Boycott Options: Oberweis, Hobby Lobby, and Walgreens

The ethics of purchasing products

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By David Hammond

Over 10 years ago, I debated with left-leaning friends about the ethics of purchasing products from Oberweis Dairy, a company owned by a family whose political opinions some of us considered unacceptable. At that time, an Oberweis was running for Senate.

I've always liked Oberweis products and my feeling remains that if the food is good, I'm going to shop there.

I'm not saying that I'd drink at the Herman Goering Brewery and Bath House, but generally considered, if you start taking into account all kinds of disagreeable personal issues related to store owners, then you might not shop anywhere ever again.  Still, there are limits.

Hobby Lobby is now in the news as a result of the SCOTUS ruling that allows them to avoid covering certain kinds of contraceptives for their employees. This ruling raises important questions about the limits of an employer's power over employee lives, reproductive rights, separation of church-state, and other big issues. I do believe, along with dissenting Justice Ginsburg, that the court is "stepping into a minefield" with this ruling. I mean, where does it end?  Will I patronize Hobby Lobby? Well, I never have and I don't even know where their nearest store is located, so I guess I'll confront that issue in the unlikely event I ever have to buy something at that store.

Walgreens, however, is a different issue. The company has been a client of mine, and I've written a corporate video history for them, patronized one of their Oak Park locations at least once per week and enjoyed a good run as a shareholder of the company (I've since divested). I think it's kind of awesome that at some of their stores, they're trying to upgrade their image by offering sushi (which seems on the face of it kind of laughable, though there's no reason why, with good sources and a qualified in-store sushi chef – which they have – they can't turn out good fish and rice snacks).

However, my generally high opinion of Walgreens has been tarnished. This Illinois company's threat to move overseas to avoid American taxation [http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/renouncing-corporate-citizenship/] strikes me as unseemly, kind of slimy, and just plain wrong.

I'm fine with patronizing a store even when the owner's political opinions may be diametrically opposed to mine. Difference of opinion, compromise, and getting along with those we politically oppose is part of living in the U.S. A.

But if Walgreens, a company that grew and prospered in the United States, leaves for the sole purpose of increasing shareholder value, well, I doubt I'll be the only one who will start shopping at CVS. If we're lucky, maybe someday CVS, will even start offering sushi.

Reader Comments

12 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Brian Slowiak from Westchester  

Posted: July 8th, 2014 10:15 PM

Shhh. don't tell anyone but the second black President of the US (Clinton was the first) is violating the moral,international and constitutional tights of people of color by holding them w/o charges,consoul,in Gitmo,for years, But progressives talk about Oberwies,hobby lobby and Walgreens. .

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 8th, 2014 8:50 PM

Is everyone on the WJ staff allowed to promote boycotts, organize public protests, etc., or is it limited to the columnists.

lindsey  

Posted: July 8th, 2014 8:36 PM

I buy oberweis milk because it is a quality product. It's not always political and raw milk is unregulated.

OP  

Posted: July 8th, 2014 8:25 PM

tea bagger = tea party. no slur ...

Friar Tuck from OP   

Posted: July 8th, 2014 8:07 PM

OP, why the gay slur? Really, are you that obtuse that you need to resort to vulgar terms? We actually agree...the essence of the free market is "don't like the business/beliefs, then don't buy." That's really what I was saying earlier, and the company, in it's daily effort to survive in a competitive world, will make calculations based on how it thinks the market will react. Sometimes they're right, sometimes they're wrong. But again, leave the immature slurring to the teenagers.

OP  

Posted: July 8th, 2014 7:44 PM

ahhhh you conserabots/tea baggers always fall back on the free market/pull yourself up by your bootstraps approach. The reality is how do people with no shoes do that.. back to the point at hand. dont like the business /beliefs dont buy.

Friar Tuck from OP  

Posted: July 8th, 2014 7:01 PM

OP, execs acting in their company's self-interest remain significantly above the Federal Govt & it's bureaucrats on the morality food chain. As Gecko stated so brilliantly, "greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed... has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA!!"

Animal Farm  

Posted: July 8th, 2014 6:35 PM

How about boycotting nearby Cosco next as a banner of books. Hobby Lobby? Really, who's obtuse? Serious Christians bad! Add Chick-fil-a to your "dirty list" since your progressive pagan like values certainly trump their Judeo-Christian values. Ditto with the Little Sisters of the Poor - NOW doesn't like them. As for Oberweis, please leave; too many here are too pure for your great dairy products. You can do better elsewhere. How about another wig shop instead!

OP  

Posted: July 7th, 2014 5:40 PM

@ Friar - please don't act like execs are doing everyone else a favor by doing duty. they are motivated by greed/self interests and will push as far as bottom feeding attorneys allow them to .... i have worked with execs in Fortune 100 companies and small venture that go public ... they are not overly concerned with greater good (if at all).

OPguy  

Posted: July 7th, 2014 5:37 PM

It must be very tiring to research the political leanings of every store and restaurant before you spend money there. (but soooo OP) Life is too short.

Friar Tuck from OP  

Posted: July 7th, 2014 5:15 PM

Why is it that so many OPer's are knee-jerk to trust the federal govt, and to mistrust a company? Walgreen is simply doing it's legal, fiduciary duty to its owners (aka shareholders) by looking at any and all cost savings options. Company officers & directors could be sued for NOT looking at inversion, an option only available to them due to their purchase of an overseas entity. It's a global world, & our corp tax system needs overhaul.

Ned Ryerson from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: July 7th, 2014 3:53 PM

Or, you could put the proper pressure on your "progressive" friends for reasonable federal tax reform. That way, Companies would find more reasons to stay and employ Americans. Contemplate that at the Brown Cow, a locally owned store.

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