Boycotts are an interesting thing. What exactly is a boycott?
Let’s say you want to go out to a club. Your friend suggests country and you decide against this. Your friend asks why and you simply say you don’t like country music, or perhaps you don’t like the vibe at country bars. Here “country” can be replaced with any genre.
Or perhaps you are deciding on lunch, and one of your friends is a vegetarian. This will drastically reduce the number of options available, and the choice of where to eat, where to spend your money, will depend on these types of choices.
Within the vegetarian domain there are even further divisions. One might not prefer meat because of religion, or perhaps because of health. Lately there has been a growing number of vegetarians, or people choosing to eat less meat, because of the impact of the cattle industry on the environment. Methane exhausts from cows have more effect on climate change than all the vehicle emissions in the world right now.
We are constantly choosing one business over another, unless we eat at every restaurant on the street for lunch, but then why not restaurants the next street down? Why shouldn’t I eat lunch in Phoenix everyday just because I live in Tucson?
While it may be common for a vegetarian to never frequent a steakhouse, there is no big issue with this decision. However, if a group of people decides not to eat at an establishment because of the conditions the cattle are raised in prior to their being led to the slaughterhouse, then one enters into the domain of “boycotting” an establishment, even though the end result is the same.
The economic system we have established, or at least for the majority of us that are not multi-billion dollar corporations, is one where survival of the fittest reigns supreme. If you open up a restaurant and serve substandard food, then your business may not last very long. There are many reasons not to financially support a business.
How about the political ideals of the owner?
If the owner of an establishment takes the money they make from you, and then uses them against your interests, is that a valid reason for boycotting their establishment?
Not only is it valid, but it is also a very effective method of persuading business leaders who otherwise ignore you. Let us consider some examples.
Perhaps the most successful boycott in American history was the grape boycott during the 1960’s that Cesar Chavez was involved with. Certain demands for better working conditions and pay were made, and so the farmworkers went on strike. This did not reach the desired result for various reason, so the farmworkers had a great insight. Have a grape boycott!
For a boycott to be effective there has to be an education campaign to inform the public first. Americans will buy most things at the store without consideration of the history of that product, all the hands that played a role in the production of that object, and the many places it has been.
On November 24, 1960, Edward R. Murrow, who now has a Hollywood movie about him out starring George Clooney, made his final documentary for CBS the day after Thanksgiving. The day was important of course because of the great feast everyone enjoyed the day before, but in the Harvest of Shame, Murrow explored where the food that everyone ate came from. The producer, David Rowe, had the following to say about timing of the release:
“We felt that by scheduling the program the day after Thanksgiving, we could stress the fact that much of the food cooked for Thanksgiving throughout the country was picked by migratory workers. We hoped that the pictures of how these people live and work would shock the consciousness of the nation.”
This documentary played an important role in altering the consciousness of the nation who now knew a little bit more about the food they bought at the supermarket. Every fruit and vegetable has a history to tell of its journey from seed to market.
The 60’s were a time for many civil rights activities, including the historic Civil Rights Act that teabaggers like Rand Paul would rather do without. One of the many actions was the grape boycott. The history is well documented, but whispers of the past can still be heard today.
If California agribusiness would not listen to the demands of their workers, and if strikes were ineffective, then it is time for market forces to intervene. The time was right for such a boycott since Harvest of Shame was still fresh in consumer’s minds.
On July 4th, 1969, the nation’s birthday, Time magazine had the following to report on the grape boycott:
Governor Ronald Reagan calls the strike and boycott “immoral” and “attempted blackmail.” Senator George Murphy, like Reagan an old Hollywood union man-turned-conservative, terms the movement “dishonest.” The Nixon Administration has seemed ambivalent, putting forward legislation that would ostensibly give farm workers organization rights but would also limit their use of strikes and boycotts. The Pentagon has substantially increased its grape orders for mess-hall tables, a move that Chavez and his followers countered last week by preparing a lawsuit to prevent such purchases on the ground that grapes are the subject of a labor dispute.
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Reagan went on TV and ate grapes also to show his disdain for the “immoral” Cesar Chavez and his audacity to take on agribusiness. Yet the farmworkers continued on, and in the end California agribusiness folded and met with the humble demands of the farmworkers.
And that is how history is made.
Arizona also had a fling with boycotts in the past. Evan Mecham, the newly elected Arizona governor, decided to cancel the Martin Luther King holiday, saying “King doesn’t deserve a holiday” and “You folks don’t need another holiday. What you folks need are jobs.”
Now one can argue that there is nothing really racist about these statements, but a greater context is necessary. When one says that Dr. King doesn’t deserve a holiday, one must consider who Dr. King was, and what he accomplished. Also one must keep in mind that Mecham was voiding an established holiday in Arizona. Mecham stood his ground, well, until he was removed from office only a year later for corruption, but there was still no MLK holiday.
It was time for a boycott of Arizona! It was not until the Super Bowl decided to move its first ever game that would be held in Arizona to California, as a direct consequence of Arizona’s lack of a MLK holiday, that finally Arizona came around and approved the holiday, and Super Bowl XXX was held here.
Modern day Arizona is experiencing its own boycott today that are direct results of legislative actions our leaders have taken. The major boycott is a result of our unelected governor signing Senate Bill 1070 into law, even though it was authored by the known hate group FAIR. Perhaps people in Arizona really like this bill, but other cities have every right not to do business with our state, just as a state may not do much business with Maine because of geography, one may choose to avoid business with Arizona because of their treatment of the so-called “reasonably suspicious.”
On Friday another protest took place and was the subject of my previous article on protesters calling for a boycott of Jimmy John’s because of the owner’s financial support, in the 5 figures, of Sheriff Arpaio and his immigration raids.
The owner of this particular franchise contacted us and issued the following statement:
“I appreciate and respect the protesters right to protest the SB 1070 legislation in Arizona. However, my family and I are small business owners who own and operate this independent franchise. Boycotting our independent franchise only harms hard-working local businesspeople like us and our employees. Franchisees like me are 100% focused on employing local people who make great sandwiches and deliver them freaky fast for all customers to enjoy. We are not interested in making any political statements and hope you will support small business people like us and our local employees. We would appreciate an update to the blog that at least presents the facts. James Liautaud, the founder of Jimmy Johns, does not own the Tucson Jimmy Johns. Past contributions he has made to a political candidate through another business or personally do not represent the positions of this locally owned sandwich shop.”
I asked one of the protesters, Sal Baldenegro Jr., to respond to the Tucson Jimmy John’s owner’s statement above. Sal issued the following statement:
“(The owner) is not the only victim of these laws coming out of the Arizona State Legislature. The fact is that we are all victims of this mean-spirited and racist legislation that is dividing and destroying our state. We are speaking up for the victims in the shadows, those families and hard-working people who have been terrorized by Sheriff Arpaio in Maricopa County. His viciousness and disregard for human rights has torn families apart and made criminals of people who work hard and contribute immensely to our state and our country. Furthermore, it has paved the way for other politicians to push through even more of this type of legislation.
Jimmy John’s franchises pay a percentage of their profits to Jimmy John Liautaud’s central company, so money spent at any Jimmy John’s is being used to fund politicians who brought forward SB1070 and the rest of this legislation.
We are in the midst of a new civil rights movement, and if (the owner) supports human rights for all, and wishes to put an end to this legislation, then he can put a sign on his business that states this, as other local businesses have already done. Furthermore, he can urge James ‘Jimmy John’ Liautaud to end his support of Joe Arpaio and the other politicians behind these laws.
Until then, we will continue to inform the community of where their money is going, and ask our community to boycott all Jimmy John’s sandwich shops.”
As a note to the reader, there is a nationwide boycott of Jimmy John’s taking place that extends beyond this one event on Friday in Tucson.
The claim made by the individual franchise owner is that the infamous “Jimmy John” does not own his franchise, and thus “Jimmy John’s” political actions should not result in a boycott of his local business. Those involved with the protest and boycott counter that each franchise does still pay a percentage of its profits to “Jimmy John,” and thus every time a consumer purchases a sandwich, a portion of that money will go to “Jimmy John” and thus to his funding of the tactics of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
You have been presented with both sides in the most current debate, and the choice you make is up to you, but make no mistake, voting by pocketbook is a powerful method of advancing an agenda.
You now know more about the politics of one sandwich shop. Where you decide to have your next lunch is up to you.
It’s your money after all. Spend it wisely.