A worker-owned and operated cooperative
UPDATE (May 2019): Drama Intenso at Worker-Owned Rainbow Grocery Cooperative (San Francisco)
Hola a todos. 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.
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. Chau.—el barrio rosa
Here’s the original article:
Rainbow Grocery Cooperative is a grocery store (en el Distrito de la Misión) in San Francisco. Rainbow has a large selection of environmentally-sustainable/organically-grown vegetarian and vegan food, and they keep their prices as low as possible. They are not about greed unlike mega-corporate chain grocery stores. Rainbow workers don’t look like cookie-cutter mannequins in silly corporate uniforms like one sees in corporate/big box grocery stores.
El 18 de noviembre de 2013. Hola. What is happening to Rainbow? That’s what mi amiga asked me earlier this week. She had just been to Rainbow buying her groceries (she takes her own cloth bags with her that she bought at Rainbow; she’s clear on the green concept). I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant when she asked, “what is happening to Rainbow?” although I had a suspicion. She asked, “what the fuck is a Chanukkah display doing in Rainbow and what is religious paraphernalia doing in Rainbow? She continued on: I don’t see a crucifix in there and I’m glad I don’t for Navidad or for Pascua de Resurrección so what’s up with Rainbow catering to this Jewish tradition?” I said, “Oh that, yes I saw that display when I was in there during the week and I thought the same thing. I’ve noticed that Chanukkah display in there especially the last 2-3 years at this time of year and I was hoping they wouldn’t drag that thing out again this year, but there it is. I overheard one customer speaking negatively about the display, “With all that Israel has done to the Palestinians?” the customer said. And Rainbow couldn’t leave it at that. There’s more Chanukkah stuff over in the tarjeta/card section of the store. (She didn’t know that). I told her: Interestingly, I fortunately never see any religious displays at Rainbow any time of the year for any of the other world religions or faiths except this Chanukkah display. She said, “Exactamente. She asked: So what the fuck is religion doing in a secular grocery store and especially Rainbow?” I said: Well I presume it’s part of their still trying to change their anti-Israel/anti-Jewish image from what happened around 2003, if anyone still remembers what happened then since many people can’t remember what happened last week.
Boycott of Israel-products and the catalyst?: Chanukkah gelt
What happened back in 2003? Two of Rainbow’s departments were boycotting products from Israel because of Israeli human rights violations. A Jewish customer at Rainbow wanted Chanukkah gelt. And might that be why the Chanukkah display is in the store in November of 2013? That led to rabid protests of Rainbow from Jewish groups, including a rabbi who had to stick his nose in the controversy and have a meeting with Rainbow workers to try to talk them out of a boycott. Then the corporate media got involved and the hate for Rainbow began. I had read that initially Rainbow denied there was a boycott of Israeli products but then one Rainbow worker revealed that yes there was a boycott in effect. So then the full membership (all the workers) of Rainbow voted on whether there should be a boycott and most workers voted against a boycott of Israeli products. If I remember correctly, when they had the membership vote at that same time changes were made to Rainbow departments so that the departments could not in the future initiate their own boycotts without the full membership’s vote on the boycott. Then the article I read from the Jewish media was celebrating and gushing over their “victory” as they ate Rainbow’s ass all the way up to the upper colon and stated that they wanted Rainbow to add even more Israeli products to their shelves. (roll eyes). You know, some people are never satisfied are they? So why would Rainbow now have a Chanukkah display each November? Because of the Chanukkah gelt issue from 2003. There was no place else on Earth from where this customer could buy his/her gelt and he/she didn’t have the intelligence to make their own? So it’s quite clear to me why Rainbow is eating the ass of Israel to appear pro-Jewish in a store which is supposed to be a secular store free of and from religion.
Mi amiga and I have both shopped at Rainbow for years. It’s the only food store we shop in. She seemed extremely annoyed, understandably so, at this Chanukkah display nonsense. After researching this story a bit more, I now share her feelings of being pissed-off. She asked my thoughts on why the membership of Rainbow would have voted against a boycott of products from Israel considering what Israel was at that time and still is. Israel is the #2 Terrorist Nation on the planet after The Cesspool/Los Estados Unidos/The US, and considering what Israel has done to the Palestinians! I said I think the vote turned out the way it did as a way of Rainbow trying to protect itself from possible property damage—or an “incident”—to the inside and/or outside of the store and from possible physical violence directed at the workers from pro-Israel/pro-Jewish frothing-at-the-mouth rabid nuts/locos. And that’s exactly how they came off to me in the gushing article I read about this from the Jewish media. The pro-Israel/pro-Jewish protesters came off as rabid, off-the-latch, full-of-themselves, in-your-face angry nuts. Not the least bit humble. So considering that’s who one is dealing with, perhaps that explains why the vote went the way it did at Rainbow. I gave mi amiga more detailed information than I’m writing here that I had read about this. She then began to sort of understand why the worker-owners voted how they did, if what I just stated was the reason they voted as they did of course.
