Bottled in bond

Every hour she worked at the Buchi plant in Weaverville, the labels Kila Donovan pasted on the bottles of fermented tea drink touted the company's status as a certified living-wage employer.

“I just wanted to go to work, get my paycheck and avoid drama, but after I'd been working there for a couple of months, other employees wondered why we were getting paid less than the living-wage amount," she recalls.

According to the criteria of the Asheville-Buncombe Living Wage Campaign, a local company must pay $11.35 an hour without benefits or $9.85 with them to be certified as a living-wage employer.

But Donovan, who’d worked for Buchi since June, says she and the other workers earned $10 an hour plus two bottles of Buchi per shift. There were no other benefits, and the employees were treated as independent contractors.

Nonetheless, Donovan says she enjoyed her job and regarded the company's owners, Sarah Schomber and Jeannine Buscher, as friends. The decision to contact Just Economics, the nonprofit behind the living-wage initiative, was simply an attempt to clear up confusion, Donovan maintains.

“We weren't asking for more money. … We didn't think they could pay any more,” she recalls. “We weren't demanding anything; we just felt like what they were advertising was different than what was happening. It was an integrity issue: They were saying they were treating us a certain way, and that wasn't true.”

So on Nov. 2 Donovan, acting on behalf of herself and two other employees, asked Just Economics how Buchi had satisfied those requirements.

The living-wage formula allows in-kind payments to be counted along with money and other benefits. When Buchi was certified, the company claimed to pay its workers $10.50 an hour plus two bottles of Buchi per five-hour shift, reports Vicki Meath, executive director of Just Economics.

Donovan, however, notes that “Buchi is a luxury item: We were all surprised that it would be considered part of a living wage. You can't eat it; it's not health care or better pay.” She also says she specifically asked Meath not to take action against her employer and not to use her name.

“Employees shouldn't have to risk their jobs for the integrity of the campaign,” Donovan asserts. “I was concerned it was going to be hard to remain anonymous, as Buchi has a staff of six.”

Reassured by Meath's response and confident that a planned recertification of all the living-wage businesses beginning in January would address the issue, Donovan says she didn't feel a need for further action, even vetoing Meath’s suggestion that the nonprofit send the company a letter.

Nonetheless, Just Economics did contact Buchi, and after questioning all the employees, the owners fired Donovan on Nov. 17, citing “personality issues,” Donovan reports.

Contacted by Xpress, Schomber responded via e-mail: “We have a tight team and a happy, meaningful work environment. The accusation by a disgruntled former worker that Buchi received special treatment from Just Economics regarding the living-wage certification program is false. We volunteered to comply with certification criteria because of the values we both share. We support the idea that people should earn honest pay for honest work.”

Who can you trust?

“I don't know exactly what happened,” says Donovan, “but everyone at Buchi found out about [the inquiry], and it totally endangered my job and the jobs of the two other employees.” Over the next few days, she says, Schomber and Buscher questioned their workers individually about the situation.

“Somebody told them I was the one who made the call,” Donovan maintains. “On Nov. 8, they pulled me aside and said they would be restructuring the team, and they wanted people who were happy at Buchi. I said I was very happy. … They said they'd heard from several people that I was unhappy and kept pressing.”

Donovan says she explained the workers’ concerns, emphasizing that no damage had been done to the company.

“They actually apologized at first and said the situation would be resolved,” Donovan recalls. “But after that weekend, they had a different story: They said they were within the guidelines, and they didn't want people working with them [whom] they didn't trust. They made me promise that any labor matters in the future I would take to them. I shouldn't have to promise that, but I felt I had to, to save my job. There were never any other issues they mentioned: It was all about the living-wage campaign.”

Nine days later, however, Donovan was fired. “I was floored,” she reports. “I should be able to make an inquiry about the living wage without losing my job for it.”

Independent contractors

In her e-mail to Xpress, Schomber stated: “The values of Buchi are based on cooperation, mutual aid, clear communication and personal integrity. As mothers (and now business owners), we believe in nurturing and supporting our community.”

Schomber also wrote: “Just Economics contacted us to investigate a call they received questioning whether Buchi was meeting the living-wage criteria. They did not tell us who called. If Just Economics decides to modify their qualification policy to the point Buchi no longer qualifies, we will not have any problem with that decision at all. We'll either adjust our pay rate or drop the certification.”

Schomber said Donovan's firing was completely unrelated to her inquiry with Just Economics.

Meanwhile, another Buchi employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed numerous key details of Donovan's story, including the pay rate, the fact that several workers were concerned about the apparent living-wage contradiction, and that Buchi's owners had questioned the employees individually.

Copies of paychecks provided by Donovan show that she was paid $170 on Oct. 22 and $140 on Nov. 5 (for 17 and 14 hours of work, respectively, she says). But the checks came with no pay stub, and no deductions were withheld.

Workers doing factory-style labor that’s integral to a business’s operations are typically considered employees, and the employer must withhold taxes and Social Security contributions, among other requirements. Independent contractors must file their own quarterly taxes and benefit contributions.

“A contractor is [someone] like a painter — a job where there's an element of independent judgment," Neal O'Briant of the N.C. Department of Labor explains. Asked if there are circumstances under which the type of work being done at Buchi could qualify as contract labor, O'Briant said, "No, not really."

Negative consequences

For her part, Donovan says she grasped the full impact of her "independent contractor" status when she filed for unemployment benefits and found she wasn’t eligible. She says she’s asked the Employment Security Commission to look into whether Buchi can legally treat its workers as contractors.

In a subsequent e-mail to Xpress, Schomber explained that Buchi's workers were originally considered independent contractors because, in the beginning, it was a small-scale operation with unpredictable hours (depending on when a batch of kombucha finished fermenting) and a varying crew of workers.

"But as we are finally growing into more regular work, a more detailed understanding of the kombucha brewing process and, consequently, a more regular schedule, we have now been advised that it is time to transition to having employees," Schomber wrote.

Xpress had asked Just Economics for copies of Buchi's original living-wage certification, but Meath expressed concerns about “propietary information” the documents might reveal, saying she would take the matter to the nonprofit’s board. At press time, the documents weren’t available.

Shortly after Donovan’s firing, Meath left her an apologetic telephone message, saying, “I'm sorry about what happened to you. I wanted to reiterate that I didn't use your name in anything, but I realize Buchi is a small company. I dealt with the situation as best I knew how, but apologize for anything on my part that might not have been perfect. I want to reiterate that, as an organization, Just Economics is taking a lot of what you said in consideration. I wanted to apologize in any way, shape or form for any negative consequences.”

A “gray area”

“It is unfortunate that Just Economics has been targeted in a dispute that's between an employer and employee,” says Meath. “We're open to hearing constructive criticism, but we're really proud of the work we've done. We've certified 200 businesses that are willing to pay a living wage even in the middle of an economic downturn. That's an important achievement.”

She acknowledges, however, that there’s a “gray area” in the current policy, especially with regard to the in-kind remuneration that Buchi claimed. Meath says she's working with The Mediation Center to set up a three-way meeting with Donovan and the Buchi owners.

“We're trying to take from this [situation] things that will improve our programs,” she notes. “We do allow for other items to supplement the wage, but this is an aspect of our program we're reconsidering.”

As for Donovan, Meath says, “I never used her name with anyone. Our plan was to investigate whether Buchi was still meeting criteria and to talk to them about future changes in our certification process. However, there's no way to investigate Buchi without talking to Buchi.”

The campaign is working on setting up a tip line on its website where employees could make anonymous inquiries.

Beginning next year, adds Meath, Just Economics will reconsider its criteria (including the degree to which it allows supplementary items to count toward a living wage) and its policy on monitoring businesses already certified.

Still, she feels her group has been unjustly blamed in the wake of Donovan's firing, noting that protesters showed up at a Dec. 6 Just Economics event.

“I feel like we're being harassed, that we're being targeted with misdirected anger,” Meath maintains. “I'm really proud to work for an organization that's striving for economic justice. I'm not sure why there's a continued campaign to harass our organization.”

— David Forbes can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 137, or at dforbes@mountainx.com.

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116 thoughts on “Bottled in bond

  1. HR

    Lots of problems here. The fired “contractor” is out of luck. The business is purportedly running a sustainable operation and paying a living wage which they are doing neither. This practice of classifying people as contractors to avoid taxes is unsustainable because it is illegal. The IRS is very clear if they work under your direction at your site they are employees. The company needs to make it right, right away.

  2. indy499

    Would probably be easiest just to remove the sticker from the product.

  3. Thank you David for taking on this topic, which I am sure will end up making a lot of people angry, especially the bobos and the lifestyle liberals. However, I am not sure it came across clearly that Kila and others were NOT being paid a living wage. I also thought this story might include some stats about how many local businesses are living wage certified without actually paying a living wage. I know for a fact that Buchi isn’t the only company that is guilty of this. I think it would be good to actually walk into some of these businesses around town that claim to be living wage certified and ask the person behind the counter how much they make an hour. There’s something that isn’t quite right about the Living Wage program, and that needs to be dragged out in the open for public scrutiny as soon as possible.

  4. arecibo

    Great reporting on this story, David Forbes. Kudos to Mtn X for running it.

  5. Libertie

    Great job shining a light into the so-called “gray area” of the Living Wage Campaign! I’ve talked to a lot of low-wage employees and haven’t yet found anyone that is making $11.35/hour at a certified workplace.

    I wonder what percentage of employers actually pay a living wage and not just bottles of fermented tea and free parking? I’m sure Just Economics has no idea, but even if they did, no doubt it would be “proprietary information.” (Can we get some Wikileaks up in here?)

