Monday, August 27, 2012

Green Party Jill Stein and VP / Co-op Business Day, July, 2012

About Jill Stein
Dr. Jill Stein is a mother, housewife, physician, longtime teacher of internal medicine, and pioneering environmental-health advocate.
She is the co-author of two widely-praised reports,  In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development, published in 2000, andEnvironmental Threats to Healthy Aging, published in 2009.  The first of these  has been translated into four languages and is used worldwide. The reports promote green local economies, sustainable agriculture, clean power, and freedom from toxic threats.
Her "Healthy People, Healthy Planet" teaching program reveals the links between human health, climate security, and green economic revitalization. This body of work has been presented at government, public health and medical conferences, and has been used to improve public policy.
Jill began to advocate for the environment as a human health issue in 1998 when she realized that politicians were simply not acting to protect children from the toxic threats emerging from current science. She offered her services to parents, teachers, community groups and a native Americans group seeking to protect their communities from toxic exposure.
Jill has testified before numerous legislative panels as well as local and state governmental bodies. She played a key role in the effort to get the Massachusetts fish advisories updated to better protect women and children from mercury contamination, which can contribute to learning disabilities and attention deficits in children. She also helped lead the successful campaign to clean up the "Filthy Five" coal plants in Massachusetts, an effort that resulted in getting coal plant regulations signed into law that were the most protective around at that time. Her testimony on the effects of mercury and dioxin contamination from the burning of waste helped preserve the Massachusetts moratorium on new trash incinerator construction in the state. 
Jill has appeared as an environmental health expert on the Today Show20/20Fox News, and other programs. She was also a member of the national and Massachusetts boards of directors of the Physicians for Social Responsibility. Her efforts to protect public health has won her several awards including: Clean Water Action's "Not in Anyone's Backyard" Award, the Children's Health Hero" Award, and the Toxic Action Center's Citizen Award.  
Having witnessed the ability of big money to stop health protective policies on Beacon Hill, Jill became an advocate for campaign finance reform, and worked to help pass the Clean Election Law. This law was approved by the voters by a 2-1 margin, but was later repealed by the Massachusetts Legislature on an unrecorded voice vote.
In 2002 ADD activists in the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party approached Dr. Stein and asked her to run for Governor of Massachusetts. Dr. Stein accepted, and began her first foray into electoral politics. She was widely credited with being the best informed and most credible candidate in the race.
She has twice been elected to town meeting in Lexington, Massachusetts. She is the founder and past co-chair of a local recycling committee appointed by the Lexington Board of Selectmen.
In 2003, Jill co-founded the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities, a non-profit organization that addresses a variety of issues that are important to the health and well-being of Massachusetts communities, including health care, local green economies, and grassroots democracy.
Jill represented the Green-Rainbow Party in two additional races – one for State Representative in 2004 and one for Secretary of State in 2006. In 2006 she won the votes of over 350,000 Massachusetts citizens – which represented the greatest vote total ever for a Green-Rainbow candidate.
In 2008, Jill helped formulate a "Secure Green Future" ballot initiative that called upon legislators to accelerate efforts to move the Massachusetts economy to renewable energy and make development of green jobs a priority. The measure won over 81 per cent of the vote in the 11 districts in which it was on the ballot.
Jill was born in Chicago and raised in suburban Highland Park, Illinois. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1973, and from Harvard Medical School in 1979. Jill enjoys writing and performing music, and enjoys long walks with her Great Dane, Bandita. Dr. Stein lives in Lexington with her husband, Richard Rohrer, also a physician. She has two sons, Ben and Noah, who have graduated from college in the past few years.
About Cheri Honkala
Cheri Honkala was born into poverty in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She grew up watching her mother suffer from domestic violence that she quietly endured for fear of losing her kids. At the age of 17 her 19 year old brother Mark, who suffered from mental health issues committed suicide. He was uninsured and could not afford to get the help he needed. At the time of Mark's suicide Cheri was a teenage mother living out of her car and going to high school. Despite her difficult upbringing she graduated high school.
Cheri and her son Mark (named after her brother) lived in and out of places eventually becoming homeless after the car they had been living in at the time was demolished by a drunk driver. Mark was 9 years old and Cheri could not find a shelter that would allow them to remain together that winter so in order to keep from freezing Cheri decided to move into an abandoned HUD home. She then began working to help other poor families and became a pioneer in the modern housing takeover movement. For the past 25 years Cheri Honkala has been a leading advocate for poor and homeless in America. She co-founded the Kensington Welfare Rights Union and the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign. She has organized tens of thousands holding marches, demonstrations and setting up tent cities.
Honkala was included in Philadelphia Magazine’s list of 100 Most Powerful Philadelphians and was named Philadelphia Weekly’s “Woman of the Year” in 1997. In 2001 Ms. Magazine also named Cheri Woman of the Year and she's since been the recipient of numerous awards including the Bread and Roses Human Rights Award, Public Citizen of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association of Social Workers, and the prestigious Letelier-Moffitt award from the Washington Institute for Policy Studies. In April 2005 Mother Jones magazine named her Hellraiser of the Month. Front Line Defenders has named Cheri one  of the 12 most endangered activists in America. 
Cheri is nationally and internationally respected for her anti-poverty work. Honoring the legacy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Poor People's Campaign of 1967-68 Cheri inspires a new generation of leaders working to end poverty. In 2004 Cheri spoke at the World Social Forum in India. In 2000 at the Republican National Convention Cheri was a leader of a march of over 100,000 people and she also addressed 148 governments at the United Nations on poverty.
In 2011 as a result of the recent bank bailouts and near complete lack of support for the millions of struggling homeowners caught in the undertow of Wall Street's housing bubble Cheri became the first woman to run for Sheriff of Philadelphia and the first and only Sheriff candidate nationwide pledging to stop home foreclosures by the big banks. Running under the Green Party her platform was to "Keep Families in Their Homes",  A position that could finally force the banks back to the table with taxpayers and homeowners alike.To get on the ballot Cheri and her volunteers collected 4,300 signatures and on election day received over 10,000 votes in Philadelphia growing the Green Party, particularly in lower income neighborhoods.
Cheri's son Mark Webber is an actor and director. Cheri played herself in Explicit Ills, Mark Webber's drama about poverty in Philadelphia.
Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Zucchino chronicled Cheri Honkala and the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign for six months during 1996 in his book The Myth of the Welfare Queen which include Cheri organizing 70 homeless families taking over an abandoned church, setting up another homeless encampment in an abandoned lot, and getting arrested and charged for attempting to set up a tent city in front of the Liberty Bell. Honkala faced over 10 years in prison, as local law enforcement claimed she assaulted officers, however video footage later abosolved her of any crime. 
Since the mid 1990's Cheri has been extensively documented by photographer Harvey Finkle. Cheri was also photographed by photographer Richard Avedon's Democracy 2004 series, which appeared in the October 2004 edition of the New Yorker magazine.
Videos and Documentaries including Cheri Honkala:
Additional links and articles about Cheri Honkala:
Cooperatives show the way out of the crisis
Cooperatives have been more resilient to the global economic and jobs crisis than other sectors. The UN International Day of Cooperatives, which takes place this year on 7 July, offers a chance for cooperatives to reassert their position in the world economy. ILO News interviews Simel Esim, Chief of the ILO’s Cooperative Branch.
Analysis | 04 July 2012

