A Divided Decision: Pragmatism vs Principles

By Joan Simon, SJPJC Coordinating Council member

Recently, the San Jose Peace and Justice Center (SJPJC) was notified that we were nominated to receive a $2,000 grant from a local Whole Foods Market, an Amazon-owned store.  This opportunity was presented to the SJPJC Coordinating Council for discussion.  The Coordinating Council members weighed in on whether our organization should accept the money, and opinions were nowhere near unanimous.  Opinions ranged between “Yes,” accept the money; “Yes, if” certain conditions were met; and “No,” do not accept the money.

A question mark comprised of stacks of $100 bills

Some people who suggested “Yes” thought that SJPJC should accept the grant because the organization really needs the money, pure and simple.  COVID-19 has made this a year of layoffs, Zoom meetings, working remotely, and a lack of events at the SJPJC. For these reasons we are seeing a financial loss, with more money going out than is coming in. This is in addition to the extra demand being placed on our staff. Is SJPJC in any position to turn down a considerable grant in this time of great need?

The “Yes, if” people thought that it would be OK to accept the donation, if certain conditions were met. We could only accept the grant if “there are no strings attached” or “the donations should come from the employees of Whole Foods, not the corporation.” There would have to be a guarantee that the funder would not expect anything of SJPJC, that the grant is not transactional in nature. 

The “No” people thought that SJPJC should not accept money from a corporation that has an anti-union history, no matter how much we need the money.  Amazon has a known reputation of spying on their workers to prevent them from unionizing.  How can we possibly call ourselves a Peace and Justice Center, if we accept money from a massively powerful corporation that prioritizes profits over people?

Which way did we go? The San José Peace and Justice Center will always stay accountable to our donors as we abide by our Principles of Unity:

We seek to contribute toward building a just and sustainable society in which the gross and obscene concentration of corporate power and personal wealth is overcome by the achievement of basic economic rights for all: secure jobs at living wages; decent, affordable housing and public transit; adequate food and clothing; universal health care; quality education; a safe, clean environment; sustainable food production; and protection from economic insecurity caused by disability, old age, sickness, accident or unemployment. We support workers’ rights to organize, to collective bargaining, to strike without the threat of reprisals or replacement, to safe and healthy working conditions, and to a living wage, a pension and benefits.

There is an obscene wealth disparity between the executives and investors of the corporation that owns the Whole Foods stores compared to the essential frontline workers who are employed there. Therefore, the staff and Coordinating Council of SJPJC made the decision to NOT accept the $2,000 grant from Whole Foods/Amazon.

As a grassroots community centric organization, we cannot in good conscience accept money from an entity that is owned and operated by a corporation that does not align with our values. Thankfully, we have a supportive network of donors that believe in what we do and want to help sustain our continued growth in the community. If you wish to support our grassroots efforts, please click here to donate or send a check addressed to San Jose Peace and Justice Center to 48 S. 7th Street, San Jose CA 95112.

The San Jose Peace & Justice Center is a project of the Collins Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (Tax ID: 77-0083506).

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