  6. ashevillain7

    1. How can people can afford to live on $11.35 per hour in Buncombe County?

    2. How are benefits are only valued at $1.50 per hour?

    Sorry, it is a valiant effort but these living wages are a joke.

  7. Margaret Williams

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Please note that there are a few pending comments (not by anyone above) that are ad hominen and potentially libelous. Such comments can’t be posted.

  8. NotBasheville

    Well it is awfully funny how people that call themselves members of our community do so much harm in the name of good. It is obvious to me that Buchi was in the wrong. But why attack an organization that works to help people make more $ per hour? I personally know of one company in our area that gave out almost $2 an hour raises in order to comply with the Living Wages’ criteria. I have heard about another doing the same. I wonder how many other companies have given raises to their employees? It is amazing how a group of anti-capitalists would focus on an organization that helps poor people afford to “LIVE” here. Hurting them just hurts the poorest workers we have. Even if $11.25 is hard to live on, is it better than $7.25?

  9. Old Man Jack

    The rest of the crew better be happy they have a job when thousands are out of work in our nation.If they want to work , they better do just that and stop “whinning “

  10. shadmarsh

    …But the checks came with no pay stub, and no deductions were withheld.
    well that ain’t legal.

  11. BigAl

    Thad said BoBos (HaHaHa…I Love It).

    Seriously, this simply shows how useless and self-righteous the whole “living wage” certification is when it is so easy to get certified while not actually providing the wage. Two bottles of Buchi to make up the difference? Reminds me of how the tobbacco companies used to pay part of their wages in cigarrettes.

    Indy499: “Would probably be easiest just to remove the sticker from the product.”

    Too true, as this is, in the end, all about the value of (false) advertising. No real difference from all of the other corporate greenwashing.

    NotBashville, are you referring to The Dec.6 protestors as the “group of anti-capitalists”? Is there any evidence that they are anti-capitalists, as opposed to simply being mad at JE for being duped and manipulated?

  12. Libertie

    @NotBasheville, Is Just Economics actually “help[ing] poor people afford to live here” or are they just running a PR campaign for local employers, with no regard for the legality or ethicality of participating businesses? Given the present scandal, how can JE justify their failure to take action against Buchi? Why create a certification program with no system to audit participants, no decertification process for abusive employers and no whistleblower protections? I really want to know. Maybe you have some insight?

    If you haven’t already seen it around town, you might want to check out this short criticism of the Living Wage Campaign: http://asheville.craigslist.org/vnn/2092704644.html

  13. arecibo

    “But why attack an organization that works to help people make more $ per hour? I personally know of one company in our area that gave out almost $2 an hour raises in order to comply with the Living Wages’ criteria. I have heard about another doing the same. I wonder how many other companies have given raises to their employees? It is amazing how a group of anti-capitalists would focus on an organization that helps poor people afford to “LIVE” here. Hurting them just hurts the poorest workers we have. Even if $11.25 is hard to live on, is it better than $7.25? ”

    Just Economics does good work in the community, but when their actions resulted in the firing of a living wage worker, she was offered nothing more than an apology. Wouldn’t you say that runs counter to their mission of helping working people in Asheville?

    When push comes to shove, Just Economics seems to have come down on the “side” of Buchi, which was an incorrect choice. That, and the fact that their campaign never had any sort of controls in case employers mis-reported how much they are paying employees, makes the Living Wage certification all too likely to be just a greenwashing marketing campaign that benefits owners/employers way more than workers.

    Any campaign that is worth its salt is not going to let employers that are illegally classifying employees to become certified. Even if Donovan had made a “living wage” (which it seems she never did) the way she was classified means the taxman takes, I guess, at least 15% of her take home pay. When you factor that in over a period of months or a year, that’s going to be nowhere near a living wage.

    What if Just Economics is padding the rolls with bogus certified businesses in order to meet their numbers and keep the grants rolling in? What if this practice makes it look like they are doing more than they actually are to help workers in Asheville?

    The requirement to be a Living Wage certified employer should be way more stringent. If not, the org ends up giving the thumbs up to exploitative (and in this case, illegal) practices. And that’s not really helping anyone.

  14. Josh

    One thing that amazes me is where were these “freedom fighters” when all the volunteers get together to push the living wage issue? Why have you not joined in the only effective means to further this agenda? The government obviously cares nothing about living much less a living wage and yet you would seek to tare down the only people doing something about it? It makes no sense and calls into question the real objective here… which is what exactly?

  15. These jobs are not “contract labor’. Contract labor sets their own hours, uses their own tools, and usually has several contracts around the town.

    The required SSI payments come out of the employees pocket, so the $11.25 “living wage” these folks are getting is really $9.75.

  16. constancenow

    Why if you care so much about living wage haven’t you volunteered at Just Economics? IMO this whole thing stinks of a personal vendetta because someone couldn’t progress from temp contractor to hired employee. I know one of the girls that works there and she makes $14 per hour so this whole thing is BS & bluster.

    These companies were certified with the published criteria if you dont like the criteria then work with JE to strengthen them. Unless of course your goal is to destroy the living wage programs and get more folks on minimum wage?

    Attacking companies for following the rules simply because you don’t like the rules is thoroughly repugnant. Be a part of making the rules and spreading the message of economic justice and bringing more companies into the mix… otherwise your actions are counter-intuitive at best.

  17. please

    This whole thing is pretty sad. Workers should be able to make a living wage. However, many small business owners barely make a living wage themselves; many of them lose money part of the time; many of them are risking retirement funds or house equity that they’ve sunk into their businesses. And a lot of them have tiny businesses and don’t understand all the applicable laws. I would love the living wage movement to turn its energy toward a living national tax structure movement, which would pressure politicians, including Obama who has failed us notably in this regard very recently, to step up taxation on the superwealthy so the U.S. can rebuild infrastructure, provide health care, and otherwise make life in America a little less hand-to-mouth. Our small businesses do not have the resources to pull us out of the situation where so many of our people are consigned to being working poor, all due respect to the living wage folks notwithstanding.

  18. Ashevillejoe

    @NotBasheville, there are a number of reasons for those interested in achieving a just, sustainable and democratic economy to be deeply concerned about Living Wage Campaign. Up until now those concerns were passed over in the interest of community harmony and in the belief that those working at the Living Wage Campaign had the best of intentions. Unfortunately Kila Donvan’s firing has brought the inability of this organization to conduct an effective and meaningful living wage campaign in to stark relief.

    The Living Wage Campaign is clearly unable to 1)Adequately verify that the promised wages are being paid, and that those wages continue to be paid after certification 2)Protect workers who express concerns about their employers living wage status 3)De-certify those who are reported to them as not paying a living wage 4) Verify that “Living Wage” employers are in compliance with key labor law provisions (social security, unemployment insurance and medicare contributions) that are key parts of the social safety net and amount to a wage reduction of as much as $2/hour. These weaknesses in a campaign that is years old cast doubt on the fundamental structure of the campaign, and the long term ability of JE to insure the meaningfulness of their label.

    It is worth noting here that the history of certifications as a means of insuring good labor or environmental practices over time is not good. From virtually meaningless certifications like “rainforest certified coffee” to the decreasingly meaningful Organic and Fair Trade certifications, the very idea of a certification system as a means of holding back the structural interests of business in externalizing costs and mistreating workers is at this point only marginally credible.

    Also important to know is that NONE of the concerns raised by Kila’s firing, and by the use of a certification system to hold back the interests of business should be new. At the start of the Living Wage Campaign these concerns were expressed to the original set of organizers, but were disregarded.

    Finally, unmentioned by Vikki is the fact that prior to attending the annual membership meeting of Just Economics the folks who went pleaded with her to do something, anything, to publicly indicate Just Economics did not condone the firing of whistle blowers, and would be immediately reviewing and if appropriate pulling Buchi’s certification. Also unmentioned is that there was NO public outcry at that event until Living Wage organizers took the floor and misconstrued the entirety of the benefits the living wage campaign brings to workers as being paid in “wages” rather than in luxury items such as Buchi, shift meals or tips.

  19. @????: The article didn’t say they were being paid a living wage of $11.25 an hour. The article states 1.) Kila was only making $10 an hour, 2.)Buchi claims it pays the living wage of $10.50 an hour and 3.) Just Economics sets the living wage at $11.35 an hour. I think all of these three statements should have been clearly stated right at the beginning of this article, but then I have always preferred a pyramid style of writing.

  20. NotBasheville

    I get you on the contract labor, but have to agree Old Man Jack. A job right now that pays $9.75 an hour is better than what most of our larger local employers pay. Go through the want ads right now and look how many jobs are under $10 an hour. Go to craiglist.org and look how many local larger companies pay under $10 an hour. I also agree with Frostillicus that it legal, but to target living wage that is getting raises for people and trying to help does not make any sense. I wonder what the people that posted above make? You guys must be making more than $11.25 or you wouldn’t point a finger. If the company that gave raises takes them away due to all this finger pointing, we all loose. We need to help each other, not hurt each other. There are better ways to achieve things than dragging people down with you.

  21. arecibo

    Funny how kombucha doesn’t make wash the taste of exploitation out of one’s mouth.

  22. Just Me

    Even if the staff were being paid $11.35 an hour, if they are paid as self-employed contactors, then that is an hourly fee, NOT a wage, living or otherwise.

    When you are on payroll, be they small, there are automatic benefits; like unemployment (paid by the company) and the 7.65% portion of FICA paid by employers. Additionally, though state and federal income taxes must be paid, an employee on payroll (i.e earning a wage or salary) would not have the hassel of paying their own quarterly taxes, as the company also must withhold and pass those on as well.

