In an opinion piece published by the Detroit News, Zingerman’s co-founder Paul Saginaw describes his company’s efforts to pay its food-service workers more than the federally mandated living wage. He writes: ”We would be irresponsible employers if the jobs we provided could not support housing stability and health security. So we are motivated to gradually raise wages to a ‘thrive-able level’ for all of our lowest-paid employees across the board. A living wage is the path to a living economy and the antidote to the current suicide economy trajectory we find ourselves on.” [Source]
Paul Saginaw joked that during his senior year of high school, he was voted Least Likely to Have a Positive Impact on Society. The remark drew a laugh from the crowd of more than 100 people attending Think Local First’s annual meeting on Monday night – most of them know the Zingerman’s co-founder is an advocate for socially responsible business, as well as a driving force behind the nonprofit Food Gatherers, which launched 21 years ago this week.
For many years, that high school description was “so true,” Saginaw said. “But for the second half of my life, I’ve been trying to prove them wrong.”
Saginaw, the evening’s featured speaker, talked passionately about the need for local economies built around “human-scale” enterprises, with businesses as a positive force for social change. He described several ways that the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, a national group, is supporting the efforts of small, independent businesses. The goal? “What we want to do is change the world,” he said.
Editor’s note: The following is an edited version of a letter that Paul Saginaw, co-founder of Zingerman’s, sent to his partners following a heart attack he suffered last month. Here at The Chronicle, we wish Paul all the best in his recovery, and thank him for sharing this cautionary tale.
Although hard for me to believe, I did, in fact, suffer a small heart attack. I also understand that if I do as I’ve been told, I am going to be okay.
I believe that it occurred on Thursday night during a tennis match when it felt like “an elephant was stepping on my chest” and someone was pulling my arms out of their sockets. (What’s scary is that this is exactly how it was described in the book Lori [Saginaw] brought home for me, on page 20: The No Bull Book on Heart Disease, Okner and Clorfene.)
Because I have the lethal combination of high tolerance to pain combined with low intelligence, I continued to play tennis for 2 1/2 hours more despite my partner’s willingness to forfeit. And although we lost, I have to say I played some of my best tennis. Probably due to my lacking the energy to over-hit the ball and having only enough in me to barely manage the basics. In retrospect, passing up the beer afterwards should have been a clue, but instead of the ER, I headed home and directly to bed.