At Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, Black Lives Matter is more important than their Mission Statement

These days, the former progressives and former liberals are an empty shell of their past selves, having lost themselves or sold out. Someone might ask: Why are you critical of “progressives” and “liberals?” I didn’t realise that the former progressives and former liberals were so delicate and thin-skinned that they’re above criticism and above reproach. The fact of the matter is that the truth hurts them and I tell it like it is about them which causes them to cringe.

Go on Rainbow’s website and what’s one of the first things you see? Black Lives Matter up at the top. One would think that their Mission Statement would be up at the top, no? Where is Rainbow’s Mission Statement? Well the link to it is buried down at the bottom of the page in a very small font which takes you to another page.

Their Mission Statement is gone altogether on their new paper shopping bags for some odd reason. Maybe they thought that nobody would notice, but it’s the first thing I noticed about their revised shopping bags (as of 2021).

As long as I can remember, Rainbow Grocery Cooperative — a worker-owned and run vegetarian-vegan grocery store in San Francisco — has had their Mission Statement on their paper shopping bags. The same for their list of (some unconventional) holidays of when the store is closed. One unconventional holiday is International Worker’s Day/May Day. Rainbow is closed on 1 May each year.

Rainbow now have a new batch of shopping bags and both the Mission Statement and the list of holidays are deleted. Gone. Fin. The End.

Rainbow Grocery Cooperative is the most environmentally-focused grocery store in the Bay Area, that I’m aware of. Years ago, they got rid of plastic bags in the store. They use compostable bags in the Produce Department and elsewhere in the store as well as compostable containers and other “green” items. So it is extremely ironic that they would delete their “green” Mission Statement from their shopping bags.

Why has Rainbow Grocery latched onto Black Lives Matter? Well, it’s the latest social justice fad — historically speaking in the big scheme of things — similar to Occupy Wall Street (as fads go). One would think that a decades-long Mission Statement would take priority over the latest social justice fad, again, historically speaking. If the workers thought their Mission Statement was too controversial for the New Conservative San Francisco, BLM is even more controversial! And as of this writing I think BLM is sort of fading out, like most fads.

So one might ask: What does BLM have to do with Rainbow Grocery? Nothing really. Since — during the store’s renovation — the workers sanitised the store of any politics, they stopped all boycotts of products including items from the #2 terrorist nation on the planet, Israel. The Israel-Palestian topic is dead at Rainbow. They now carry food and items from Israel. They also drag out a Hanukkah display each year to cater to the Israel-Jewish crowd. It’s odd that you’d find religious stuff in a secular grocery store, no? Other than that, all topics are dead at Rainbow frankly. That’s why it’s surprising that they latched onto BLM.

Most of their workers are white or of Latino/Hispano/Chicano ethnicity. Their customer base has a minority of Black customers. Over the years, I think you could count the number of Black workers on less than 2 hands. I can only think of about 5 Black workers that I’ve seen there over the decades. Their site also says: “Rainbow’s statement about current protests and our Uprising Committee.” Protests? Uprising Committee? At Rainbow? I don’t think so. The workers of today at Rainbow that I’ve seen on the floor and the cashiers are not the protest type or at least they don’t strike me as that. That was the Old City and the store of the founders. That store is mostly gone. I suspect if the founders were to come back to life today they’d ask with frustration: What have you done to Rainbow? Did you hire people who “just needed a job” rather than people who were interested in working here for reasons based in our Mission Statement? That would seem to be what’s happened. And when one does that, one erodes one’s core values.

Well, the store is not what it used to be and my sense is that most of the workers are not there for any social-consciousness reasons per the Mission Statement, but merely because “I need a job.”

As I said, they also deleted their list of holidays when the store is closed. Rainbow has historically taken some non-traditional holidays. Is International Worker’s Day now too “rad” for them, or will they keep that? Do they plan on cancelling some of their non-conventional holidays to be like all other grocery stores? That could explain the holiday list deletion. Also, what about corporate “Pride” since I think most of the workers are now straight and or back in the closet from what I’ve seen. And San Francisco’s version is called “SF Pride” or “San Francisco Pride” which sounds like it has to do with one having pride in San Francisco or pride in The City. Rainbow also uses that conformist revisionist history and corporatist “LGBT” alphabet soup nonsense rather than the word Queer. It’s revisionist history because the original acronym was GLBTQ. That’s because gay guys and drag queens led our Movement and even started it (pre-Stonewall), not lesbians as the “L” first implies. As Lea DeLaria says, “By the time you get through all those letter, the parade is over.” Indeed. She uses the word Queer, as do I, and not that revisionist history LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ+++++++ rubbish. (The original acronym was GLBTQ because gay guys and drag queens started and led our Movement in the majority, pre-Stonewall and beyond). And how many more fucking letters are they going to add to that thing?

What about César Chávez Day? Will the workers keep that or is that too non-conventional these days? Why else remove the list of holidays if you don’t plan to change the list sometime in the future?

