Market Basket: How the Community Rallied and Created Change

by Michelline-Kiezer-Roles

If you recall the summer of 2014, and were living in New England, one thing will come to mind, and no, it’s not the beach or the weather; it’s the protests that occurred in support for Market

Basket CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas. Arthur T. Demoulas was greatly loved by his employees and when the Board of Directors fired him, the employees were angry. Employees at all levels of the company either resigned or took part in protests. The protests eventually expanded to customers who boycotted shopping at Market Basket until Arthur T. was reinstated in the company. I remember having to shop at other supermarkets and going to three different stores just to buy affordable groceries. Market Basket by far has the best prices. Other supermarket chains have just as good products, but there’s just something about Market Basket…and the community understands that.

So why did 25,000 employees, 7,000 vendors, and millions of citizens in the community stand behind this CEO? Well, Arthur T. is the son of one of the Demoulas’ brothers, who began the supermarket chain in 1916. Arthur T. was not the typical CEO. He knew his employees names, birthdays, and important facts about them (Launchpad, 2015). Despite being a millionaire CEO, Arthur T. focused his efforts on making Market Basket an exceptional place for people to work. His employees care about him because he truly cares about them and their families. He values his workers and treats them fairly.

The Market Basket employees around New England and their respective communities stood together to fight. What were they fighting for? Benefits, fair treatment, fair wages, and to escape working under a “corporation”. For many of the employees trying to make a living at a “minimum wage” position, not only were their jobs at stake, but their way of life as well …and they were not going down without a fight.

The community strongly advocated for Arthur T. to return to his leadership position within Market Basket. Employees were scared that the Board of Directors, who included his cousin, Arthur S., were going to sell the company and they were going to lose not only their benefits, but the family atmosphere they cherished (O’Neil, 2014). Arthur T. made it possible for his middle class employees to earn a living by paying them at an hourly rate above minimum wage.

The protests spanned from June 23 to August 27, 2014. During this time many employees did not work and the company lost millions and millions of dollars daily (O’Neil, 2014). All employees, even the ones at the lowest levels, chose to stand up for their cause. Community organizing and community advocacy were at the forefront of these protests. The protests were organized by the employees and regular everyday people, that decided they could not let their beloved CEO be threatened by a greedy Board of Directors and his angry cousin, Arthur S. The people lead peaceful protests and demonstrations all over New England, at various Market Basket locations, and at their corporate office in Tewksbury, MA. More than 6,000 people attended a protest in Tewksbury and to a clueless onlooker, you may have thought they were celebrating a big win for a sports team or that it was some kind of tailgating event (O’Neil, 2014). When the community strongly believes for a cause and stands together, they can accomplish anything.

The story of the Market Basket protests ends on a happy note. After two months of protests,

Arthur T. was able to purchase the remaining shares of the company and become full owner.

Now, he no longer has to worry about his cousin, Arthur S., trying to force him out of the company again. Hopefully this ends the feuding within the families that has been going on for decades. If not, there is one thing we can be sure of – if anyone tries coming for Arthur T. again, the community will rise up and support him.



Michelline Kiezer-Roles is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell




Launchpad. (2015, Nov. 11). Ted Leonsis, and the leadership lessons to be learned from ‘The Market Basket Effect’. Retrieved from

O’Neil, L. (2014, July 29). Sympathy for the overdog? Why are grocery workers in New England rallying around their millionaire ex- CEO? Retrieved from

Was It All Just “Gentle Fun?”

by Patricia Luki

A few days ago, I came across a video segment of a morning news show from Fox
News. I am not an avid TV news-watcher, so it was very surprising for me to see this
video went viral on different social media platforms.

The show segment is called Watter’s World on a news show called O’Reilly Factor. With
all the spotlights in the world are directed towards the United States’ presidential
election, it is shocking how China was brought up, mostly in a negative way, several
times by one of the candidates. In this segment, Jesse Watters asked people in the
Chinatown area in New York City about their thoughts on the presidential election.
Some of Watters ignorant remarks from the video included (Fox News, 2016):

“Am I supposed to bow to say hello?”

“Is this the year of the dragon? Rabbit?”

“Is everything made in China now? Tell me what’s not made in China. I can’t think of

“Do they call Chinese food in China just food?”

“Do you have traditional Chinese herbs for performance?”

