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Labor, environmentalists promote 'green jobs' while Tea Partiers go shopping at Whole Foods

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 2, 2009 - Tuesday night was a busy one for activists on both sides of the political spectrum.

St. Louis Tea Party activists report that more than 1,000 like-minded conservative shoppers flocked to the Whole Foods market on Clayton Road in Town and Country, as part of a "Buycott'' to show support for the food chain's chief executive, John Mackey.

Mackey has come under fire over his recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal in which he argued against some of the Democratic proposals for changing the nation's health care industry -- in particular, a public option.

(Click here to read Mackey's original version of his commentary, and his observations.)

Mackey's remarks have prompted some supporters of the health care proposals to call for a boycott of Whole Foods. Local Tea Party supporters here, and their counterparts in Dallas, organized a "buycott'' to show their support of Mackey. The Tea Party crowd has been outspoken for months about their opposition to any substantial change in the nation's health care setup.

(Click here to read the Post-Dispatch's story of the dueling buy/don't buy campaigns.)

Meanwhile, Tuesday night at Florissant Valley Community College, a smaller group of about 100 union members, teachers and environmentalists gathered to hear a panel of their own discuss the "Made in America'' campaign that promotes clean-energy jobs.

Small business owner Jill Miller, who owns "White Caps, Green Collars,'' told of her firm's focus on transforming the city of St. Louis'  flat black roofs atop tens of thousands of historic brick homes into a visual sea of white "caps" instead.

Using white roof sealant instead of black, she said, could save urban homeowners up to 50 percent of their air conditioning costs because the white roofs would reflect the sun's heat instead of absorbing it, as the black roofs do.

Dennis Barker, safety chairman for the United Steelworkers in Granite City, told of his union's decades-long history of battling for more safety protections from lead and other substances, and its involvement in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency by then-President Richard Nixon in 1970.

Tom Rodenbaugh with the Carpenters District Council of Greater St. Louis said his union's members and leaders were all for "green construction'' if they lead to good jobs, and government incentives to promote the effort.

"The biggest concern we have right now about 'green' is 'will it last?' " Rodenbaugh asked, citing the ebb and flow of public interest and activism in the environmental cause.

Afterwards, Andy LaVigne, state director with Repower America -- one of the organizers of the Made in America events around the country -- acknowledged that the green-jobs campaign was linked to the cap-and-trade proposal before Congress that seeks to reduce energy pollution. Both efforts are aimed at helping the environment, LaVigne said.

Considering the Tea Party crowd's abhorrence of cap-and-trade, the Made in America camp is probably lucky that their opponents were too busy shopping Tuesday to stage a protest.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.