Is the role that cooperatives play in the economy often underestimated?  /  Simel Esim: The economic contribution of cooperatives, although substantial, is often undervalued, and sometimes completely ignored. /   The top 300 cooperatives in the world in terms of turnover exceed US$1.6 trillion, more than the GDP of Canada. In Argentina, 58 per cent of rural electricity in 2005 was provided by cooperatives. In Colombia, Saludcoop, a health cooperative, provides health care services for 15.5 per cent of the population.   /  In Japan, 9.1 million family farmers are members of cooperatives who provide 257,000 jobs. In India, the needs of 67 per cent of rural households are covered by cooperatives, and in Switzerland, the largest retailers and largest private employer is a cooperative. How prominent is the role of cooperatives in the international banking system?  / Simel Esim: Some of the largest banks in the world, including the Dutch Rabobank, Crédit Agricole and Crédit Mutuel in France and DG Bank in Germany, are cooperatives. In Europe alone, there are 4,200 local cooperative banks, around 60,000 branches and a market share of 20 per cent. In France, for example, 75 per cent of farmers are members of at least one agricultural co-operative MEC, while co-operative banks handle 60 per cent of retail banking operations. KUSCCO, a cooperative Bank in Kenya, is the fourth largest in the country with a capital of US$180 million.
§  Serve 1 billion members worldwide
§  Financial cooperatives serve over 857 million people – 13 per cent of the world population.
§  Provide 100 million jobs around the globe
§  Ensure the livelihoods of 50 per cent of the world’s population
§  Produce 50 per cent of global agriculture output
§  The top 300 cooperatives generate USD 1.6 trillion

