Where Have All the Felons, Addicts, and Illegals Gone?

Originally posted on DailyKos

A bakery that hires addicts, felons and immigrants continues to be a success


Greyston’s Bakery, Yonkers, NY Photo credit: Screen shot/YouTube

Nathanael Johnson has a great piece on Greyston’s Bakery in Yonkers, New York. Greyston’s motto is “We don’t hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people.” It’s a nice sentiment, but is it real? Yes it is and they do and they’re successful.

For the last 30 years, Greyston Bakery, in Yonkers, N.Y., has made it a policy to hire anyone who comes in the door, without asking questions or even looking at a resume. As a result, Greyston has a staff of former addicts, felons, and immigrants — people normally considered unemployable. This staff of workers makes food that you’ve probably eaten: They provide all the brownies for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. It’s a successful for-profit business, powered by the unemployable.

The entire profile is worth a read. Here’s an explanation of their business model, from Greyston’s CEO Mike Brady:

“Low-wage workers tend to have a fair amount of turnover — if you make investments in a workforce it’s very difficult to judge if they are going to stay,” Brady said. “So companies try to make as low an investment as possible — and that means they are doing very little to break the chain of poverty.”

Greyston takes the opposite approach. “Rather than spending money on interviews and background checks, we are spending it on training and development,” he said.

I was also struck by this analysis:

Over the years, Brady has come to suspect that the traditional metrics for determining who will be a good employee are flawed. Someone without an arrest may simply be a person who has never gotten caught. “There are tons of metrics for businesses on environmental impact, but very little on social justice,” Brady told me. “Are we helping the community we are in? Are we leaving it the same? Or are we hurting it?”

Our communities are our most important concern. Where we walk and talk and get milk. This is where our families go to school and play on swings and sit on stoops to talk. It’s our communities that we are trying to make nice places to live in and, in the end, that will only happen if we figure out how to get as many people in our communities as possible on their feet, and happy to be a part of our communities.

Watch Mike Brady’s Ted talk below the fold.

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