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The Death of Fred Meijer: Canonizing a member of the 1%

November 26, 2011

All of the Grand Rapids-based media today joined in unison to pay tribute to Fred Meijer, the former CEO of Meijer Inc.

Most of the coverage refers to his “pioneering” the hyper-market or the superstore concept, while the rest of the coverage discussed his philanthropy and how much he loved Grand Rapids.

MLive coverage includes a story on his death, but separate stories on the company, reflections from one of their columnists and an excerpt from his biography. WOOD TV 8 has several stories and a photo album highlighting the life of this multi-billionaire and the rest of the major daily commercial outlets have joined in on the cheerleading.

It stands to reason that the local news media would gush over a man worth over $5 billion dollars since every one of these news outlets relies heavily on advertising dollars from Meijer. But reliance on advertising money is only part of the reason for the celebration of a billionaire in local media. The other major factor is that commercial media not only internalizes the values of the economic system, they are also deeply entrenched in it. This is a point we made about why the local media will never understand Occupy Grand Rapids.

Meijer, like DeVos and Van Andel, is a name that is all over spaces in this community such as gardens, the PBS station, the civic theater, the lobby at the Ford Museum and many other spaces. The Meijer name on these public spaces is designed in part to get the public to be reminded of how wonderful rich men are in this community, and it is also a way to silence any critical voices.

Becoming a Billionaire

There was an interesting line in the WZZM 13 story, which was attributed to Fred Meijer himself. “We don’t want to make more money we want customer [sic] to have better value.” This line is supposed to represent the ethos of the Meijer Corporation, but if one looks at this statement with a critical lens there is a different message. Meijer made his billions off selling products made mostly out of the US, buying at a high volume rate, receiving massive subsidies and tax-breaks whenever they put a new store in and downsizing the workforce.

Like Wal-Mart, Meijer is based on high volume, which means they dictate the price of products they buy. They also sell lots of cheap items made in countries like China, where labor standards are based on sweatshop conditions. In addition, most of what is sold in Meijer stores are non-necessary items, like cheap plastic crap. Even most of the food that is sold in Meijer stores is more accurately food-stuff, which has contributed tremendously to an unhealthy society.

Essentially, the statement “We don’t want to make more money we want customer [sic] to have better value” is a lie. What drives Meijer policy is making a profit and a pretty hefty one. We reported earlier this year that since 2007, Fred Meijer’s wealth grew 150%, so that by 2010 he was worth $5 billion. What is astounding about this growth is that it happened at a time when the economy tanked and millions of people fell into poverty.

Some will say that Meijer has been a generous philanthropist evidenced by the fact that he has shared his wealth. Such a notion ignores the function of foundations and philanthropy in a capitalist system, in that it is primarily designed to divert public attention from the tremendous wealth gap we have in this society. If the rich did not “donate” money to certain projects, we all might be more inclined to take that wealth back. That’s right… take it back, because it is money made from the labor of working people.

What is not discussed in today’s coverage is what else Meijer has done with its money. Besides, directing wealth to projects that protect the status quo, Meijer has used his money and his company’s money to influence politics. According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, Meijer Inc. spent over $300,000 in each of the past 2 years with their state Political Action Committee. According to, Meijer has contributed primarily to Republican candidates in recent election cycles. Meijer has also contributed millions of dollars over the years to influence food policy at the federal level, with over $80,000 in influence spending in the current election cycle alone.

Like the rest of the 1% in this society, we are constantly told that Grand Rapids would not be where it is today if it were not for people like Fred Meijer. I agree with this statement, but from a different point of view. Grand Rapids might not have the kind of deeply entrenched poverty that we currently experience if there were real economic justice. Imagine if the $5 billion that Meijer is worth were given back to the people to end poverty and homelessness. Until that kind of revolutionary act is taken, I will not chime in with the rest of the media and canonize part of the 1%.

47 Comments leave one →
  1. kswheeler permalink
    November 26, 2011 6:59 pm

    All supermarkets sell more “foodstuffs” than food. All the prepared crap–frozen pizzas, canned soup, meal “kits,” etc.–are things I would never touch anyway.

    And I don’t want to detract from the major points you make above.

    But I do want to say that Meijer’s stated policy of not gouging customers to the extent that other supermarkets in this area does seem to be true. When I buy basic groceries there, I pay about 40 percent less than at D&W and about 30 percent less than at Family Fare. I have a set (and small) food budget each week, and buying things from Meijer’s makes it possible for me to meet that budget without running out of money.

    When I’ve had to use them as a source for produce, I find that their produce is a lot fresher and lasts a lot longer than stuff sold at D&W in particular.

    They also seem to make a point of keeping prices lower than elsewhere in the area on items that are needed by children, such as milk. This year their prices on traditional Thanksgiving items, which cost double what they did last year, were the lowest in the area.

    That being said, I’m sure that the company more than makes up the difference by enticing customers with other types of products and merchandise. But I also know a number of people who have switched their grocery shopping in the past five years or so to Meijer’s because of the pricing, which may account for some of his increasing profits.

