In interviews with Xpress, the Asheville Citizen-Times and [the radio program] Systemic Effect (MAIN-FM Dec. 26), I spoke highly of my former employers at Buchi. I have never said anything hateful or untrue about them. Having worked in several service-industry jobs in Asheville, and having witnessed and experienced termination and threats of termination similar to this many times, I feel such practices are embedded in our culture here, even as many profess to do the opposite. That was my motivation to bring this forward to the larger community. I want us to hold each other accountable to our own stated values.
Many in Asheville say that we want (or have) a different culture here — one where labels mean something and workers are treated justly, for example. I do not believe that two newspapers and a radio show would have covered this if they thought it was an isolated case. I feel that what happened with Buchi recently could have happened at any number of businesses at the moment. That is why it was important for us to look at it and talk about how we felt about it.
Is this what we want to be? Is what we are doing matching up with what we say that we do?
That is the question that ultimately caused all of this upheaval. Do we live up to our sticker here in Asheville? I hope that as the dust settles we will realize our culture has shifted enough that this question will not cause so much of an uproar in the future. Big change can be painful, and I believe this story has elicited passionate responses because it touches on the very foundation of our culture, underlying power dynamics and assumptions. Community accountability structures are emerging from this situation. Hopefully these are growing pains of a community that is learning to put integrity first, as the value we hold most dear. Without integrity, our other stated values hold no power.
There were discussions between Buchi employees and owners, and there were discussions between me (and others) and Just Economics about living-wage certification concerns. I did not go to the press until private constructive dialogue was curtailed by my being fired.
At that point, I wanted the larger community to get involved in the dialogue. Significant responses from both organizations have only happened in the wake of the Mountain Xpress article and Firestorm's “Open Letter to Buchi.” I hope it will not always take such measures for real change to come about.
Many positive transitions have resulted from the sharing of this story (at a great personal cost to me and others). The more we all take the risks to share our truths freely, the more our society here will truly reflect our stated values. If we begin to hold each other accountable to what we say we are, to what we say we are doing, we are going to see some beautiful changes in this town. I feel that accountability and forgiveness are some of the greatest gifts of community life. I hope we reach a resolution in the midst of this tumult that confirms what we truly want to be and directs us toward real healing so that we emerge a stronger and more authentic community.
I look forward to the day when the truth doesn't hurt so bad, when asking a question is not viewed as a threatening action, and sharing your story isn't viewed as an attack.
— Kila Donovan