Produce management by day, police reform by night

Alabama man on his dealing with the nation's two great ongoing struggles

BY ANDY HAMMEL | PUBLISHED JUNE 12, 2020

 
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Albertville, Ala., June 6, 2020 - Bush passes by a Foodland store at which he was employed during the demonstration he participated in. Photo: Caleb Bush

 

Few institutions were hit harder by the initial spread of COVID-19 in America and the consumer panic caused by it than grocery stores. Few people within a grocery store would have a greater grasp on the degree of that impact than one responsible for supplying essential goods.

Caleb Bush, an employee at Foodland in Guntersville, Alabama - and in Albertville, Alabama before that, and in Boaz, Alabama before that - qualifies as one of these people.

"I am the produce manager," Bush said. "I handle all of the ordering and receiving of products, making sure all that's good."

Bush cites Governor Kay Ivey's declaration of a public health emergency, on March 13, as the start of the consumer panic striking his store.

"They wiped me out completely," Bush said. "We were not prepared. No department was prepared, no grocery store was prepared. It was unlike anything I've ever seen. It was like Christmas on crack."

Bush discussed the company response to the panic, starting with order limits - the warehouse supplying him had been wiped out as well. To meet demand, Bush had been placing orders for the warehouse to deliver him 2 to 3 times more cases of goods per truck than usual. After limits were handed down, he wasn't able to order any more than he usually would have.

"The entire supply chain ended up being pinched," Bush said. "All the way down to the producers, (to) all the way down to where I stand, where it goes to the customers."

The workload that the pandemic put on Bush was substantial.

“At the peak of the pandemic I was working 50-60 hours a week, 7 days a week,” Bush said. “I went 15 days without an off day once.”

 

Albertville, Ala., March 17, 2020 – A display of potatoes at Bush’s Foodland store, two days after he had personally filled it. Photo: Caleb Bush

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The peak of the pandemic – or at least the affect of it at Foodland so far – is passed. By the time news broke of the death of George Floyd, Bush could afford time to be enraged.

"I've seen so many videos," Bush, who runs a Twitter feed saturated with content about police brutality, said. "I've heard so many stories - personal stories - from people I know, who have been mistreated by police. And it's my belief that, if the police are to protect and serve, they shouldn't be on the streets terrorizing people."

Bush said this was a minority opinion 'for sure' in his area, and he had to convince some of his family that he 'had a valid point', but he was able to participate in a demonstration on June 6 that drew a larger crowd than he had anticipated.

"I would've had estimated when we started that we had 100-200 people," Bush said. He presumed he was near the front of the march when he left. "I was taken in awe by how many people were actually there. I was nowhere near the back. I wasn't even near the middle."

As far as solutions, Bush said 'defund the police', before elaborating.

"There's more specialized fields for a lot of the things that police get called out for, but we use the police as a catch-all."

 

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