    I’m sure I’ll now be attacked by every food co-op member and dumpster diver who reads this site, but I did want to make the point that not everything Meijer said was a lie.

  2. November 26, 2011 11:26 pm

    Normally I refuse to comment on news articles. Any news article. But Jeff, your just an ass. That is all.

  3. November 26, 2011 11:50 pm

    I’m gonna need a bit more to offer a response. I don’t mind if you disagree with me, but name calling seems a bit uncalled for.

  4. analogmutant permalink
    November 27, 2011 12:09 am

    Thanks for not pulling punches on Grand Rapids’ Sacred (Purple) Cow. The relentless hero worship is kind of crazy when you consider how heavily Meijer relies on CHINESE products, and actively contributes to the corporatist culture of buying legislation in their best interest at the expense of the people. I like how you point out their HEAVY influence/control of local media. They profit off of people through many of the nefarious practices of the food and drug industries (“filler” ingredients, HFCS & artificial additives, inactive ingredients, pesticides, chemical fertilizers to name a few)

    Sure Meijer did a lot of things FOR the community, and every last one of these philantropic acts purchased them more social equity, influence and power, as well as tax benefits and in many cases, future revenue.

    Once again, GRIID does us a great public service.

  5. November 27, 2011 2:36 am

    Great article, I took heat for linking it today from some people who I thought understood corporations & actually read your article. GRIID is the best!

  6. November 27, 2011 3:36 am

    I say that because his family hasn’t even mourned him yet and off you go….. Your opinion is your opinion and you have every right to it but I just think your timing is in very poor taste. And, for that, you are an ass.

  7. diane-archist permalink
    November 27, 2011 3:36 am

    The Meijer Empire is a fascinating phenom given that the founder, Hendrik Meijer, Fred Meijer’s father, was an anarchist who left the Netherlands to get away from the repressive Dutch government policies. Once here, he became a barber and then started a grocery store because he refused on principle to “work for a boss.” The retail empire does seem to violate those principles – Hedrik’s legacy is the prisoner of its own success.

  8. Maryann permalink
    November 27, 2011 6:01 am

    This man did not inherit his wealth but worked hard for it & was financially sucessful. You never have anything good to say about anyone who is successful anyway. Sour grapes to the max. Plus this man didn’t just keep his wealth all to himself. He gave back to the community just like the Van Andels & De Vos’s. No one held a gun to his head to make him give back. He just did it. So maybe he got some breaks for giving back. So What? Are you so entitled that you think these hard working people owe you & our community anything? They owe you/the community NOTHING. So I say thank you & God bless them & their families. Last time I went to my LOCAL Meijer there was no one there to make me buy the products from China. I choose to buy whatever I want at Meijer & the prices are indeed reasonable. It’s whiners like you that keep the sour grapes market in business. Anyone want a little more whine with their dinner? The price of your whine is more than I can afford!

  9. Joshua Sadowski permalink
    November 27, 2011 11:30 am

    I am afraid you just made the point of the article, Maryann. The Super Rich in Grand Rapids are worshiped, and any criticism of them is immediately shouted down. The “success” you referrence is built on the backs of poor and exploited people. You say the rich owe the community nothing, however without that community (not to mention the communities over seas they’ve exploited), they would have no wealth. In fact, they owe it all to the community which has handed over every cent Meijer and Co. “earned”. You see from the posts here that many in that community really had no other choice other than to shop there, because of the economic conditions.

  10. kswheeler permalink
    November 27, 2011 1:58 pm

    I agree with Josh on this. Even though I find Meijer’s a less expensive place to shop, the idea that Meijer “gave back to the community” or that any of our other uber-rich are “giving” to us is ludicrous. They have all taken far more than they will ever give back.

    Josh might also have mentioned the non-unionized workers who work for Meijer’s…or Amway, or the Prince Corporation, or the Gilmore Group. (Some Meijer’s store are unionized; others aren’t). Meijer’s plays the part-time game, so as to reduce the number of employees who get benefits. Cashiers are timed for each transaction and the turnover rate is high. Employees also say that the lower-level managers have little training and act as petty tyrants, protecting their turf at the expense of the workers..

  11. November 27, 2011 2:04 pm

    “Poor & exploited?” Go hound the executives at WalMart.

    Meijer employees (and I mean the cashiers, stockists and meat cutters to name a few) receive excellent health care, retirement benefits and the discounts they receive on food and clothing for their families far exceed any other company in this town.

    Do you people even know anyone who works for Meijer?

    Like I said to Jeff in an earlier post, I NEVER respond to articles online but this is just ridiculous. Oh, and don’t forget that Cindy Lowe VanAndel just died. Shouldn’t you be writing something about her?….. ah forget it. This is futile.

