UPDATE (May 2019): Drama Intenso at Worker-Owned Rainbow Grocery Cooperative (San Francisco)
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 since the days of the Old City. When I say the “Old City,” I’m talking about the “proudly-radical Bohemian San Francisco” that used to have the slogan “Anything goes in San Francisco” and “Liberal San Francisco.” Remember that “proudly radical” and activist City that we had a reputation of being for decades? Yeah well, that City is long gone, and few people even talk about it publicly. It’s as if the New City wants to erase the Old City from history.
The millionaire and billionaire-owned Tech Industrial Complex and Greed-based Real Estate Industrial Complex wrecking crews were warmly welcomed in by the conservatives — regardless of what political label they wore — to destroy the Old City and turn it into the City it is today: The opposite of what it was. Quite conservative, very conformist, lobotomised, cultureless and straight. The Castro is now a Breeder Mecca (no longer a Gay Mecca; His shirt said, “Fuck you, homo.” (San Francisco’s Castro) along with Cole Valley. It’s as if these new seemingly-lobotomised Millennial residents void of any social skills moved here to breed. The conservatives had long had this wet dream about San Francisco and finally achieved their goal.
I say all of the above because unfortunately and consequently, Rainbow’s customer base and many Rainbow workers have been forced out of The City because of these changes of turning San Francisco into the opposite of what it was.
I feel very comfortable shopping at Rainbow; 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 ingredient’ 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.
I realise 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:
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/most of the workers? That’s the way it seems. 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. I also never thought that the renovation was going to increase business. I remember hearing some workers talking about “It’s a new era for Rainbow.” That was just marketing bull shit or wishful-thinking. As I wrote at the time, generally speaking, lobotomised and phone-addicted Milleneals are not going to shop at Rainbow.
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. Chau.—el barrio rosa
Update (End of June 2019): The mood of the store is pretty bad now — as if things have gotten worse since I originally wrote about this topic — with the exception of a few (about 4) workers. Some of the workers are acting as if they are annoyed with having customers, and because of that there are some workers I avoid. Or, they are overall annoyed by having to be there in a store which seems to no longer care about them and are more preoccupied with thoughts of where they’re going to find another job. I sense that they’re now making minimum wage and are very worried about the survival of their store. I understand that. As the City changed over the years (for the worse), so did Rainbow. I think most of the workers know who the longtime customers are who, in part, kept them open this long and they should at least acknowledge that because with the mood and vibe of the store now it’s as if they don’t appreciate us. Some of the workers used to do that and seemed genuine about it, but I no longer see those workers. But to other workers, it’s just a job so they don’t seem to care. And the customers these days! Oh! With few exceptions, Rainbow has become so conservative and straight. And some of these straight guys seem to go out of their way to “prove” how straight they are by taking on this “tough guy, hard-assed” stance. Other straight couples feel the need to put on a heterosexual display of affection and make out in the Produce Section or near there. They go to a grocery store to make out? Loco./Crazy. And if you wear anything that has colour to it prepare to get a nasty snarly look from some judgmental straight guy self-entitled Millennial asshole in the Produce Department, especially. People like that forget the name of the store is called RAINBOW Grocery Cooperative, and not Black and Grey Grocery Cooperative. As I’ve said before, the “Anything Goes” Bohemian San Francisco is gone. The attitude today of this New Lobotomised Techie Capital City and Playground for the drab Super-Wealthy who have no taste is: “Conform! Obey! Wear (Funeral and Depressing) Black and Grey! 365 days a year. Period” If you don’t, expect to get a nasty, disapproving look because you’re not conforming. This City is the opposite of what it used to be. Where did these new residents come here from with a mission to change this City….for the worse?
