If you’re a biologist and you’ve ever had to buy stuff for the lab, there are two catalogs you’re familiar with (in the U.S. anyway): Fischer and VWR. And this isn’t limited to biologists either. For readers who don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, you can think of these companies as the scientific equivalent of Amazon: a scientist can buy almost everything she might need for the lab from either of these companies.
Unfortunately, while VWR might be handy-dandy one-stop scientific shopping, VWR also busts unions while taking government subsidies (boldface mine):
A California-based company called VWR is busting its union, moving work to a non-union workforce a few hours away and receiving both federal and state tax incentives to do it. The scandal is yet another example of how companies can game the tax systems while hurting workers, and the government does little to stop them.
In Brisbane, Calif., 183 workers, members of Teamsters Local 853 that work at VWR, will lose their jobs at the end of the year when their scientific chemical warehouse closes. VWR, which is owned by Chicago-based private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners, is moving the warehouse 230 miles away to Visalia, Calif. At the warehouse in Visalia, workers will be non-union and are expected to make half of what the current workers in Brisbane earn, according to the Teamsters.
The job losses will devastate local workers, many of whom are close to retirement age and will have difficulty finding jobs elsewhere….
The company, though, will benefit financially not only from halving workers’ salaries, but from a large amount of federal and state incentives to move. The City of Visalia, where the warehouse is being moved to, has received $2 million in federal Department of Commerce grants to do infrastructure improvements to the industrial park where the new warehouse will be located. VWR will also receive a total amount of $30,000 over a five-year period in tax credits from the state of California for every new worker hired….
“I think this is a formula that union and non-union companies are using to abuse federal funds. You are not creating new jobs. You are really just transferring jobs and getting paid to screw these people out of their employment,” says Teamsters International Vice President Rome Aloise. “There should be some restrictions on how federal funding is provided to not allow this kind of transfer to occur.”
Aloise assumes this is a case of ‘unintended consequences.’ It’s probably not. And yes, it’s insane that California tax dollars are being used to transfer jobs intrastate. But I digress.
I would argue if you’re in a position to make purchasing decisions for your group, you should avoid purchasing from VWR. Because it’s one thing to talk about economic inequality in the abstract, but it’s another thing to do something about it. This is something you can do.