Washington Grape Growers Witness the Farthest Reaches of “Stupid”

As executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, I get to read lots of legislation. And I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I also get to lay my eyes on some pretty poorly written bills as well as some really crazy stuff. This, however, must be the craziest thing I’ve seen in years:

“Washington dairy farmers and fruit growers (grapes are “fruit”) would have to report to retailers whether they use slaves under a bill endorsed Thursday by Democrats on the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.”

For those who need a history lesson, slavery has been illegal in the U.S. since 1865 when the 13th Amendment was ratified. It reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Nevertheless, this unique piece of legislation in Washington would require grape farmers to report to retailers that they are using slaves in their vineyards. The bill goes on to add that once retailers are informed by the grape growers that they are using slaves, retailers are required to note on their website what action they’ve taken in response to this information. Now, I’m just a lowly PR guy and I’m just spitballing here, but wouldn’t the bill be a bit more impactful if it required retailers to ALERT THE AUTHORITIES to the use of slaves in vineyards??

“It’s still an attack on farmers. It impugns the character of an entire industry.”

Ya think?

Every now and then you see lawmakers do something absurd and you think to yourself, “well, here it is, here is the limit…here is the final line, here is the stupidest thing a lawmaker could possibly do.” Then, you watch that lawmaker be outdone by something even more stupid. It appears the “stupid line” has been extended just a bit further. This is in fact so dumb, I’ve actually had to create a different category of post that in 15 years of blogging I’ve refrained from adding: “Category—STUPID”



14 Responses

  1. Stan - February 25, 2019

    Alfred E Newman, the “What Me Worry” voice of Mad Magazine agrrees with you

  2. Peter Ricci - February 25, 2019

    If vineyard owners had to alert Authorities then the Authorities would have to enforce illegal alien laws in the State of Washington.

  3. Bob Whitelatch - February 25, 2019

    The sad truth is that there are a number of individuals that would believe this law to be needed. This is a reason business is leaving the state. Welcome to our world.

  4. Leslie Gevirtz - February 25, 2019

    Will you be accepting unsolicited examples of stupidity by other elected officials? And will the category be limited to ONLY elected officials?

  5. tom Wark - February 25, 2019


    Now that the category exists, I suspect I’ll have the opportunity to use it for all sorts of occasions.

  6. VVP - February 25, 2019

    The practices of slavery and human trafficking are still prevalent in modern America with estimated 17,500 foreign nationals and 400,000 Americans being trafficked into and within the United States every year with 80% of those being women and children.

    This is Wikipedia, a somewhat trusted source, so nothing crazy in the Bill introduced in “wild” State.

    We still name your Amicus Brief of 81 Wine Consumers the unbeatably craziest and the stupidest thing ever happened in wine industry.

  7. JHL - February 25, 2019

    VVP has it right. Slavery in its many forms is a major problem in the USA. Just this week, the owner of an NFL team was busted and arraigned for soliciting sex from immigrant girls held against their will, as sex workers.

    I do think this new law is more symbolic than substantive, but there’s no question that modern slavery is here, in our own states and cities. Right under our noses. But…. the author is right — reporting slavery to retailers is a very odd approach to the problem.

  8. VVP - February 25, 2019


    Then you’ll need to read the Bill itself, not the “broken phone” transcript of sensational fake news.

    Reporting on uncovered violations to retailers is required for transparency purposes, not for any enforcement.

    Also check out Sarbanand Farms class action lawsuit on the same media here: https://www.capitalpress.com/state/california/foreign-workers-hired-to-pick-blueberries-sue-farm/article_22c2b2b0-6583-531e-8dd9-0ba71e087831.html

  9. Lewis perdue - February 25, 2019

    You will note that I edited the original headline before putting it in my daily “Wine News Fetch”email to add “quotes” to “slaves”… sorry folks, but that whole hot mess is cluelessly racist because it denigrates the suffering and very real inhuman servitude that actual slaves endured.

  10. doug wilder - February 25, 2019

    Tom, I recall a few years ago that a small California winery got in hot water (pushed out of business) over having ‘unpaid laborers’ – newbie students who came out to help during crush or bottling mainly for the love of wine and learning. https://www.mercurynews.com/2014/09/15/castro-valley-winery-fined-115000-for-using-volunteers/ In some view this practice could be grotesquely twisted into slave labor. I have been on the free labor side (well fed) of the equation during crush with a philosopher and sous chef from a Michelin 3 star and also had an unpaid intern for a spell who wanted to learn everything I could teach her about wine and social media that catapulted her career. Agreements were freely entered. Nobody felt used.