  12. Bob Franz permalink
    November 27, 2011 3:14 pm

    This guy makes it sound as though Fred has 5 billion in the bank. His worth is that much, mostly in buildings, inventory etc. Since he owns the company he can claim it all. Acutually, Forbes came up with this figure and it may or may not be accurate since Meijer is a privately held company. No doubt Fred is worth a bundle. He and his staff developed the Meijer ‘way’ of doing business over 70 years. He happen to hit on a concept that was revoluntionary and has since been copied by various companies all over the world. He was in the right place at the right time. Sam Walton stated in his book that if Fred Meijer and gone public (stocks) in the early 1970’s the two store chains would be reversed.

    The Meijer of old, when Fred was active in the company, actually drove prices down and we all benefited by that. And every time there were economic downturns in the economy, the shoppers turned to Meijer and Kmart….discount stores….to shop because it wasn’t feasible to shop at Hudsons and other high line retailers. They could get a good value for their limited dollar.

    This guy can take a hard approach to the Fred’s and VanAndels, but the bottom line is they did give back to the communities they were in. They certainly didn’t need to. And the economics Fred personally gave to the Grand Rapids and many other communities throughout Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky are in the mega millions and unhearlded. On some of these the name of Meijer is displayed such as ball parks, heart center etc. MOST of his contributions he simply funded without fanfare. There are countless little league ball fields with electronic score boards provided by Fred often including the property. He provided the lighting for the Calder Plaza without fanfare…there’s no plague with his name on it there.

    Yup, his system was profitable but without it we’d all be paying more for what we buy. And he was quite generous mostly without seeking recognition for his contributions. Fred became very wealthy and he shared his wealth. If he didn’t share it enough to satisfy this butt, Jeff Smith, too bad. I’ll betcha Jeff doesn’t contribute too much to his community except his narrow minded perspectives. Fred trully was one of the good guys.

  13. chanceofgay permalink
    November 27, 2011 3:24 pm

    I have heard countless stories from former Meijer employees who have suffered harassment and/or firing based on their sexual orientation. Now (finally) Meijer has added sexual orientation protections to their EEO; however, on the Corporate Equality Index, they score an abysmal 20/100 which is shameful for any company but especially a corporation of their size.

    That discrimination is also part of Fred’s legacy.

  14. November 27, 2011 3:26 pm

    Bob, you have no idea what I do in the community, but I am not going to get into a pissing match with you about how much I give, because the article is not about me. There are countless people who give on a daily basis out of compassion and self-sacrifice, but they will never receive the kind of media praise that Meijer and other elites receive because they did not become wealthy off of other people’s labor.

    I worked for Meijer for several years and my experience and those of numerous fellow workers was not a pleasant one. I worked in the warehouse and we were timed on certain jobs and if you didn’t make they time they had designated you were demoted. Some people just couldn’t do that work because it was too physically demanding even though they had seniority, but were still demoted because of the way the work was structured. The union fought this all the time and even engaged in work slow-downs, but Meijer management didn’t care if people were being injured on the job. I was hospitalized while working at Meijer because of these dynamics.

    I acknowledged in the article that Meijer was a philanthropist. Our disagreement is on his motives. But the bigger issues is that this guy got richer during a time (2007 – 2010) when most of the country was suffering from the economic collapse. In the face of such suffering Meijer did not respond, but increased his wealth. This I find brutally unjust.

  15. November 27, 2011 3:44 pm

    I think what you are witnessing is the awakening of a populous. The value of the Occupy movement is that all types of people who have taken many things for granted are beginning to start and really look at the implications of their actions. And this questioning involves all walks of life from the person who shops at Walmart or Meijers to the person who just bought an iPad.
    We in this country have lived a fantasy life where we became dependent on cheap products for our homes and offices. The reality is these cheap prices came with a steep cost to our environment and to the people working in often terrible conditions to make these products.
    Did Fred Meijer provide us all with cheap products because we wanted them or because he needed to compete with other corporations that were exploiting workers to provide the most competitive prices? In the end it doesn’t really matter does it? Both us and Fred acted irresponsibly. We didn’t stand up when Meijers went from a great place to work to a host of part time low wage jobs. We didn’t stand up when our cheap lawn chairs came from a factory in China that dumped toxins into it’s rivers. We didn’t stand up to yet another mega retailer building yet another mega store in the suburbs so we could all have our own little car.
    I don’t think Jeff is saying Fred was a bad person but rather that we are or should be realizing that the effects of the Meijer retail saga isn’t only what you read about in the GR Press or see on Wood TV. This article helps us all wake up.