    Wonder why Meath didn’t immediately mention that? They may or may not have a similar ‘living contractual fee’ but the fact that the staff are not even earning an actual wage should be readily apparent.

  23. “When you are on payroll, be they small, there are automatic benefits; like unemployment (paid by the company) and the 7.65% portion of FICA paid by employers.”

    I’d add workman’s compensation, in the case of an injury. “Contract labor” isn’t getting that safeguard, either.

  24. Just Me

    We have to include 1099 pay in our yearly worker’s comp audit & recalculation.

    However, given everything else, Buchi probably didn’t follow that law, either.

  25. Ashevillejoe

    @NotBasheville

    Sorry, but your missing the point. The article points out that Kila was happy to have the job, but not happy to be putting untrue labels on bottles every day.

    @Please

    I totally agree with you on the complexity of the laws regarding small business and on the difficutly many small buisnesses have in paying a living wage.

    It would be great if Just Economics focused less on making local buisnesses look like they pay a living wage and more on making the fact that most small buisnesses can’t pay a living wage due to our system of economics obvious.

    On the other hand Buchi does have a lawyer who advises them on labor law issues.

    Happily in the aftermath of Kila’s firing Buchi has shifted to actually having employees, rather than illegally hired independent contractors.

  26. NotBasheville

    So, the Living Wage should not have come up with their own criteria for their own certification? That is a ridiculous notion. Looks like when it all boils down, Buchi Lied. That simple. I agree with Josh, what has been accomplished? Freedom Fighters are more like Freedom Whiners. At least Living Wage is actually doing something. Ask the people who got a raise if they are helping. I do have to say that the contractor bit is illegal. Wonder if they lied about that too? I can see that this really boils down to lying on an application. It is obvious that Living Wage needs to realize that they have flaws and correct them and to deal with the contractor and the $10 or the $10.50 lie.

    @arecibo, how did Living Wage “side” with Buchi? I did not read that anywhere.
    @libertie, I am a member of this community and certainly travel the same circles and attended meetings with most of the people on this thread including you.

    Again, it is awfully funny how people that call themselves members of our community do so much harm to it. People who see themselves as community builders are actually dividing it and tearing it apart. It is obvious to me that Buchi was in the wrong and lied on their application. Kila asked about it. Buchi Fired her. It all points in the same direction. It does make you wonder what % of applications are using the “Grey Area” and why it was ever allowed? Anyone have a thought?

  27. markprudowsky

    I operate an electrical contracting firm and Kila hired Kila Donovan as a helper. I know her to be hardworking, intelligent, highly organized and poised. I also know her to be a woman of great integrity and that is why I was glad to read
    to read Forbes article, particularly in light of
    what I took as a poor coverage of this issue a few weeks ago in another local paper.

    If Just Economics does the right thing and implements a verification procedure to ensure that employers who claim to pay a living wage actually do so, they might regain credibility not only among those who patronize businesses they have certified, but among the workers employed in those companies as well.

  28. T.C.

    I was fired over similar circumstances from my job in September, shortly after mountain X began running the living wage ads regarding Rosetta’s. I remarked to another employee that no one at the establishment was making what was considered living wage. Less than two weeks later, I was let go for not being a “team player.” It is funny that this fair wage backlash coincides with a “Keep Asheville Local” campaign that is filled with business owners who are not from the area. Downtown business owners find it easier to hire kids who are supported by their out of town families for less money. It is a sad state of affairs.

  29. bobeaux

    NC really does need some Union Organizers to correct these wage problems.
    You can see what happens when a lone employee steps forward, “They didn’t want people working with them [whom] they didn’t trust.” Read that as the golden rule – “He who has the gold makes the rules.”

  30. To NotBasheville, macrocosm and Josh: It is unfortunate that the criticisms have not been more clearly stated thus far. I will try to state them here. The issues of greatest concern appear to be the following: 1.)The Living Wage Campaign does not, in fact, get a living wage for many workers at Living Wage certified businesses. 2.) The Living Wage Campaign does nothing to empower workers beyond getting them an alleged raise, which may only rarely happen in reality. 3.) The Living Wage Campaign, therefore, appears to be little more than a PR campaign for local bosses to sell their products to unsuspecting consumers trying to do the right thing with their money.

  31. kandy

    @NotBasheville
    the reason the Living Wage campaign is being scrutinized is because they were given ample time to rectify the situation. Us “Freedom Whiners” spoke up when it became apparent that the Living Wage campaign did not actually care about what happened in the businesses they certified after that process was complete.
    I agree with you that people receiving better wages for their work is important, but I don’t think that’s what LW is actually up to. There are lots of businesses that are certified by them who do not pay their employees $11.35 an hour. Things like free parking, flexible scheduling, and shift meals which are customary in the restaurant world are being considered a part of the hourly wage. None of those things pay the bills. The Living Wage stamp is actually hurting workers who work primarily for tips; customers see that they are paid what they think is a fair wage, and don’t feel that they need to tip.
    Yes, it’s clear that Buchi lied. However, Living Wage wage is enabling businesses to misrepresent their pay scales.

  32. Just Me

    I feel that there are more than adequate resources in this town and easily found on the internet that Buchi could have used. Any basic (cheap) payroll software will have help guides. There is Mountain Biz Works and the ESC. I am sure there are other affordable small business associations who have simple FAQ’s and fact sheets to guide businesses in keeping themselves legal. HR is a complex field, but when in any doubt it is best to put someone on your payroll and file all appropriate paperwork. Payroll is the most straight-foward part of HR.

    It’s funny how some of these community businesses don’t extend whistle blower protection to their employees that larger corporations must. When I discussed this article and mentioned that, someone pointed out that the Whistle Blower Act protects employees who bring up legal matter, and the Living Wage campaign does not qualify under the act. But one would be tempted to think that a business like Buchi would be better than that.

    I try to support local businesses, but it is disheartening to hear how some folks try to run them without the integrity they preach about.

  33. kandy

    @NotBasheville
    the reason the Living Wage campaign is being scrutinized is because they were given ample time to rectify the situation. Us “Freedom Whiners” spoke up when it became apparent that the Living Wage campaign did not actually care about what happened in the businesses they certified after that process was complete.
    I agree with you that people receiving better wages for their work is important, but I don’t think that’s what LW is actually up to. There are lots of businesses that are certified by them who do not pay their employees $11.35 an hour. Things like free parking, flexible scheduling, and shift meals which are customary in the restaurant world are being considered a part of the hourly wage. None of those things pay the bills. The Living Wage stamp is actually hurting workers who work primarily for tips; customers see that they are paid what they think is a fair wage, and don’t feel that they need to tip.
    Yes, it’s clear that Buchi lied. However, Living Wage wage is enabling businesses to misrepresent their pay scales.

  34. constancenow

    Obviously none of you know about business (or even working?) because if you did you would know there is a customary 90 day grace period for evaluation. Just Economics allows for this period in their rules. justeconomicswnc.org/living-wage-certification-program

    I am proud to support Just Economics and my friend loves working at Buchi.. I wish this Kila would stop harassing good people.

  35. arecibo

    @NotBasheville, I would say that Just Economics is subtly siding with Buchi, by saying that their org is being “harassed” by people who are pointing out flaws in their program because they have been personally affected. You would think that an organization that positions itself as benefiting workers (well, their pay, if not their rights) would be more receptive to someone that had been fired as a direct result of the actions of the org.

    As Donovan states, it’s about integrity. Why should a campaign’s reputation rely on workers to stay silent, to not give away the fact that apparently, under the shiny Living Wage Campaign veneer, lots of businesses that are certified are not actually paying an actual living wage? Why go through all of it, if the campaign has no integrity, no teeth? What is the point?

    In my opinion, Buchi (not Donovan) is the entity that is most harming Just Economics–they have called the whole organization’s mission into question by highlighting the existence of a pretty huge gray area, plus apparently they did not disclose that they were never paying “wages” when applying for their certification. Obviously, Buchi should never have been certified.

    Just Economics should welcome the feedback from folks who they consider to be harassing them–there is obviously “just” cause for these individuals to be upset. Being open to feedback from community workers can only strengthen their programs.

  36. Ashevillejoe

    You know, I do also want to be totally clear. I feel bad that this is all coming out in the papers, and being discussed in public like this, especially re: the living wage campaign. But the fact of the matter is the folks from the Living Wage Campaign have known about concerns with their campaign for months now. There have been extensive email conversations on local listserves and the desire to have a conversation with Living Wage expressed by several folks in the community. Unfortunately the folks from the Living Wage Campaign were to busy to address these concerns UNTIL it blew up in the media. During the time they were to busy they have been actively recruiting new living wage business, so clearly they have staff time for the Living Wage campaign, but were choosing not to allocate it to strengthening their certification.

    I think this really is a case of trying to shoot the messenger, but the reality is that neither Buchi nor Living Wage were making real efforts to improve there systems prior to this being in the media. Now they are, it is sad that this is what it took, but that’s Buchi and Living Wages fault, not Kila’s nor anyone else’s.

  37. Margaret Williams

    With some comments pending, it seems we must repeat our request that y’all refrain from personal attacks, potentially libelous remarks, etc.

    We are continuing our investigation into the overall issue and hope to clarify some of the points raised here — such as those about “contract” and “temporary” labor.

  38. well then,

    Although this is sort of “heresay” because it’s Kila’s version, Kila said, “Reassured by Meath’s response and confident that a planned recertification of all the living-wage businesses beginning in January would address the issue, Donovan says she didn’t feel a need for further action, even vetoing Meath’s suggestion that the nonprofit send the company a letter.”

    So, why didn’t Just Economics wait until January, as they (allegedly) promised Kila? It seems like Kila lost a job she (seemingly) had tried to preserve. If Just Economics wonders why they have been targeted and picketed, they might look to this (alleged) fact.

  39. NotBasheville

    Anyone else notice Buchi is not on living wage website anymore? Looks like they were de-certified or quit. As 90% of the posters here are active from Firestorm, I saw that you also pulled Buchi from your store. It took almost a month for it to happen, but I am glad it did. I thought that should have been done much earlier.

    So, I still feel that the net effect of all of this is just negative. I feel that more harm has been done than good.

    So, I suggest trying to create positive criticism.

    How do you create a whistleblower policy in a “at will” state in which you can be fired for any reason other than gender, race, religion, etc.?

    Buchi was trading or bartering with its employees instead of paying cash.
    How do you create a set of rules that is accounts for all of the trading, bartering that we embrace in our community. Most of us favor bartering, trading, and such. Even with Kila so active in Let’s she could not see that Buchi was trading and Living Wage embraced that. So, what do you suggest if trading or bartering does not qualify? Our community suffers if it is black and white.

    Is the certification just living wage or is it a good employer and living wage?

    What can and cannot be used to trade or barter to offset that 11.35?

  40. constancenow

    Well said Buchi! MMMM MMM MMMM im drinking one right now and it tastes wonderful!

    Looking at your site I see you’ve gone far beyond the Just Economics platform and have indeed been in the process of becoming a B-Corp which includes a much stronger living wage protocol in addition to a holistic socially responsible corporate structure & presence! Congrats! I found the info here… http://drinkbuchi.com/behind-buchi

    B-Corp’s site – IMO companies that are serious about these issues should surely check this out.
    http://www.bcorporation.net

  41. AshevilleAreaArtist

    @NotBasheville: Just because the posts decrying LivingWage are articulate doesn’t mean that they all come from Firestorm. I am actually only aware of 5 comments from active Firestorm Members (AshevilleJoe and Libertie)

    @Constancenow: Firestorm also doesn’t have a ‘minimum wage certified’ sticker on their products, not to mention that there are no employees.

    And yes, I think seeking a positive outcome from this is the best thing that can be done. But sadly, JE seems to be an organization which perpetuates (greenwashes) a system which needs harsher critiques, the employer/employee relationship. A cage with nicer furnishings is still a cage… so what kind of positive outcomes can happen are still up for debate.

    Wages are an important measure, but there are other benefits which should be sought to improve the quality of life for employees, and I dont think that JE is the organization to help acquire these things. Job Security is high on that list. Dignity, and safety are on there. Self-determination ranks on my list too.

    Trading and Bartering are great alternatives to a bankrupt monetary system, but it is only legit if both parties sanction the terms of the trade.

  42. constancenow

    IMO this “Crabs in the Barrel” syndrome does not create progress it stifles it. I admit I was rather irritated by what seemed to me to be a persons vendetta… but in the end its pointed out a more profound issue with community and progress. Seems to me most people would prefer economic justice and things getting better all around; so lets be thankful these discussions are even happening & have such prominence in our progressive mountain community!

    Please refrain from mixing personal issues with the cause for greater good as that is often counterproductive. Everyone is fired up because the national system is failing in so many ways …but please don’t turn on each other… most of the greatest success in America has been achieved by people who constructively work together in community. United we stand, Divided we fall…

  43. NotBasheville

    @well then… True, but as you mention that is “here-say” and should you target Kila, Buchi, or Just Economics or anyone in our community based on “here-say”. Does “here-say” warrant picketing? Is that responsible activism? Does it hurt those of us who are actually trying to get change made in other areas of our community? Does it make sense to publicly chastise a person or organization in our community due to here-say? I think not. Especially if you are trying to create positive change. If your trying to create drama and negativity, it may be justifiable. How do you eliminate here-say? Communicating directly with other members of our community with an open mind and an open hand. Had a reasonable conversation taken place, I believe living wage would have stopped condoning the trading and bartering that was going on, Buchi would have stopped the trading and bartering that Kila protested about and she would have a job right now. I’d be amazed if any of this happens based on how this was handled by all parties. It is the equivalent of bombing for peace. Ridiculous in our community.

  44. well then,

    @NotBasheville,
    also, “hearsay” doesn’t warrant picketing, etc. :-) sorry for the typo!
    I said “hearsay” so as not to run afoul of anyone’s litigious nature….but also because this IS Lila’s version. While I definitely don’t think anyone should be targeted or picketed, I AM really disappointed in the Just Economics folks for what seems like not doing what they said they would do and going in effect behind Lila’s back.

  45. “How do you create a whistleblower policy in a “at will” state in which you can be fired for any reason other than gender, race, religion, etc.?”

    Whistleblowing is probably always going to be a dicey thing to do. Having first hand experience myself, and then reading or observing others experiences in exposing corruption, unfair tactics or exploitation…being a whistleblower is not for the faint of heart.

    Looks like Kila tried to go about this a discreet way, but got let go for doing so…consequently a harsh light is now focused on Bunchi…as it should be. Consequences are a bitch.

  46. Ashevillejoe

    @ Constancenow

    Yawn, ad hominum, unrelated attack. Firestorm doesn’t lie about what it pays which is rather the real point here, but nice try.

    Technically no worker owned cooperative even pays wages to it’s owners. In the traditional sense “wages” are a fixed return to labor (and in our current system the providers of capital get an unlimited return). In a cooperative it is the labor who gets the unlimited return (which is for ease of translation/accounting packaged in a per hour form) while the capital gets a limited return (think loans taken out with a fixed interest rate). This reversal of relationships incentiveses the labor (humans) to get the most out of the capital (machines) rather than the system that traditional buisnesses employ, which encorages the capital providers (the owners) to push to get the most out of their workers (other humans).

    Also as any small business owner would be glad to tell you it is the business owner who ends up getting paid last for their labor, but in this case.

    Oh and Constance, that’s Firestorm (one word) Cafe & Books.

  47. NotBasheville

    @ Libertie,
    @
    So, I just do not get this. Here is a video of Kila Donovan and Libertie (Scott at the time this video was made) specifically talking about the benefits of non-monetary exchange and advocating for people and specifically BUSINESSES (in this case the business that held workshops and farmers that produce vegetables) swapping goods for labor. If you just replace Kila’s words in the video “Farmer” and “workshop” with “Kila” and “Buchi” you get the idea. Buchi provided it’s product in exchange for Kilas time. How can Kila and Libertie not see that living wage was condoning the exact same relationship that they are promoting? She has created an entire program based on exchange and trading and spent countless hours on this as we all are aware, but then publicly drags down a non-profit that supports the same trading and exchange? Watch the video below and you will see my point. I am sorry, I just do not get it. Should we not be supporting a local entity that supports and embraces non-monetary exchange?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy0smaQW6Us

    Or search Asheville Let’s on youtube.com

  48. Libertie

    @NotBasheville, Yes! We should support an entity that embraces non-monetary exchange so long as that exchange is consensual, transparent and mutually beneficial. I would not, however, favor the creation of a barter economy based on coercion and exploitation. For example, I would oppose a return to the “truck system” in which employees are paid in credit redeemable only at the company store. Such practices, once common in Southern Appalachian coal mining towns, have been recognized as immoral for at least the last 100 years. Similarly, forcing employees to accept “benefits” that they do not desire instead of pay is unethical. It’s time for Just Economics to join the 20th Century.

    Of course, all this is irrelevant since the very foundation of the $11.35/hour living wage calculation is cash-only expenses. Whether or not Buchi is desirable, it won’t pay an employee’s rent. And even Buchi is now acknowledging this (see their letter, linked above).

    Also, you’ve misrepresented our presentation in regards to businesses. We explicitly exclude waged labor from LETS by restricting membership to individuals, families and collectives. But that is another topic entirely.

  49. “Do you have any suggestions regarding whistleblowing?”

    Yes…brace yourself for an onslaught of negativity, accusations of being disgruntled former employee, out to take over, out to destroy, etc, etc, etc ad nauseum. Like is happening here.

  50. @NotBasheville: I guess Kila should consider herself fortunate that she was able to take two bottle of Buchi home with her in lieu of a living wage or benefits per shift instead of one or even none at all. I think the point is that two bottles of Buchi is 1.) not monetarily equivalent to the remainder she was supposed to be making in wages or benefits and 2.) not really wanted or needed by her and therefore has no real value to her anyway.

  51. @constancenow: Good people make mistakes too, and they should be held accountable. It is clear to me that the Living Wage organizers have made mistakes. I was once convinced that the Living Wage campaign had some potential for temporary amelioration, even though it is hardly radical enough to guarantee worker empowerment in any real sense. I now see reason to believe that the campaign is at best a charity project that makes bosses feel better about themselves, and often times for doing very little, or nothing at all, different as bosses.

  52. Libertie

    @NotBasheville, Yes! We should support an entity that embraces non-monetary exchange so long as that exchange is consensual, transparent and mutually beneficial. I would not, however, favor the creation of a barter economy based on coercion and exploitation. For example, I would oppose a return to the “truck system” in which employees are paid in credit redeemable only at the company store. Such practices, once common in Southern Appalachian coal mining towns, have been recognized as immoral for at least the last 100 years. Similarly, forcing employees to accept “benefits” that they do not desire instead of pay is unethical. It’s time for Just Economics to join the 20th Century.