One wonders: Even though I would hate to see this happen, but how long before Rainbow closes, having sold-out to a corrupt developer of glass-box condominiums? “Developers” are moving towards the store with tall towers of condos. As San Francisco continues its trend as a playground for the super-wealthy, the SF Planning Department seem to want Luxury Designer Condos (Dahling) on every inch of this City, and one would fit in Rainbow’s location. At this point, I do indeed think the workers would vote to sell the store if they were offered maybe $3MILLION USD to each worker. That amount of money is nothing to a condo developer. So the remaining workers could all retire, and I get the impression that the store has far less workers than they did. I’m speculating but when this shock wave that I’ve written about in this article came through the store, I think many workers were voted out by the membership, meaning fired. It used to be reported in the media that Rainbow had 250+ workers, which I thought was a lot and too many. One of the workers once told me “we have too many workers” which meant that the profit-sharing they receive at the end of the year had to be divided among too many workers. I often wondered where all of these workers were because I never saw that many. I think most were/are part-time. Regardless of the number of workers they currently have, I could easily see them selling out and closing the store without notice, unless they choose to have a “going out of business” sale. So, that’s what I expect to happen to Rainbow at some point, I suspect within the next 5 years and that’s being generous. It will be a sad day when this happens, and I and others would have to make other shopping choices after decades of supporting Rainbow Grocery Cooperative. Chau.—el barrio rosa
Update (Week of 15 July 2019): Have they lost more workers at Rainbow? That’s the impression we’re getting. On our visits to the store this week they seemed to be short on cashiers. How could they be short on cashiers when we’ve been seeing cashiers trained since the drama intenso shocked the store. Last week, I heard a cashier ask a customer, “Do you need a receipt?” I’ve never heard that asked at Rainbow, which is why I perked up. They automatically give receipts. Or do they not want any customers returning anything to their struggling store, which of course a customer could not do without a receipt? Mi amigo/My friend overheard a senior citizen say when walking out of the store, “the cashier asked to see my ID. They’ve never done that before and it was after he had already given me my 10% off as a senior.” Are they hurting that much that they’re now checking to see who is a senior and who is not? I think they used to take the customer’s word for it. To us the store had an uncomfortable feel to it. It’s also being overrun by instacarters and phone addicts. One wonders how these pathetic people shopped before they got severely addicted to a phone? I don’t know who “they” are who seem to be running the show at Rainbow, but based on how most of the workers are acting, they’re in the process of ruining the store that some of us have appreciated for decades, and they are too short-sighted to see that. They seem to be taking measures to the extreme. Typical of misguided “management.” Chau.—el barrio rosa
Now to the original article:
UPDATE (Spring 2016): Meat at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative?
El 14 de febrero de 2014. WTF is going on? It’s sad and disgusting, but it’s true. Hola. Both Rainbow Grocery Cooperative (a worker-owned and operated vegetarian/vegan grocery store) in San Francisco and the San Francisco Bay Guardian are helping predatory Google (a corporation valued in the BILLIONS of US$$) make even more dinero/money. Rainbow and the Bay Guardian have been doing this for some time apparently. This despite all of the protests in San Francisco and Oakland against Google, the techies, the ubiquitous Gentrification and Eviction shuttles and The Tech Surveillance-State Industrial Complex. So what happened to principles and to standing for something other than dinero/$$, or is that “so last year?”
I received the following e-mail from a reader:
“I read one of your articles about Rainbow Grocery. Haven’t had time to read the other one. I shop at Rainbow. Have for years, but I don’t have the same respect for Rainbow I used to. I feel the store is losing itself. It could be how they hire new workers. Someone just needing a job instead of working there for a reason. The example of that I’m writing you about is this: Did you know that Rainbow is advertizing on the Bay Guardian’s website and on [Ed. site name removed] another local site using Google ads? I would expect a corporate store to do this, and one corporate chain store is doing this. But Rainbow? The tech industry or as you call it “the Tech Surveillance-State Industrial Complex” is ransacking The Mission [Ed. Rainbow is in The Mission District of San Francisco] and Google is part of the problem here. What’s going on at Rainbow? Why would they be advertizing through Google ads? My sister sent me a link to an article on the Bay Guardian’s site about tech. They’ve written a lot about tech, the tech shuttles, Ellis Act evictions and gentrification. Then look at the ads on the Bay Guardian’s website and they are all through Google. HYPOCRITES!!!!!!!!!! The same Google they complain about in their articles. They don’t see their hypocrisy at the Bay Guardian? I moved my cursor over the Rainbow ads on the Bay Guardian site expecting them to click through to Rainbow’s website. Nope, they are Google ads. All the ads on the Bay Guardian’s website are Google ads. You asked “does no one care about anything anymore?” My thoughts exactly; I don’t think they do. At Rainbow, they are pretty good on being green but there’s supposed to be more to it than that. With the Bay Guardian, I don’t know what to think about them…other than their hypocrisy.
