This image is an abandoned and vacant Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen restaurant in Northeast Philadelphia. I drive past it almost every day and it is a strong piece among the images in my Hard Times series. Over the past few days I have noticed a large sign on the facade of this building announcing that it will soon become a new Krispy Kreme location. Yesterday as I approached the building I couldn't help notice what looked like protesters on the sidewalk as well as some people standing in the middle of the street handing out flyers. When I got closer I saw two people holding up a banner that read
"Krispy Kreme is unhealthy for our neighborhood !".
I thought, Wow... people are actually protesting the arrival of a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop in Northeast Philly?. Times sure have changed! I rolled down my window and was handed a flyer...
Hmmm... this boycott wasn't exactly what I assumed it to be. Turns out it was the local Electricians Union protesting against Krispy Kreme for intending to use non-union electricians when it remodels this building. The flyer was asking me to call a toll free number to let Krispy Kreme know I would be boycotting this store when it opens.
Yes,I will most certainly be boycotting this store when it opens, but not for the reason the union protesters want me to. It's sad and pathetic that the only thing that can fill the void left by a drive up window that served fried chicken containing 20 grams of fat and over 1100 mgs of sodium per piece is yet another doughnut shop. (There are currently 20 Dunkin Donut locations within 5 miles of my house, according to the DD Store Finder) This is all we are now. This is the best we've got. Another drive up, belly bursting, artery clogging, sugar supplying window. That is more than enough reason to boycott this new business.
As pathetic as that idea is though, it is marginally better than an abandoned and vacant building adding to the blight of a neighborhood and serving only as a large graffiti canvas. The general contractor the union members were protesting is a relatively small Philadelphia based company known primarily for residential work. I was actually surprised to see their name on the flyer, but I guess in this economy they are taking on any project they can get. This project will employ tradespeople from the Philadelphia area, albeit non-union tradespeople, but local nonetheless. People trying to keep food on their tables and stay current on their bills. Work is work, and we take what we can get these days. The real shame is that we take another corporate controlled, national chain restaurant without so much as a second thought. Imagine for a moment that this restaurant was being opened by a local family who would operate from this single location... live in the neighborhood... purchase supplies locally instead of being trucked in from some Krispy Kreme warehouse hundreds of miles away... spend their profits locally instead of shipping them off to far away banks and bankers.
The union flyer being handed out on the street stated...
We local tradesmen are your neighbors... the guys who coach your kids... and the men and women who help keep your neighborhoods clean and safe.
We can't have it both ways. We can't demand and seek protection for locally sourced labor while ignoring the scourge of the national and international corporate chain operations. There is no effective level of communication or relationship between local tradesmen and a corporate employer hundreds or thousands of miles away. The act of walking into a storefront, shaking the manager's hand and asking for a job doesn't exist anymore... job applications are made on a faceless and anonymous basis over the internet, the application is sent off to who knows where... never to be looked at or responded to. Customer feedback and complaints are handled over toll free 800 numbers and emails providing automated responses thanking us for our concerns and promising to get back to us as soon as possible. This is all we are now. This is the best we've got. So we make signs and print up flyers and take to the streets in front of abandoned vacant buildings complaining about a far away doughnut company that wants to hire some guys who are willing to work for a few less dollars just to put some food on the table and make sure the bills are paid... the never ending cycle of the rat race we call the American dream.
We are in for a collective world of hurt if we don't get back to some sense of sanity in this country... spiritually, physically, and economically.
That is my sermon for the week.... peace be with you.