    Of course, all this is irrelevant since the very foundation of the $11.35/hour living wage calculation is cash-only expenses. Whether or not Buchi is desirable, it won’t pay an employee’s rent. And even Buchi is now acknowledging this (see their letter, linked above).

    Also, you’ve misrepresented our presentation in regards to businesses. We explicitly exclude waged labor from LETS by restricting membership to individuals, families and collectives. But that is another topic entirely.

  53. arecibo

    It seems like we have a business environment in Asheville where we collectively have such minimal expectations for our rights that employers simply assume they can get away with illegality. Maybe they don’t even think of certain things as illegal because they are so customary. It saves a business a lot of money each year–many thousands of dollars, to not give their employees full status. Don’t think that a business doesn’t run the numbers both ways and then make compromises as suits their bottom line. They know what they’re doing. It’s not an “oopsie” mistake to avoid putting people on the payroll.

    Thank goodness we still have people willing to ask questions and stand up for themselves. Too few are willing and able to do so. The few protections we do have are hard won and we should be willing to stand up for what’s right–hardworking people deserve a fair shake.

    It might be hard for Buchi to admit their wrong in this, but I do think that that is the best way forward. It doesn’t really look classy to fire a worker and then make excuses about it while raking her reputation through the mud in order to cover one’s own ass. Don’t we get enough of that with big business? I think Donovan should get a public apology.

  54. Ashevillejoe

    @Notbasheville

    1. While one person is hearsay, if you read the article carefully all of what Kila said has been confirmed by another (anonymous) Buchi employee.

    2. On the whistle blower question, while it is virtually impossible in an At Will work state in theory it is possible to offer some protection inside of the structure of the Living Wage campaign. A strong living wage campaign should be able to have protections for workers who call in with complaints, and to de-certify buisnesses that take action against whistle blowers. They would have to set up an investigatory body, lay down rules and conduct proto-judicial proceedings (therebye exposing themselves to real world litigation).

    This points out however the magnitude of what Just Economics is undertaking to do, essential creating a regulatory institution that can play a government like role, monitoring buisnesses, setting standards, protecting whistle blowers, educating consumers about the living wage and convincing employers that it is a beneficial system. All of this is being attempted inside of a free and entirely voluntary system that must navigate between being to costly for buisnesses, being meaningful for workers and not overselling itself to the public (which would limit future steps in creating economic justice).

  55. constancenow

    @AshevilleAreaArtist Obviously they have the sticker because they qualified and met the publicly available standards agreed upon by the board and committees in public meetings.

    Whats most foul about all this IMO is she didn’t even work there she was a temp; which of course excludes her from the JE policy all together for 90 days – this is customary in most businesses for evaluation.

    This very article plainly states she worked for them a total of 31 hours. How is it she feels eligible for un-employment and other employee benefits so quickly? …indeed without even being hired.

  56. sharpleycladd

    I pay over a quarter-million in wages. Most of my employees make living wage straight-up, tho some part-timers don’t. I could kanoodle about freebies, fringes, etc., but am not in the mood just now.

    Just Economics approached me about “certification,” and I told them I didn’t feel like sharing my payroll info with strangers. They told me I didn’t need to show them anything, just state that I was paying a living wage, which pretty much eliminated the value of the “certification,” in my opinion.

    Just saying: JE should be very up-front that they’re “certifying” businesses on their say-so, which is pretty flimsy grounds.

    As somebody who pays FICA, workmen’s comp, unemployment insurance premiums, etc., it’s pretty stultifying to me that a business that pays line manufacturing employees as “independent contractors” can get “certified” as anything but an IRS enforcement item.

  57. Athena

    Asheville and the world are full of people who talk a good talk but don’t walk the walk. I would not place any of the parties involved in this situation in that category.

    JE has stated they are willing to strengthen their program and change some of their policies. Ya’ll can scream as loud as you want, but this type of change takes time at a for-profit business. A small non-profit has to consult their board (who by the way are all volunteers with other full time jobs that they need to maintain), and it simply takes longer to instill such changes. That doesn’t mean they are ignoring their issues.

    Many local employers use astrology and a persons “energy” as means of hiring, maintaining, and/or firing employees. I have worked for two businesses here that unofficially put lots of stock in these ideas. These businesses also like to emphasize that in NC they don’t need a reason to fire someone, and they reminded me of this whenever I questioned their policies. Buchi has not been holding that over their employees heads. I know some of the other workers at Buchi, and none of them would make such claims about these women (the owners) who are working out of passion, while not being paid themselves.

    Kila has a right to be upset. I haven’t known a single person who has lost their job and not been at least a little bit miffed about it. However, that doesn’t mean the rest of the community is evil and secretly plotting to dupe everyone.

    If we really want Asheville to be a place where local business can thrive, then we need to be able to be upfront and honest when we think something isn’t working right. That means being willing to start a civil dialogue and own up to our own mistakes as much as we point the finger at others. It will never happen if we throw a temper tantrum every time something doesn’t happen the moment we want it to. Or if we are spending our time tearing down small businesses and non-profits that are trying to work towards a better community.

  58. Ken Brockman

    “Many local employers use astrology and a persons “energy” as means of hiring, maintaining, and/or firing employees.”

    @Athena, I for one welcome our New Age overlords!

  59. arecibo

    HAHHAA new age overlords–can’t get more Asheville than that. If I balance your chakras, maybe you won’t notice you’re being underpaid and have no rights!

    I also love the “earth mother” rhetoric that Buchi uses. Give us all a break! Some of my worst bosses have been loving mommies : ) The two things are unfortunately, not mutually exclusive.

    @ Athena–I would say Buchi is the entity throwing a so-called temper tantrum. What an immature, bad decision to fire a worker with some reasonable questions–look how this has turned on them. There were so many other, more intelligent ways of dealing with the situation. The reactionary way they took it has turned out to be far more costly to the business.

  60. karinabird

    Re: The reactionary way they (Buchi) took it has turned out to be far more costly to the business.

    Yeah, it sure left a bad taste in my mouth.

  61. It is always the responsible thing to verify that a business is what it says it is. I searched the NC Secretary of State. There is no registration for “Buchi” or” Kombucha.” This company may be registered another way. But the only “contact info” is KombachaDamas on their website. This name is not registered either.

    Responsible support also includes looking up the 990’s for organizations like JE. Foundationcenter.org is a good place to start to view the legality, spending habits, etc. of an organization that has non -profit status.

  62. Sarah

    My name is Sarah Stokes and I have lived in Asheville on and off since 1998, and in that time worked for a number of Asheville’s small employers. I worked at Buchi for two months this fall, and my experience was rewarding, nurturing, and fun. Jeanine and Sarah are two of the most respectful, gentle, and approachable supervisors I have ever had. In the time I worked at Buchi, I developed close friendships with both Sarah and Jeanine, as well as other employees. I also enjoyed meeting and working with Kila, respect her, and consider her a friend.

    In early September, way before the Living Wage issue came up, I had separate conversations with both Jeanine and Sarah about reservations they had with Kila, and it was clear that they were not fully comfortable with her as an employee. My intention in saying this is certainly not to put Kila down, but to make it clear that from my perspective as a fellow employee I don’t believe Kila was fired because she called Living Wage. (Due to pervious travel plans, I no longer worked at Buchi by the time Kila was fired.) In such a small family business, it is imperative to be able to trust and relate well with your staff.

  63. karinabird

    Sarah Stokes,
    Buchi misrepresented the wages paid their employees, were dicey with payroll taxes, (and who knows what else), why would you believe their story that Kila’s firing was a colossal coincidence?

  64. John Anderson

    Buchi,

    You have a great product. Your growth is good.

    Drop the living wage BS off the labels. You do not owe firestorm cafe anything. If they are an important account then deal with them privately. Don’t drag this out on facebook or any other social media.

    Learn from this, contact an accountant immediately, do whatever it takes to ensure you are within in the law, including a correction of previous employee income.

    Your product is too good to let this slow you down.

    Deal with it and move on.

  65. Margaret Williams

    Unfortunately, we must repeat this caution:

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Please note that there are a few pending comments that are ad hominen and/or potentially libelous and warrant further investigation. Such comments can’t be posted.

  66. Isle of Man

    Sure seems like Firestorm is just using this as a marketing/promotional opportunity for their business. Lots of crocodile tears being shed here…

  67. cwaster

    HR wrote:

    “This practice of classifying people as contractors to avoid taxes is unsustainable because it is illegal. The IRS is very clear if they work under your direction at your site they are employees. ”

    Well put.

    You’d be surprised- or perhaps not- at how many area employers use this nasty little trick in my opinion to get around it. I personally worked for a local now-closed new-age bookstore in 08 and 09 that classified me as a “contractor” but treated me like a wage employee as far as I could tell.

    It’s a dirty trick ostensibly designed to get people in the door and use them while not taking care of a business’ obligations as far as wages, social security, and the IRS goes.

    What do you say if you are one of the people that gets this treatment? Complain and lose your job in this economy? Being that we are a “right to work” state you can be fired for nearly anything- or nothing, really.

    We can thank business lobbyists and our lovely legislators for this situation. Great for business owners, and not so great for workers.

  68. Just Me

    The flexibilty and irregularity of business hours, nor the expected legnth of a job (temporary or not) has no relationship with proper classification of a staff person as an independent contractor or as an employee on payroll.

    There just isn’t.

    The question of barter/trade of the two bottles of Buchi as pay are irrelevant to the living wage because it appears (certainly in Kila’s case) that Buchi may not even have a payroll in place or anyone being paid an actual wage.

