Member-owners of Austin’s Wheatsville Co-op have gathered enough signatures to remove products of Eden Foods off its shelves, amid revelations of Eden CEO Michael Potter’s anti-woman views.
Eden Foods was among the companies that called for blocking the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, siding with Hobby Lobby in its case before the Supreme Court. Wheatsville owners collected 500 signatures to have Eden Foods removed from the co-op.
The Austin Chronicle reports on the vote and Potter’s extreme perspective, which the company reflects.”Eden’s stance on contraception goes well beyond Hobby Lobby’s opposition to the four forms of contraception the craft giant views (without scientific backing) as abortifacients,” the paper says. “Devoutly Catholic Potter, and by extension Eden, opposes all forms of contraception.”
Eden Foods is among green capitalism’s major players, with products intended to seemingly promote sustainability as a product choice. As consumers are seeing more often, conscientious, environmentally friendly consumerism is increasingly becoming a ploy of the rich to sell their wares, even when the companies don’t adhere to the values they imply when pitching their products. Salon has written on the green capitalist company’s far-right politics. It detailed the organic foods firm’s agenda in the wake of its Supreme Court partnering against the ACA:
Until now, Eden Foods’ conservative advocacy litigation has remained mostly under the radar, even as their marketing seems designed to appeal to liberals, from the slogan ”Organic agriculture is society’s brightest hope for positive change” to the ’60s imagery and the use of the word “revolution” in some of its print marketing. The company’s mission statement includes its goal to “contribute to peaceful evolution on earth,” “to maintain a healthy, respectful, challenging, and rewarding environment for employees,” and to “cultivate sound relationships with other organizations and individuals who are like minded and involved
in like pursuits.”
It’s not the first time a company with a nebulously progressive image has actually been led by someone whose politics would horrify many of its customers. John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, has publicly campaigned against the Affordable Care Act, including recently referring to it as “fascism.” And Lululemon’s executive adulation for Ayn Rand became famous when the yoga products company printed bags asking, “Who is John Galt?” But while those companies have been raked over the coals, Eden Foods’ efforts have largely gone unnoticed.
Eden Foods’ employees are covered under Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan, but until recently, Potter was able to exclude what the insurance company deemed (hilariously) “Lifestyle Drugs.” (Some rare consistency: The exclusion also included Viagra.) But once Potter became aware that the company’s plan had begun to cover contraception in accordance with the Obamacare regulations, he teamed up with Thomas More Law Center to sue. The center focuses on violations of “religious freedom,” including in connection with the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” They also represented Pastor Terry Jones, who became famous for his plan to burn Qurans on the anniversary of 9/11.
They filed suit on March 20, 2013, against Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and other government parties, demanding an exemption, despite the fact that Eden Foods is a for-profit company. Two days later, District Court Judge Denise Page Hood denied an emergency motion to be exempted, writing, “Courts have held that the Mandate in question applies only to the corporate entity, not to its officers or owners, and that as to the individual owners, any burden imposed on them individually by the contraception mandate is remote[.]” She added, “The purpose of the Women’s Preventive Healthcare Regulations is not to target religion, but instead to promote public health and gender equality.”
ThinkProgress pointed out later that Potter’s dispute with his company providing female employees the appropriate coverage had nothing to do with religion, but rather an objection that government had set rules.
A general election ballot to boot Eden Foods from Austin’s major co-op happens between September 1 and November 3.