My response: Hola y gracias for that. Yours is the second e-mail I’ve gotten about this in the last couple of weeks from readers having read my articles about Rainbow. A feeling of disgust came over me as I read your e-mail, although at this point with Rainbow I’m not surprised. No disrespect intended to you but you really shouldn’t be surprised by any of this at this point. The same goes for the Bay Guardian which wears the “progressive” identity. But in the end, they are partisan Democrats and their election endorsements are consistently for Establishment “Democratic” corporatist parasites. They often begin their endorsement of a D-candidate by saying, “We haven’t always agreed with this candidate and his/her record is not the best (and then they conclude with), but we’re endorsing…”. You get the idea. Mealy-mouthed stuff. They’re endorsing the candidate because of that D next to the politicians name. End of story. Fin.
I’m not surprised that Rainbow is using Google ads for advertising. The store has definitely changed. Many examples from my observations: When I hear workers in Rainbow talk among themselves these days, I mainly hear talk about corporate sports teams, “the game,” watching “the game” and one’s favourite team, partying, getting drunk (how healthy!… while working in a vegetarian/vegan store!), and over in the Produce Department you’ll hear the word “like” every-other-word. I used to never hear such corporatised sports team sheeple talk like that in Rainbow from the workers, or anyone else for that matter. Some of the workers wear major league corporate sports team clothing, and one cashier recently was wearing US flag clothing. When I saw that I immediately thought: In Rainbow? I never saw US flag clothing when George W Bush was illegitimately in office—US flags are fine now that there’s a so-called “D” in la casa blanca?—nor did I see that in the “Alternative, Proudly Radical San Francisco of the Past.” Rainbow used to have sort of a “family” feel to it. Not any more really. If anything, one can feel like one is being watched, or at least I do and mi amiga says the same.
One might think the workers who are working there for the “right reasons” might be talking about something important such as something political, for example, or about the gentrification in their barrio or the tech shuttles or the evictions of some of their workers or protests of tech. In other words, something that matters in many people’s lives. The big bulletin board as one comes in the store from the garage used to be full of political content. Not any more. I looked at it recently and there was mostly non-political stuff there. That’s also representative of how the city has changed/gentrified, unfortunately. I only know of two workers (dos mujeres/two women) out of the entire membership (the workers) who go to protests these days.
Just like with the “alternative” San Francisco of the past which has been evicted and forced out of the city, I think one needs to remember that the Rainbow of the past—which includes Rainbow’s “alternative” customer base—is quickly fading and I’m specifically talking about the quality of the workers. Since Rainbow Grocery Cooperative is a vegetarian/vegan store, are most of the workers vegetarian or vegan? I don’t think they are. One would think the workers would be vegetarian/vegan to be representative of what they sell. You touched on this too. I sense that many if not most of the workers are there today just because it’s a job and nothing more. I also suspect some or many workers are hired through other workers, as opposed to being there for a reason (credible reasons, aside from the store being a worker-owned and operated cooperative). I sense that many, if not most, of the workers today could really work in any corporate grocery store. Since Rainbow has always focused on local products, I found it questionable when I saw several products from China in the store in the last year (two that come to mind: packaged organic mushrooms over by the refrigerated cases, and in a bulk gravity bin: organic black rice). They couldn’t get those products locally or more locally than China? (I don’t buy any food from China with their food “standards” even if it’s supposedly “organic.”) Rainbow carries Lundberg products and Lundberg has a type of non-organic but non-GMO black rice available in bulk. Recently, Rainbow was carrying pecans from the Hate State of Arizona. I thought there was a boycott of products from Arizona because of their hate laws towards undocumented/unregistered immigrants and migrant workers and considering Rainbow has a lot of Latino, Hispano, Mexicano, Chicano (et al) workers, one would have thought the boycott would still be in effect, no? Or have Rainbow workers become so apolitical that they can no longer be bothered with such things?