“Do you know karate?”


Although some people might find this funny, or at least the producing team thinks it is,
the questions he asked has nothing to do with gathering sample of political opinions
from the Asian American population.

In the video, Watters interviewed some people in the area, some of them are elderly or
bystanders who do not really speak English. He went to them anyway and interviewed
them for their political opinions as a joke. You can also see in the video that some of the
people there are offended by his questions; for example, a guy was irritated when
Watters asked to translate a sentence in Chinese but unable to pronounce it back
correctly. However, this did not stop Watters to continue with his “gentle fun” interview.
How is this acceptable?

The most infuriating part of the whole segment was O’Reilly’s take on the whole
interview was that most of the people in Chinatown are aware of the political situation in
the United States. O’Reilly mentioned that some people say that the community is very
insulated and does not interact with American politics (Fox News, 2016). I’m not really
sure where he got this information from, but the reality is that most people read or watch
the news! Even people in Indonesia are aware about the political situation in the United
States. Moreover, Watters stated that most people in Chinatown did not know what was
going on. Well, if you’re going to ask questions about Chinese food or traditional
Chinese herbs, you are not going to have their political opinions about the presidential
election, Mr. Watters.

Another irritating part of this whole segment was how O’Reilly called this act as “gentle
fun” and “it’s all in good fun” (Fox News, 2016). The way they are poking fun at
stereotypes and getting away with it is just shocking to me. I just couldn’t believe that
this happened on television.

Moreover, the way Watters asked these questions implied that these people’s voices
did not matter. By being ignoring the background of the people who he interviewed, and
disregarding the fact that some of these people might be an American citizen who are
eligible to vote, Watters failed to acknowledge that their opinions do matter!

In community psychology, Isaac Prilleltensky talked about values in praxis, which
includes respect for diversity (Prilleltensky, 2001). These values state that professionals
working with the field should promote respect and appreciation for diverse social
identities and unique oppressions (Prilleltensky, 2001).

I think that Watters’ video segment should be a reminder for all of us, not just future
community psychologists, that poking fun at marginalized populations “gentle fun” and it
should not be acceptable. Psychologists or not, we all should respect for other people’s
diverse social identities and their uniqueness.

#UML #commpsych



Patricia Luki is a graduate student in the Autism Studies program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Fox News Channel. (2016). Watters’ World: Chinatown edition. Retrieved October 11,
2016, from
Prilleltensky, I. (2001). Value-Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward
Social Justice and Social Action. American Journal of Community Psychology,
29(5), 747-778. doi:10.1023/a:1010417201918


Honk! A Festival of Activist Street Bands

by Kristin Cook

When I attended the Honk! Festival of Activist Street Bands in Somerville,
Massachusetts over Columbus Day weekend, Isaac Prilleltensky’s (2001) article,
Value-Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward Social Justice and
Social Action, was on my mind. (I had completed an analysis paper just the day before.)
Prilleltensky (2001) offers a set of values to promote personal, collective, and relational
wellness and urges the field of community psychology to intensify efforts to advance
social justice and social action. As the performances entertained me at the Honk!
Festival, I reflected on the festival’s intent to promote social justice and activism.

Honk! is a free, community organized, three day festival. Thundering brass bands from
all over the United States and the world descend on Davis Square for a “celebration of
music, community, and activism” (, 2016). The festival is funded and
organized by the grassroots effort of one thousand volunteers, local businesses, and
residents. Musicians come to the festival at their own expense, some traveling from
great distances (, 2016). I planted myself in the center of the square where
more than twenty-five energized activist bands performed throughout the day. Band
names were creative: Le Pompier Poney Club (Marseille, France), Environmental
Encroachment (Chicago, IL), Forward! Marching Band (Madison, WI), and Second Line
Social Aid and the Pleasure Society Brass Band (Somerville, MA).

I’m aware of activist musicians who promote social justice and political agendas, but I’d
never heard the term “activist band” prior to the Honk! Festival. According to (2016), an activist band is socially engaged, “some in direct action and
outright political protest, others in community building, be it performing for social justice
or community-based organizations or conducting workshops in the public schools”
(, 2016). Honk! Festival bands perform for free and symbolically, at street
level “without sound amplification and with very little distance between artist and
audience” in order to “create a participatory spectacle to reclaim public space in ways
that place them at the heart of activist politics” (, 2016).