What Rainbow should have done was to issue a press release stating: As of this date [date] Rainbow Grocery Cooperative being a secular store will not carry ANY religious paraphernalia or religious-oriented or religious-related products from ANY world religion or faith, and that includes the Jewish faith. (And I would have added: So buy your gelt some place else, or make it yourself. We don’t sell gelt or any other religious chocolate. Is it really that damn difficult for some people to melt their own chocolate to make gelt? Have you never heard of a double boiled? What, you don’t know how to boil water? Maybe this will help: Method 1 of 2: Stovetop)
What are products from China doing in Rainbow? No Boycott of the Hate state of Arizona from Rainbow.
Mi amiga went on to say this just adds to what she’s noticed in Rainbow lately when she has been looking around and noticing more and more things she’s surprised to see in the store, such as organic pumpkin seeds from China. WTF? She asked me, “They can’t find a local source for organic pumpkin seeds from some other source than China? There’s no place in the US or in México or en América del Sur that has organic pumpkins seeds? No? No “local” place any closer than China? Would you eat anything from China considering their lack of food and environmental regulations?” I said no I wouldn’t. She said she also noticed packaged organic dried mushrooms from China over near the coolers. Again, there’s no “local” source for packaged organic dried mushrooms anywhere closer than China? And recently she had also noticed organic pecans from Arizona. WTF? She asked me: Isn’t there currently a boycott of the Hate state of Arizona over all the hate regarding undocumented immigrants/migrant workers, SB1070 and that redneck hick sheriff and governor in Arizona? (My Answer: Yes there is.) And Rainbow has many Latinos/Hispanos/Mexicanos/Chicanos (and supporters) working there, so what the fuck are they thinking? (My Answer to her: It would appear they are not thinking about any of that).
Unfortunately, Rainbow is not the store it used to be. I sense the store has been contaminated by (newer?) workers or even infiltrated by some moles intent on changing the store as best they can with their membership vote. To begin with, I sense that the majority of workers at Rainbow are part-time and there is a smaller group of workers who are full-time. These days, I also get the sense that most workers at Rainbow see their working there as just a job (which is not the attitude that one would think that one of the owners of a business would take), and that’s why it seems that few workers really care about what they used to care about and customers such as myself y mi amiga see the store changing. Mi amiga says the overall sense she gets is that no one cares compared to the past, or very few do care and the workers who do care are burned out, tired of it and feel like they are going against the massive tide. From what I’ve heard, Rainbow is a difficult store to get into (to be hired by). There is also a very low worker turnover at Rainbow so they don’t have openings that often. Once one gets in there they stay. I’ve seen some workers there for nearly 20 years. I suspect some workers have been there longer. From what I’ve noticed, the highest turnover seems to be in the Cashier Department, understandably so. These days, many workers are too busy partying or talking about partying (the last party and the next party…take a listen in the Produce Department and you’ll hear all about it) and some workers can be seen fucking with their toy obsession/gadgets/smartphones texting. Mi amiga and I have both noticed the many corporate magazines at Rainbow that some salesperson apparently talked them into. They’ve been there for sometime. One magazine I saw while waiting at the register showed a big turkey on the cover for Día de Acción de Gracias (Thanksgiving Day). That wasn’t exactly what I would expect to see in a vegetarian/vegan store. There are other ways that Rainbow has changed from the store it originally was. Maybe I will write about that later. When I first started shopping there, I would never have expected any of these things I’ve listed here to happen because Rainbow was a very different store then and a much more politically-concerned and activist store.
Mi amiga asked the same question I asked: Does no one care about anything anymore at Rainbow or anywhere else? I told her that I couldn’t see the founding workers of Rainbow Grocery Cooperative agreeing with what’s happening in the store, if anything they would be asking: What the fuck are you doing to our store? Don’t you stand for anything other than the word “organic” anymore? Even though Rainbow focuses on local-sourcing, it doesn’t seem to matter where the products come from in some cases (China, Arizona as two examples). She said: Well from what I see when I’m in there many of the customers are no damn better. They have become as diluted as some of the Rainbow workers. I’ve seen people with their shopping carts stacked full of boxes containing expensive processed food (frozen). That stuff is not cheap and has a high sodium level, instead of the customer buying the fresh ingredients in the store and making the same food themselves. Someone brought some of that frozen stuff into our office for a fiesta not long ago and even though all the ingredients were organic (according to the box that was in the trash can), the food tasted inferior to food with fresh ingredients. It was also overly salty and I don’t use much salt to begin with. Even if it’s pizza, Rainbow sells corn pizza crusts/shells in the Cheese Department. Just add your own toppings from Produce and bake it.
The Bakery Department and lowered standards
I recently looked at the vegan cream cheese brownies in the Bakery Department. They seem to be selling (they were about half gone). They look taller and bigger than the other vegan brownies Rainbow carries. The ingredients’ list for the vegan cream cheese brownies was quite long, hard to read—the description card and print are much too small perhaps because they don’t think anyone cares what’s in them?—with gums and stuff in them. I wouldn’t buy them. That’s my complaint with some vegans in that they don’t seem to care what’s in something (the quality of it) as long as it’s not an animal product. I’ve seen that thinking over and over with vegans. As mi amiga says: The product could have road tar in it and I think that would be fine with some vegans because road tar is not an animal product. I take it that the Bakery Department has also lowered their standards looking at some of the ingredients in things as well as the amount of plastic they’ve allowed to come into the refrigerated case, for example. Look at the vegan cheese cake servings individually packaged in their own hard plastic container. What a waste of plastic! What is Bakery thinking? That’s what I mean by getting the impression that they don’t care. All of that plastic just for one single small piece of expensive cheese cake in a “green”-certified store? jesus fucking christ! Also all of those JD’s cakes also in plastic. There’s way too much plastic in that case. A suggestion to Bakery (which they likely won’t take based on previous experience): It’s not possible to buy whole vegan cheese cakes from the same company, slice them, put each slice on a flattened cupcake paper or some type of paper, put them on a cake stand and a clear cake dome over them as other stores do? That seems to work fine for other stores. That would be a lot less plastic, much better for the environment and it would also match the rest of the “green” store which has also moved to compostable bags available for customers to use for free which is a very good idea they came up with at Rainbow. I use the compostable bags entirely. (Just don’t let them get wet until they are ready for composting). The Bakery Department is the one department in Rainbow that I can think of that is the least environmental, and that is a change that occurred about the time that they brought in the cakes from Just Desserts, which I was sorry to see them do because the new JD company is not the same company nor are the recipes the same as the original Just Desserts. There was no questionable canola oil (is it GMO or not?) nor were there any gums in JD’s original cakes. The original Just Desserts used unsalted butter.
Mi amiga asked me if I thought she should waste her time and write to Rainbow and complain about the Jewish religious display and some of these other things. I said: No, I agree with you. It would be a waste of your time. I think it is what it is. They’ve chosen to do what they’re doing and that’s it. I’ve made a couple of suggestions to them over the years. Nothing happened with them. Nada.
Most of the workers today come off to me as apolitical. It’s very rare to hear political talk or political topics about anything in the store anymore from a worker. Rainbow still has their political bulletin board as you come into the store from the garage area, but that really seems to be mainly for customers these days. I never see any workers looking at it even when they gather the shopping carts together in that area. I suspect many if not most of the workers at Rainbow love their messiah and are messiahbots, and you and I know that messiahbots can’t find it in themselves to tell the truth about their messiah or complain about their messiah even when he’s worse overall than the fraud who was in there before (the fraud having never been legitimately elected for either term). All that some of messiah’s believers can bring themselves to say is that they are “disappointed” with him. That reminds me, there are only two workers at Rainbow out of the full membership that I ever see at the rare political protests these days in San Francisco. One Rainbow worker was at the protest at Castro/Market in support of Chelsea Manning. And another Rainbow worker was at another protest against sit-lie, which criminalizes homelessness in San Francisco.
