Discontent at Worker-Owned Rainbow Grocery Cooperative (San Francisco)

(May 2019.) Hola a todos. Rainbow Grocery Cooperative is the best grocery store in San Francisco as far as I’m concerned. I’ve shopped there every week ever since the days of the Old City. I feel very comfortable shopping there; I get smiles and “hello” from some workers. They’re real, not fake. I don’t say the same about most stores I go in these days where I feel like I’m being seen and watched as a criminal just because I walked through the front door. I hate shopping in most stores these days because of that, and only do so when it’s a necessity. At Rainbow, I don’t feel that way. You can take your time reading ingredients’ lists if you don’t already know what’s in something or take time making decisions about what to buy without someone thinking you’re up to no good. Rainbow is still a vegetarian-vegan grocery store and worker-owned and operated.

Some brief history: Rainbow, which opened in 1975, was a store of the Old City, which the Old City really supported. This was before the lobotomised and greed-based Tech Industrial Complex and Real Estate Industrial Complex came in and raped San Francisco forcing out most political and social justice activists/many longtime residents. In today’s New Conformist, Conservative, pro-Corporate, Culture-less and Lotobomised City of San Francisco — which is now a playground for the super-wealthy; the Bay Area is now called “Billionaire Bay” — The City doesn’t support the store the way the Old Proudly-Radical and Anything Goes City did. Yeah well, that City is gone. There’s little radical or “anything goes” here anymore. San Francisco has become quite conservative in recent years I’m sorry to say. Conformity — OBEY! WEAR BLACK AND GREY! which seems to be The City’s new unofficial dress code colours — is the nickname for the New City full of snarly-faced, angry-looking, chip-on-both-shoulders snotty Milleneals. I’ve heard some longtime locals say, “This New City sucks. Where did these snotty white trash Milleneals come from?” I’ve often wondered that myself. And most of the Millennial females look anorexic in their usual black tights and black, grey or white lingerie shirt with their snarly, “nobody home” face. I think it would break their face if they had to smile and try to be pleasant to anyone, and oddly they appear to have been born without vocal chords since the words “Hello” and “excuse me” are not in their vocabulary. They have no social skills whatsoever. I heard recently from a reliable source that the ageist Milleneals blame anyone older than themselves for all the problems in the world, especially for their own financial situation. They seem to take no responsibility for their own personal situation in life; it’s always somebody else’s fault. Note to seemingly-empty Milleneals: Wasting your day hunched over glued to that phone you’re thoroughly addicted to — as if it’s your only friend in the world — frantically thumb-typing on a so-called “social media network” is not indicative of possessing genuine social skills at all.

It’s a different (worse) time. I think most people shop at status-symbol WholePayCheck and insist on being seen there. Why? It’s just another faceless mega-chain corporate store. But I guess if one is shallow like that, being seen at WPC is important to them.

What I’m about to ask is a long shot: Do any of the former or current Rainbow workers want to anonymously talk about what’s happened at Rainbow in recent weeks, the last couple of months? If you’re a former worker, you may have heard “through the grapevine” what happened. I’m talking about the discontent I’ve detected from most workers as if something major happened. If you work there, you likely know what I’m talking about. If so, please leave a comment.

As a longtime customer, I usually feel the mood of the store. And in recent weeks the mood has been rather down, as if a major temblor came through the store at one of their membership meetings and took most of the workers by shock. Some observations I’ve made: It would seem that the cashiers are leaving in droves. That’s the perception I have because on each visit to the store, a new cashier is being trained. A lot of unhappy faces, even with workers I’ve seen for years. Others that I’ve seen for years, I no longer see even when they were there when I was there in recent weeks. They’re now gone. That many people on a new shift? I can take some guesses at what happened, not that any of them did so I’m just speculating based on what I’ve seen from the workers:

I’m wondering:

Was their profit-sharing gutted?
Was their health care gutted?
Were their salaries reduced to minimum wage?
Did the membership vote to fire a (large) group of workers? I’ve thought that they had too many workers, with the number I’ve seen being around 250. Why would they need that many workers?

I think workers are hired through word-of-mouth referrals from other workers. I once heard a worker say, “Well presumably people work here for a reason.” I don’t think that’s the case any longer. I think to many workers it’s just a job and they’re not working there for any other reason, compared to the days of the Old City. Someone who had read some of my other articles about Rainbow wrote me sometime ago saying she had applied at Rainbow but was never hired and was told about some stack of applications they had. She interpreted that to mean: “Don’t expect to be hired as there are hundreds of applications ahead of you.” Supposedly. As I e-mailed back to her: Regardless of some supposed stack of applications (which probably doesn’t exist), San Francisco is a very transient City. So how many people in their supposed (outdated?) stack of applications still even live here. I agreed with her. It sounded like they had no intention of hiring her when they refer to some stack of applications. Because in any job I’ve applied for in my past, their “stack” was 2-3 applications for the position they were hiring for because they’ve narrowed it down to that number of candidates.

I suspect that one or more of these factors above happened or a version of them. Each department in the store is run autonomously, but there is this “they” — this group that runs or manages the store? — that I’ve heard many workers over the years negatively refer to. One gets the impression that “they” are not a positive force for the rest of the workers and don’t care about some of the workers in certain departments. Like everywhere else, there’s always this vague “they” (who is this “they” anyway?) that workers keep talking about in a negative way? Some elitist group who thinks they know what’s best, excluding all the rest? If so, that reminds me of corporate. Although fortunately Rainbow is not corporate and does not have a corporate feel, thank goodness. WholePayCheck — fuck them! — is as corporate as you can get, with their so-called organic food grown in China.

I don’t blame the workers for not hiding their discontent. It’s very hard to be fake and pretend you’re happy at a job that you’re not happy in. I’ve noticed what I’m talking about with long-time workers. I thought Rainbow’s business had improved a bit — maybe — since the renovation but probably not enough to make a difference.

So if you worked at Rainbow or still do and care to let us know anonymously some chisme/gossip about what’s been going on, you’re safe here to comment. Or, if you prefer to write about it privately, you can e-mail me at:

pinkbarrio555@yahoo.com

I will not write about anything that you tell me because I’ll consider it a private matter. Chau.—el barrio rosa

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