Buchi owners’ response to Dec. 22 article

If your Dec. 21 article [“Bottled in Bond,” Xpress] about our company were accurate, we’d be hating on us too. However, the basic premise of the article is false. Because Xpress didn’t get our side of the story, fundamental information is incorrect. In addition, the language used to portray us is misleading and offensive.

Buchi is a new, small craft brewery. We do everything by hand — hardly the industrial behemoth exploiting workers you portrayed. Your article makes it sound as if Kila [Donovan] had been a full-time employee for six months. Actually, she worked one day in June, two in July, three in August, and only 16 more over the next three months.

[Xpress reporter David Forbes] seems to have thoroughly interviewed everyone except us. We found out from Just Economics that he was writing an article, and we sent him our original statement. [He] responded with only two questions, and even our answers to those two questions were misrepresented:

1. We gave a thorough explanation of why the people that help us are classified as independent contractors. … It’s what our accountant told us made sense, considering all of the facts, which we explained but Xpress did not include. We also [said] we were already in the process of switching to W-2 employees, but [the article] didn’t mention that either. If we find out we’ve made a mistake, we’ll happily make it right.

2. Xpress asked if Buchi’s parting with [Donovan] was because of Living Wage. We said no, but the entire article [seems to be based] on [the] belief that we are lying. We’re stuck being publicly accused of something that’s not true, but we can’t defend ourselves without giving the real reasons, possibly hurting [Donovan] and inviting a libel lawsuit. Just Economics investigated an anonymous call and asked what we were paying. Then they told us that we were fine and had nothing to worry about.

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. Why would we retaliate for someone asking for clarification of the rules? When you are not sure about something, clarification is always good. In addition, two workers told us they questioned our certification, and the other one still works with us.

We were one of the early businesses to join Living Wage. Our marketing consultant, who also worked for lots of other companies in town, including Just Economics, informed us that our pay rate qualified for their program and invited us to join. It was very easy for us to say, “Sure, we will support the living wage effort by putting the symbol on our bottle.” Then we went back to being our overworked selves and didn’t think about it again.

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, and we’d really like to explain what happened. We take full responsibility and apologize. However, it’s important to note that we have always paid exactly what we promised our workers we would.

We think the Living Wage question was a good one, and after reflecting on it we agree that non-essentials, including bottles of Buchi, should not be counted as compensation for a program that’s supposed to be based on meeting the basic necessities. Therefore, on Dec. 16, Buchi decided to drop the certification.

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.

— Sarah Schomber
Jeannine Buscher
Asheville

Response from Senior News Reporter David Forbes: For some time, I've heard concerns about living wages and related labor issues in Asheville. Buchi's owners had the opportunity, through both an e-mail statement and follow-up questions, to make clear their point of view. We tried to address these issues fairly. We’ll continue our investigation into the overall issue and continue the dialogue with those involved, including the Buchi owners.

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100 thoughts on “Buchi owners’ response to Dec. 22 article

  1. Jeff Buscher

    “If there’s one thing I try to emphasize here, it’s the realization of how vital multiple perspectives are to finding the way out of our current difficulties. It’s a big world out there and it’s easy to, with the best intentions, miss some valuable insights.”
    – David Forbes on his personal blog: http://bit.ly/Clt4j

    I’ve read your stuff, and I know you’re a well-meaning guy. The fact that you’re such a passionate investigative journalist makes the unfairness and inaccuracy of this article even harder to understand. Something clearly went wrong.

  2. NotBasheville

    I agree. David Forbes should have done a little more research before publicly hurting a small locally owned company and a mostly volunteer run living wage campaign. This entire story just reeks of a disgruntled employee trying to vindicate her situation and bringing others down with her. Yes, the business owners messed up, yes the living wage needs to strengthen some parts of its’ program, but there was no need for David to give this person a platform to do damage to good people. This entire story would have been a non-issue had a reasonable conversation taken place between all parties. Sorry, I feel this is “muckraking” on Davids part and hurtful to our community. I consider it irresponsible journalism. No biggie David, no one is perfect as clearly stated in your previous article.

  3. Ricky Party

    Hmmm… who to believe?

    Either Xpress blatantly sided with the defendant in the original article or the Buchi owners completely underestimated and failed to put out a big fire before it was too late.

    What seems most likely, if one is to believe the gist of this rebuttal, is there was a personality conflict between this worker and the owners, things got a little weird, the girl was fired and took it personally. So personally, in fact, that she decided to drag their name through the mud, in a slick bit of revenge, by insinuating she was fired for reasons that weren’t entirely accurate or truthful.

    Considering this girl is one of the “worker/owners” from Firestorm, is it any surprise that something that probably boils down to personal conflict be chalked up to a political red herring?

  4. constancenow

    Buchi & @NotBasheville & @Ricky Party – Well said!

    It would be nice to have more print on real issues facing us as a community. Unemployment, under-employment, flattened wages, stagnant progress & a seriously wanting economic outlook require people step up and create and support local economy as much as possible.

    We have numerous talented people here that have great contributions to make; everyone should do what they can to support them when it’s just and needed!

    Hopefully more will go out on the line & create jobs and connections that will sustain us through the rough times ahead. Buchi it seems to me will create a lot of good local jobs and surely stimulate the local economy positively. I hope they continue their stunning success & wish them & all the local biz that’s pushing for positive social change the best in 2011!

    Cheers!

  5. 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.”

    The commenters here are reinforcing the “shoot the messenger” mentality. The attitudes expressed is very telling.

    The real issue as I see it, is the improper classification of employees as contract labor instead of employee classification. The excuse for classification stated in the letter from Buchi, isn’t very convincing…..how long does it take to figure out the timing for the fermentation process??? Shouldn’t that be something that is easily figurable?

  6. John Anderson

    Buchi,

    You have satisfied clarification on living wage, contractor status, and being honest. I’ve increased my purchases of your product over the last week and will continue to support you.

    Deal with it -> Move on. Good job.

  7. shadmarsh

    Our marketing consultant, who also worked for lots of other companies in town, including Just Economics, informed us that our pay rate qualified for their program and invited us to join. It was very easy for us to say, “Sure, we will support the living wage effort by putting the symbol on our bottle.” Then we went back to being our overworked selves and didn’t think about it again.
    A)never trust a marketing person. B) If said label was going to be used to market and represent your company, why wouldn’t you look into it a bit more?

    This article brings to light something that a lot of us local wage slaves have known for a long time, that there is a very wide gap between how Asheville markets and represents itself and reality. What Buchi’s owners–and they aren’t alone in this– don’t seem to understand, is just how insulting the bogus living wage tag is for employees.

  8. Margaret Williams

    Unfortunately, we must repeat our request that comments refrain from ad hominem attacks and other comment-policy violations.

  9. shadmarsh

    but there was no need for David to give this person a platform to do damage to good people.

    We must not have read the same article…but seriously, please refrain from covering local businesses from a labor perspective, it’s just not fair! Now get back to work!

  10. wwwaaaaaaayyyyyyyy too funny

    Why did it take so long for all the haters to realize this was nothing more than a FoxNews-esque smear piece? Since when is a one-sided interview with a disgruntled worker considered front-page worthy on the Mountain Xpress?

    And why is Firestorm targeting two organizations who are trying to help the greater good? Yeah, they’ve made some mistakes but seriously, look around us.

    I’m all for picking your battles, but why doesn’t Mr. Forbes investigate local companies that are sending jobs overseas:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/28/job-market-booming-overseas_n_801839.html

    Or how about foreclosure fraud in the Asheville area?

    You know, there is so much corporate evil in the world, I can hardly blame everyone for wanting to take down any and all businesses. But **HEY FIRESTORM** not everyone is out to get you.

  11. W.B.

    -“Considering this girl is one of the “worker/owners” from Firestorm, is it any surprise that something that probably boils down to personal conflict be chalked up to a political red herring?”-

    Bingo, I thought that too, Rick!

    In our society, its very common for people to simply tag their own situation/drama to a larger cause in order to garner instant support. Just kinda sneek it in there. Not very cool, but all too common.

  12. Once again, thank you, David Forbes and Mountain Xpress for bringing this issue to the people. I think David Forbes did a great service to the people of Buncombe County by exposing the Living Wage’s misrepresentation. It is clear now that businesses who sport the Living Wage label are probably not really paying a living wage to their employees. It is also clear to me now that the Living Wage organizers are sloppy and obsessed with signing up businesses in order to make it appear as though they are making progress. It is clear to me now that there are needs that the living wage organizers are not meeting. These are the issues I hope everyone else who reads David Forbes’ article will start to think about, and they are issues that folks would otherwise probably not have thought about. That is what his article accomplished. I am happy that David is independent enough to pursue these sorts of criticisms about a local, woman-owned business and a local, mostly-volunteer-run non-profit. These are not easy targets in this town, but someone needed to do some muckraking on them. I hope now that the Living Wage program will consider adding some rules about standards of real worker empowerment for the business they certify. I hope now workers will start to think about ways to subvert the imposed hierarchy at their workplaces. I hope now workers might even consider organizing, not to beg for a bit more charity from their absent, idle and/or idiot bosses and passive profiteers, but to demand their share of power over local businesses and the local economy.

  13. Just Me

    Thank you D.L.D.

    As I read the rebuttal I am still confused(and this may be something only Just Economics will clarify)… that the issue of wage vs. contractor pay still has not been clarified.

    How can JE have told Buchi it was “fine” and there was “nothing to worry about” when they found out that the $10 an hour was not even a wage?

    As someone pointed out in the comments to the first article, $10 an hour paid to an independant contractor is only equivalent to about $7.25 an hour in wages. The two bottles of Buchi by and far do not make up the difference.

    Maybe the follow-up articles hinted at will address this discrepancy?

  14. antelope

    “We totally thought we were in compliance with the criteria”

    Maybe you should have consulted your marketing consultant before writing this ridiculous sentence.

    I have reached my limit, for pete’s sakes.

    For further information, please listen to Virginia Paris’ radio show on MAIN-fm, Systemic Effect (it is archived at the MAIN website). Kila Donovan goes into detail about how and why she was fired. I’m wondering if the owners of Buchi would be willing to go on the air for an hour and be asked the tough questions? I’m wondering why they are putting out statements instead of doing interviews?

    What people don’t seem to understand is that these types of abuses are omnipresent. The remarkable thing about Forbes’ story is how unusual it is to have a courageous person willing to come forward on the record to shed light on some of the practices that are so common in our fair town. This process must be personally difficult for Kila D, and I appreciate her ‘taking one for the team’. I’m sick of owners taking full advantage of Asheville’s green, earth-friendly, shiny happy image while giving workers the shaft behind the greenwashed facade.

    I completely agree with Frostillicus that the Living Wage tag is an insult for employees…when workers are not even consulted within the certification process. Just Economics/Living Wage–please listen to the community, listen to the constructive criticism of your program. A good first step would be listening to/surveying what workers actually what.

  15. Just Me

    Buchi might consider retaining an accountant who is a little more on top of things. Everyone gets busy and has things creep up on them, but didn’t the change from working out of home to having a bottling facility happen about a year ago?

  16. AshevilleAreaArtist

    This would have been solved sooooooo much more easily by a simple apology.

    If Buchi had simply owned up to their actions and said “we messed up. we fired someone for a bogus reason [because of the phone call – as Kila states and other employees confirm; or, at very very very least for firing her during the winter without ever bring up any of their issues with her – as stated by Sara and Jennine], and then we panicked and issued a defensive response.”

    Bam. Done. Asheville would forgive them. No one is perfect, new business owners don’t have a ton of experience, accidents can be made. Taking the living wage sticker off the bottle, and an apology is all that would have been needed. With this statement, trying to wheedle around and talk their way out of it, they are just digging their hole deeper and deeper.

  17. Margaret Williams

    Sadly, we must repeat this caution:

    Abide by our comment policy (there’s a link above), or your comment will not be allowed. (If you’ve made a comment and don’t see it here — or at “Bottled in Bond” — it has either been held for review or deleted.

    Keep it civil.

  18. shadmarsh

    Sadly, we must repeat this caution:

    Abide by our comment policy (there’s a link above), or your comment will not be allowed. (If you’ve made a comment and don’t see it here — or at “Bottled in Bond” — it has either been held for review or deleted.

    Keep it civil.

    I must say I am certainly curious to know what lies at the root of these repeated warnings…

  19. cwaster

    In my opinion, I wonder if the IRS has classified the employees in question as “independent contractors”. If they have concerns about their status as such they ought to resolve it with the IRS without fear of employer retribution (by law).

  20. “As I read the rebuttal I am still confused(and this may be something only Just Economics will clarify)… that the issue of wage vs. contractor pay still has not been clarified.–Justme”

    No it has not been clarified…there was mention by Margaret that they were checking into this issue….but nothing official, as of yet.

    But any contract labor employee of Buchi’s owes SSI 15% of their paycheck…and they must file this quarterly. So the $10.00 is really only $8.50.

  21. constancenow

    @D.L.D. You assume the contractor does not do itemized taxes or run it through their own business.

    Lastly I hardly think those two minuscule checks (according to the article) of the minimal work she did will be taxed at all. If she only made a few hundred bucks there are no taxes… as in ZERO!

  22. Margaret Williams

    I must say I am certainly curious to know what lies at the root of these repeated warnings…

    I’m not tellin’! But I’ll say, in short, that the attacks on all concerned parties (those in the story, the reporter, those making comments) have been dismayingly frequent and unwarranted. There are always multiple points of view for even the most innocuous story. This one has drawn out some very emotional responses — in some cases, comments that seem libelous, that warrant further investigation or that go on the personal attack.

    Xpress has met with the Buchi owners, encouraging them to respond (to the extent they can, given the limits on personnel issues). Reporter Forbes will follow up with them after the holidays (see his statement above).

    We’d like for everyone to have their say — provided we all maintain a respectful tone.

  23. Just Me

    Apologies. I was on a short break from filling out forms, so the number 7.25 was on my mind.

  24. Ashevillejoe

    I do hope everyone remembers that everything Kila said was backed up by another employee at Buchi. Also worth noting is that Buchi was given an opportunity to respond in the original article. Mostly what is being contested here is not facts, but blame “it was the advertising consultant/accountant”.

    Also, worth noting is that Kila can say nice things about the folks at Buchi (see the audio file and the original article). It is to bad those supporting Buchi need to attack her personally.

    I’ve spent lots of time reading the comments on articles about Mountain Top Removal and other issues of social change, and the comments of those supporting Buchi really mirror those of those supporting the unjust side in those conflicts. It’s really sad to see good folks retreat to petty attacks, sly remarks and underhanded inferences. I wish folks would dispute the facts, not discredit the bearers, or face up to the fact that Buchi made mistakes.

  25. invisiblefriend

    There are a few simple rules that make it legal to use independent contractors as opposed to hiring someone as an employee. These rules are set and enforced by the irs, and you can get in trouble for not following these rules. Without going into too much detail, the main thing is that the worker cannot be under direct supervision of the employer. A lot of employers try to play the card of “independent contractor” as a loophole for not having the hassle of paying withholding taxes. They also have to actually match a lot of the withholdings as a separate charge, as well as pay workers comp insurance. Not many people realize that having an employee costs a lot more than just what is stated as the wage. So it makes sense that the “independent contractor” is used and abused. Unfortunately, this means the “independent contractor” is working for themselves as a separate business and they will get a 10-99 tax form at the end of the year (from the business so they can write it off) and be responsible for their own taxes, which is usually around 35% as a self employed business owner (so they are really screwed unless they have a bunch of write-offs, like using their vehicle to get there).
    This is where the Buchi firm seemed to be breaking the rules. But, the people working, evidently, willingly accepted this position knowing the structure of being an independent contractor. So, in my opinion, they are both at fault regarding the situation. However, knowing the facts stated, the workers are not being paid “wages” because they know they are “independent contractors”, so the living wage should not be an issue.
    I wonder if they know that they will be 10-99ed at the end of the year?

  26. “But any contract labor employee of Buchi’s owes SSI 15% of their paycheck…and they must file this quarterly. So the $10.00 is really only $8.50.”

    Addendum……there is also income tax to be paid, depending on deductions.

  27. BigAl

    “It was an honest mistake…We take full responsibility and apologize…Therefore, on Dec. 16, Buchi decided to drop the certification…”

    Sounds like an admission of wrong-doing to me. If Buchi really cared about being a part of the Living Wage effort, then why not correct any “misunderstanding” and do whatever is needed to keep the certification?

    Answer: it would cost $ that Buchi never had any intention of paying, as Buchi only offers what THEY consider a reasonable wage, not what JE or others demand. This makes them no different (better or worse) than any other business venture, but the fact that they allowed the appearance of paying a Living Wage without actually doing so is unseemly. I also fault JE for not enforcing the standards they set.

    All around self-serving, feel-good, Kum-Ba-Ya greenwashed nonsense.

    I’m willing to bet it would not take much digging to find some similar hypocrisy in the Firestorm commune. Any takers?

    Good article, MX. Don’t let any of these whiney miscreants scare you off the trail. False advertising is wrong, and enduring scrutiny is part of the cost of doing business.

  28. mule

    “Addendum……there is also income tax to be paid, depending on deductions.”

    Yep…and once we account for that, these employees were barely making minimum wage.

    Franky I’m surprised that no-one from JE has weighed in on how this got so screwed up.

  29. antelope

    I would like to know some facts on other LW certified businesses that include tips and other perks in the calculation.

    How can we trust a certification or really understand it if we do not know what it entails? How can we be asked to alter our spending habits and patronize certain businesses if our friends are actually really not happier working there than they would be at, say, Earthfare?

    I really care about buying local, and supporting businesses that pay their employees fairly, but I don’t feel that this certification really gets us anywhere meaningful. I don’t feel I can trust it.

    There are other things Just Economics could involve itself in to make more meaningful changes in our local economy.

  30. EliH.Scott

    Sarah Schomber states in Buchi’s response:

    “Xpress asked if Buchi’s parting with [Donovan] was because of Living
    Wage. We said no, but the entire article [seems to be based] on [the]
    belief that we are lying.”

    Perhaps that belief is based on the fact that Donovan’s account of the firing is validated by Vicki Meath’s voice mail printed in Forbes’ article:

    “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.”

    Her account is also validated by a public statement by co-worker Geri Littlejohn read on Main-FM’s Systemic Effect radio interview and in comments made to Sandford’s Citizen-Times article (“Asheville’s living-wage effort questioned”) as “gratefulmama” which have now been claimed by Littlejohn and include:

    “…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…”
    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.”

    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. They need to apologize if they want to regain trust from the community. Trashing the reputation of someone you have already fired unjustly in the middle of winter is not acceptable.

  31. “Trashing the reputation of someone you have already fired unjustly in the middle of winter is not acceptable.”

    Passing your business off as kumbaya, earth Mother friendly, but retaliating against someone who asks a fair question, and then sending out lacky’s to trash that person in the comment sections is not only unacceptable…it is unconscionable.

  32. Candyland

    Margaret, I get the sense that you feel like restricting comments on this topic more than the other ones currently listed on the site. Although I agree that cussing and name calling is an immature way to argue – it discredits the argument and people grow tired of reading/hearing it – a discussion board’s purpose is to air different point of views. I’m starting to think you are afraid to allow these perspectives for fear that it may turn off potential advertisers.

    As this is an informal discussion board that supposedly allows for various opinions, am I allowed to speculate? Or is speculation another “comment policy violation?” What would be the point of this comment space if no one could debate and enlighten? It would be pointless and uninteresting if it became nothing more that a place to say “Cheers!” “Good Job!” “Rah! Rah!”

    In regard to the Buchi story by Forbes, it is one sided, and that is considered poor journalism. I’m sorry if that offends, but it is not my intention to insult, as much as it is to remind that there are basic standards in journalism that should be upheld if one wants to continue to report gathered information and then report it to the unknowing public. It is called social responsibility.

  33. Margaret Williams

    @candyland: The intention is to keep comments focused on the issue at hand and not violating our long-standing policy forbidding ad hominem, potentially libelous and other types of comments mentioned in our policy (see the link above all these comments).

    There have been high emotions on all sides regarding this story. And even some comments that haven’t clearly violated our comment policy have been, well, nasty.

    And while you may see the story as one-sided, we adhered to our standards for an investigative piece: It was researched, vetted through senior editors, facts checked with a labor-law experts, and the article finalized with the information available to us.

    … only what could be verified at the time made it into the article, in which all the major parties got to comment.

  34. Libertie

    “In regard to the Buchi story by Forbes, it is one sided, and that is considered poor journalism.”

    @candyland, It is not the job of an investigative journalist to assist a business in recuperating after their integrity has been challenged. Journalists report facts, not spin. I don’t see any significant dispute over fact in the letter above other than the non-falsifiable claim that Kila’s firing was unrelated to her phone call (a claim printed in the original article but contradicted by co-workers who were present and the executive director of Just Economics).

  35. Asheville Dweller

    @Candyland – The attacks only apply to certain areas on this website, I have been called all kinds of names and ran into the ground, and attacked personally for my opinions in the past and the moderators have done nothing. So its all in who you know at the Mountain Xpress good ol boys club.

    The sad thing about this is we will never know the truth, Speculation stirs the pot more then hard facts and truth telling. The old addage 3 sides to every story applies well into this day. The 3 sides are 1) the Story, 2) The opinion and the 3 The Truth. Right now we are just privy to the first 2.

    And I also bought 6 bottles of Buchi yesterday, and I support them. If people are going to attack the “Living Wage” then lets not stop here with them how about the hundreds of places in Asheville that dont pay a decent wage, no lets just jump on this one. Very open minded.

  36. make believe

    It seems that many of us are missing the point. I don’t think good or bad journalism is the point. I don’t think whether so and so is lying is the point. There are some clear facts here, and I believe they demonstrate that the living wage certification is questionable. I also feel that this story exposes some important underlying issues in our local economy, as well as national issues. I for one strongly support journalists questioning anyone, especially those claiming some kind of ethical or moral standard. Well done Xpress. This is the kind of journalism that makes me proud of my local paper.

  37. ElizabethM

    @the usual suspects… funny how the pro-Buchi comments seem to be the same commenters who always jump in on this side of the argument.

    Buchi made a mistake in their handling of this situation. What’s more, instead of realizing that they had made a mistake, they hid their mistake until it was unavoidable in the media, and then came out with a prepared statement that places them in the best possible light on the few main points they choose to deal with. So, do I think we should just assume they made an honest mistake and let it drop here and now? No, not really.

    The problem starts to be seen here with Buchi, but they are certainly not the only, or even the main actors in this. The JE certification system is seen to have large problems in how complaints are handled, the validity of its certification and fact checking systems, the lack of ability to file anonymous tips, nor any real system to remove certification when problems are found.

    The bigger issue here, which your cheerleading has thus far failed to address, is that we don’t seem to have any community accountability for when a local business messes up. When people start up good projects, for goodness sake, look at them ahead of time for potential pitfalls and come up with some processes and guideline for how to deal with them. Otherwise it’s all just a bit of whitewash on a house that’s falling to bits.

  38. Candyland

    “It is not the job of an investigative journalist to assist a business in recuperating after their integrity has been challenged. Journalists report facts, not spin.”

    You misunderstand me, Libertie. In fact, what I quoted above is exactly what I have a problem with, and why I posted my comment in the first place. You seem to think I came on here to show who’s side I’m on. I’m not behind the business or the former employee at this point, because I feel like the story presented by David Forbes was incomplete (which because of verification issues, is not his fault?), leaving out Buchi’s side to some degree. I don’t think I was necessarily reading “spin.” But leaving out vital information (that needs to get verified so the story is not released incomplete and premature) is a way of spinning the tale a certain way, is it not?

    So now, Buchi came out and stood up for themselves. How sincere are they? I can’t be sure. A non-bias, accurate reporter who understands and respects their responsibility is a lot more believable than a personal statement or response to something, provided the journalist reports detailed information from all sides concerned. Unfortunately, I feel like Forbes did not deliver in this respect. It seems unfair to release a story if there is only enough verified information in favor of one side of the disagreement.

    Luckily, this is small community, and so I’m sure if I decided to do my own investigating, I’d get a better idea of who’s being more sincere in this situation.

    Asheville Dweller: It is my understanding, and has been made clear by the moderator, that we need to stick to the topic, which is Buchi feeling the need to speak up because they were not clearly represented in the original article

    I’d love to hash it out about the wages paid in town vs. the rising cost of heating and rents around here. I’d love to discuss how plenty of employers take advantage of their employees and don’t give them credit where it is due. I’d LOVE to get into how I’ve even witnessed, first hand, more than one employer in Asheville performing illegal acts of all kinds, drug use and other felonies, influencing and even threatening their employees, but alas- this is not that forum.

  39. Candyland

    AshevilleJoe: I think both sides deserve equal time, no matter who’s right or wrong. If the journalist is only reporting one side because they only have verified facts from one side, they are not necessarily presenting a valid story.

    And, yes, it is the reporter’s job is to display the facts on both sides of the issue. For the investigative journalist, it should not be about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about who did what, how did they do it, when, where, and how it all got started.

    “Good journalism reports all sides, but doesn’t mistake spin for fact.” Once again, I’m not saying Forbes was reporting “spin.” If you’re going to report on a dispute or accusation, you need both sides! If someone said, “Global warming is real?” and someone said “NO it’s not,” then we’d want to hear each party’s perspective in order to make a decision, not just one side’s word, and prematurely deciding, OK – that’s all I need to know :-)

  40. Ashevillejoe

    @ Candyland

    Unfortunately American journalism has descended into a formulaic approach that reports “both sides” to every story. There are two sides to every story, however sometimes one side is far more valid than the other.

    Take Global Warming. You could give both sides equal time, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of global warming, but that would make both sides seem equally valid, which is not the case. Good journalism reports all sides, but doesn’t mistake spin for fact.

    The same holds true with this story. Yes, there are two sides, but one side is confirmed only by those with a financial interest in it being true (Buchi), while the other is confirmed by people who’s financial interests run against them expressing their views. David Forbes and the MX heard both sides, reported both, but in the end the facts, not the reporters, support Buchi and Living Wage being in error.

  41. looking into it

    There are a lot of things that don’t seem to line up in terms of the story put forward by Buchi and Just Economics. 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.”

  42. W.B.

    Libertie- Do you really believe in your own quote?

    “Journalists report facts, not spin”

    If you really do, I invite you to watch some of the FoxNews journalists with their awe-inspiring, non-spin journalism and be filled with wonder and amazement standing in front of all “the facts” they present to the consumers (… Uhh, I mean Public…)

  43. bill smith

    @Asheville Dweller:

    [i]”If people are going to attack the “Living Wage” then lets not stop here with them how about the hundreds of places in Asheville that dont pay a decent wage, no lets just jump on this one. [/i]

    I think you are missing the point. Please list these other local companies who have “Living Wage” certification but are not apparently providing it. Because that’s the main issue here, as well as possible wrongful termination, and an accountant who apparently gives terrible advice.

    All in all, this thread is very voyeristic, and it’s unfortunate that all involved parties feel the need to have this discussion in a public forum instead of face to face like members of a community.

    @Asheville Joe: Your comparison of Buchi to “Big Energy” and other climate deniers is quite off-putting. I seriously doubt this is nearly as one-sided as you are claiming. I’d hate to assume everyone at your place of employment is as hyperbolic as yourself.

  44. John Anderson

    I think its been clarified that they are removing the living wage certification. I can also bet you that they had other prior reasons for the termination and the living wage call sealed the deal. If you read between the lines that is what the other girl who still works there said. It was ‘ultimately’ the reason. Once you’ve lost trust in a relationship it is time to move on. If the girl really cared about where she worked the issue would have been raised to her employers. It could have been addressed internally and if no common ground could be found, they should have moved on.

    In your desire to constantly turn things into David (kila) and Goliath (buchi) and trying to apply that paradigm to unjust working conditions, your emotions are preventing you from seeing that the girl willfully worked for the company at an agreed upon pay rate, including the bottles of buchi. She was Clearly not happy with how the pay and the living wage BS were working for her, and made a big deal in the press.

    Philosophy is great until you apply it to reality

  45. Asheville Dweller

    Just because something says “Living Wage” doesnt actually make it so, its like a bumper sticker it makes you feel good and and makes you feel good but in the end it means nothing.

    Its the same as something havling “Whole Grain” in the title when only 51% of the item has to be Whole grain, Or better Yet “Organic” when something can be Oraganic certified but still use Oraganic approved pesticides or a certain trace amount.

    Stickers make us feel better, its more symbolism over substance.

  46. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Am I alone in wondering why any business would put stickers on their products declaring that they pay a “living wage” to their employees?

    I can understand how paying a locally-determined living wage might be one of many positive criteria listed in a business brochure proclaiming that the business is an integral part of a business community, or as one item in a business plan, or as part of a loan application package.

    But to put a “Living Wage” sticker on a product is somehow unsettling, if not actually insulting to workers and consumers—as if this product came from a not-too-prosperous business or a not-too-good-a-place to work if the most they pay their employees is a basic living wage.

    Most people can tell you the state and federal minimum wage at any point in time, but few people understand the meaning or actual value of living wage as being different from minimum wage.

    “Living Wage” stickers are certainly not as positive as stickers that tout the product itself by proclaiming “Made in XYZ” or “XYZ Recommends” or “Guaranteed by XYZ” or “Handmade from XYZ (ingredients)” or “By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen,” etc.

    Looking at Asheville’s larger economic picture, perhaps we should pull back a bit on the “Keep Asheville Weird” stuff, which is generally fun and does draw some types of tourists and visitors, but significant potential employers looking for a stable and dedicated workforce shy away from places with reputations for head shops and tattoo parlors and anarchist tendencies.

    Asheville’s recent designation as one of the least favorable cities for jobs, as well as one in five of our residents living below the federal poverty level, is seriously troubling and might indicate that we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

    We need to raise our economic aspirations.

  47. Just Me

    “Am I alone in wondering why any business would put stickers on their products declaring that they pay a “living wage” to their employees?”

    It struck me as odd too, at first. But then, this whole thing probably might not have been prompted had Buchi’s boast not been displayed in such a prominat way.

  48. Paige Foran

    I currently work at Buchi and have never felt more at ease in a working relationship between myself and a supervisor than I do with Jeannine Buscher and Sarah Schomber, owners of Buchi. I have always had complete confidence in voicing any concerns I have to them without fear of losing my job. They give everything they have to this company and are nowhere near making a living wage themselves. I am certain that their intention was never to cheat or hurt anyone. They are doing the best they can, learning how to run a business as they go.
    Up to this point those working for Buchi were considered independent contractors, but we are now in the process of becoming employees, as the business is growing. One of the benefits I’ve always enjoyed is their flexibility in any scheduling needs. If I had other obligations, jobs, or had to leave early, Sarah and Jeannine have always accommodated my needs. Another current employee will be taking the whole month of January off to go to a meditation retreat, and she knows she will have her job back when she returns. These are the kind of women who support such inner growth in their employees.

  49. Matt Howard

    I bought 2 bottles of Buchi last night.

    Think I’ll buy some more next week.

  50. bill smith

    @dweller: [i]Just because something says “Living Wage” doesnt actually make it so, its like a bumper sticker it makes you feel good and and makes you feel good but in the end it means nothing.[/i]

    You don’t seem to comprehend the point. Maybe you should read the article before commenting.

    @Frostillicus:

    Yes, only spartan tap water laced with arsenic for everyone! And stale bread!

  51. EliH.Scott

    I’m willing to bet it would not take much digging to find some similar hypocrisy in the Firestorm commune. Any takers?

    @Big Al
    1.) if you can find a commune named Firestorm and wanted to investigate it have at… but i dont even know of one.
    2.) Firestorm Cafe and Books is not the topic at hand, and your comment reads as a adhominem attack.
    3.) Spin to cover up power inequities doesn’t happen with Firestorm because it has a horizontal power-structure (aka: no employees).
    4.) Feel free to look, you wont be the first. Firestorm walks the walk.