Have cooperatives been more resilient to the crisis? / Simel Esim: Available evidence suggests that cooperative enterprises across sectors and regions are proving to be relatively more resilient to the current market shocks than their capital-centred counterparts.   /  Financial cooperatives remain financially sound; consumer cooperatives are reporting increased turnover; and worker cooperatives are seeing growth as people choose the cooperative form of enterprise to respond to new economic realities.  / To give you an example: While European co-operative banks have 21 per cent of the market share, they only accounted for 7 per cent of all the European banking industry’s write-downs and losses between the third quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2011.  /  Even in the current context of recession, the ILO has noted an increase of cooperative start-ups – especially savings and credit cooperatives or credit unions, which contribute to employment creation around the globe. How do you explain the resilience of cooperatives?   / Simel Esim: Although they might have been less profitable than other financial institutions before, the profitability of cooperative banks went up during the crisis. Cooperative banks are more risk-averse and less driven by the need to make profits for investors and bonuses for managers.  /  In comparison to private banks, savings and credit cooperatives tend not to freeze credit, have lower increases in interest rates and are generally more stable due to lending practices. Cooperative banks stayed close to the roots of the banking system and the real economy. This made them more resilient to the global economic turmoil. How can we ensure the promotion of cooperatives?  / Simel Esim: Successful cooperative promotion requires a consistent, clear, realistic and long-term cooperative development policy in line with national priorities. These policies need to recognize the economic and social importance, autonomy and distinctive identity of cooperatives.  /  Policy makers need to ensure a level playing field between customer-owned banking institutions and investor-owned banks, and the need to ensure that new banking regulations do not disadvantage the sector. They must also ensure current laws and administrative practices (registration procedures, taxation policies, accounting standards, etc.) do not hinder the development and growth of cooperatives.  / And without cooperative credit, it will be even harder to keep or create the jobs needed and to ensure establishments stay afloat. 
'Cooperative enterprises build a better world' - Statement by ILO Director-General
Message by Juan Somavia, Director-General of the ILO, on the occasion of the 90th ICA International Co-operative Day and the 18th UN International Day of Cooperatives.
Statement | 06 July 2012
As we celebrate this International Day of Cooperatives in the UN International Year of Cooperatives, the ILO salutes cooperators and their organizations around the world.

Cooperatives are engines of economic growth offering a dynamic and flexible business model in production, marketing and service delivery. Globally, about 1 billion women and men are involved in cooperatives which generate some 100 million jobs. The three hundred largest cooperatives generated revenues of 1.6 trillion dollars in 2008, operating in diverse sectors, including in agriculture, finance, consumer, insurance and health sectors. At the same time, cooperatives also give the smallest of operators the opportunity to improve their output and income.

Guided by the compass of social justice, cooperatives are vehicles for promoting decent work and decent lives for all. As democratic, value-driven and locally-controlled organizations, they foster social inclusion. Organization brings strength and the organization and solidarity of the cooperative movement have been highly effective in enabling disadvantaged groups to gain voice, mobilize to pursue their economic interests and to secure social protection. Indigenous people, refugees, migrants, women in rural and urban areas, unemployed persons, the elderly, and the disabled have all found possibilities for social and economic participation and advancement through cooperative action and enterprise.

Rooted in the people and communities they serve, cooperatives are well-placed to serve as guardians of the environment and the conservation of ecosystems for the benefit of future generations. Agricultural and other rural cooperatives can play a key role in preventing ecosystem degradation and assuring food security.

In sum, cooperatives have a key role to play in the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development. And the recent Rio+20 Summit reaffirmed the role of cooperatives in contributing to social inclusion and poverty reduction.

Clearly, with such an approach, cooperative enterprises are helping build a better world. Yet to thrive fully, they also need a supportive environment and the ILO’s Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation (R.193), celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, provides sound guidance on creating such an environment. I urge all who wish to translate the cooperative ideal into action to make good use of this Recommendation.