Products in Rainbow from Nihon despite Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster
Days later after mi amiga/my friend and I talked, I began thinking about what I’ve seen in Rainbow that I find questionable and wouldn’t buy. Before the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Nihon/Japón/Japan, I would buy the excellent and also expensive organic green tea from Nihon. Not any more. Rainbow still sells it—what’s the geiger counter reading on that?—but I’ll never buy that tea again no matter how many lying governments say, “it’s perfectly safe to drink.” I don’t trust the USDA to tell the truth these days especially considering the corrupt federal government in los Estados Unidos. They are as likely to lie as any other corrupt corporatist liars. Who would buy anything from Nihon/Japón/Japan these days since the Fukushima disaster? Yet Rainbow is still carrying the same products from Nihon they were carrying before the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Doesn’t anyone care about that at Rainbow or have they forgotten about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster? Doesn’t look like it’s a concern. Read what Dra Helen Caldicott has to say about the Fukushima disaster at the bottom of this page, por favor. If only someone would loan me a geiger counter and let me take it in Rainbow to see how much radiation is in there on the products from Nihon.
“On 3 September 2011 radioactive caesium exceeding the government’s safety limit had been detected in tea leaves in Chiba and Saitama prefectures, near Tokyo. This was the ministry’s first discovery of radioactive substances beyond legal limits since the tests of food stuffs started in August. These tests were conducted in order to verify local government data using different numbers and kinds of food samples. Tea leaves of one type of tea from Chiba Prefecture contained 2,720 becquerels of radioactive caesium per kilogram, 5 times above the legal safety limit. A maximum of 1,530 becquerels per kilogram was detected in 3 kinds of tea leaves from Saitama Prefecture. Investigations were done to find out where the tea was grown, and to determine how much tea had already made its way to market. Tea producers were asked to recall their products, when necessary. As tea leaves are never directly consumed, tea produced from processed leaves are expected to contain no more than 1/35th the density of caesium (in the case of 2720bq/kg, the tea will show just 77bq/l, below the 200bq/l legal limit at the time)
In the prefecture Shizuoka at the beginning of April 2012, tests done on tea-leaves grown inside a greenhouse were found to contain less than 10 becquerels per kilogram, below the new limit of 100 becquerels, The tests were done in a governmental laboratory in Kikugawa city, to probe cesium-concentrations before the at the end of April the tea-harvest season would start.
The health ministry published in August 2012, that cesium levels in tea made from “yacon” leaves and in samples of Japanese tea “shot through the ceiling” this year.” Radiation effects from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster
While researching for this article, I read an article cheering over how pro-gay Israel is and it was being referred to as “gay heaven.”
Really? I guess they missed this. Chau.—rosa barrio
Back to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Does anyone care?:
From an interview with Dra Helen Caldicott:
“First of all, parts of Tokyo are extremely radioactive. They’ve taken dirt from the streets, moss from the roofs, and dust from vacuum cleaners inside apartments. And in some cases there are very high measurements of cesium and strontium and other such elements, literally over a hundred elements in the fallout apart from cesium-137 and 134. People in Tokyo, actually, many of them, are at great risk. That’s number one.
Number two, it’s very difficult to know what to eat in Japan because you can’t taste or smell or see radioactive elements in your food. And each dose of radiation that you get adds to the risk of getting cancer. And as you eat more and more radioactive food, more radioactivity builds up in various organs of your body. There is little testing of food in Japan, the government is lying to you, and they are encouraging the farmers in Fukushima to grow their food, which is really criminal because there’s a hell of a lot of fallout on the ground, in Fukushima, and the radiation concentrates back from the soil into rice, green vegetables, milk, meat, and the like.”
“Radiation From Japan Disaster Found in Kelp Along California Coast
“Researchers at California State University, Long Beach found that the kelp contained radioactive iodine, cesium, xenon and other particles at levels unlikely to be detrimental to human health but much higher than the amounts measured before the disaster.”
[Editorial from rosa barrio: It's always "unlikely to be detrimental to human health" until one gets cancer because of the accumulation in the body of this "unlikely to be detrimental to human health" radiation. Note that they don't say, "it's NOT detrimental to human health." Some fish eat kelp so why wouldn't this radiation be in fish that many people are continuing to eat in San Francisco restaurants, seemingly oblivious to it or they just don't give a fuck.]
UPDATED (enero/January 2018): The new dress code at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative.
UPDATED (Spring 2016): Meat at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative?