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Labor's Edge: Views from the California Labor Movement

Turning our Grocers Against Us: How the Deceptive "No on 37" Campaign is Hindering Our Right to Know

by Jazmín Rumbaut, Yes on Prop 37 campaign

Numerous myths about Proposition 37 are circulating, propelled by a deceptive campaign funded by very large corporations and vey few individuals.  These corporations are so panicked that 37 will affect their bottom line that they are willing sacrifice our democracy and manipulate workers, small business owners, and the public at large to get them to vote against their own interests. 

One instrument of this confusion is Ray Martinez, owner of an Inglewood market who in interviews with outlets in English and Spanish and now in a heavily-aired TV ad has repeatedly made the same deliberately misleading claims about food costs and the effects of 37 on retailers, slighting the truth in an effort to keep Californians from voting for the right to know what’s in our food.  He purports to care about his customers like family, but wouldn’t you want your family to know what they are eating?  And wouldn’t you want them to know the truth?

Attempting to scare cash-strapped Californians does a disservice to the voting consumer.  The truth is that Prop 37 is a simple consumer-choice measure that will not increase food costs.  The labels we read on food products daily for nutrition facts and ingredients are a result of prior efforts. When hey were first proposed, they faced the same resistance from the food industry, but prices did not go up when these were applied.  Neither have prices increased in the many countries that require now GMO labeling.  

Proposition 37 will not generate self-interested lawsuits.  The truth is that 37 is about the ability to choose, not lawsuits.  There is no way to get rich by suing for labeling. Any damages would go to the state; the most a plaintiff can get is the purchase price of a product. Furthermore, there are no “bounty hunter” provisions, and no incentives for unscrupulous lawyers.  Every nightmare scenario proffered by the opposition can be easily dispelled because Prop 37 was drafted to make compliance simple and abuse difficult; the likelihood of frivolous lawsuits is about nil. 

Small grocers will face little difficulty complying with 37, as the responsibility for labeling GMOs would fall largely on the producers of packaged foods, where most genetically-altered products are found.  Grocers will not need to keep records for these producers; they will be  responsible only for their own brands or for whole foods.  No case can be brought against a company if the claimed violation "was not intentional" or resulted from an error, and class actions are prohibited unless the plaintiff has sent a notice 30 days in advance and allows the company to correct a label.  That’s suffiecient time to make the corrections, or at least to come to an agreement to do so.

The “No on 37” campaign’s use of these scare tactics that purport to defend small business owners is especially suspect considering that its major donor is agribusiness giant Monsanto, notorious for attacking small farmers with lawsuits regardless of the legitimacy of its claims. More than 2,000 small farmers have endorsed Proposition 37. The United Farm Workers, the nation’s largest farm workers union, endorses 37. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, made up of 1.3 million people who work primarily in grocery and retail stores, endorses 37, as does its Western States Council. 

Glen Raad, a grocery worker and UFCW member affirms

As a UFCW member and grocery worker, I support prop 37. I want to know what I am feeding my family. I'm appalled that a company like Walmart would sell Californians corn with insecticide built in and refuse to tell us.

Sam Mogannam, owner of the Bi-Rite Market, says:

I’ve owned bi-Rite Market for 15 years.  As a grocer, it is imperative that I know as much as I can about the food I sell to ensure that our customers continue to TRUST the food we sell.

These are the people who grow or sell our food. 

Grocers who respect their businesses, their customers, and their own ability to decide what they eat will support Californians’ right to know what’s in their food.  It’s common sense. 

 

Posted on 11/03/2012Permalink

More posts by Jazmin Rumbaut

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