  52. BigAl

    “Looking at Asheville’s larger economic picture, perhaps we should pull back a bit on the “Keep Asheville Weird” stuff….significant potential employers looking for a stable and dedicated workforce shy away from places with reputations for head shops and tattoo parlors and anarchist tendencies. Asheville’s recent designation as one of the least favorable cities for jobs, as well as one in five of our residents living below the federal poverty level, is seriously troubling and might indicate that we are shooting ourselves in the foot.”

    A-MEN!!!

    Preach it, sister Betty!!

  53. Asheville Dweller

    No I understand the article just fine, Im just stating that a label means absolutely nothing other then to make you feel better about something.

    A label means nothing, since the people who run this lame program didnt even bother to research and enforce who was using their precious sticker says alot.

    Bought 6 bottles of Buchi this week will buy more next week.

  54. bill smith

    [i]Bought 6 bottles of Buchi this week will buy more next week. [/i]

    By your own logic, you would be a fool to believe that was actually Buchi you bought. It being labeled and all.

  55. karinabird

    Several third parties have confirmed Kila’s story, people who witnessed conversations and were a part of the processes. They are on record.

  56. Betty Cloer Wallace

    A “Living Wage” sticker on a product is akin to a hotel sign proclaiming “Clean Rooms.”

    It makes you wonder.

    And a “Living Wage” sticker on an expensive product really makes you wonder.

  57. Asheville Dweller

    I support a LOCAL business that made simple mistake with a lame sticker problem. They made a mistake, the fixed it and moving on, but no lets crucify one business because they made one mistake and the sticker makers failed to follow up who was signed up with them.

    If it was such an elite “sticker” with rules and regulations but fail to inspect, inforce and follow up. A bumper sticker on a bottle . . .

  58. Margaret Williams

    @Bill Smith: Ol’ Frostillicus is an unmoderated member: That is, his comments go up immediately, without review. Unfortunately, he snuck one in about Buchi’s, uh, flavor. I imagine it was an attempt at humor and that there was no malicious intent.

  59. 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″

  60. shadmarsh

    You violated one of the cardinal rules for Asheville: paint everyone and everything (except shiftless window smashing wanna-be Sacco and Vanzetti’s) as flawless and Utopian. We are after all a major tourist destination, and our local economy depends on upon selling the lie that is Asheville.

  61. markprudowsky

    As I noted last week when I posted a response to David Forbes’ article : “Bottled in Bond” I employed Kila Donovan several years ago. Though she no longer works for me, we have remained friends and because of that friendship I want to repeat that I know her to be hardworking, intelligent, resourceful and honest. I also know her to be principled.

    Some of the recent postings have demeaned her character, often anonymously. Not only is this cowardly, it also diverts attention away from the issues that have been raised in Forbes’ article.

    As I just noted, an important aspect of the Kila Donovan I know is her principled approach to people and issues, including the resolution of problems. I believe, if the other parties would take the time to speak with her, they would find that to be the case as well.

  62. Asheville Dweller

    @ Bill Smith – Until there is a scandal involving whether or not Its Buchi in that bottle or not is another thread. But thats the differenc between a LABEL and a STICKER, There is more of a punishment for falsifying information on a LABEL then a silly sticker by a group that doesnt monitor who they allow to put their silly sticker on.

    Nice try though

  63. bill smith

    @Asheville Dweller: You contradict yourself, freind.

    [i]But thats the differenc between a LABEL and a STICKER, There is more of a punishment for falsifying information on a LABEL then a silly sticker by a group that doesnt monitor who they allow to put their silly sticker on[/i]

    [i]A label means nothing, since the people who run this lame program didnt even bother to research and enforce who was using their precious sticker says alot.[/i]

    Care to try again?

  64. Asheville Dweller

    @Bill Smith No I dont need to try again, you know what I mean but just failing to find a better comeback or add anything else other then trying to tear apart what I said.

    The first sign someone has nothing else with nothing more to comeback with.

  65. karinabird

    Buchi was mislead by bad advice from:
    #1 an accountant/tax advisor on fundamental payroll issues,
    #2 a marketing person’s expertise that they were paying LW,
    #3 Buchi made an honest mistake calculating for certification,
    #4 then they were victimized by a biased reporter
    #5 cannot disclose reasons for terminating Kila lest they be sued for liable.
    Meanwhile..
    Buchi employee Geri Littlejohn corroborated Kila’s version of the termination conversations, timeline and events. Ms Meade apologized for the consequences of the anonymous call.
    Donovan’s former employer has gone public with a character reference.

    Listening to Donovan’s interview enlightened my view of the issues. < http://archive.main-fm.org/systemic-20101226.mp3>

  66. grow up people

    A character reference for Kila means nothing in this type of dispute. I betcha Buchi could have hundreds of glowing references written up if they wanted.

    But can any of you relate to this: I’ve had friends who were married, both incredible people with lots of good qualities and close friends too. Things got difficult for a while, they struggled and eventually filed for divorce. Neither(or both depending how you look at it) “side” is “right” or “wrong”. If they each decided to hash out their case in a public forum, trashing each other and posting character references with their friends chiming in, jabbing and taking sides, it would not only be ridiculous but mostly very, very sad.

    Kind of like this whole thing.

    I vote they get together and work out their issues privately while everyone takes a break from bashing for a minute…

  67. YourAllHatersInYourOwnWay

    An apology from a professional who is doing their best to maintain their own integrity isn’t the same as collaboration, just as it doesn’t always equate to admission of guilt.

  68. NotBasheville

    What is obvious to me from the radio show link above is that she is an anti-capitalist trying to promote her own non-capitalist agenda. The part that is most hilarious is that she states that she is at a point in her life in which she is avoiding drama. I do not think that calling two papers, yelling an screaming at a meeting of low wage volunteers and getting on a radio show is anything close to avoiding drama. Based on that fact alone, one could conclude that she is obviously not telling the truth to herself, not alone us. How is going all that hard work to create drama avoiding drama? If she wanted to avoid drama she could have actually talked to her employer and all parties involved face to face. She could have asked living wage why they condone trading, she could have actually tried to solve problems, not create controversy. Again, like bombing for peace, she has chosen the most dramatic method. Is that not a bold face lie? She is going to the media to escape drama. Hilarious and cause for disbelief.

  69. bill smith

    I would like to second ‘NotBashevill’s’ assessment of the situation.

    Was this young girl REALLY that upset about getting laid off from a job she apparently worked at only a handful of times over a period of a few months?

    It appears both she and Buchi made some very bad calls, but she is the one sounding petty and unprofessional in that interview. Burning bridges in your own community isn’t very smart. Buchi screwed up. That’s obvious. But this girls claims seem quite emotional from my perspective.

  70. karinabird

    @NotBashfull Thanks for checking out the interview. That’s your opinion and I appreciate it.
    This is what I gleaned from the interview: This began with an anonymous phone call because she really didn’t want any drama (neither did the other employees who questioned the label but did not feel they could address the employers). One thing led to another, one reaction to another. Everyone has been muddied. Maybe if the label had been genuine, maybe if things could have been confidential, maybe if the employers hadn’t made her “fess up”, maybe if they’d hadn’t assured her that her job was safe, maybe if they hadn’t fired her, maybe if they’d given her a plausible reason for termination…

  71. constancenow

    You guys keep saying Buchi made a mistake with the label but your 100% wrong .. they were reviewed and approved to carry the label based on the publicly agreed upon published rules. They obviously met all the criteria and thus added the label as they said “to promote Living Wage” beyond the Asheville borders.

    Just Economics is a great organization that has seen many many many local people get actual raises! How is that a bad thing? Do you have any clue how many make min-wage in USA?

  72. karinabird

    @grow up people – A character reference from a former employer/ business owner means a great deal – ESPECIALLY in a case like this. For an established business owner to use his good name publicly 3 times, knowing the kinds of negative attention it could garner? Regardless of whose side he’s on, this is a person of courage with integrity.
    @NotBashfull – Kila seems completely aware of the “no drama” irony. Perhaps it was too subtle for you. There is nothing hilarious about any of this.
    @Bill Smith – She does not sound any more petty or unprofessional than Buchi who blames their tax person, marketing specialist, the LW folks, bad math, the reporter, their busy schedules, Firestorm, etc for not building their business on a sound foundation adhering to sensible legal practices.

  73. karinabird

    @constancenow From Buchi: “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, and we’d really like to explain what happened.”

  74. Jacquelyn Hammond

    I have a tiny little business called The House Fairies Cleaning Co. Should I be afraid to show the living wage sticker for fear it will turn business away? In the past I worked for companies that did NOT pay a living wage and had no intentions of doing so. I have followed Just Economics for sometime and feel that they are a positive presence here in Asheville. Growing pains I can deal with. I was at the annual meeting when things got heated and people started shouting. It did make me wonder if I should go through the certification process.
    My business is struggling to survive and I cannot afford negativity but I also want to start out on the right foot by paying future employees enough to survive!
    I do not envision a Living Wage Certified sticker on the doors of Walmart anytime soon. Most of the JE members are doing or want to do the right thing. What is the solution?

  75. Jacquelyn Hammond

    I have a tiny little business called The House Fairies Cleaning Co. Should I be afraid to show the living wage sticker for fear it will turn business away? In the past I worked for companies that did NOT pay a living wage and had no intentions of doing so. I have followed Just Economics for sometime and feel that they are a positive presence here in Asheville. Growing pains I can deal with. I was at the annual meeting when things got heated and people started shouting. It did make me wonder if I should go through the certification process.
    My business is struggling to survive and I cannot afford negativity but I also want to start out on the right foot by paying future employees enough to survive!
    I do not envision a Living Wage Certified sticker on the doors of Walmart anytime soon. Most of the JE members are doing or want to do the right thing. What is the solution?

  76. travelah

    If somebody is willing to work as a contract, part time worker for $10/hr for relatively unskilled work, what is the problem? What is the market demand rate for relatively unskilled part time labor in the Asheville area? If you artificially increase labor and benefit costs by a third, why would you think that would not have a very adverse impact on a young struggling business? Perhaps what is needed in its place is a bit of creativity. How about a low base rate and a variable compensation based on performance and results? How about wages and employee stock? Job sharing etc. There are a lot of creative ways to staff businesses, especially with part time positions.

  77. karinabird

    @travelah Good creative ideas but that wasn’t what the article was about. It was about having employees slap on a label they had questions about and the negative consequences of checking the veracity of said label. Three of the employees had concerns, one of them, Kila, made an anonymous call to ask a QUESTION. The rest is history and revised history.

  78. Margaret Williams

    And again we must caution: Please avoid making personal attacks against any of the folks involved in the Buchi story. There have been quite a few borderline and/or problematic comments in the last few days.

  79. LB

    The power dynamic of the business owner over the worker is already a huge inequity that allows for exploitation and fear as standard practice. The thing that really gets me is that the owners of Buchi claim to have something different:
    “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.”

    They were dishonest not only to their employees but the community at large. They took retaliatory action against someone they gave their word to (they were ‘safe’), and have not owned up to it. No where in this whole story do I see any integrity nor a sense of support to their community, and mutual aid? What?

    Do not use the language if you will not live up to it Buchi. Let’s stop greenwashing at the expense of the people who labor to uphold this community. I fully support locally owned businesses that are just trying to survive, but please treat your employees with respect and honesty.

    And Just Economics, who are you representing? Lets have some transparency and protection for those that speak up.

    To those that attack Kila. She just inquired about the LW status. She did so on account of not only her own curiousity, but that of other workers. I think it was very brave.

  80. Breeze

    I am a current Buchi employee and it seems as if I am one of the last to comment on this issue. It saddens me that all of this conversation has to occur on the internet, with the comments of dozens of other concerned friends and consumers without first being addressed and discussed in person among all the owners and employees of Buchi. It is important to realize that there has still not been a meetingBut I feel now that this issue has just been drawn out for way too long and still there has not been a meeting among all owners, employees, and former employee on reaching a resolution and state of peace on this issue. When I was told of Kila’s firing, I was quite shocked, for I had never had any issues with her personality or work performance. I thoroughly enjoyed working with her. If the reasons stated for Kila’s firing were, “personality issues”, I really wish these could have been explained more in depth to the employees, for we were the ones who seemed to have worked with and observed her more often. What do personality issues really mean? And what if I am displaying these characteristics as well and am not aware of them? And what if no one higher up is letting me know about them (as was the case with Kila)? Could I too be fired without warning? Since Kila’s firing, I attest to feeling much more fear and instability in the workplace, especially since the reasons for the firing were not explained in detail to the employees and that none of the employees had filed complaints about Kila.