The sense I get is that they hire friends of other workers — people who would work anywhere and just need a job — which has now eroded the “progressive left” part of the store. And people who just need a job and would be satisfied working anywhere is not what Rainbow’s Mission Statement was about. A cashier at Rainbow would be just as content at their competition. They’re not there for their Mission Statement, which follows:

The Rainbow Grocery Cooperative Mission

We have been in San Francisco’s Mission District since 1975. We strive to offer resources, education and a forum for informational exchange for many local communities and organizations.

Our goals include, but are not limited to:

  • Providing affordable vegetarian food products which have minimal negative impact ecologically and socially
  • Buying goods from local organic farmers, collectives, bakers, dairies and other local businesses whenever possible
  • Providing our customers with the best possible service
  • Providing Rainbow Grocery Cooperative’s workers with a livable wage
  • Creating a nonhierarchical work space based upon respect, mutuality and cooperation
  • Offering low-cost health care products and resources
  • Supporting other collectives and worker-owned businesses
  • Supporting fair labor practices
  • Donating to local non-profit organizations and schools
  • Encouraging bicycling, mass transit, and alternative transportation
  • Composting all in-store green wastes; recycling, reducing and reusing resources whenever possible
  • Creating a diverse, non-discriminatory multilingual environment

Yeah, that’s pretty rad don’t you think? Well for conservatives it is. They’re quite comfortable doing the opposite of all that and shopping at corporate chain grocery stores.

I have heard some Rainbow workers say that they shop at Whole PayCheck. That’s an example of what I mean when I say that some Rainbow workers are not there for the right reasons. To them it’s just a job. You’d think they would shop at the store they own and where they get a discount on their groceries.

Interestingly, as for “encouraging bicycling” in their Mission Statement, some years ago, the store discontinued their discount to customers who rode their bicycle to the store. And considering the looks of discontent on some worker’s faces where I’ve heard some workers refer to “they” — whoever “they” are — in the context of “they don’t care about us.” So one questions the fair labour practises part as well. One gets the impression that the store has been hijacked by a group of conservative corporatists of some sort. Is that who this vague “they” are?

“The City’s Changed” HOW?! (They won’t say).

I have heard that line, ‘The City’s Changed” countless times since the takeover of San Francisco by the seemingly-lobotomised techies and the Tech Industrial Complex. I’ve also heard “The City’s Changed” from those useless, prudish, conservative busy-body neighbourhood associations and other equally vile groups who live under illusions that they know what’s best for everyone in their neighbourhood, of their same income bracket of course. The thing is, they never say HOW the City has changed because they don’t want to offend anyone, particularly the breeders-straights, the new arrivals. They don’t want to offend the (conservative) techie breeders who have moved here by the thousands. And they don’t want to offend other conservatives. So that’s why they never elaborate by what they mean by “The City’s Changed.” And no one ever asks these conservatives how The City has changed. They probably wouldn’t give an intelligent answer anyway but give some short vague answer and or talk in word salads where you won’t know any more about it than you did before you asked, as they do about other topics. They won’t tell you that The Castro and Church Street areas have turned into a Breeder-Straight Mecca — it’s no longer the Gay Mecca — with everyone wearing drab and conservative black clothing head-to-toe (looking like some cult members or something), many pushing black baby strollers. Yeah, the baby stroller has to be black too. They won’t tell you that — by all indications — gay marriage ruined everything and most Queers have gone back in the closet and some have married the opposite gender now pretending to be “straight.” Insanity. The Century of Insanity. They won’t tell you any of this, but I will without reservation. And I have more to say about it. Click on some of the links over on the right hand side of the page under the Queer Articles section.

Did Rainbow remove their Mission Statement to try to “tone things down” and to look less “rad” and more mainstream, to be like other grocery stores? A continuation of their sanitising the store which started during their renovation? Did they feel that their Mission Statement might turn off the new more conservative customers in the New Conservative San Francisco?

Or, did they remove the Mission Statement so they can ultimately bring in meat? Is that what they plan to do with that area on their premises? Make it a covert Meat Department that doesn’t “look” like it’s directly connected with the store but on the premises?

They tried meat pizza out there with that failed pizza joint that two workers ran for awhile. Fortunately, the store did not promote the pizza stand because it was not vegetarian/vegan.

Being vegetarian/vegan was just a shallow fad for many former-progressives. It was cool back then. But now, to follow the conformist and conservative herd, we’re like this and we’re serving the techies who demand meat, meat and more meat. And it didn’t seem to dawn on the workers to try a vegetarian/vegan pizza stand that the store could promote and help bring in more business. Even though it was right under the Central Freeway. Awful. Also, I get the impression that most of the workers eat meat and so do some (most?) of the customers. I’ve occasionally heard some customers say, “We can get the chicken over at [name of store] while they’re buying vegetarian food in Rainbow.” Clearly, some people are not clear on the concept. If you’re willing to eat dead animals (meat), why even bother with the organic part and shop at Rainbow? Duh.