The resilience of cooperatives, including in times of crisis, testifies to the sustainability and adaptability of the cooperative enterprise. Today, in confronting the widespread and growing income inequality, unemployment, underemployment and social exclusion that have been the corollary of prevailing inefficient patterns of growth, cooperative ideals and action are much needed.

As we celebrate this Day, the ILO reaffirms its commitment to its long-standing collaboration with the cooperative movement. Let us all join forces to help cooperatives build a better world – a world with social justice.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Organic Corps and GMOs- Japan Closed their Nukes

Boycott the Organic and 'Natural' Traitor Brands Whose Parent Companies Oppose Your Right to Know recent weeks, several public interest groups, including the Organic Consumers Association, Cornucopia Institute,, and Natural News, have pointed out the gross hypocrisy and greed of large food and beverage corporations selling billions of dollars of organic and natural food, while meanwhile bankrolling the industry opposition to GMO labeling. These organic and “natural” traitor companies and brands include: Kellogg’s (Kashi, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms); General Mills (Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, Larabar); Dean Foods (Horizon, Silk, White Wave); Smucker’s (R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic); Coca-Cola (Honest Tea, Odwalla); Safeway (“O” Organics); Kraft (Boca Burgers and Back to Nature); Con-Agra (Orville Redenbacher’s Organic, Hunt’s Organic, Lightlife); and PepsiCo (Naked Juice, Tostito’s Organic, Tropicana Organic). All of these companies are profiting from the sale of billions of dollars of their proprietary organic and “natural” food brands while at the same time funneling large sums of money to the Monsanto-led campaign to defeat the November 6th GMO labeling ballot initiative (Proposition 37) in California.

We need to send a clear message to these traitor brands, in the only language they understand: lost profits and lower sales. Today, the Organic Consumers Association and are formally calling for a boycott of 7 organic and “natural” brands.
"Organic Consumers Association"

Japan Shutters Last Nuclear Power Plant

For the first time since 1970, Japan has stopped producing nuclear power. Up until the partial nuclear meltdown at Fukushima last year, nuclear power plants provided almost 30 percent of Japan’s electricity needs. A growing anti-nuclear movement in Japan has forced the closure of Japan’s other facilities. On Saturday, Japan shut down its last nuclear plant, but government officials have not ruled out restarting its nuclear industry if Japan suffers from electricity shortages. On Saturday, thousands of anti-nuclear activists marched calling for the nuclear plants never to be reopened. One protester, Kaori Kanda, said she was worried about the effects of radiation.
Kaori Kanda: "My friend in Iwaki just died of cardiac arrest. The people around me are dying. They are dying because they are staying in places where the radiation is too high, absorbing the fallout and dying of cardiac arrest. The cause and effect cannot be directly established, so we can only say, 'What a pity.' But there are many people dying now."

Mark ,

screenshot from TPP parody video

Do you know what “TPP” stands for?

A. Taking People’s Power
B. Toxic Poisonous Products
C. Terribly Pricey Pharmaceuticals
D. Trans-Pacific Partnership
E. All of the above

The right answer, unfortunately, is E. And today in Dallas, Texas, a throng of corporate lobbyists are gathering behind closed doors to begin what they’ve branded “trade” negotiations.

In reality, the TPP is a stunning backdoor corporate attack.

Unlock the secret of the TPP — the Trans-Pacific Partnership “trade” ruse.

Watch our “TPP: The Ultimate Corporate Power Tool” video, a parody based on the Jackson 5 classic song “ABC.”

Then sign the petition to open up the negotiation process — this is a deal that cannot survive public scrutiny.
"Robert Weissman, Public Citizen"

Democracy Now! Daily News Digest
May 8, 2012

Former Labor Sec. Robert Reich on Clinton’s Errors of Crippling Welfare to Repealing Glass-Steagall

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich critiques President Obama’s handling of the economic crisis and the Clinton administration’s repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a key deregulatory move that ended the separation of commercial and investment banking and is widely seen as having helped lead to the financial collapse. The Clinton administration also presided over a drastic transformation of U.S. welfare laws, throwing millions off of welfare rolls. Reich is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has written 13 books, including Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future. His latest, an e-book, is just out: Beyond Outrage: What Has Gone Wrong with Our Economy and Our Democracy, and How to Fix Them. Watch/Listen/Read

