The recent article on the firing at Buchi Kombucha should serve as a reminder that “local” business doesn’t inherently mean fair business ["Bottled in Bond," Dec. 22 Xpress]. Often the economic re-localization movement presents “local” as a panacea for a wide variety of economic and social woes while ignoring the systemic pressures brought to bear on a business to expand, cut wages and harm the environment in the pursuit of higher returns on investments and loans. While re-localization is certainly a necessary step toward creating a just, fair and sustainable economy, we must remember that it is in no way sufficient.
Historically, local businesses have presaged modern global abuse, from “local” coal companies keeping their workers in virtual slavery with company scrip to “local” railroads corrupting public officials and “local” factories dumping toxic waste. Our current economic woes have grown out of small, successful local businesses that followed the logic of the market and decided to grow. Today we can see small business abusing workers and harming the environment both globally and locally.
From local businesses that force overtime and avoid paying Social Security, to local farmers who dump pesticides on their fields, “local” is by no means a guarantee of what many in the local business community want to stand for.
In order to create sustainable workplaces that provide fulfilling, creative work that can sustain a family, we need to look beyond a change in scale to a change in structure. So long as some people work while others benefit from their labor, and capital is dispensed to those who provide the highest profit rather than the highest return to the community, local business will continue to imitate global business, and we will not achieve the type of economy we need.
— Joe Rinehart