Thursday, October 1, 2015

No loss. I wasn’t buying Tilapia or goat cheese from Whole Foods anyways

I must confess to being surprised by news reports about how the Whole Foods chain of upscale supermarkets said it would no longer stock items made by prison inmates.

No inmate-made goods, that they know of
Largely because I wasn’t aware they were making such goods available for sale.

YOU’D THINK THAT a business so concerned with putting up an image of hoity-toity, high-falutin’ products would think something made by prison inmates was too crude to include.

Then again, the whole point of prison-made products is that they’re so cheap to produce because the cost of labor is so minimal – it amounts to slave labor, which is the only circumstance under which it is legally permissible in this country.

Now I know I have never purchased such products because I’m not particularly fond of goat cheese or tilapia (It’s fish, for those who don’t know). Also, I rarely shop at the local Whole Foods except to occasionally buy a special item or two that aren’t readily available elsewhere.

Also, I’m not sure if I have ever seen the items in question that were produced by Colorado Corrections Industries, which officially exists to try to train prison inmates in skills that might be usable in their post-prison lives.

THE FISH AND cheese products they produce get sold to distributors, who then provide it to various stores – including some of the Whole Foods supermarkets – where it gets sold to the general public.

Although considering how much Whole Foods likes to boast that it includes locally-made products amongst its stock in the stores, I don’t know if any Colorado-made goods would make it to Chicago-area stores.

Tilapia and goat cheese ...
But I’d like to think this move is a beneficial one – because a part of me wasn’t exaggerating when I equated such inmate programs with slavery, even though I realize that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that outlawed slavery does permit such forced labor “as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

While I understand the concept oft-spoken by corrections officials that such work programs provide inmates with something to do – rather than have them spend all that idle time coming up with ideas of their own that might not be so constructive – the idea that anybody gets to benefit financially from cheap inmate labor still strikes me as being offensive. As if companies can’t benefit if they have to pay legitimate wages for the labor to produce their products or services.

SO PERHAPS IT is a plus that Whole Foods officials in Texas were responsive to protests at their stores in the Houston area to the practice.

... will have to go upscale to remain at Whole Foods
Just as some people get all worked up if they find out that articles of clothing offered for sale may be tied in some way to slave labor (or child labor under extreme circumstances) in foreign countries.

It would seem that the idea of “buy American” is not a protection against products produced under duress. Perhaps we ought to play closer attention to just about anything we buy. No matter how much less it might cost in the long run.

Although that shouldn’t be seen as a blast against people who prefer to shop Wal-mart. For it seems even the upper-scale shopping outlets are capable of getting caught up in this scheme. We really don’t know much about where our goods are made – and probably think of such knowledge as being the equivalent of learning about the process of manufacturing sausages.

Training inmates? Or gaining cheap labor?
BESIDES, THE KIND of people who are inclined to want to buy significant shares of their groceries from Whole Foods are obviously willing to pay a premium for the image they think they’re acquiring. Even if it could be argued that the image itself is fake and not worth the higher price.

The idea that this inmate labor results in cheaper prices for food just doesn’t fly.


No comments: