 Days a Year Award. Leaflets passed to the crowd criticized Whole Foods and UNFI's hypocrisy as companies that supposedly support fair trade but oppose workers' rights and health care for all, and and as market leaders that pay lip service to organics while two-thirds of their sales are of conventional products green-washed as "natural." The protest was cut short, however, when police forcibly removed OCA director Ronnie Cummins and his staff from the event.
Russ Davis, Executive Director of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, said "We stand with the Teamsters and Organic Consumers Association to ask Whole Foods and UNFI to support health care reform, increased sales of certified organic products from small, local producers, and the application of domestic fair trade that allows workers to form collective bargaining unions."
As he was being pushed to the exit by ExpoEast security for passing out fliers, OCA Executive Director Ronnie Cummins said, "Whole Foods and UNFI need to sell a lot more certified organic products rather than conventional items green-washed as 'natural.' The company brands itself as one that is working towards a sustainable future, but sustainability cannot exist without the preservation of the public's health through a reformed health insurance initiative, the promotion of workers' rights including their right to unionize, and the advancement of products that are certified organic."
"Health care and negligent health care providers are a major concern for American families," said Sean O'Brien, President of Teamsters Local 25 in Boston. "We live in a society where big business and greedy insurance industries take advantage of American workers and consumers. This is a national crisis that requires reform and government intervention."
Earlier in the week a group of Vermont farmers and students protested the G 20 in Pittsburgh by installing a garden bed in the entrance of Whole Foods.
In addition to rowdy marches and “climate camps” Pittsburgh organizers called for localized direct actions around Pittsburgh at locations like Army recruiting stations, development organizations, and major chain retailers, recognizing that G20 policies manifest locally as well as globally.
The Vermont group chose to blockade the entrance of the East Liberty Whole Foods grocery store. They installed a raised-bed garden on the pavement complete with plants. They hung banners that read “ Whole Communities Not Whole Foods for ½ the people,” “ A Whole Lot of $$$$ GREEN $$$$$,” and "Grow Gardens Not Corporations."
One person joining them from Pittsburgh said “I’ve have watched Whole Foods come in and cater to wealthier folks from outside this neighborhood with its corporate green image while selling products that not only don’t contribute to a local or sustainable food system but are totally unaffordable to most folks that live here.”
Jean Marie Pearce left her farm in the Northeast Kingdom to participate in planting the garden. “We need to realize that Whole Foods is about growing profits not sustainability and the G 20 is about growing capitalism not a healthy world. I want world where food is grown for everyone, not the GDP for 20 countries! Examples like the dairy farm crisis right now, prove the need for more inclusion around these policies. We can’t protect or control our economy when it is run by 20 people and corporate friends.”
Whole Foods employees removed the installation and no arrests were made.
The activists also participated in the Pittsburgh G20 Resistance Project’s non-permitted march themed "Power from Below, Not Impositions from Above," on Thursday, as well as the Peoples March to the G-20 Friday afternoon.
OCA, Teamsters and Jobs With Justice at ExpoEast
By Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq.
Organic Consumers Association, September 28, 2009
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