Movement to boycott Loblaws gains steam as Canadians rail against corporate greed
As 2010 New York State gubernatorial fringe candidate-turned-God tier internet meme Jimmy McMillan once famously said: "The rent is too damn high."
Instead, we turn to social media platforms that are now accessible to everyone in a way that they were not 12 years ago, from your 11-year-old nephew, to your disturbingly right-wing Grade 2 teacher, to the leaders of major political parties.
If Loblaws can find the money to pay its CEO $5.4 million.— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) November 24, 2022
I think maybe, just maybe, it can afford to pay workers a living wage.
Basic living costs are skyrocketing amid historically high inflation rates, to the point where food bank usage has reached an all-time high across Canada.
No one person, group, corporation or government body can be held individually, 100 per cent responsible for skyrocketing prices at supermarkets, but the people do love a villain.
Loblaw Companies Ltd. — Canada's largest food and drug store retailer — has positioned itself quite perfectly to be the "bad guy" in the story of our modern woes, emerging in recent months as the very poster-corporation for grocery store gouging, complete with its own super-wealthy white dude in charge that everyone loves to hate.
Earlier this month, Loblaw — a branch of the even more powerful George Weston Limited and owner of such brands as Shoppers Drug Mart, Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills, Joe Fresh, Zehrs, Loblaws and more — announced to its investors in a Q3-2021 earnings call that it had adjusted gross profits for retail had risen by 30.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2022, compared to Q3 2021.
All in all, the corporation boosted its adjusted net earnings for common shareholders to $663 million, up $123 million year-over-year, representing an increase of 22.8 per cent.
This huge spike in profits left struggling consumers with a bad taste in their mouths.
It was just a few weeks earlier, after all, that PC Optimum members were told (to much backlash) by Loblaw heir and CEO Galen Weston Jr. that rising grocery prices at Loblaw-owned stores were to blame on inflation, and inflation alone.
Critics found it infuriating at the time that one of Canada's wealthiest people was bragging about freezing the already-marked-up food products on one of his company's lowest-tier brands, and that his promotional email claimed the move was meant to "help make a meaningful difference to your grocery budget at a time when you may need it most."
galen weston’s email announcement after january 31st: pic.twitter.com/0ad6GsJtvE— ونیزا (@notwaniza) October 19, 2022
Federal regulators have been begging to differ with the whole "out of our control" thing.
Urged by the federal NDP party, The Competition Bureau of Canada (an independent regulator of competition in Canadian markets) announced in October that it would launch an investigation into the high profits being reported by grocery titans (not just at Loblaw) that were raking in unprecedented amounts of cash while consistently jacking up prices for consumers.
The bureau said that it would be probing major grocery store chains in light of the fact that the prices of their products have risen more than actual inflation rates — 9.7 per cent vs. 7.7 per cent, per Statistics Canada, as of this summer.
"Grocery prices in Canada are increasing at the fastest rate seen in 40 years," the agency noted in a release announcing its investigation on Oct. 24.
"We hope that our work will help to increase competition in Canada to save Canadians money, and make grocery shopping easier."
Adding insult to injury, news broke last week that Loblaws had sent layoff notices to nearly all of its unionized employees at a Calgary warehouse.
The employees, who were in the midst of negotiating a new contract, say they were arguing for the grocery juggernaut to pay them living wages.
"I've cut up my Optimum card and boycotted Loblaws. Record profits when more and more Canadians are struggling to feed their families is criminal," wrote one Twitter user in response to the union-busting allegations. "This is just obscene. Shame on you Loblaws!"
"Is it time to boycott Loblaws? This is a company that is making record profits while families struggle to put food on the table. This company is posed to profit from private health care. This company colluded with others to fix the price of food," wrote another, referring to the now-infamous bread price-fixing scandal that saw Loblaw and other market leaders collude to keep bread more expensive than it could have been for 15 years.
Between accusations of pandemic profiteering, accusations of price gouging under the guise of inflation, accusations of conspiring with government officials for their own benefit to the detriment of Canadian consumers, the widespread replacement of workers with machines, a history of failing to treat human workers with respect and so much more, Loblaw has become one of the most-hated corporations in the nation.
This much is plainly evident online, as calls to boycott the Weston oligarchy grow by the day.
Boycott #Loblaws— Jupiter Ape 🚀🌙 (@jupiterape) November 26, 2022
"Boycott Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart & No Frills until they commit to paying a living wage!" reads the title of a newly-resurfaced old change.org petition that is making the rounds on Twitter, where individuals are encouraging their peers to boycott as well.
"Loblaws is helping to increase Canada’s poverty rate whatever way possible it seems. The working poor are left to help those most in need, no thanks to #greedflation. An organized #boycott could send a powerful message," wrote one Twitter user last week.
"Neither politicians nor Loblaws with their 12 million dollars in tax payer fridges care about people. Boycott is what I will do and I have a very long way to walk to get to another store," wrote another. "I am 60 and it's winter. If I can do it you can too. #BoycottLoblaws."
This isn't the first time consumers have tried to organize a boycott against the massive corporation.
This past summer, upon learning of the massive profits being brought in by supermarket chains, people upset by fast-rising food prices agreed to boycott Loblaw-owned companies for a month.
Whether they made good on those promises to avoid shopping at Shoppers, Zehrs, Loblaws, No Frills or any other brand under the Weston umbrella is unclear.
Either way, that boycott did little, if anything at all, to impact the grocer's bottom line. It remains to be seen if anything ever will.
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