Occupy Wall Street

3 Ways Ben & Jerry's and Other Companies Are Supporting Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street has started drawing support from an unlikely source: for-profit companies.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has garnered the support of labor unions, celebrities, and thousands of individuals participating in hundreds of solidarity actions around the globe, all combating the brand of capitalism that allows the nation's wealthiest 1 percent to thrive at the expense of the poor and middle class.

But Occupy Wall Street has also started drawing some amount of support from a more unlikely source: for-profit companies.

It's not as if hoards of Fortune 500 companies are tripping over themselves to get on the Occupy Wall Street bandwagon. There will probably never be a corporate rally in support of Occupy Wall Street, and it seems unlikely that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would "open its arms and its hearts" to the protesters. Still, there have been some small but significant displays of support from the business world. Here are a few of them:

1. Ben & Jerry's Board of Directors to Occupy Wall Street: 'We Stand With You'


Ben & Jerry's is far and away the biggest company to explicitly endorse Occupy Wall Street. The company, a subsidiary of Unilever that brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue, issued a statement from its board of directors on Monday:

We, the Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors, compelled by our personal convictions and our Company’s mission and values, wish to express our deepest admiration to all of you who have initiated the non-violent Occupy Wall Street Movement and to those around the country who have joined in solidarity. The issues raised are of fundamental importance to all of us. These include:

    •    The inequity that exists between classes in our country is simply immoral.
    •    We are in an unemployment crisis. Almost 14 million people are unemployed. Nearly 20% of African American men are unemployed. Over 25% of our nation’s youth are unemployed.
    •    Many workers who have jobs have to work 2 or 3 of them just to scrape by.
    •    Higher education is almost impossible to obtain without going deeply in debt.
    •    Corporations are permitted to spend unlimited resources to influence elections while stockpiling a trillion dollars rather than hiring people.

Ben & Jerry's is known for having maintained its social and environmental standards even as it "sold out" to Unilever. Still, the letter is surprisingly candid, noting that "corporate profits continue to soar and millionaires whine about paying a bit more in taxes."

The statement also acknowledges that "words are relatively easy." So will Ben & Jerry's put its (considerable) money where its mouth is to help enact systemic change? And will other large companies -- perhaps some with less hippie cred -- follow Ben & Jerry's lead?

2. Local Businesses Donate Goods

A number of small local businesses have also been inspired by the message of the Occupy Wall Street crowd. After all, small business owners have felt the effects of Wall Street greed as much as anyone. To show solidarity, some of them have donated food and supplies to the crowd at Zuccotti Park.

Local design shop and consultancy FearLess sent food and a megaphone down to the square, while Brooklyn-based craft brewery Sixpoint delivered kegs of water to the occupiers. Sixpoint's president also released a statement:

As a brewery, some people believe our role should be confined to making beer. But the brewery is not just a collection of tanks, kegs, and equipment - it is comprised of people, and we as individuals live within a community. And naturally, this community represents our society, which comprises the global culture....

Right now, within our community, there is an ever-growing group of protesters who have gathered down in the very heart of the financial district near Wall Street. Some of the most common questions in the media coverage of this phenomenon are, “Why are these people protesting? What is their purpose?” Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions here. Perhaps we should ask, “Why aren’t these people leaving? Why are the number of protesters growing by the tens of thousands? Why are these protests now going national and international?” In my opinion, these are better and more provocative questions to ask.

Contrary to reports from Fox News that businesses in lower Manhattan roundly despise the protesters in Zuccotti Park, many local businesses have been supportive of the occupation. Some are even finding a business opportunity in Occupy Wall Street. Local pizzeria Liberatos is advertising the "Occu-Pie," which supporters can purchase and have sent to Zuccotti Park for $15. Owner Telly Liberatos says he won't "take sides" in the protest and started running the promotion after a "slow summer." But hey, he's providing a concrete way for individuals to support the protesters from afar, and it's hard to see anything wrong with that.

3. The 'People's McDonalds'

McDonald's is probably the last company you'd think would support Occupy Wall Street. And as far as Micky D's corporate headquarters is concerned, it isn't. However, occupiers have dubbed one McDonald's near Zuccotti Park the "people's McDonald's." According to AlterNet's Kristen Gwyne, staffers at the location have been generally friendly to the Occupy Wall Street protesters, letting them use their restrooms and free wireless Internet.

Meanwhile, the local UPS Store is accepting packages on behalf of the occupiers. While hardly an explicit endorsement of movement, the company could easily have chosen to distance itself from the action.

Speaking of UPS, you can support Occupy Wall Street by sending nonperishable food, supplies and money orders to:

The UPS Store
118 A Fulton St #205
NY NY 10038
C/O Occupy Wall St

You can find out exactly what goods are needed here.

Lauren Kelley is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance writer and editor who has contributed to Change.org, The L Magazine and Time Out New York. She lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter here.