Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Caveat Emptor, Let the [Progressive] Buyer Beware

There is a great website called Buy Blue that alerts as to which comapnies donate to conservatives (and which donate to friends of people like us).

What should we do about Walmart? BuyBlue says, go to Costco. According to the Labor Research Association

there's another company that is breaking the Wal-Mart mold: Costco Wholesale Corp., now the fifth-largest retailer in the U.S. While Wal-Mart pays an average of $9.68 an hour, the average hourly wage of employees of the Issaquah, Wash.-based warehouse club operator is $16. After three years a typical full-time Costco worker makes about $42,000, and the company foots 92% of its workers' health insurance tab.

The site ranks companies by how much and what percentage of their donations go to democratic causes. There are some surprises too: apparently Bally Total Fitness is a loyal "Blue" corporation while California Pizza Kitchen is way in the red.

Remember those "Voting is for Old People" t-shirts that Urban Outfitters released last year? Well, the company is a big conservative donor, and one can only wonder if that t-shirt was a strategy to dissuade young people, who often vote liberal, from voting last year.

I now have an even more socially responsible excuse to avoid Papa John's and Burger King, two late-night joints near my university that are heavy on the grease, since they too are placed in the red category.

One could argue that it's unfair of me to shun what may be a superior product because of politics. However, free market economics is premised on consumer choice, and when we as consumers make it a priority to hold companies socially responsible for their actions, it's best to give money to companies that are doing a pretty good job of this already.

The biggest flaw of adhering to BuyBlue's rankings, as was pointed out by the newsletter from which I learned of the site, is that the blue companies aren't perfect. Starbucks for instance is a solid blue company but has been criticized for weak fair trade policies and edging out neighborhood coffee shops, practices that aren't very progressive.

Still, BuyBlue does a good job as a caveat emptor for progressives. It also shows us that we can get good products at reasonable prices at companies where employees aren't treated as minimum wage slaves.

1 comment:

william t nelson said...

I think that "I'm a whack-job and I vote" shirts would be funnier: