The Smell of Bullshit, part 70: across the pond

An email has come in from a reader in the USA (emails to southside socialist at hotmail dot co dot uk, please) which the writer has given me permission to share.

 

My ex-coworkers and I have been following this blog for a while now (we no longer work for lush but Stay in touch), and I figured it was about time I shared what I learned in my 2.5 years with LushCosmetics here in the USA.

I have a whole lot to say, but I will begin by saying this –

The pay issue is just as bad here in the states, if not worse. Employees here cannot pay their bills unless they have more than one job. They are expected to do and know more than anyone in the business, and put up with the low pay, verbal abuse, shady management with zero accountability, and in come cases, straight-up sexual harassment and religious discrimination.

Because of that sweet, sweet lush Kool-aid of, “we care about the planet. No other company cares like we do, and you’re LUCKY to be employed with us. You’re LUCKY to be paid $.xx more than minimum wage. You should THANK us.”

So my tale begins-

I began working for lush years ago, and had a friend who had been with them for a while and enthused non-stop about how great her job was. They were opening a shop nearby and doing interviews in a couple weeks so I researched and prepared myself, and ultimately got the job. Of course they trained us and had us worshipping the almighty MC by the end of our first day of training. Even I thought it was weird though, how the people training us would say things like “Oh my god here’s a picture of me SHAKING HIS HAND. I can’t BELIEVE he touched me!” Which is something that I feel is reserved for people who are, at least, talented.

Six months in, our new shop was already experiencing serious problems due to our manager. We did not have an MIT for quite a while, and our 23-year-old manager from Oklahoma was more interested in the big city lifestyle than running our shop. She often would not come in to work to manage because she was hung over, and the majority of the work was left to four people, myself and three others. Two were employees of Lush for 1+ years and had some idea of how to manage things, and the other two of us learned very quickly that this situation was commonplace, and that lush has no accountability to those in charge. One of the girls who was an employee who transferred and had been the Product Knowledge guru of her old shop (we are still friends today) basically trained me and a few of the other girls herself, while the other two girls tried their best to make sure product came in on time and generally manage as best they could. We got by somehow, but needless to say, it was an almighty mess. Our manager also took to hiring a young man PURELY DUE TO HER SEXUAL ATTRACTION TO HIM. I don’t think any of us realized it until maybe a month in, when she began making passes at him. She made sure they were scheduled together so she could talk ceaselessly about things she would be willing to do for a man in bed, which disgusted us all. She often confided that she only hired him because she wanted to have sex with him, and hoped he would take the hint and ask her out, much to our horror.

She was later fired, but not until he had filed many complaints to HR with no response until he threatened to file a lawsuit. He told me he got a settlement when I discussed it with him later, but he did not disclose the amount. Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough I’m sure.

I ended up moving cities for family reasons, and transferred locations to stay in the company. My new shop was much more high-volume and I had trouble adjusting, but eventually settled in and made new friends in the shop. At some point shortly after my arrival at the new shop, our manager quit to pursue her own business (I never had any real issues with her, beyond her insistence that she was an original punk-rocker despite being in her late 30’s at the oldest and generally being very condescending, but many of the older employees had complaints about her unsurprising tendency towards favoritism). There was a new MIT, who had started in the shop the same time I did and had transferred from a large makeup chain store.

And this is where it gets interesting.

She was left for 6 MONTHS to manage the shop by herself, and it became very clear that she is the kind of person that, as a wise man once said, should never ever be given the clipboard of authority. Every time I opened the shop with her, she would show up 20 minutes late, and she would never adjust my pay for it. She told me on multiple occasions that she clocked in on her cell phone while she was on her way to work so her time would appear correct. As time went on, and she realized that no one could stop her from doing anything she wanted, she began to verbally harass some of the members of our staff that were particularly sensitive – namely, one who suffered from extreme anxiety, and essentially cornering her, threatening to fire her for her “attitude,” and sending her home crying – and money and product began to go “missing” every morning she worked and was counting the cash and getting the product (seeing as she believed she was the only one capable of doing these things, despite her inability to even show up on time), and then saying that she now needed to search our bags upon arrival and departure from our scheduled work hours, which is not only against Lush policy but AGAINST MANY PRIVACY LAWS IN THE USA WITHOUT A WARRANT. She also began to harass some of the employees who were in college, who dutifully turned in their availability sheets before the final deadlines with time to spare, and were nonetheless told they were expected to come into work, and that failure to do so would result in being fired.

At some point, we all got fed up. And one particular girl, whom we will call Tracy, was more or less the ringleader. “Something needs to change. We need to contact HR. What do we do?” I mentioned the stress that my ex-coworker had gone under when experiencing sexual harassment and told them that I didn’t believe anything beyond a lawsuit would get their attention, but we were reminded by Tracy that lush requires upon hiring that we sign a nice, neat little agreement that any issues we have with the company will be settled outside of the US court system. So we all banded together, and decided that we would all email HR ourselves. And remember, this was 20+ women at once, all emailing their stories to HR. All of them agreeing with each other and everything checking out. We believed that Lush would care, and that’s where we went wrong, because Tracy was the only one to receive a response. And what did Lush’s HR department have to say for 20+ employees recognizing abuse, theft, and harassment from the person THEY left in charge?

They quite literally emailed Tracy with a single sentence – “What do you want US to do about it?”

It was at this moment that I believe the collective disillusionment began in our shop. None of us knew what to do. Many of us resolved to quit, but of course didn’t because we were part of an elaborate cult now and didn’t know how to get out. As you’ve stated before in the blog, it’s insidious and genius how they hand-pick people who care enough to accept less than they’re worth for a “cause.” It’s well-documented so I won’t get into it.

They sent someone to help as the holiday seasons started, and a new manager was given to us. I liked her at first (truly no one could possibly be worse than that MIT so rose-colored glasses were donned for a while). However, she was a very, VERY religious person and incredibly pushy about politics too. Her more-or-less nice personality became less and less important than telling employees regularly that anyone who takes Birth control pills is a waste of taxpayer dollars, and that abortion for any reason was wrong, and that gay marriage should never be legal or okay, under ANY circumstances. (All of us wondered retrospectively why she wanted to work for lush in the first place.) She often went on tirades about this, then of course shifting gears at realizing how illegal her 5-minute slut shaming speech saying “But that’s just my opinion!” She often made interesting anti-Semitic remarks in my presence (many people of her religion are known to teach in their circles that the Holocaust was fabricated propaganda. Disgusting), at one point, when going on about how health insurance should only be available to people who are members of a religious congregation (LOL) and myself and two other employees politely disagreeing with her, she then targeted me and said

“Well why don’t you get your little Jew friends together and figure it out then? You have plenty of money and doctors anyway.”

This is more or less when I decided to quit, so I began seeking new employment.

In the month between finding new employment and this decision, she fired one of the employees there who had helped open the shop 5 years previously who was also a tremendous help to many of the newer employees AND THE MANAGER AND MIT, and she was told she was being fired for her “insubordination.” The manager then made a point to call EVERY SINGLE ONE of the employees to inform them that she had fired her. It was probably the single most malicious thing I have ever seen a manager do. My ex-coworker was fired, then irreversibly embarrassed in front of all her coworkers. Tracy and another coworker whom we shall call Lorraine did not seem at all surprised. It then came to light later that Lorraine had gotten close to the manager and convinced her to fire our coworker so she could move into her position. Tracy was then promoted to MIT, and seemed perfectly fine with the way HR was handling things now, since she got something out of it.

After this I had my new job, and it was no longer really my problem. But it’s worth noting that I was given a hell of a lot of grief for leaving, especially because I put in my two weeks, and the manager decided to continue scheduling me anyway because a local event left the shop short-handed. I flatly refused to work, as the new job was offering me $300/day while she was offering me 5 hours of work for $10/hour. I apologized of course, as I knew I would miss my coworkers and expressed my desire to help out during the holiday season, but when I applied for seasonal, none of the 4 Lush’s in my city called me back after they spoke with her, despite expressing lots of enthusiasm after talking with them myself.

We have heard story after story since we left – everything from the issues of Tracy accusing someone of sexual harassment in the shop when she was trashed and was the one doing the sexual harassing, to Lush claiming to have no money to train new employees for the holidays while sending managers and manufacturing staff on 5-star weeklong vacations to party all over the world, to managers in my old city disappearing with MC during manager “training” events and showing up with him the next morning bragging about his “choosing” them for the honor of riding his dick. (Sorry to be crass, but it’s true. And disgusting.)

This company is a joke. I still meet up with my old coworkers from time to time to discuss things, and all we get is more angry and sad. Even with this huge email, there is so much that’s happened that I can’t even begin to say. But it all amounts to the same thing.

I always hope that the girls and guys working for this awful company will stand up and step away – that’s the point of capitalism, right? You don’t like your job, you don’t like your pay, you go somewhere else, right? Because of Lush’s insidious culty system, many of these people end up feeling emotionally trapped. They’re scared to speak up because, as it is well-documented, management has no problem making you feel worthless for needing other employment, or to further your education, and throw you out on the street for the next unemployed vegan to come along and take your place, and often for much less money.

And even almost a year later, I can’t even think of a solution, because there are so many people who shop at lush and think it’s just such a great, ethical company. Everyone’s smiling, aren’t they?

It’s like Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.

“Everything will be perfect, you can save the planet, if you just let me sew on your button-eyes.”

And they don’t give a damn about the health, well-being, or psychological disposition of their employees.

Anyway, thanks again so much for making this blog. It’s so important that the word gets out. I can’t tell you how much solace it’s given those of us who have put up with it for years and thought we were the only ones.

 

So, my message to all Lush employees, no matter what country they are in, is the same – find out about your legal rights to join a union, and then join. If you’re worried that your employer isn’t that bothered about your employment rights, a union can help.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 69: still more alternatives

In posts 44, 54, 56 and 62 I looked at alternatives to Lush, especially alternatives to Dream Cream, which is the only thing for which I have struggled to find an alternative.

Burt’s Bees seems to be where it’s at. Unfortunately it’s not vegan, but for non-vegans, it’s definitely worth a try. The Beeswax & Banana handcream is pretty good, as is the Almond & Milk. Would buy both again, as they’re moisturising and for me, non-irritating, and smell great. I will try the hand salve at some point too. But my favourite is the Shea Butter Hand Repair Cream. It smells wonderful (I love rosehip), it soothes, moisturises, and clears up eczema scabby bits overnight, and it stops skin itching. It works really well on my oddly scabby right elbow too.

Best thing I’ve found so far.

More Veggie Recipes

My cookbook collection is growing out of control. Several of the books, I might only use two or three recipes, so really I ought to photocopy them and sell or donate the books. My latest acquisitions are Prashad by Kaushy Patel (based on what she serves at Prashad), and The Dal Cookbook by Krishna Dutta, which enticed me because I’m always looking out for new tasty pulses recipes. All of the following recipes are copied here without permission and of course I will remove them if the authors or publishers ask.

Rasam with Gourd and Toor Lentils
2 tablespoons coconut oil or sesame oil
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1 onion, thinly sliced
thumb-sized piece of root ginger, pulverised into a paste
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
200g gourd or squash, cut into small cubes
250g toor dal
1 tablespoon tamarind puree
10-12 fresh or dried curry leaves
1 teaspoon dried crushed red chilli (optional)

Heat the oil in a pan, and when hot, throw in the mustard seeds. A few seconds later add the onion, ginger, garlic, turmeric and chilli powder. When they become creamy and translucent, add the dal with 500ml water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the dal is cooked. Stir in the gourd and the tamarind puree and simmer until the gourd is cooked (5-10 minutes). Add the curry leaves and crushed chilli near the end of the cooking time, cover the pan and take it off the heat. The consistency should be on the thick side, like baked beans. Serve hot with rice.

Green Banana Satay
100g red-skinned peanuts, finely chopped or blended
2 teaspoons chickpea flour, sieved
1.25 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2-4 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 handful fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
100ml sunflower oil
4 green unripe bananas, in their skins, washed and dried

3-5 fresh green chillies, seeds in
3-6 garlic cloves
4cm root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
pinch of salt

Crush the chillies, garlic and ginger together with a pinch of salt to make a fine masala paste.

Put the chopped peanuts and chickpea flour into a bowl and mix together well, using your fingertips. If you feel you might want to take your contact lenses out in the next couple of hours, [b]do it now[/b]. Add the masala paste, salt, sugar, coriander, cumin, fresh coriander, turmeric, cumin seeds and oil, and mix them into the flour and peanuts, using your hands. Work everything into a rich paste then set aside for 15 minutes.

Do not peel the bananas. Chop them into thirds, then cut each piece lengthways into quarters, leaving the last centimetre or so intact at one end to hold them together. Open the banana pieces and spread the cut surfaces with the paste. Place the pieces in a large frying pan, and scoop any leftover paste into the pan and dot between the banana pieces.  Place the pan over a high heat and cook for 1 minute. Pour 300ml warm water into the bowl, swill it around to loosen the last of the paste, and pour carefully into the pan. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and leave to cook for one minute. Reduce the heat to very low and leave to cook for 13-15 minutes, carefully turning the banana pieces every 3-5 minutes. Serve with paratha and tomato relish.

Chana Dal with Bottle Gourd

300g chana dal (Bengal gram, split skinned black chickpeas)
150ml sunflower oil, plus 1 teaspoon
4 dried red chillies
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
2 teaspoons carom seeds
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 medium bottle gourd, peeled and chopped into 1.5cm cubes
1 teaspoon turmeric
2-4 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 handful fresh coriander, finely chopped

2-6 fresh green chillies, seeds in
2-4 garlic cloves
3cm root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
pinch of salt

Rinse the chana dal 3 times in warm water then put it into a large pan with 1 litre of boiling water. Bring to the boil over a high heat and cook for a couple of minutes until it starts to foam. Skim the froth from the surface add the teaspoon of oil and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer, three-quarters covered, for about 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding another 250ml boiling water as and when needed to keep the dal covered. When the dal is soft and cooked through, drain and set aside.

Crush the chillies, garlic and ginger together with the pinch of salt to make a fine masala paste.

Heat the 150ml oil in a large pan for 30 seconds over a medium heat, then add the dried chillies. As soon as they start to brown, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the carom seeds, asafoetida and gourd. Mix gently, then stir in the masala paste, turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, salt and sugar. Pour in 200ml boiling water, stir, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick. Add another 100ml boiling water, cover the pan and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every so often.

Add the dal to the bottle gourd mix, stir gently and cook for 2 minutes over a medium heat. Remove from the heat, stir in the garam masala sprinkle with the chopped coriander, and leave to rest, covered, for at least ten minutes. Reheat, serve with puri and rai marcha.

Moong Dal with Cauliflower

250g small split yellow moong dal (do not put them into soak the night before, you don’t need to)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
1 medium cauliflower, divided into small florets
2 tablespoons ghee
4 small green cardamom pods
2 small cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon fresh root ginger, grated
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon fresh chopped coriander
salt

Dry fry or toast the dal in a deep frying pan without oil until a nutty aroma rises and set aside for a couple of minutes. Pour 700ml warm water ino a heavy saucepan, add the dal and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, add the turmeric, cumin and chilli, put the lid on the pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Make sure it doesn’t dry out and add boiling water if necessary. Once teh dal is soft, add the cauliflower and cook for four more minutes. Set aside.

Put the ghee into a deep frying pan. When hot, crush the cardamom pods, split the cinnamon sticks, and toss them in. Add the crushed ginger with tomato puree and blend with a whisk. As the aroma rises, tip them into the pan of cooked dal and stir well. Turn the heat off. Sprinkle the coriander leaves on top and put the lid back on the pan. Serve with rice or parathas.

Ten of the strangest book-related sites on the internet

Tales of One City

If there’s one thing we love almost as much as books it’s bizarre book-themed web sites. Here are ten of the oddest we’ve come across. If we’ve missed out your favourite, leave a comment and let us know.

Weird Book Room

AbeBooks Weird Book Room

“The finest source of everything that’s bizarre, odd and downright weird in books. Everyone’s talking about it – author Neil Gaiman is even tweeting about it, posting a link and suggesting his followers: “Go to this link and gaze on the titles and be made happy. Trust me. It’ll work

Least helpful

“Daily dispatches from the Internet’s Worst Reviewers”

Ask the past

Advice from old – and we do mean old –  books on everything from conversing politely to playing with a cat. The site is authored by Elizabeth Archibald, who has a PhD in History from Yale University.

Awful Library Books

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Butterfly Progress

I’ve been trying to get a butterfly lesson every  6 weeks or so, in addition to Friday night stroke development classes. I’d like them more often, but the coaches aren’t always available in the evenings so it has to be when I can get a day off. I’ve been making steady (but slow) progress.

I booked an hour lesson today. We did lots of drills – lengths of just kick on my front, on my back, kick with single arm, kick with alternating arms followed by both arms, kicking underwater and coming up and doing a big pull as I reach the surface, sculling with a pull… And then we finished off with 15 metres of no fins no paddles, managed to keep the timing ok, managed to breathe, kept in rhythm, full-stroke butterfly! Twice.

 

Snot vs the Neti Pot

I got a bit of a cold in the middle of last December. To be honest, the entire office caught the same cold at the same time. We all started feeling grim on the same Friday night and by early the next week, we were dropping like flies. (What does that mean? Surely the point of flies is that they fly?) I recovered from the cold, but unfortunately and annoyingly, my nose and sinuses remained full of snot. So for the past three months I have had a nose full of snot and bogeys, constantly sneezing and going through boxes of tissues faster than the average teenage boy.

Steam inhalations weren’t helping, constant blowing of the nose wasn’t helping. And then I remembered something I’d heard about in yoga years ago. Neti pots. A neti pot is a little pot with an upturned spout, looking a bit like Aladdin’s lamp, and it’s used for washing out the nostrils and sinuses. You fill it with warm salt water, bend forward at the waist, tilt your head to one side, and then put the spout into your upper nostril. Keep breathing through your mouth (this is very important), and let the water flow. It will go into your top nostril, wash around inside your head, and then drip out of the bottom nostril, taking all the accumulated gunge with it. Blow your nose, then repeat for the other side.

So, I got a neti pot on ebay for under £2, and tried it yesterday. The instructions say dissolve 2g of sea salt in 200ml of warm water, so those are the proportions I used. Using the pot is a weird feeling. The water goes in, and then it feels like ages before it starts to drip out of the other side; I found myself wondering if my head is actually hollow and I was just filling it up like a water balloon. But eventually it comes out the other side, which also feels weird. But, it helps! Just the one session feels like it has cleared all the crud out, I’m not sneezing, I’m breathing freely, I don’t need to blow my nose. I’ll give it another couple of goes to make sure, but I think the neti pot has cleared my 3-month snot collection!

Did Jeremy Hunt just threaten to sack every junior doctor in England? 

News From UNISON South West

The announcement that Jeremy Hunt was to impose a new contract on the junior doctors in England was met in trade union offices up and down the country with disbelief and shock. While a clearly desperate act of bravado on the part of the Secretary of State, it revealed a level of recklessness and ignorance of the basic facts of employment law that surprises even the harshest Government critics.

Imposing a new contract without consent requires every one of the 53,000 junior doctors to be dismissed from their post and offered a new post under the imposed contract terms. That’s right, sack every single doctor in England. It isn’t without precedent – across public services, many employers have considered this as a last resort. Most, however, have backed away. It is fraught with legal risks – in 2007 a group of 200+ UNISON members in Stroud District Council were awarded…

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