While writing this, I went to Rainbow’s website. Their website is rather corporate-looking. They use Flash, which is rather corporate. I can’t stand Flash as it takes forever to load and jumps around and is a pain in the ass. But many corporate websites are using Flash these days. So I see Rainbow has joined the “Flash Herd.” They’ve also installed some of the Tech Surveillance-State Industrial Complex corporations to their site such as Facebook, Twitter and Paypal. In a sense, their website doesn’t “match” the store because the store itself does not look corporate, fortunately. On their website, they have the corporate Facebook plug-in, the corporate Twitter thing, the buy a Giftcard through corporate Paypal feature. The Facebook plugin scroll thing turned me off with it’s—what I call—retail hype a worker had written. For example, Rainbow is now carrying a local quinoa (that’s good) and they’re the only store carrying it which they say they are “thrilled” about. Thrilled about? I can think of a lot of reasons to be thrilled about something but carrying quinoa is not one of them. Reminds me of one of the soy milk companies a few years ago saying they were “absolutely thrilled” about their new pour spout. Well whatever turns you on, I guess. How can anyone get “absolutely thrilled” over a fucking pour spout? Not much going on in that person’s life I guess. “Thrilled” must be one of the top keywords that retail is supposed to use these days. But it’s that type of retail hype (that’s what I call it) and bull shit that turns me off.
I think Rainbow has a corporate faction—a pro-corporate group of workers—within the store now which seems to be having quite a bit of influence, and I’ve thought this for some time. From shopping there, I have an idea as to who some of the more corporatist workers are, but overall I think they keep a low profile. But their website’s design and what’s on the website tells me that there are definitely some corporate-minded workers there.
Also, on Rainbow’s website one can order a plastic GiftCard through corporate PayPal. There are many problems with using PayPal. As I mentioned earlier, Rainbow’s website is also fully connected with corporate Twitter (which is part of the Tech Surveillance-State Industrial Complex, and Twitter is receiving corporate welfare from San Francisco. Tech is a major part of the problem in the city causing gentrification and evictions in San Francisco, and especially en el Distrito de la Misión where Rainbow is located.
Then there’s the many problems with using corporate Facebook and their data-mining. So one wonders: Did the full membership at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative vote in favour of these Google ads on the Bay Guardian’s website, or was this scheme approved by a small committee of some sort or the Board of Directors?
And one shouldn’t be surprised that the Bay Guardian is using Google ads either. As for the Bay Guardian’s website, if one wants to remain sane, it’s best to only read the articles. DON’T GO PAST THE ARTICLE TEXT. Their comments are a very unhealthy place to be. Full of trolls and dysfunctional people. The writers at the Bay Guardian do some good work in most of their articles. But as the other person who sent me an e-mail said: it’s as if they publish “bait articles” on Viernes/Friday that they know from past experience will generate a lot of activity, comments and hits, or to give the trolls a “playground” for the weekend. They don’t have any advertisers online other than the Google ads so they don’t need the traffic/hits for telling advertisers how many hits the site gets per month since all the online advertising is through Google. Perhaps they’re trying to get a lot of hits so people will click on the Google ads. I’ve never clicked on any ads. Their forum is the worst forum I think I’ve ever seen. One local former politician referred to another website’s forum as “a backwater cesspool.” The same can easily be said about the Bay Guardian’s comment forum and the Bay Guardian refuse to do anything about it in a positive way. They seem to like it the way it is, or they would closely moderate it. Right-wing/libertarian/neoliberal/neocon trolls live on the forum and they are currently enjoying a “Wet Dream Come True” over what is now happening to San Francisco (becoming a city for the wealthy). The conservative/right-wing trolls on that site could not be more delighted. Chau.—el barrio rosa