"We Need to Make a Ruckus": Robert Reich Hails Occupy for Exposing Concentration of Wealth and Power

In his new book, Beyond Outrage, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich opens with a dedication to the Occupy Wall Street movement. We speak to Reich about the success of Occupy in reshaping the national dialogue on the economy and why strong grassroots movements are needed to push elected leaders in Washington to enact a progressive agenda. Reich also discusses why austerity is not the answer to the economic crisis at home or in Europe.
Democracy Now!
Dear Friend,
            In this challenging economy, a college education means more than ever to reaching for the American Dream.  However, increased costs are making that harder and harder on today’s students, saddling them with too much debt. That is why I am urging my colleagues in Congress to do the right thing and place politics aside to prevent student debt rates from rising. Below is an op-ed I recently wrote in the Albany Times Union which highlights the need for a bi-partisan solution to keeping the student debt rate down to allow our young people to flourish and adequately prepare for the next generation.
                        Kirsten E. Gillibrand 
                    U.S. Senator for New York

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fracking, Recycling, and Coal- Green America on Shareholders

New Documentary Makes a Powerful Case for Co-ops Food for Change, a compelling new feature-length documentary that’s currently in the works, explores the role of food co-ops as a force for dynamic social and economic change in American culture. From the rise of co-ops during the Great Depression, to the reemergence of food co-ops as an outgrowth of the 1960s Civil Rights, War on Poverty, and anti-war movements, to the new wave of co-op growth occurring across present day America—the film brings a message of hope and empowerment to existing co-op fans, as well as those who are new to the cooperative model.

 "Andrea Cumpston" <>
Dear Green American,
20% of shareholders
demand action
on the climate crisis.
Add your voice to those of concerned shareholders
by taking our action here »

Is 20% a high enough
vote to matter?
Yes, absolutely!
Most shareholders automatically vote how management wants them to, and in this case, management was actively arguing against taking responsiblity for its carbon footprint. For 20% of shareholders to push back is huge, and sends a powerful message to company management. When the company starts hearing the same message from its customers, it must take notice. Please send your message to

People & Planet Award
Celebrate the great green businesses that are leading the way to a greener America. When you vote in our People & Planet Awards you can help three deserving businesses win $5,000 apiece »

Together, we're weilding economic power to stop corporate abuses, and I'm pleased to report some important victories.
One powerful tool we have to hold corporations to account is shareholder action – when those who own stock use their votes as shareholders to tell corporate management to clean up its act. 
A big thank-you to all the share-owning Green Americans who used your investor power to make 2012 an especially successful year for shareholder action.
Most of the shareholder votes happen in the first half of the year, so here's our report to you on recycling, anti-coal, and anti-fracking shareholder victories – and next steps you can take on these issues.

1. Advancing Recycling -- Previous shareholder seasons have achieved meaningful change on recycling at bottled-beverage companies. Concerned shareholders convinced Coca-Cola, Pepsico, and Nestle Waters to adopt recycling goals, and have convinced several companies to support extended producer responsibility (EPR) state legislation in the US. Similar to policies already enacted in 27 EU countries, EPR legislation makes companies responsible for collection and recycling of their post-consumer packaging. Meanwhile, the Dr. Pepper/Snapple Company has been lagging behind, which is why 32% of shareholders voted for the company to adopt recycling goals.
Find 20 plastic things you didn't know you can recycle in the Green American magazine »

2. Striking a Blow Against Coal -- In Green America's report on bad actors in the energy sector, Green America cited Southern Company as the most-polluting utility company in the country. Shareholders are taking notice as well. This year 26% of shareholders demanded that Southern Company report on the adverse effects of its coal-ash disposal, specifically "to reduce environmental and health hazards associated with coal combustion waste contaminating water."
Strike another blow against coal by taking our action in support of tax credits for wind energy »

3. Getting Real on Hydraulic Fracturing -- As many energy companies have begun utilizing the highly destructive natural-gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," concerned shareholders have taken notice. Very high percentages of investors owning shares in Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Ultra Petroleum (28%, 30%, and 35% respectively) voted to demand that the companies report on the community effects of their fracking operations.
Read Green America's editorial on why fracking is dangerous »