    I know Buchi has the best intentions in running a business that is more personable and connected as a community and that is why I feel that one of the first steps that needs to occur is an open dialog between all the owners, employees, and former employee of Buchi. There are employees who are still holding confusion, grief, and fear over the results of this issue. I have been fearful to ask for more clarification on this issue for the sake of being seen as ‘taking sides’.

    From skimming the numerous blog entries, it only appears that the reputations of both Buchi and Kila are being furthered battered and destroyed. I think this issue can come to and end if some sort of process occurs for all the employees and owners of Buchi to be a part of. I know Kila wants and needs apologies from the owners of Buchi and that the employees of Buchi also need to feel they are provided with a safe place to express their concerns on this issue.

    There has been discussion about drafting a ‘State of Grace’ Document within the company of Buchi, since this firing has taken place. However, we can not enter into a “state of grace” when we are already on shakey ground and prior issues have not been resolved. For this banter back and forth can not happen just on the internet! I have been resisting to writing because I have been waiting for those who are more responsible for the company to initiate a process of better communication and healing. This has not occurred and instead I have tried to simply push this issue under the rug and can’t do so because I am reminded of my enjoyment working with Kila and the confusion I am still in as to why this firing even took place.

    I know other employees would also be pleased to have a meeting of reconciliation on this issue where formal in person apology can be made to Kila. I am supportive of having a trained mediator assist us in reaching a peaceful resolution and apology. I firmly believe that this needs to happen first, with less time spent trying to save our reputations in the press.

    This issue has definitely presented itself to us in a way in which we all can learn something. As we embark on a new year it seems that we can no longer keep bantering back and forth between who is better, or who is right, understanding that clear communication needs to occur among the staff and owners of Buchi first. I want all of this to end and I want Buchi and Kila to leave the situation holding positive reputations in the community. This can happen and it will happen in the New Year.

  81. Libertie

    “If she wanted to avoid drama she could have actually talked to her employer and all parties involved face to face. She could have asked living wage why they condone trading, she could have actually tried to solve problems, not create controversy.”

    @NotBasheville, As has already been made clear, Kila (and other employees) did talk directly with the owners of Buchi and only spoke with reporters after attempts to resolve the situation resulted in Kila’s termination. Why do you keep posting these fraudulent claims?

    @Bill Smith, This “emotional” “young girl” is an articulate 36 year old woman. Maybe it’s time for you to check your misogynist assumptions, friend.

  82. kathrin

    I believe that Kila is getting a major smack down here from people who either don’t know her personally or who have such little integrity that they are happy to fire the shots but do not have the courage to use their real names when doing so. That feels very much like sniping to me.

    I do not mind using mine. My name is Kathrin Weber. I have known Kila for 9 years. Far from being a ‘girl’ as she has been frequently referred to here, Kila is a 36 year old woman of good standing in the community, having been instrumental in establishing Asheville LETS and Firestorm Cafe & Books, two organizations which have benefited many people not just in Asheville but also in the larger area of Western North Carolina.

    In putting energy, time and media attention into attacking Kila the focus is being shifted from the greater issues.

  83. kandy

    @BillSmith

    “But this girls claims seem quite emotional from my perspective.”

    I for one, am always emotional when I get fired from a job. You know, when I’m not busy picking out curtains and flatware.

    This girl you refer to is a 36 year old woman.

  84. karinabird

    Get off Donovan’s back and thank her and David Forbes for addressing the labeling issue now, before this gets big. It is obvious there were problems with Buchi’s certification, problems with the meaning of the label, qualifications, does the label mean anything? Really? Or is it a marketing tool to help Asheville further its wonderful, quirky, AUTHENTIC brand? This will get worse if AP picks up the story and you all will be known as phonies – Asheville will be branded a phony place with phony people and a make believe economy. It could happen.

    I am a small business owner in another state who visits Asheville once a year. This whole saga is important and meaningful on many levels. When I mention the city’s name to people I instantly get a smile and a nod of the head – always a positive reaction. And almost everyone who’s never been too Asheville says they’d love to visit sometime. The sullying of Donovan’s name and reputation is shameful, I feel – she’s not dead – you can’t just say anything you want to about someone like this. Several people continue to back her story. It’s time for a mea culpa from Buchi instead of blaming everyone and anyone but themselves for their mistakes. The rest of you are bullies.

  85. LLJK

    I want to know more about this ‘independent contractor’ thing. How does that work exactly? You pay a so-called employee $10/hr and then Buchi sucker punches that individual with double social security taxes owed on their 1099?

    What happens if someone is injured on the job? As an employer, you don’t have to pay workers compensation insurance if you don’t have any ’employees’. Independent contractors are excluded from this rule. Which is why Buchi has independent contractors working for them, which is quasi-illegal (if someone is injured on the job) and definitely unethical. It’s not only to save 6% (or so) on social security taxes, but to avoid paying for worker’s comp insurance. Buchi isn’t the first brilliant business to try to dodge this little esoteric business rule.

    Can Buchi follow up with proof of worker’s comp insurance? I’m not saying they don’t have it, but it makes sense to have contractors work an assembly line instead of ’employees’ that would be governed by this insurance rule.

  86. karinabird

    None of this would have been newsworthy had the label been truthful. As far as damage to the Buchi, they should go after their tax adviser, the PR consultant that told them they qualified for LW and urged them to use the label, scold themselves for their mistake in the certification process, the LE people for not better regulating the parameters of the LW certification and program. Why blame the paper? Good grief! Buchi was not involved in a thesis or dissertation. This is real life, and there are real consequences. There’s got to be truth in advertising and labeling especially in the manufacturing of consumables.

    Advertiser/Shmadvertiser! I’m a reader & consumer and I like to know that what I purchase is the real thing. I think this was award winning reporting on the part of David, his research, and his character in taking on a subject many people had wondered about. Thanks to him and the MountainXpress we all know the LW program needs to shore up its rules and qualifications.

    Oh, and some of the posts say Buchi sales are rising so I doubt those folks won’t be out of work.

  87. 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.

  88. Apparently, the good people at Mountain Xpress think so too, otherwise, they probably wouldn’t have let tatuaje post this exact same comment three different places.

  89. Margaret Williams

    @Thad, @tatuaje is an unmoderated chap; he’s one of a modest handful whose comments go up without review, so he slipped in the multi-posts.

  90. Margaret Williams

    P.S. Many of the current unmoderated folks come from the most active participants on our forums; they’ve shown that (most of the time) they can abide by our policies. We tend to be cautious in approving this status and have, on occasion, rescinded it.

  91. Margaret Williams

    Our publisher has reminded me that those wishing to become unmoderated.. can ask, and we’ll review requests case by case.

  92. 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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