UPDATED (Spring 2019): Discontent at Worker-Owned Rainbow Grocery Cooperative (San Francisco)
This article is about the best grocery store in the San Francisco Bay Area, Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, and how its workers have gone from being proudly radical to, well, I’d have to say proudly conformist in this Millennial-Zombie, phone-addicted tech capital city of San Francisco, now a playground for the super-wealthy.
Hola a todos. Throughout its long history beginning in 1975, the workers at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco — a worker-owned and operated vegetarian/vegan grocery store — have rejected an official dress code. Good for them! Having shopped at Rainbow for decades (it’s the only place I’d go!), that’s one thing I’ve always liked about Rainbow is the workers’ casual dress. Most workers have rejected wearing name tags/worker IDs around their neck. Some wear them on the odd occasion but most don’t. An official dress code and worker ID would unfortunately make the store more “corporate”-feeling since corporate chain grocery stores have an official dress code and usually silly-looking name tags. Does one really need to know a worker’s name? I don’t think so. If one shops at Rainbow long enough, over time one usually learns some worker’s name just from hearing other workers refer to them.
Rainbow workers have long had a history of being alternative and proudly rad. Well that was true in the alternative and proudly-radical Bohemian San Francisco, but with few exceptions it’s no longer true in the San Francisco known as the tech capital.
Are the Rainbow workers aware that they now have an unofficial dress code? To be accurate, this is really not a new dress code. It’s new historically speaking. It’s been going on for sometime. Since the store’s renovation maybe? Have the workers at Rainbow noticed that most of them are wearing conformist all-black clothing or black and grey? I suspect they are all aware of it and are deliberately wearing all-black or black/grey to “fit in” with each other. It’s called conformity — a form of peer pressure — which is the opposite of alternative and proudly radical. Most of the workers have conformed to what the snotty and snooty new Millennial Zombie residents of The City wear every day of the week as their “uniform.” They have a closet full of black clothes. Or black and grey. At least on my shopping trips to Rainbow (and mis amigos/my friends say the same thing), all-black or black and gray is what most workers are wearing, including los Latinos. What is “Latin” about all-black or black and grey clothing? Unfortunately, the Latinos/Latinas have sanitised themselves by abandoning their beautiful Latin colours that they once wore in favour of wearing drab, depressed-looking, conservative and conformist funeral black in order to fit in. Sometimes I feel like asking some of the workers: What funeral did you just come back from, or are you waiting to go to? (Dame Edna Everage asked two of her guests the same question. She said, “Sharon and Judy, I been meaning to ask you, what funeral did you just come back from with this all-black clothing?”)
And what exactly is rainbow-like about black and grey? Black and grey are not colours of the rainbow. The colours of the Rainbow are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Do you see black and grey in there? At least by their conformist dress, it’s as if the workers have forgotten the name of their store. Mi amigo/My friend asked jokingly: “Are they planning to change the name of their store to Black and Grey Grocery Cooperative?” Yes, one does wonder about that.
What happened to the “rad” colourful Rainbow Grocery Cooperative that some of us remember? Some of us feel that the “rad” Rainbow Grocery died and was buried when they renovated the store awhile back. It was a deliberate death on the part of the workers and a deliberate attempt to abandon some of the things about the store that we suspect some workers were ashamed of and/or embarrassed by in their past. The “politics” of the store have
changed been sanitised. It’s most rare now to hear any worker talk about anything remotely political which was not the case at all with the original Rainbow Grocery Cooperative. The renovation looks nice; they did a good job, but the workers didn’t have to “renovate”/sanitise themselves, and to be accurate, some workers did not do so. But there’s enough of them who have which is why I’m writing this. There are the many conformist workers who one sees on every shopping trip to their store who are wearing all-black or black and grey as if it is their Rainbow “uniform”/dress code.
This obsession with black and black and grey clothing seems to be a world-wide obsession from what we’ve seen. It’s in other shithole US cities, and I’ve noticed it in Asian cities. I’ve heard some people in Manhattan say that they wear “New York Black” clothing. Just more sad sheeple conformity. These days, being an individual seems to be out and absolute conformity seems to be in. Walking through San Francisco’s Castro one sees a sea of black clothing — even in a heat-wave of 115 degrees F — as if it’s a City requirement for its residents. Complete conformity.
We (mis amigos and I who shop at Rainbow each week) understand that people are depressed about the situation en el mundo/in the world. It’s a terrible situation and seems absolutely unresolvable at this point. No political party — certainly not the right-wing Democratic and Republican parties of the US Oligarchy — is going to serve as a messiah or saviour and save us. And the majority of people especially in the US wouldn’t have the sense to vote for someone other than Ds and Rs, such as voting for a Dr Jill Stein, for example. In the shithole US, most people will remain in the Democratic and Republican cesspool stagnation rut which has gotten us to where we are to begin with! Politically, things seem to get worse with every passing day here in the US.
So maybe we need a colour movement to cheer things up a bit in our last few years of existence. Colour does lift the spirits. Many people say that. Over many months, I’ve had a few customers at Rainbow tell me that in passing when they asked, “Why is everybody wearing black? Do you have any idea?” So I’m certainly not the only person to notice this obsession and fixation with all-black/black and grey. Don’t the workers — the majority who do — feel depressed wearing all black or black and grey every day? Wearing pretty/beautiful colours could give us a false sense that everything is fine in the world and since many (most?) people like to live in Denial to begin with one would think that the masses would be embracing and wearing beautiful (Latin) colours, instead of drab funeral black which is so very depressing to look at. So, up with colour, mis amigos. Start wearing colour and see if that doesn’t lift your depressed spirits and make you feel better! The brighter the better. Fuck these so-called “trends.” After all, “trends” are most often created by greed-ba$ed corporation$ to make dinero/money for them$elve$.
Now, put on some bright colours and go shop at Rainbow. They will appreciate your business. And be nice to the workers; most of whom are very friendly, down-to-Earth and nice people and they are part of the working class. Keep your dinero/money in the community by shopping at worker-owned and operated Rainbow. The workers are the owners of their own store. For those who whine about Rainbow’s prices compared to that of Whole Paycheck, from my experience, Rainbow has the lowest prices around, at least on what I buy. And that’s been true for years. Even if something is higher at Rainbow — I’d find that hard to believe unless its organic at Rainbow — than (non-organic and from China?) at corporate Whole Paycheck (I wouldn’t know because I never shop there), wouldn’t you rather give your money to Rainbow workers rather than mega-corporate-owned-chain store Whole Paycheck? If you can’t understand that basis concept then something is very wrong with you. You enjoy supporting corporations and corporatists do you? (roll eyes) Sometimes the lowest prices are not what’s it’s all about people. People with a social conscience understand this. And bring your own bags. You really enjoy paying $1.00 per paper bag while you pretend to care about our environment? WTF? Who can afford that? All the money you waste on paper bags you could spend on buying a cloth bag at Rainbow — what is wrong with people?! — and using that each shopping trip. Or use a box from over there in the box bin. They’re free. Chau.—el barrio rosa