Attend Governor Cuomo's policy summit and speak out against fracking!
Join the rally to urge Gov. Cuomo not to frack New York, outside of his NYC policy summit next week.
Take action now!
CREDO Action | more than a network, a movement.
Dear Mark,
Next week, on Wednesday, August 22, Governor Cuomo will host a policy summit in New York City. The summit, which will feature veterans of the Clinton Administration, appears to be a step forward as Cuomo explores a possible 2016 presidential run.
The event happens as Governor Cuomo is moving forward with his reckless plan to lift New York's fracking ban, which he is expected to announce as early as Labor Day.1
This policy summit is an important opportunity to publicly confront the Governor. We need to make sure he gets the message that if he wants the support of New Yorkers who care about their environment and the safety of the water they drink when he runs for president in 2016, he needs to stop moving forward with plans to frack New York.
Details are still being sorted out. Please RSVP if you might be able to attend, so we can stay in touch with you in case the time or place of the event changes.
What: Governor Cuomo: Don't frack New York! Rally outside the Governor's policy summit.
When: Wednesday, August 22, at 12:30 p.m.
Where: Sheraton New York Hotel, 811 7th Avenue, at 53rd street, New York, NY 10019 
"Zack Malitz, CREDO Action" <>****

Other shareholder actions supported by Green America and achieving high votes included demands for home-mortgage policy accountability at the mega-banks (Bank of America and Citigroup), as well as votes for poltical donation transparency at numerous companies (Walmart, AT&T, and ExxonMobil).
Thanks for all you do to demand that corporate America clean up its act,

Alisa (signature)

Alisa Gravitz
Executive Director
Green America

Dear Mark,
Last month, we told you how American Airlines is doing everything it can to obstruct democracy and block 10,000 of its employees from voting to form a union. These workers are still stranded without a voice to protect themselves as the airline attempts to gut their jobs, benefits, and working conditions through bankruptcy proceedings.
Yet American Airlines just celebrated one of its best second quarters in history – revenue rose 5.5 percent to an all-time high of $6.46 billion.1 Meanwhile, the company is spending enormous sums of money on legal fees just to prevent its workers from having an election.2
We need to make sure more people know about the airline's unjust, unAmerican unionbusting.
Will you take a minute to write a letter to your local paper? Letters to the editor from consumers like you, in newspapers across the country, can help put real pressure on the company.
American is content to fly below the radar if we let them. But you can ensure the company's outrageous behavior doesn't go unnoticed in the media. Write your letter now.
Thanks so much for continuing to speak up for workers,

"Hilary Woodward, American Rights at Work" <>

Yesterday a Russian court found 3 members of Pussy Riot guilty for singing a protest song in a church. Stand in solidarity with Masha, Katja & Nadia with a Free Pussy Riot tshirt, made possible by our friends at the legendary punk club CBGB. Every purchase you make supports our efforts to fight for human rights.
"Amnesty International USA" <>

Vestas To Lay Off 20 Percent of Pueblo Workforce

by Renewable Energy World Editors | August 15, 2012 | Post Your Comment
Wind manufacturer Vestas said on Aug. 13 that it plans to lay off 20 percent of the 450 workers at a tower factory in Pueblo, Colo. The company blames a weak market caused by the looming expiration of the production tax credit....

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Costco OK for Employees

Costco, the Genuine Retail CSR Leader?