  16. November 27, 2011 4:21 pm

    Interesting read Jeff. Thanks for writing a different perspective. Like many others, and as indicated by the response to your piece, I have a love/hate relationship with Meijer, Inc. While I appreciate what their foundation has done for West Michigan – how can anyone NOT appreciate Meijer Gardens and their other good works – as a micro business owner I deplore some of their marketing.
    My wife and I own a small jewlery store – a literal “mom and pop”. We make a lot of what we sell and we have never engaged in the popular marketing method of marking up to mark down and thus have a “sale”.
    Anyone who shops Meijer and looks at such things will have noticed by now that their jewelry department has had a 70% Off sale running for the better part of two years. It is sad that people are so naive to think that a corporation that does in excess of 175 million a year in sales of jewelry and watches really sells things at “70% Off”. Off what? A grossly inflated “retail” price?
    The reason I am upset is not because I can’t stand the competition. Meijer does not make or repair jewelry. They are not a direct competitor. The reason I object is that such marketing muddies the water AND it gives people the false impression that the $300 engagement ring they just purchased is actually a $1,000 ring they picked up for a song. No – they paid FULL PRICE for a poorly constructed, light weight ring that will not last. Gold and diamonds are traded internationally and the market determines the price. The only way to make a gold ring cheaper is to use LESS gold. Make the ring thin and hollow, etc.
    Proof of the fraudulent nature of such marketing is that fact that the “sale” continues week after week, month after month. We have a section of merchandise that is 50% off in our store, but it is made of up special purchases like discontinued watches that still carry a full warranty but are at half their original price and older merchandise we need to clear out.
    If one thought logically, a continuous 70% discount would be impossible to maintain because a store MUST make a profit to stay afloat. If all I sold were the things from the 50% off counter I would close in 2 months because those items in there do not have any profit margin left – many are sold at a loss.
    I have written to the Attorney General twice on this subject to no avail. I did so because there are laws governing advertising and marketing. Look at all the disclaimers at the bottom of the pages in the big discount flyers for jewelry at Penneys, Macys, and Kohls if you want proof. The second time I wrote no one even dignified my complaint with an answer when I asked – “At what point does a constant 70% off sale become a going out of business sale?”
    Sorry for the long post. Thanks again for the alternative view of Mr Meijer.

  17. Bob Franz permalink
    November 27, 2011 4:45 pm

    Jeff, my comments were and are justified given the time frame in which I speak, for me 1971 – 2003. Fred was long gone from daily operations by 2003 as was most of the other ‘good guys’ at Meijer. The new breed was much more cut throat and as far as I know remain so.

    Just for the record, I was terminated along with 3,000 other Meijer employees in late 2003 and early 2004. I served 33 years to this company. I took my very generous retirement and successfully sought other work. You might wonder that I have an axe to grind. No so. I wasn’t pleased by any stretch, but so be it. I doubt Fred had much to do with it.

    Now that I know you came from the DC’s, I can understand your position but I still disagree with you and what Fred Meijer meant to all of the communities the company serves, even if they aren’t aware of his contributions. Like the UAW, the DC staff was well paid given job skills required. I know many former employees including a brother in law who made a decent living but it was never enough. Greed is present in every income level.

    There are far more former employees from the era I speak of that were pleased and proud to work at Meijer than those that are, like you, and have an axe to grind and can’t see the injustice of your poison pen. I think you should at least let the man be buried before you slander his name and reputation.

    I too won’t get into a pissing match about this. People like you will never change your mind and will forever hold a very narrow perspective. That is my last comment to you.

  18. kswheeler permalink
    November 27, 2011 6:57 pm

    Samatha, I wanted to respond to you in particular. Yes, I do know people who work at Meijer. And when I was working at a civil rights law firm, I was also aware of various cases involving Meijer’s.

    Meijer employees get health care IF they are unionized and IF they work full-time. Other employees get health care, as well, but not all of them–and policies apparently vary from store to store, as does quality of management. There are many, many complaints (you can find some of them online) about the middle-range managers and floor supervisors. In Grand Rapids, workers are disciplined if they punch in ONE MINUTE late to work–even if a road has been closed due to weather or their car had a flat tire (I know someone this happened to).

    Their employee manual talks about all being a big, happy family, treating each other with respect–but if that were true, why does Meijer’s have one of the highest turnover rates of any company in the area, despite the current depression? Some sources place it as high as 35 or 40 percent for the floor personnel.

    Well, I’ll tell you why, even though you only seem to want to listen to your own opinions. Meijer treatment of employees can be so extreme that they were sued in 2006 for union-busting and the punishment of a worker who was attempting, on his own time, to distribute union literature.. AND they were found guilty.

    They were also found guilty of union-busting (violating the National Labor Relations ACt) in 1996, when they punished employees for wearing pro-union buttons at work.

    In 2008, an employee filed a harassment complaint against a floor manager through an internal Meijer reporting system. After waiting a year and a half, and enduring additional harassment all during that time, the manager foun the employee in the freezer (she had been sent there to restock the deli section of the store) and started screaming at her and pushing her around physically for not being at her correct floor position. She walked off the job.

    After being unable to find another job, she returned to Meijer in mid-2009, was attacked by the manager because this employee’s COUSIN, also an employee, didn’t have his shirt tucked into his pants. She went to HR, complained, and was fired on the spot for complaining.

    Another employee tried to sue Meijer in 1998 for wrongful termination, and Meijer attempted to argue in court that she did not have the right to so because their employee manual said that employees or former employees did not have the right to sue–only the right to go through arbitration. When the case finally got to federal court, the judge was forced to point out the obvious: that Meijer’s was not a sovereign state and could not take away civil rights from its workers.