    As I pondered earlier it does appear that Just Economics is indeed formulating a ‘living contract fee’. However their policy of allowing leeway in the rate of pay for temporary working or someone in their first 90-days is irrelevant because Kila was never paid a wage as an employee. Even temps and newbies get their taxes withheld…

    I do not know what lies in the heart of any strangers, but I can only wonder how the post-Enron business world of due diligence, transparecny, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act escaped the notice of these businees owners?

  69. One would think, (given their touting of justice for emplees) that JE
    would have been well aware of the sleazy practice of classifying employees as “contract labor.”

  70. Just Me

    @ Cwaster,

    hmmm, the very fact a company exerts the managerial control of determining for you that you are an independent contractor seems to point to them having the control of an employer!

    An independent contractor would sit down with someone and qoute an estimate or hourly fee and the company would decide to take it, or not.

    I wonder, if those situations were audited by the IRS, DOL, or ESC if they would have gotten away with such flimsy logic.

  71. bill smith

    “Fire Storm Cafe doesn’t even pay minimum wage…. ”

    How does this comment relate to or add to the topic of conversation?

  72. constancenow

    All laughing aside the more this persists the more it becomes libel IMO; especially as people are fast and loose with the “facts” and unfounded accusations ooze out like bile from a compromised sewer.

    At some point a line is crossed whereby the aggression becomes criminal libel or worse…

  73. NotBasheville

    @ Ashevilleareaartist You stated “Trading and Bartering are great alternatives to a bankrupt monetary system, but it is only legit if both parties sanction the terms of the trade”. Are you implying that Kila did not know what she was getting paid? Both parties did sanction the trade, Kila accepted the job right?

    @ Libertie: “We should support an entity that embraces non-monetary exchange so long as that exchange is consensual and transparent”. Okay, so again Kila and Buchi clearly engaged in non-monetary exchange that was consensual, Kila agree to work for $10 an hour and Buchi, how is that non-consensual? Also, how is that not transparent? Buchi offered, Kila accepted and living wage states very clearly on thier site that they recognize offsets (non-monetary trading and exchange) I think we are now dealing with your pride and accepting that all parties agreed on this exchange. The real problem here is just a matter of communication. Instead of just openly talking about it in a reasonable fashion as members of our community, it has been just finger pointing.

    I still am looking for some positive suggestions. Libertie, are you seriously publicly denouncing consensual trade? Are you seriously not willing to recognize that Just Economics was condoning consensual trade between Kila and Buchi and can you not see the greater good?

    @everyone

    Let me paint a picture of how this all could have happened, had everyone been reasonable and communicated.

    Kila could have asked Vicki to look at LETS condoning the trading too. LETS could have been active in this bartering. Kila could have offered Buchi to exchange LETS instead of Buchi for some of her skills. She could have asked Just Economics to allow LETS to be included in their program, as well as their current endorsement of bartering and trading. This solution would still be possible, except that with a terrible job done on all sides with communication, it became animosity that ruled, not rationality. Again, You cannot bomb your way to a solution.

    It amazes me that we continue finger pointing and cannot work towards positive outcomes.

  74. NotBasheville

    I also agree that whether of not Firestorm pays a living wage, minimum wage or less is pretty irrelevant, but it would be interesting to note if they get perks, meals, free drinks, baked goods as part of their wage. Do they get a shift bonus? Although, it is not called a wage as we read above. Although, I am sure that our resident conspiracy theorist will shout that potentially their system is a way of dodging the minimum wage laws. Our resident conspiracy theorist is however on the wrong side of this particular theory. Maybe we should leave Firestorm’s business methods out of this. It is of interest, just to see if Firestorm is doing the same thing that Buchi does. Let’s face it, in small business bartering and trade is rampant and I embrace that. I have worked in a few local restaurants and those shift meals really do make a difference in my life. I valued those almost as much as the jobs. I also worked at a Scuba Diving place and counted the free diving even more than the $$$. Couldn’t the argument that just economics should embrace this too be made? I am not saying that we would all agree on it, but I would have been happy to put a logo on my shirt when I worked there. Is it wrong to recognize the “perks” of employment? Kila was aware of this when she accepted the job and again, living wage states that they support it right on their website. Again, it is all transparent and consensual. If it was not mutually beneficial Kila should have mentioned that to her boss. Imagine if Kila would have walked into Buchi and said “Hey, I was wondering if you might be able to pay me the extra $4 a day instead of the Buchi? I really do not need this product and could use $ instead”. WOW, communication! What method is most likely to bring out positive change? Yelling or talking?

  75. @ Constancenow…see “Justme’s” comment above to help you more clearly understand the “contract labor” problem plagueing this “living wage” certified company.

  76. The Pontificator

    Isn’t there some expectation of notice when hired that one’s employment is “contract labor” vs. that of being a regular employee?

    Just curious.

  77. NotBasheville

    @joe You state “Firestorm doesn’t lie about what it pays which is rather the real point here” but I ask again, who lied? Certainly Buchi did not lie about what it would be paying Kila. Kila accepted the job based on the $10 and two bottles of Buchi. No lie there.

    Living wage clearly states on their site under Criteria for Certification:

    • A certified employer may use benefits that are provided to employees, such as health insurance, tips, meals, union membership, pensions, discounts, generous leave policies, etc., as an offset to the wage criteria.

    Which was what Buchi did to qualify, whether you support that bartering and trading or not, it is listed publicly and certainly not a lie either.

    So, where is the lie you mentioned that is “the real point here”? Joe, there is no lie, there is no cover-up, there is no conspiracy. Especially considering Sarah Stokes also corroborated Buchi saying that they fired Kila for other reasons.

    @joe, I would like to thank you for at least providing some level of positive, constructive criticism. We rally need to let the actual mis-communication and blame die. It is now time to move forward and try to create positive change in a positive manner.

  78. bill smith

    @Constancenow said: “At some point a line is crossed whereby the aggression becomes criminal libel or worse…”

    Funny. I was just thinking the same about your comments in this thread.

    And I second (or third) the opinion that hiring temp workers and independent contractors to do the job of wage-employees is very much on the shady side. Learn more about tax codes before you attack others.

    All that said, reading the article in the AC-T (which provides more info than this piece), it would appear that Buchi was within the limits of the ‘living-wage’ requirements laid out.

    http://www.citizen-times.com/comments/article/20101125/COLUMNISTS/311250038/Ashvegas-Asheville-s-living-wage-effort-questioned

  79. karinabird

    Re: Constancenow “the more this persists the more it becomes libel IMO; especially as people are fast and loose with the “facts” and unfounded accusations ooze out like bile from a compromised sewer. At some point a line is crossed whereby the aggression becomes criminal libel or worse…”

    Why don’t you find a lawyer who will accept a case of award winning Buchi as a retainer. The company may have won awards but that was then. I suspect the “voters” will have a bad taste in their mouths now.

  80. constancenow

    @Bill Smith
    Check out the dictionary and some legal definitions of libel before your laying out your false equivalence.

    To your other point… you cannot hire temps/contractors to completely replace regular employees… its impossible, the difference between the two are far too vast & legally divided. Moreover it would be pointless in a business sense as it is a money loosing proposition.

    Temps & contractors are just that … short bursts of work that fulfill tactical needs. Employees on the other hand are team members integral to the company structure on an ongoing regular basis. Apples and Oranges…

  81. http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=99921,00.html

    Independent Contractor

    People such as lawyers, contractors, subcontractors and auctioneers who follow an independent trade, business, or profession in which they offer their services to the public, are generally not employees. However, whether such people are employees or independent contractors depends on the facts in each case.

    The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if you, the person for whom the services are performed, have the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result.

    Example: Vera Elm, an electrician, submitted a job estimate to a housing complex for electrical work at $16 per hour for 400 hours. She is to receive $1,280 every 2 weeks for the next 10 weeks. This is not considered payment by the hour. Even if she works more or less than 400 hours to complete the work, Vera Elm will receive $6,400. She also performs additional electrical installations under contracts with other companies that she obtained through advertisements. Vera is an independent contractor.

  82. zorro

    Some interesting facts:

    Buchi workers set their own hours,
    Buchi workers set their own schedule
    Buchi workers decide when to take breaks
    Buchi workers choose how to do their job
    Buchi workers have other jobs around town

    = IRS definition of contract workers.

  83. cwaster

    Thanks DLD. That elucidates it nicely. I always wondered what the exact IRS wording was. In that case, my former employer was way off base calling me an independent contractor in my opinion.

    Still, if you bring this up to an employer that has you “by the short hairs” in this economy as an independent contractor they can still terminate you at will basically. It’s an employer’s market unfortunately.

  84. Just Me

    If Buchi is paying all their staff the same way they pay Kila ~ as an independent contractor, but they never disclosed to JE that the $10 rate was a contract fee not a wage on payroll, then that is not exactly honest…

    The living wage means wages, not contract fees.

  85. Margaret Williams

    Unfortunately, we must repeat our request that comments refrain from ad hominem attacks and other comment-policy violations. Several comments have been deleted today and/or the comment writers warned.

    Many of the people on the thread demonstrate that it’s possible to address an issue without resorting to personal attacks, potentially libelous remarks or other comment violations. Some comments allowed here are borderline and/or problematic, however.

    Adhere to the policy https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1_LPatsurxj_iZUjhOxQPKJnB7yLvXfta6wsT9k8KsVM or we may have to close this thread because of a few commenters.

  86. antelope

    @ Zorro—no, no, no, no.

    No.

    As the lawyer quoted in the story said–there is virtually no way that the work at Buchi can be considered contract labor.

    In an already precarious work environment, the workers at Buchi do not even have a set schedule from week to week. Many of us working service industry jobs know what that can be like, and it’s NOT independent contracting. You are trying to pass that off as “they set their own hours/schedule”. I am familiar with the work environment there, and I know what you’re saying is a BIG stretch.

    Kila Donovan was on a radio program this week (search for Systemic Effect on MAIN-FM to stream the archive), and she mentioned a few things about the scheduling. The workers clearly do not decide when to come in at Buchi–they come in when a batch of kombucha is ready, at the discretion of their employers. They do not come in to work at any old time or “set their own schedule”.

    Kila was actually very generous and complementary about the work environment at Buchi (in the radio program). She was very fair, in my opinion.

    I really resent Buchi’s (I’m assuming Zorro is from Buchi) attempt to make us swallow this mess. This is so ugly on their part. I don’t care if they rectify this, I’m never touching the stuff again.

    People, I am so sick of this crap. Where is the organization willing to stick up for us, that cares about workers rights? Nowhere! We should form one, for goodness sakes. This is ridiculous.

  87. Libertie

    @NotBasheville, Don’t you hate it when someone asks you a question and then clearly doesn’t bother to read your answer or deliberately misrepresents it? Me, too. If you want to discuss barter, feel free to come talk to me in person. I’m usually at Firestorm and I’d be happy to have a real conversation with you about it.

  88. Just Me

    Buchi may or may not pay all it’s worker’s as contractors. But the statement they made for the article plus ‘annonymous insider comments’ make it sound as if they do.

    They may or may not be legally within their rights to do this. I find it hard to believe that Buchi’s workers determine how they best do the job themselves, otherwise, it would be their Buchi process, equipment & recipe, not the business’ owners. However, there is a form that can be filed with the IRS when there are factors that fall on both sides of the coin. The IRS will make the determination for a company on employee vs. contractor for them, so hopefully Buchi has done this and has received the green light from the IRS.

  89. Betty Cloer Wallace

    My two cents.

    There are no winners in this unfortunate and convoluted public relations disaster—but there are lessons to be learned that could be meaningful for other new business owners, workers, seal-of-approval agencies, and business associates.

    Workers may be categorized umpteen different ways with assorted in-house titles (some definitive, some vague, some gratuitous) that vary from one business to another, as well as governmental jobs, but state and federal tax consequences and parameters of earnings are the most important considerations for whether a person’s status is considered temporary, part-time, continuing part-time, contractual, full-time, occasional, volunteer, barter, etc.

    Actually, bartering has tax consequences that can become quite complicated depending on the type of business, and it is far more involved than a simple swapping of goods or services between individuals, between a business owner and worker, or through a multi-person exchange. The types of approvable goods and services vary from one type of business to another, as well as the value placed on the goods or services, and by whom. (I’ve been involved in a bartering arrangement for several years and have found it far more complex and regulated than most types of straightforward employment.)

    It is important to note, too, that if a person is already working in any capacity, it is assumed that the worker and employer are well aware of the arrangement and approve of the arrangement, whether or not a contract or agreement was ever signed—sort of like a common law marriage. Pleading ignorance of circumstance after something goes wrong does not hold water unless you can show clear fraud on the part of the employer or worker—and even then the end result might not be worth your time and heartache. (You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip. You can’t un-ring a bell. You can’t go home again.)

    Also, voluntary registration with accreditation or seal-of-approval agencies does not mean that a business or governmental entity is regulated by that agency or that the agency has investigatory or oversight responsibilities for that business. The agency is privy only to limited internal operations of the business, does not serve a licensing function, and is not responsible for enforcement. A seal of approval is generally considered a marketing strategy for a business or institution and serves some level of assurance for consumers; but assurance for workers usually falls under the purview of worker unions, associations, and negotiated agreements.

    Every business needs good financial assistance and internal control; every worker needs to understand fully his relationship with that business, and vice versa; and every accreditation or seal-of-approval agency needs to set forth a clear mission and guidelines, and follow them.

  90. Margaret Williams

    Another thought for the day: Someone suggested MtnX had set a negative tone for the “Bottled in Bond” article just by the word choice in our headline. Our headline writer — Senior Editor Peter Gregutt — likes alliteration, puns … and curious allusions:

    From our pal Wikipedia: “Bottled in bond refers to American-made spirit that has been aged and bottled according to a set of legal regulations contained in the United States government’s Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (27 C.F.R. 5.21, et. seq.), as originally laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897″

  91. NotBasheville

    @libertie I do not think I took you out of context, but I will clarify.

    You stated

    “We should support an entity that embraces non-monetary exchange so long as that exchange is consensual, transparent and mutually beneficial. I would not, however, favor the creation of a barter economy based on coercion and exploitation.”

    The exchange between Buchi and Kila was consensual as both parties agreed to this exchange.

    It was transparent, as both parties knew what they were getting out of the arrangement and certainly Kila has stated that she was making $10 an hour plus some Buchi each day.

    It was mutually beneficial or Kila would not not accepted it and Buchi offered it.

    Kila was not coerced or exploited, as she has stated that she liked her job and was happy working there.

    Living Wage states the criteria for the program on the website for all to see, so there is no deception there.

    So, I can only see your pride that is really in the way of really getting past this.

  92. Libertie

    @NotBasheville, Economic arrangements created by two parties with unequal bargaining power cannot reasonably be understood to be consensual. To do so significantly cheapens the value of consent itself.

    As for being mutually beneficial, statements from Kila and Geri Littlejohn make it clear that some workers at Buchi did not consider tea in leu of wages to be a benefit. This seems unsurprising as, by JE own calculations, Buchi was providing less remuneration to its workers than is required to keep a roof over your head in Asheville.

    My offer to have an extended dialog on this topic in an appropriate venue stands.

  93. kathrin weber

    @Libertie in response to your comment here to NotBasheville: “My offer to have an extended dialog on this topic in an appropriate venue stands.”

    I doubt seriously that will occur. As much as NotBasheville has posted multiple (to say the least) posts in this discussion and is very vocal in his/her opinions, says he/she knows you and that he/she has spent time in Firestorm,
    NotBasheville seems only happy to throw it out there as long as he/she can do so anonymously hiding behind his/her username. An extended dialog off this site would entail coming out from behind the veil.

    Many of us are willing to do that. I would challenge NotBasheville to do the same.

  94. T100C-1970

    You guys be living in the “Old World”. In the new world that includes ObamaCare and uncertain tax laws. All small biz (which is to say a majority of employers) are going to use “temp” services like these guys do and the “temp service” providers to deliver labor to their premises. The company then pays the temp service and the temp service ACTUALLY PAYS the allegedly aggrieved person whom they treat (correctly) as independent contractors.

    WAIT WAIT — you say. This is unfair. No its following the law as written.

    (I worked as one of these people 1985-1995 for a major industry).

  95. tatuaje

    I’ve stayed out of this current mess because the original article seemed to be a prelude to something larger. I was waiting for more information that apparently is not forthcoming.

    And now people seem to be choosing sides without utilizing reason or logic.

    I originally took issue with Forbes’ article because he seemed to hinge the entire thing on one person’s conjecture. I figured that there must be more facts held in reserve and I would wait to be given the entire story before I made any sort of judgement.

    Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    Not that I don’t think Buchi hasn’t made mistakes. To the contrary, they seem to be quite forthcoming with the fact that they weren’t as diligent in their managerial duties as they should have been. But I fail to see the newsworthiness in that, especially since they had taken steps to remedy the situation before the article was ever written. If the Xpress has decided to report on every business owner in the area who isn’t flawless in their execution of vocational affairs, then I reckon we must bid a fond farewell to the arts & entertainment coverage that they have toiled at so valiantly.

    However, the crux of this whole story appears to be the allegation that Kila was fired from Buchi for questioning the validity of their living wage certification. Buchi vehemently denies that this was the reason for letting Kila go. In fact they have said that they haven’t given out the real reasons for firing Donovan because they fear hurting her and in the process opening themselves up to lawsuits. Therefore this whole story boils down to a ‘they said/she said’ type of ordeal.

    Kila backs up her charges thusly:

    From a voicemail left for her from Just Economics

    “I’m sorry about what happened to you. I wanted to reiterate that I didn’t use your name in anything, but I realize Buchi is a small company. I dealt with the situation as best I knew how … I wanted to apologize in any way, shape or form for any negative consequences.”

    This in no way lends credence to Kila’s accusations. Just Economics apologizing for consequences they deem possible DOES NOT mean that those consequences did indeed occur. Unless Buchi told Just Economics that they fired Kila for the reason that she states, her reasoning is invalid and purely conjecture.

    From her co-worker Geri Littlejohn

    “…if there had been concerns over Kila then it would have been so much better for all us if they had been voiced, because she (and I) had no inkling … Being present at a conversation where her job security was ensured and then hearing from her that she was fired has strained my relationship with you, and this saddens me…”

    Was Geri present during the firing? Was Geri present during the deliberations that led to the firing? If not, then it is merely Geri’s assumption that Kila was fired for asking questions.

    and

    “I could not, in good conscience, remain silent when it seems like Kila’s integrity is being questioned. She was ultimately fired because she asked a question of the Living Wage Campaign-that she had every right to ask … Kila is missed on the line.”

    Again, this is purely conjecture on Geri’s part. Unless she can offer proof that Kila was fired for her questions than she is dealing in nothing but speculation.

    Kila goes on to surmise…

    Given that Donovan’s plausible narrative is backed by multiple third parties, it is difficult to find a reason to believe the story presented by a business whose integrity has so clearly been called into question by revelation of proven fallacies.

    If you will show proof, then I will support you.