  11. Bob Henry - February 26, 2019

    If some Washington dairy farmers and fruit growers are willing to engage in modern day slavery — a heinous act — then wouldn’t those same immoral folks be equally willing to lie about NOT engaging in slavery to retailers and law enforcement authorities?

    They have no motivation or intention to incriminate themselves.

  12. Paul Vandenberg - February 26, 2019

    Doug Wilder references “volunteers” at wineries. In Washington state only non-profit enterprises can utilize unpaid workers. Otherwise a business must pay minimum wage. Hence a definition of slavery.
    We have folks who are our “regular irregulars” the are compensated a bottle an hour. All of are wines retail for more than minimum wage, sometimes by a factor of 4+.
    I advise them to never work for any one that “gives” them a bottle or two for a day. It’s slavery!
    Cash costs for a bottle are plenty low enough for the winery to come out ahead.
    Interns are not interns if the are not in a program via an accredited school. That would also be some form of bondage.
    Now, having said all that, I’m fine with the unofficial unpaid intern. The law is not necessary.
    Paul Vandenberg
    Paradisos del Sol

  13. Bob Henry - February 27, 2019

    Google these search results:

    “The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not” – The New York Times (Apr 2, 2010)

    “Unpaid Interns, Complicit Colleges” – The New York Times (Apr 2, 2011)

    “Today’s Internships Are a Racket, Not an Opportunity” – The New York Times (Feb 6, 2012)

    “For Interns, All Work and No Payoff” – The New York Times (Feb 15, 2014)

    “Unpaid Interns Gain the Right to Sue” – The New York Times (Apr 15, 2014)

    “Unpaid Internships Are Going Out of Style” – Wall Street Journal (Jul 6, 2018)

    Now, a personal anecdote.

    When I was seeking to launch my ad agency career, I interviewed with the corporate headquarters of Chiat/Day — famous for Apple and Nike and Nissan ads.

    A senior vice president offered me a position: unpaid intern. (This was after I had already established a track record of success working in the marketing department of award-winning start-up entertainment and technology companies.)

    My reply:

    “If my intellectual and human capital that got me this job interview is worth being hired for, then it is equally worth being paid for.”

    I turned him down flat.

    He was taken aback.

    Apparently, no one turned down such “munificent offers” to work — not even as a minimum wage slave — for Chiat/Day.

    I landed a job elsewhere in Los Angeles working for another, “fair-market value” paying ad agency.

    And never looked back at what might have been at Chiat/Day . . .

    [See my next comment on being paid what you are worth.]

  14. Bob Henry - February 27, 2019

    Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal “Op-Ed” Section
    (Monday, January 18, 1999, Page A ??):

    “Don’t Devalue Human Capital”

    [URL: not found on the Web]

    By Ira T. Kay
    “Manager’s Journal” Column

    (. . . is the global practice director for compensation consulting at Watson Wyatt Worldwide.)

    When a big investor doubles or triples his money on a stock, no one complains. We praise people like Warren Buffet for their financial savvy. The bigger the return, the better.

    But what happens when the company’s CEO or another manager reaps a similar gain because of stock-based incentives? Suddenly, we make moral judgments, questioning whether anyone is worth that kind of money.

    Why do we cheer huge returns on financial capital but greet similar returns on human capital with suspicion? It doesn’t seem to matter that the financial capital might be controlled by some third-generation heir. Or that all the investor really did was move capital from one asset to another, with only cursory regard for the underlying organization or people.

    . . . labor is really a form of capital. Executives and other workers create value based not just on some unit of labor in the current moment, but on their entire store of knowledge and experience — their human capital.

    It’s said that a tourist once spotted Pablo Picasso sketching in a Paris cafe and asked if he would sketch her, offering to pay him fair value. In a matter of minutes, Picasso was finished. When she asked what she owed him, Picasso told her 5,000 francs.

    “But it only took you a few minutes,” the tourist said.

    “No,” said Picasso, “it took me all my life.”

    Our knowledge-based economy is a world of Picassos. What goes into a business decision or the creation of new software is not just the time immediately absorbed. It’s the years of education and experience accrued by the manager or programmer.

    . . .

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