    Workers have also complained about Meijer’s deliberate short-staffing, especially of cashiers. Since cashiers are time for their work, and then tend to work slower when exhausted, they are penalized for slowing down even though they are forced to take longer shifts than at most stores.

    One big happy family–you bet.

  19. PAUL TUTHILL permalink
    November 28, 2011 1:51 am

    Try to remember that Fred was a member of the 100%. It is easy to criticize. What contributions have the author or the commenters made to our town? I am not expecting an answer because the answer is________.

  20. November 28, 2011 2:08 am

    Paul, if you haven’t been following the whole occupy movement, then maybe you would not be clear on my use of the term 1%, in reference to Fred Meijer. Most people do not have the kind of wealth that he had, not all the privileges and access that that kind of wealth gives you in this society.

    I resist the idea of injecting my own personal contributions to this discussion, but since you assume I have done nothing, here are just a few contributions: I have taken in several hundred people into my home who have been homeless, batter women and refugees. I have worked with the disability community, migrant workers, rape victims and children from poor families. I was a foster parent to a young man who was a torture survivor for 4 years. I donate food from my garden to an urban farmers market and I tutor teenagers. I have worked on neighborhood issues, racial justice issues, sexual assault prevention, environmental justice issues and anti-violence issues in my spare time. I have done human rights work in Central America and Mexico for 18 years and I did not get paid to do any of this. But hey, it doesn’t matter, because anytime someone from the working class is critical of the ownership class it is assumed that we just sit around and don’t do anything of value.

  21. marilyn permalink
    November 28, 2011 2:48 am

    1)Fred Meijer has NOT been in control of his company for many years. He has been retired and taking care of Lena- A woman he was married to probably a lot longer than the person who orriginally wrote this article has ever committed to one person or thing.

    2)The company did take a major change in the last 20 years when his son took over.Fred Meijer made a huge impact on this community, giving high school graduates/non graduates back in the 60-early 80’s the ability to live decently off the salary they earned

    3)From my limited view, this was a good, decent man who offered much to people around him and his community. Have corporations changed for the worst? Yes, but this wasn’t Fred Meijers business plan when he was CEO.
    3) Regardless if you disagree/hate someone for whatever reason HAVE SOME RESPECT!!! He has friends and family that are grieving. This is not the time for you to get your point accross.

  22. Maryann permalink
    November 28, 2011 7:32 am

    All you have to do is read the news about Black Fri. to realize there is no corner on greed among the wealthy. We know,Jeff, that you’ll be down on people who have more than you do. But really, you need to HAVE SOME RESPECT & let the friends & family grieve & bury their dead before you go off with your have baked opinions about them. This comes off like the flaming religio-nuts who protest at the funerals of fallen soldiers.

  23. chanceofgay permalink
    November 28, 2011 2:06 pm

    Today’s MLive story “Fred Meijer remembered as Champion of Diversity” is a perfect example of the media conveniently “remembering” the parts of the elite that they want highlighted. Based on what I said in my post above, Fred Meijer was no “Champion of Diversity.” In fact, when it came to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, he was a “Champion of Discrimination.”

  24. kswheeler permalink
    November 28, 2011 2:48 pm

    Maryann, this has nothing about envy, about “being down on someone who has more than you do.” You seem unable or unwilling to understand that there are a lot of people who could care less about the so-called American dream of being rich. But they do care about the ever-widening gap between the top 1 percent and all the rest of us, many of whom once had a solid, working-class life and now are making choices between health insurance and food, or food and heat.

    One of this site’s stated missions is to act as a watchdog over the reporting of area media on various topics. It has nothing to do with “respect for the family.” It has to do with the way that the Press is representing and helping to add to the mythology surrounding the super-rich in our part of the country. I seriously doubt that the Meijer family has been reading this blog and is deeply troubled by anything said here.

    If you’re not interested in news analysis, then just don’t read the articles about it. Very simple solution. Just like shopping at Meijer’s and not buying the cheap Christmas decorations, as you mentioned earlier.

    But many who read the articles here ARE deeply troubled by the ongoing deification of people who have gotten rich on the labor and exploitation of others, without “giving back” to them directly. The average pay for a Meijer floor worker is $288 a week, pre-tax. Can you live on that? Go ahead–give it a shot. Do you work in an unsafe work environment, one with repressive and even physically abusive supervisors? Are you forced to do double shifts standing the entire time, and being timed at every single thing you so? A lot of Meijer employees are. Give that a try as well.

    But please stop peddling your Fox-News-brainwashed line, “Don’t criticize the self-made American biliionaires; they worked hard for their money” talking point around here. It does not play, and it’s not going to change the realities of the situation. If you want to be a shill for the rich–which you will never, ever be–go right ahead. And remember that you did that on the morning you wake up and your home is being foreclosed or your car repossessed or your utilities shut off because the top 1 percent’s strategy for complete ownership of this country’s assets has finally caught up with you. You are just as much fodder for their greed as the rest of us. Don’t kid yourself and thnk otherwise.