    Unfortunately, so far you have offered nothing but conjecture. That ‘plausible narrative backed by multiple third parties’ is just that…plausible. Nothing more. Not ‘definitive’ nor ‘conclusive’ nor ‘unqualified’, merely ‘plausible’. I think that I have adequately shown that the third party backing that you tout is nothing but speculation. And I can’t, for the life of me, find ANY instance where Buchi’s integrity has been called into question by anything other than your accusations.

    And let me make this very clear. I am not friends with the owners of Buchi, nor am I a regular customer. In fact it seems that Kila and I have many friends in common. So this is not an attack on her. I do not believe that she is lying or trying to be malicious. Neither do I think that the owners of Buchi are lying or trying to be malicious or conduct business in an underhanded manner.

    I simply think that someone lost their job which, rightfully in our current economic climate, made them upset and then was given an inappropriate platform from which to speculate on the reasons for losing said job.

    Which is why I’m saddened that Forbes thought this was a worthy subject for his time and effort, and that his editors thought it was grounds enough to risk the welfare of a local business.

    If the intent was to expose a company that was not meeting the Living Wage standards, then it seems to me that a brief interview with Buchi would have satisfied the Xpress that they were aware of the discrepancy and were working to correct it.

    If the intent was to question the merits or relevancy of a living wage program then I think that could have been satisfied without threatening the livelihood of a local small business.

    But if the intent was to accuse Buchi of discriminatory firing practices, then I would say that the arguments put forth supporting this line of reasoning have been extremely thin indeed. I have seen nothing printed in paper or online that suggests this is anything more than hearsay. And although I don’t think the Xpress has technically committed libel, I think they have been extremely irresponsible in this matter by giving a platform to unconfirmed allegations.

    In their letter that they wrote in response, Buchi said “You’re writing about real people who are deeply embedded in this community. Your one-sided article did some very real damage. We are not allotted enough space [here] to respond to all of the inaccuracies. To make this right, we request a more balanced article to present the whole story.”

    I am disappointed that the balanced article that they requested has yet to appear. Instead they have been subjected to what essentially amounts to a kangaroo court that has taken place in the comment section of this blog and on the airwaves of local radio stations.

    I am also disappointed in the absolute unwillingness of Forbes or the Xpress to admit that they may have made a mistake or been hasty in bringing this matter in front of the public. The continued investigation and dialogue with those involved that Forbes promised in response to Buchi’s letter should have taken place before the original article was ever published. Instead we have been left to speculate on speculations while our neighbors fight to defend their reputation and livelihood.

  96. Kila

    @tatuaje

    “If the intent was to expose a company that was not meeting the Living Wage standards, then it seems to me that a brief interview with Buchi would have satisfied the Xpress that they were aware of the discrepancy and were working to correct it.”

    Forbes did an interview with Buchi about not meeting the Living Wage standards and this was their response (which was printed in his article “Bottled In Bond”):

    Schomber also wrote: “Just Economics contacted us to investigate a call they received questioning whether Buchi was meeting the living-wage criteria. They did not tell us who called. If Just Economics decides to modify their qualification policy to the point Buchi no longer qualifies, we will not have any problem with that decision at all. We’ll either adjust our pay rate or drop the certification.”

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, Buchi did not drop Living Wage Certification until after the Mountain Xpress article was published and announced it in response to Firestorm’s Open Letter to Buchi. Your assertion is incorrect, as an interview with Buchi had been conducted and they did not indicate that they were aware of the discrepancy and were working to correct it.

  97. Kila

    @tatuaje

    you re-post something i reposted:
    “Given that Donovan’s plausible narrative is backed by multiple third parties, it is difficult to find a reason to believe the story presented by a business whose integrity has so clearly been called into question by revelation of proven fallacies.”

    then state:

    “If you will show proof, then I will support you.”

    I will attempt to present some proven fallacies on the part of Buchi:

    1. The Living Wage Certification label is still on their bottles. This is false advertizing. By showing that stamp, they are indicating to customers that they pay their workers a wage which they are not paying their workers. I am not sure how long they have had that stamp on their labels, but I am certain that they did not meet the criteria at any point while they were using those labels. As stated in “Buchi owners’ response to Dec. 22 article”:

    “We totally thought we were in compliance with the criteria until a Dec. 7 meeting with Just Economics, where we discovered that we screwed up on our application. It was an honest mistake.”

    Whether or not this was truly an honest mistake, as owners of the business claiming to pay this wage, the oversight is their responsibility.

    2. Buchi was misclassifying their workers as independent contractors. This is less than truthful and a serious matter. There is no difference in the work or workplace between the time I worked there (classified as an independent contractor) and now (where employees have W-2s).

    3. Buchi states in their Dec. 23 letter to Firestorm: “the decision to ask her [Kila] to leave came before she made us aware of her call” Geri Littlejohn’s statements supporting my account clearly indicate that this is untrue. Even if they maintain that the reason for the firing was not the phone call, it is well established that they knew about the phone call when they assured me that my job was secure in a conversation on November 9th in front of Geri Littlejohn (3 days before they fired me). Here is a transcribed quote of Geri Littlejohn which was read by host Virginia Paris on the Dec. 26 Systemic Effect radio show:

    “It is the importance of maintaining these relationships and my desire to be part of seeing positive growth come out of this situation that has enabled me to stay at Buchi even after the owners broke their word to Kila and me by firing her after promising in a sit down between the four of us on November 9th that her job was safe. It was a complete shock to me when I heard from Kila on the 12th that they had fired her because we had ended that difficult conversation with what seemed like mutual understanding of some key facts. Sarah and Jeannine seemed to understand that our motives for contacting the living-wage campaign were to keep that campaign strong and that we didn’t speak with them about it first because we were simply making an inquiry about the standards, not filing a complaint, not asking for higher wages, simply asking a question. Although Sarah and Jeannine expressed feeling betrayed by our decision not to speak directly with them about our concerns we were able to convey some of the difficulties that enter into the employee / employer relationships, something that is especially difficult in a workplace where the line between friendship and management has been blurry. And by the end of the conversation, in which Kila expressed concerns about losing her job, they assured her that she was safe.”

    4. There are inconsistencies in Buchi’s narratives. I will offer one below:

    It is obvious from the following quotes that Buchi knew they were not in compliance with or living up to what was put on their Certification application as early as November 17 and yet they now claim that they were totally unaware of that fact until Dec. 7.

    From Forbes’ Dec. 22 article:

    “Nonetheless, Just Economics did contact Buchi, and after questioning all the employees, the owners fired Donovan on Nov. 17…”

    Later in the article, a comment from Just Economics Executive Director:

    “As for Donovan, Meath says, “I never used her name with anyone. Our plan was to investigate whether Buchi was still meeting criteria and to talk to them about future changes in our certification process. However, there’s no way to investigate Buchi without talking to Buchi.”

    These two quotes from the Dec. 22 article clearly establish that Buchi and the Living Wage Campaign were both aware that Buchi was not meeting criteria outlined in their application as early as November 17. If Living Wage did not have their application available or their standards clear, why would they call Buchi to investigate?

    Buchi confirms that they were aware of the clarification phone call and had indeed been contacted by Just Economics by the time of Donovan’s Nov. 17 firing in their Response to the Dec. 22 article:

    “Yes, we were frustrated that one of our friends would not come to us first, but we did not end our relationship with [Donovan] because of this call.”

    Now keep all of that in mind and take a look at this most recent statement from their Response to the Dec. 22 article:

    “We totally thought we were in compliance with the criteria until a Dec. 7 meeting with Just Economics, where we discovered that we screwed up on our application.”

  98. @tatuaje:
    Why do you think your opinion on this matter is so profound that it needed to be posted three different places?

  99. sharpleycladd

    I would simply say that living wage certification would necessarily involve paying wages, wouldn’t it? I can’t square the independent contractor thing with the certification in any way.

  100. Kila

    @ mat catastrophe

    “So, were you fired on the 17th or the 12th, Kila?”

    Good eye mat catastrophe! I was fired on Nov. 12th. Perhaps a handwritten 12 had appeared to be a 7 at some point.

    So I will revise: it appears from the series of published quotations I posted previously that Buchi was aware they were below the living-wage certification standard as early as Nov. 12th (65 days ago; the living-wage stamp is still on their bottles for sale today). According to them the living-wage stamp has only been on their bottles for 40 days since they made the decision to voluntarily de-certify. I invite people to check my math, as that is not my forte.

  101. Finally, after only what seemed like years, sharpleycladd figured out the answer to the bonus question!

    Kila: Always use the seven with a slash :)

  102. Just Me

    Niether can several people who’ve read the article and response from Buchi, Sharpleyclad. Buchi has pretty much glossed over that glaring inconsistancy in their responses…

    i.e. they never clarified why they would ever think a $10 an hour contract fee (or even a $10.50 or plus bottles of Buchi) would equate to a $11.35 an hour wage. Nor did they address if they disclosed to Just Economics that they were paying a fee not a wage. And JE never made any comment to that affect, either.

  103. Just Me

    Maybe Buchi is just using the last ‘batch’ of pre-printed labels?

  104. Margaret Williams

    Thank you, everyone, for contributing comments here and on other threads related to this issue. As I’ve said before, we may, at this point, simply have to agree to disagree on what are “proven” facts and not, what was diligent journalism and not.

    In the interest of moving forward, please carefully consider future comments: Avoid rehashing what you see as the “facts,” refrain from attacks that may strike folks on its receiving end as libelous or ad hominem, keep your comments civil, and if you have a pending post — it may be under review due to these concerns (and our general policy).

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