By Leon Kaye | August 14th, 2012 22 Comments
 Wall Street teamsters San Joaquin Valley Leon Kaye labor costs Joan Rivers CSR costco employees Costco corporate social responsibility corporate governance calvin klein jeans big box retailers
Costco, the CSR leader amongst retailers
Could Costco possibly be the most genuine leader when it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and governance? Retailers across the country constantly crow about the achievements they have made on a bevy of issues from more sustainable fish (Safeway) to solar installations (Walmart). Other retailers are yanking the chains on pork producers to cease the cruel use of gestation crates and of course just about everyone is on the organic and local produce bandwagon. These shifts in business practices are great news for fish, pigs and of course, the environment and our health.
But what about people who work in these stores, who stack, haul and crate the fish, pork and produce, whether they are free range, cruelty-free, duty free, or not?
While most big box retailers insist on paying low wages with the claim that thin margins require reduced labor costs, Costco for years has been breaking the mold. Wall Street squawks that the membership warehouse giant should push for higher profit margins and reduced labor costs, meanwhile the company, led by its iconoclastic founder and former CEO, Jim Sinegal, constantly flicks his chin at The Street and its yammering analysts. The results: happy employees, enviable stock performance and a brilliant shopping model that, let’s face it, bludgeons consumers into shopping happily for more.
So what makes Costco so successful? Arguably the biggest difference is how the retailer treats its workers. Walk into any Costco and look at the name tags. Chances are you will read the phrases “since 2002,” “since 1999” and “since 1995.” Costco workers get paid very well compared to their counterparts at chains including Walmart. In fact, employees working on the floor can make a salary that reaches the mid-$40,000 range; not bad for someone who starts working for the company out of high school. And while the vast majority of Costco’s employees are not unionized (most of those are legacy employees from Price Club that the Teamsters represent), over 80 percent have competitively priced health insurance plans. The outcome includes more productive workers, lower turnover and for what it’s worth, relatively high job satisfaction.
Meanwhile Sinegal, who stepped down as the company’s CEO on December 31, earned a spartan salary compared to the vast majority of his counterparts. For years his salary, not including bonuses and stock options, hovered at $350,000. Critics lashed out when the company announced that current CEO Craig Jelinek would pull a salary of $650,000, but that is still a tepid amount compared to average CEO salaries, which are still on an upward trend despite the recent surge in “say-on-pay” shareholder votes. Meanwhile the stock has performed well, sliding only when the rest of the economy took a dive during the post 9/11 aftershock and the 2008 fiscal crisis. If you bought Costco stock a decade ago, your investment has roughly tripled in value.
So, along with happier workers come fair prices and a commitment to local companies. Take those famous Calvin Klein jeans that have been a mainstay at Costco over the years. Depending on the price, they could be marked at $29.99, but if the company can snag millions more, they could be $22.99. Wall Street would insist that regardless of the wholesale price, Costco should maximize its profit. But the company’s philosophy has long been that it will pass on savings to its customers. Most products in its warehouses are well-known national brands, but Costco does purchase local products. Karoun Armenian string cheese in Los Feliz, Goldilocks bread in Vallejo, hemp seeds in Santa Cruz and fruit from small San Joaquin Valley farms in Fresno are just a few examples that can be found in Costco’s warehouses.
Not everything at Costco is perfect: some products are well, dubious; Joan Rivers chained herself to a shopping cart after the chain stopped selling her book; and some suppliers have landed Costco into hot water. But in the end, the company treats its employees and shareholders more than decently. And sales continue to trend upwards. If you believe all workers should have the chance to earn a decent wage and be rewarded for hard work, shopping at Costco is an easy choice to make.
Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business and covers sustainable architecture and design for Inhabitat. You can follow him on Twitter. 

We’ve heard it all before: state and local budgets are stretched thin and we’ve got no choice but to make deep cuts to our schools and services we all rely on. We can’t even think about dedicating money to create jobs and speed our economic recovery.

But what if we did have the money—let’s say $3 billion—to spend on creating good jobs and meeting the needs of our communities?

The good news is we do have the money. The bad news is that tax dodging corporations are taking the lion’s share of it right now.

Sign the petition today to stop the corporate tax dodgers.

Each year, New York spends $3 billion on corporate tax subsidies in the name of job creation. But too much of this money is wasted on corporations that game the system by cashing in on tax breaks while creating no jobs, poverty wage jobs, or even cutting jobs. With a small army of lawyers and lobbyists, greedy corporations have figured out how to avoid paying taxes while working families and less-savvy small businesses are asked to pitch in more or make sacrifices.

Unfortunately, the way New York’s economic development system is set up makes it easy to swindle taxpayers. Hundreds of shadowy agencies operate largely outside of public view, and most of the time, we have no idea we’re subsidizing these corporations. That Bank of America down the street? You paid for it. Those luxury apartments? You paid for that, too.

Thousands of corporations around the state benefit from these giveaways. Corporate subsidy abuse is so rampant, that in New York’s  largest subsidy program, more than half of the corporations didn’t even create one single job. Though we can’t expose them all, we’ve just launched the Corporate Tax Dodgers Hall of Shame website to highlight some of the all-stars of corporate subsidy abuse.

Our State Representatives need to step in to make sure we’re getting our money’s worth from corporate subsidies. We know they hear a lot from big corporations and their lobbyists--now they need to hear from you:

Long Island Jobs with Justice <>