    Meanwhile, the Meijer family has raked in billions by under-staffing, under-paying, and badly managing their employees. They are using part of that money to influence food quality and food accessibility to the rest of us. These are realities, and the article points them out. There’s nothing half-baked (or, as you would say, have-baked) about that.

  25. November 28, 2011 6:10 pm

    When my mother was a waitress at the Amway Grand Plaza in the 80s the tips she and her friends got from Fred were coupons for the Purple Cow. What a paragon of generosity.

  26. kswheeler permalink
    November 28, 2011 7:07 pm

    LOL! Great story, Kelvin–thank you for posting it.

  27. Maryann permalink
    November 29, 2011 2:27 am

    LOL You just peddled some of the most brainwashed lines I have heard. To hear you, one would think workers at Meijers worked in a 3rd world country environment where Fred Meijer was the dictator condoning unsafe environments with repressive & physically abusive supervisors. You are just spouting things into the air that have no basis in fact. Greed is certainly something that has gotten this whole country in trouble but to put Fred Meijer up there as an exploiter of the proletariot just because he is wealthy is a huge stretch. Haven’t you heard that he hasn’t been involved in the running of this “horrible” albeit local company since before 2003? What do you not understand about the idea of new management making different decisions than Fred Meijers? Are only people who agree with your have-baked (typo) half-baked ideas “allowed” to voice their opinions here? I have read this site for some time as it is one that I have set to come up on my computer & I have not run into a bigger bunch of whiners, ever. Yes it is about respect. It is ALWAYS about respect. You can have your opinion about Fred Meijers but there is a time & a place to voice that opinion. This may be the place but before the man is even buried is NOT the time. Timing is everything. Timing is an important lesson for whatever the relationship. I too have my opinions about Fred Meijers & I feel free to defend the man against what I consider to be ignorant poorly timed slander. Sorry you don’t happen to like my opinion as part of a check on your propoganda ie. “news analysis.” Oh well.

  28. kswheeler permalink
    November 29, 2011 4:06 pm

    Maryann–no basis in fact? The legal cases and the paperwork describing the situations I describe are certainly factual–they were proven in court. The testimony of various workers related to those cases were delivered under oath–and yet you’re saying they have no basis in fact? The facts about earnings and some of the comments about floor supervisors and safety issues come from Meijer workers, including the author of this piece.

    If you want to discuss something here, try this: instead of just shooting down what everyone else says here—let’s see you offer some FACTS of your own to support your statements, instead of just flinging insults which appear to be based only on your fantasy view of current events. Give us some links….provide some court cases of your own….and refute (which you will be unable to do) the information I’ve provided about Meijer’s pay and turnover rates. I’ll be very interested to see you validate your viewpoint with some concrete evidence.

  29. carrie permalink
    November 29, 2011 8:59 pm

    “Imagine if the $5 billion that Meijer is worth were given back to the people to end poverty and homelessness.”

    Wow what a great idea. Let’s liquidate the company and shutdown all operations resulting in thousands losing their jobs which in turn increases poverty and homelessness. Fred Meijer came from the 99% and by having stores that people wanted to shop at he reached great wealth, what is the problem exactly with this?

    “Meanwhile, the Meijer family has raked in billions by under-staffing, under-paying, and badly managing their employees.”

    Another quote above full of ivory tower b.s. You staff what the store requires, you pay what the market dictates. Why as a business should Meijer or any other company just hand out money? If somebody will work for $10 an hour why pay them $11? Business 101. Meijer is NOT A CHARITY IT IS A FOR PROFIT BUSINESS, why can’t the far left figure out this simple concept?????????

  30. Deirdre permalink
    November 29, 2011 10:36 pm

    Carrie, you just made my point, somewhat. I know Meijer is not a charity, I used to work for them. They are primarily about making a profit, which is what I am being critical off, where both workers and the customers are taken advantage of.

    There is nothing ivory tower about what I am saying. It is very much grassroots and on the street level. Just because you don’t agree with it doesn’t mean it is bs.

    If you want to defend people who are billionaires and a system which benefits a minority of the population, fine, but this site is dedicated to promoting social justice and advocating for those whom society discards.

    The point of the sentence you quoted at the beginning was not saying Meijer should liquidate the company, it was to make a point that the wealth that Fred Meijer and the Meijer family has been made by the labor of others………thus that wealth should be distributed to those who did the real work.

  31. Maryann permalink
    November 30, 2011 7:43 am

    So, like, Deirdre, you mean, Fred Meijer & the Meijer family didn’t do the real work. Starting a business & taking the financial risk wasn’t REAL work. It’s only when they have people working FOR them that REAL work starts & then those people should be the ones that make all the money because Fred Meijer & family are taking advantage of the customers & the employees if they make any money, ie. a profit. so the employees who do the RealWork, without the risk or the responsibility of running the company should be the ones that get all the money thus the wealth is distributed to them because they do REAL WORK. I think I get it.

  32. Carrie permalink
    November 30, 2011 4:03 pm

    Spot on Maryann with your latest post. People like Deirde think that the Meijer family woke up one day and a business was built and they sat back and relaxed. Those of us that live in the realworld, however; know people like the Meijer family worked to the bone to build up a business and had the drive to make it happen – they were the 99%. All the while let us not forget they created jobs and a tax base for the Grand Rapids area and beyond. But that is not good enough for the far left (I am a left of center by the way) they feel the Meijer family should just handout all their money to those with little to no education and job skills all in the name of bogus “social justice”.

    So my question to the social justice crowd is if it is bad to have workers that make less then them and making a profit is taking advantage of customes, who on Earth would want to start a company under your rules?

  33. kswheeler permalink
    December 1, 2011 12:47 am

    “….who on Earth would want to start a company under your rules?”

    Cheque Dejeuner, one of the largest finance businesses in France.
    Moulin Roty, France’s second-largest toy manufacturer.
    Kantenga, a Norwegian software company that has been named one of the 100 Best Worplaces in Europe.
    Mondragon Corporation, a heating/cooling company that is Spain’s seventh largest manufacturer.
    Suma Wholefoods of Britian.
    Egged Transport, Israel’s largest public transportation company.
    Indian Coffee Houses of India, a chain of free-trade coffeehouses and restaurants throughout the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia.

    These and many other successful companies are all worker cooperatives, or collective, with 100 percent employee ownership and 100 percent open management–all workers have a say in setting policies, salaries, hours, etc.

    The collective business model has proven so successful in Europe that some South American governments are helping worker cooperatives with interest-free loans in order to establish these businesses in their countries as well.

    That’s who.

  34. Micah permalink
    December 2, 2011 7:49 pm

    This is in response to the comment above, by Samantha. (For some reason, I can’t reply to it.)

    Samantha, you make note of Meijer employees’ “excellent health care [and] retirement benefits” as if they have these things because of the boundless generosity by the Meijer family. Meijer employees are unionized, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). While I’ve yet to find a Meijer employee who is very happy with their union (and I almost always ask when I’m going through the line there), it should be noted that Meijer employees’ ability to bargain collectively with the company is what has given them those benefits. We can debate about whether or not Fred Meijer was a good man, but things like health care and retirement benefits have come from the workers’ ability to utilize their collective power–not from the Meijer corporation’s generosity.

  35. December 3, 2011 12:00 am

    Perhaps companies shouldn’t be started in the first place. Perhaps we shouldn’t rely on corporations to meet our needs. Perhaps it is that very structure that inevitably exploits the population. Perhaps systematic change is needed.

  36. Mike of GR permalink
    July 8, 2012 6:37 pm

    I happened to be doing a little research on Meijer when I stumbled across this article, I have never heard of, I must admit… anyhow, I was reading this and thought it was a joke at 1st – then I saw your affiliation with the Scum of Society known as “Occupy-other-people’s-space” (aka; Oops) and then I realized this is a Joke, it’s a Joke with you as the punch line! You and the other dregs of society ( “Oops”) are NOTHING More than spoiled rotten little brats who have been tossed out of the nest and now expect the world to take over where mommy and daddy left off.
    The “Oops” crowd are little more than mental midgets mad that society don’t wipe their noses and bottoms like mommy did, you were raised believing that you were the most important person in the world, and that the world would beat a path to your door and play nice ans share their Toys with you – all the same BS they are teaching in ALL the Public Schools nowadays- Instead of Math, Science, Reading and Writing, you are taught tolerance of “Alternative Life-styles” and that all feelings are ok, and Everyone has to accept you as you are…. etc…etc…
    Well Guess what Jeff, That ain’t the REAL WORLD!! No matter how you and your Liberal/Socialist pals want to make the USA into the Utopian world that Karl Marx tried to create in Soviet Union, it ain’t going to happen!! you have the most Socialist President this Nation has ever seen and if you are not happy with the results of his regime, then you will really be unhappy with out-and-out Communism!!
    The TRUTH is that Grand Rapids MI. would be just another Flint, MI. if not for Fred Meijer, and the VanAndel’s and the DeVos’, and the rest of the Brave Capitalists that put up their own $$$$ on an Idea, they Risked their own $$$ and they worked harder than you EVER will in your entire pampered life!! You think these men were born rich?? Do you have any idea how much stress and how much risk business owners endure when they decide to “Risk it all”??? There are NO GUARANTEES of Success, Businesses don’t succeed
    if they can’t provide a service or good that people need – at a fair price!!
    I admire Fred Meijer, and the DeVos family, and the rest of those who have succeeded in business, I had my own business for over 10 yrs., and I failed, filed Bankruptcy and now work for another employer, I know how hard and painful it is to fail!! But how would camping out on the streets hollering and screaming at passers-by help anyone??? How is demanding other people’s hard-earned possessions going to help me?? How is making other people responsible for my Failures going to help me??? How is this column of your not just pure Sour Grapes??? GROW UP!!

  37. Julie Brown permalink
    September 5, 2012 8:12 pm

    I have worked for Meijer for 12 years and still live well below the poverty level. If it’s true that Fred Meijer was such a wonderful, giving man…why the hell didn’t he ever do anything to make the lives of his employees better? I hate working at Meijer but because of the lousy economy in Michigan and the fact that age discrimination is alive and well, I feel trapped in a hellhole. Can’t wait to walk out those doors for the last time.

  38. Kathy permalink
    October 15, 2012 4:36 am

    I just came across this article and have feel I have to tell my story.
    I was fired from Meijer after 22 years along with three other ladies. We were fired for what was considered stealing a coupon. The paper in question was an advertisement for our pharmacy and been handled the same way for over two years since they became available. Over the past six years or so Meijer has cut their workforce by at least 60%. More in the four years before that.

    The four of us were all cashiers and our department has all but vanished. Now the majority of people running registers are from other departments. Other departments don’t make the same rate of pay so it’s beneficial to Meijer to do this. There have been several different steps taken to discipline cashiers. Things like timing us and if we don’t, according to the computers, meet the required percentage of 95%, we are written up. After six write-ups you’re to be terminated. Knowing that these pharmacy ads were used the way were, I believe that corporate and management set out to use them against us.

  39. October 15, 2012 11:33 am

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  40. Lysander permalink
    November 13, 2012 4:31 pm

    Well, Marxism worked real well in the Soviet Union, Cuba, N. Korea, Cambodia and most of Africa, so let’s try it here! Before you parade out the usual Scandinavian countries as successful paragons of socialism with their wonderfully contented populations, get real and understand that there were “contented” slaves who actually believed that it was their appropriate place in the system. Collectivism is slavery. Collectivism is force. Collectivism is immoral. It discourages creativity & innovation. It exchanges a perceived oppression of the individual by capitalism and replaces it with a very real oppression by an all-powerful state
    and it can never be instituted in a large homogenous society without the application of brute force. You’ll achieve nothing with GRIID but attract a few of the naive, ignorant or just plain lazy.

  41. November 13, 2012 4:49 pm

    Lysander, interesting that you are commenting on a story that was posted almost a year ago. Makes me wonder if you are just trolling online. Marxism, who the hell was promoting Marxism, the criticism was primarily about the fact that Meijer made a ton of money when the major of us were struggling to survive.

    Also calling Collectivism slavery is just ignorant. I have lived in a housing collective for 28 years and it provided me an opportunity to do the kind of work, human rights work, that I am passionate about because I didn’t have to make the normal annual salary that most people need in order to survive. In addition, we have used this housing collective as a shelter for homeless people, victims of domestic violence and refugees.

    Lastly, your parting sentence only underscores your own ignorance and lack of any real critique of the world outside of the communist/capitalist binary.

  42. Scott S. permalink
    March 6, 2013 4:59 pm

    The difference with Fred was how he lived his life. Did you ever see where they lived and grew up in GR? He could have afforded way better. Did you ever see what kind of car he drove? Chevy Caprice, Old Aurora. Hank talks regularly of Family vacations in a Station Wagon to visit other regional Grocery/Supermarket chains to study the stores that were successful in other parts of the US. When Meijer sold suits, he wore them proudly and was disappointed to see his male Store Directors not wearing them. He was perhaps the most humble man worth 5 Billion this country has ever seen.

  43. Adrian permalink
    June 11, 2013 12:23 am

    I work for Meijer, the ONLY company that provided me with economic opportunity even with two associate degrees and half of a bachelor’s degree in Marketing. As someone at the University of Cincinnati once spray-painted, in a challenge to leftist professors and the Occupy movement: “I’m tired of all your socialist bullsh!t!!!!” When Gary Johnson wins the Presidency by 2020, you’ll see whether Libertarian laissez-faire capitalism works. I already know that I want to stay at Meijer through 2015.

  44. Anonymous permalink
    April 24, 2016 10:10 pm

    I’d like to see your sources, Jeff Smith. You have no sources directly linking Meijer to “sweatshops in China”. However likely that this is true, you lack facts and sources. I can’t take this heavily opinionated article seriously. What is “food stuff”? Also, did you know that Meijer buys as much local produce as they can? Not to mention, they offer healthy foods. Not just junk food that makes america obese.

  45. April 25, 2016 4:04 am

    It is common knowledge that Meijer, like other big chain stores, sell products sold that were made in China. Here is just one of the many sources on China’s sweatshop conditions. While it is true that Meijer buys local produce, what are the conditions that migrant workers live and work under? Lastly, it terms of the majority of food items sold in Meijer stores, we know they contribute to an unhealthy diet as well as childhood obesity. Also, why are you responding to an article that was posted 5 years ago?


  1. How Media Reports on the death of Billionaires: Helen DeVos | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  2. Re-Thinking the Life of Lena Meijer and her Billionaire family: On why we need to develop a real Class Consciousness | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

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