But considering the Mission Statement of the store, one would have thought the pizza stand would have been a vegetarian or vegan pizza stand. Then the Kiosk could have announced, “They’re serving some delicious vegetarian and vegan pizza outside our door at the pizza stand, so please stop there on your way out and get some hot pizza; they have it to-go as well.” Clearly the workers who ran the pizza place didn’t share Rainbow’s Mission Statement and their stance on not eating dead animals.

As a regular customer of Rainbow, I watched as most of the workers became more conservative in their dress — all black or black and grey clothing (The Uniform) — and less interested in the reasons they supposedly worked there.

Rainbow used to be a radical and progressive store, and I use the word radical in a positive way. Rainbow might say, “As The City has changed, we’ve changed to fit in.” Well, changing to fit in and conformity is part of the problem. It’s sheeple thinking. It’s not progressive at all. Genuine progressives rebel against conformity.

It used to be said “If Rainbow doesn’t have it, nobody will.” That’s no longer the case either. There’s a frozen version of Low-Sodium Macaroni and Cheese that a friend of mine buys on occasion. He told me he can’t get that at Rainbow. They don’t have the healthier, low sodium version, which the store of the Old City would have carried. Instead, Rainbow carries the unhealthy, high in sodium version. Is that because the New Conservative San Francisco will not buy the healthier version at Rainbow, so they don’t stock that?

Since Rainbow’s renovation, the store has changed some for the worse. The renovation was nice, but the direction the store took and the unfriendly attitude of some of the workers was not a nice change. Most of the workers act as if they don’t want to be there and don’t want to be bothered, so “Don’t look at me” seems to be their thinking. I can think of 3 cashiers who are all really nice guys, but there’s one newish guy there who’s in the wrong job, and I rarely complain about their cashiers or the other workers. His “politeness” is fake, phony and abrasive. As memory serves, this is the first time I’ve written anything about the unfriendly disposition of many of the workers.

Rainbow used to be all about selling cases of things. The Old store specialised in cases. Well, try to buy a case of something now and you’ll run into trouble, depending which cashier you get. Some of the cashiers don’t like it when customers buy cases of things. And if you shop for two weeks? You’ll run the risk of a cashier complaining about “all of this food.” Most cashiers seem to prefer small amounts. UPDATE: One customer emailed me after reading this article and said he had had problems with buying cases of chocolates at Rainbow. The customer expected the cashier to count each opened case. Isn’t that the cashier’s job? One would think so. Instead, the cashier made some snide comment about “last time you said you didn’t know how many were in each case” and began tossing the chocolates at the customer after scanning each one individually and the cashier made no effort to help him put them back in the box to clear the cashier area for the next customer. All the other cashiers left the chocolates in the box they came in, counted the number in the box and took one pack and scanned that and multiplied that times the number in the box. No other cashiers threw the chocolates at the customer like this cashier did. The customer who emailed me told me that he usually counted each box of chocolates before getting to the register but on this occasion he had forgotten to do that. The customer said that because of COVID protocol and customers being assigned to the next available cashier (rather than being able to choose your own cashier), that it became futile to count each box because sometimes the cashier — if they didn’t know him — would count the chocolates in each box anyway, and not take his word for it. Other cashiers who knew him and trusted him would gladly take his word for it. But he said he unfortunately ended up being sent to “this asshole cashier who is in the wrong job” every visit.

Rainbow no longer boycotts any products for social justice reasons. They leave that up to the customer. They rarely take a stand on anything as they did in the Old City. That’s why it’s curious that BLM is at the top of their website — the first thing in fact — and they also have a section about BLM.

The store also used to inform and educate customers about one company or another and their social justice positions, and to buy accordingly. All of that is gone. If a company has contributed to anti-choice issues, for example, Rainbow continues to support them by carrying their products. They say it’s up to the customer to not buy the product. A bit of hypocrisy in that.

I still shop there, but there’s no need to gloss over how the store has changed in the wrong direction, lost itself over the years, and continues to do so. I don’t know what they’re trying to become other than the opposite of what they were for the most part.

It used to be said that their monthly membership meetings were quite raucous and could go well into the night — until 3AM — but the last I heard about that, these days they’re like an exercise in conformity. Everyone in agreement. I guess all the rad workers who were independent thinkers and resisted conformity were evicted to Oakland or somewhere.

There’s absolutely no reason why they would remove their Mission Statement from their bag and replace it and have the same graphics on both sides of the bag. The membership must have voted to remove the Mission Statement, which probably upset a few of the workers who are still there for the right reasons — social and environmental consciousness — whereas the rest of the workers seemingly are there just because “it’s a job.” And for no other reason.

They’re pandering to the conformist techies who don’t have the intelligence to understand a genuine progressive point of view. Genuine progressives seem to burn-out very quickly. Chau.—el barrio rosa