The energy at the festival was electric; tubas, trombones, and drums boomed. I sat on
the pavement and took in the atmosphere, appreciating the performances in solidarity
with community members. I thought about the activist and social justice aims of the
Honk! Festival through the lens of Prilleltensky (2001) and community psychology. How
did this festival promote collective wellness and the value of social justice? First, the
festival did (as purported), reclaim public space. Streets in the square were auto-free,
allowing pedestrians to walk or dance freely through the square. Public parks were in
use; emphatic music created a vitality that pushed community members together and
promoted collective emotional well-being. Second, because the festival was free of
charge and performed at street level, it was inclusive. There was equal opportunity for
community members to attend, regardless of socioeconomic background or status quo.
The music, as a centerpiece of the festival promoted solidarity as the community
reveled in the sound together. Third, the city square venue provided an opportunity for
the dissemination and transmission of ideas. Children asked questions, community
members paraded with signs expressing their idealistic needs (More parks for
Somerville!), and many advocated political agendas. In the execution of the Honk!
Festival, I could see the values of community psychology, social justice, and social
action all around me. Honk! will be back in Somerville again next October.


Kristin Cook is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Honk! Festival of Activist Street Bands. (2016). Retrieved from
Prilleltensky, I., (2001). Value based praxis in community psychology: moving toward
social justice and social action. American Journal of Community Psychology, 29
(5), 747-774.

What Does the Community Need?

by Eric Wang

In community social psychology, before deciding on how to strengthen the group with which they are working, practitioners must first determine from what the group might benefit through a community needs and resources assessment. With this assessment, community psychologists ascertain what resources (e.g., material, social, skills) are, and what resources are not, available to the people with whom they are working. From there, decisions can be made regarding what steps to take in order to address whatever issues are present by improving the availability of, the use of, and the access to those resources (Watson-Thompson, Collie-Akers, Woods, Anderson-Carpenter, Jones, & Taylor, 2015).

Things to keep in mind

When conducting needs assessments, it is important that community workers adhere to the core values of community social psychology. Specifically, the assessment must be participatory between the community and the psychologists. This means that the practitioners must consult with the group with which they are working in order to determine what it is that the group needs and desires. This operation should be both cooperative and ongoing, allowing the community and practitioners to best analyze together the resources in the community (Watson-Thompson et al., 2015).

The assessment should also be prevention-oriented. The community members and psychologists should not only consider the current state of the community, but they should also look at the conditions (e.g., behaviors, resources) that preceded any of the problems that they might be facing. Possible future issues should also be taken into account so that the community can begin to address them as soon as possible (Watson-Thompson et al., 2015).

Furthermore, community psychologists always should maintain an ecological perspective. Effective needs assessments require professionals to scrutinize the contextual factors that are unique to the community with which they are working. Practitioners should address the historical, individual, cultural, social, systemic, and environmental aspects that have an impact on the community (Watson-Thompson et al., 2015).

Lastly, the assessment should be action-focused. When the assessment is complete, the community and the practitioners should know what problems need attention. The assessment should help guide the steps that are taken to solve those problems (Watson-Thompson et al., 2015).

Let us now take a cursory look at the executive summary of the 2013 Greater Lowell Community Health Needs Assessment to see a real world application of these principles.

The 2013 Community Health Needs Assessment of Greater Lowell

Conducted by the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the health needs assessment identified a number of resources related to health in Lowell and its surrounding townships. While they found that the region contained quality health care providers, it was also revealed that certain types of services were limited (e.g., therapists, dentists). These findings satisfy the basic definition of a community needs and resources assessment. The data were obtained using community informants, interviews of community members, and focus groups from the community, making the assessment participatory. The assessment also demonstrated a focus on prevention by determining which groups (e.g., the elderly) within the community were at an elevated risk for disease. The researchers applied an ecological perspective as well by finding social and environmental factors that impacted health (e.g., access to transportation and health insurance). Finally, the investigation emphasized action by discerning specific problems (e.g., language barriers to health care) and making recommendations to address them (e.g., increase interpreter services) (Turcotte & Vidrine, 2013).

Further Reading

The above has offered only a brief overview of part of the necessary framework for learning the needs and resources of a community. Found below are resources that can contribute to a more thorough understanding of the process.

For a more in-depth guide on community needs assessments, visit this website:

To read the executive summary or the full report of the 2013 Greater Lowell Community Health Needs Assessment, check these links: [Executive summary] [Full report]

#UML #CommPsych #CommunityHealth #GreaterLowell


Eric Wang is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.



Turcotte, D., Vidrine, E. (2013). Greater Lowell community health needs assessment: Executive summary. University of Massachusetts Lowell. Retrieved from    mentExecutiveSummary2013.pdf

Watson-Thompson, J., Collie-Akers, V., Woods, N. K., Anderson-Carpenter, K. D., Jones, M. D., & Taylor, E. L. (2015). Participatory approaches for conducting community needs   and resources assessments. In V. C. Scott & S. M. Wolfe (Eds.), Community psychology: Foundations for practice (pp. 157-188). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Paying to Keep the Homeless, Homeless

by Maria Gebhardt


Homelessness in America is an epidemic that affects over 500,000 people on any given night with 7 million additional individuals living with friends or family due to lack of housing (The State of Homelessness in America, 2016). Average costs of homelessness to society can vary, depending on location and available services, but they are steadily reported to be tens of thousands of dollars per year, per person. HUD officials have stated that homeless individuals cost taxpayers as much as $40,000 each, per year; this figure includes transitional or emergency housing, jail visits, emergency room visits, and mental health care (S. Donovan, personal communication, March 5, 2012). Just knowing over half a million Americans don’t have a place to sleep at night is troubling enough, but the fact that we, as tax payers, spend so much money keeping them homeless is disgraceful.
What if I told you it is cheaper to give all the homeless families and individuals homes? One would think that anyone with a shred of humanity or fiscal knowledge would jump on the opportunity to better the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, help make them contributing members of society AND save millions of dollars per year; the problem is, not everyone is. Some efforts have been made but much greater change needs to occur.

The formula for drastically reducing chronic homelessness is simple, give them homes first then help them sustain them. An approach originating in New York- Housing First- does just that and it works. Housing First is an approach to fight homelessness using a fairly simple method: quickly and effectively connect individuals with permanent housing without barriers such as mental health, addiction, etc., with a lease contract and additional services offered on a voluntary basis. Essentially, the approach focuses on housing individuals first then addressing the factors that potentially caused the individual or family to become homeless and helping them form a path to maintain permanent housing.

Housing First has provided substantial reductions in the homeless population in several areas of the country and, most drastically, in Utah. Using the Housing First approach, Utah reduced their chronically homeless population by an outstanding 91%; spending only $10,000-$12,000 a year per individual (Mcevers, 2015). These numbers make one wonder why more cities are not jumping on board the Housing First movement.

Some speculation of Utah’s success has been noted concerning government official’s rush to declare homelessness solved and the inaccuracies that occur while trying to record homeless individuals. Even through these speculations, it is obvious that they have put forth a sincere effort and that effort is paying off both humanely and financially. The numbers of chronically homeless individuals are being reduced and the taxpayers are spending less money; those two facts cannot be debated.

Simply put, Housing First works. Utah is saving over $10,000 a year, per person while housing those who did not have permanent housing before. Denver, CO, using the Housing First approach, is saving over $2.4 million annually and has reported that over 80% of the individuals in the program have maintained permanent housing for 6 months or more (Denver Housing First, 2006). Charlotte, NC reported a $1.8 million savings its first year using the Housing First approach for just 85 individuals (Miles, 2014).

These numbers are astonishing not only because of the monetary savings but the number of lives changed through Housing First. This all leads to the overbearing question: Why are we paying so much money to keep the homeless, homeless?

I urge you to visit to learn about Housing First efforts in your area and ways you can help. #uml #commpsych


Maria Gebhardt is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.



Denver Housing First Collaborative Cost Benefit Analysis & Program Outcomes Report. (2006, December). Retrieved from!userfiles/housing/ executive_summary_dhfc_study.pdf

La Ganga, Maria L. Utah says it won ‘war on homelessness’, but shelters tell a different story. (2016, April 27). Retrieved from

Mcevers, Kelly. Utah Reduced Chronic Homelessness By 91 Percent; Here’s How. (2015, December 10). Retrieved from

Miles, Kathleen. Housing The Homeless Not Only Saves Lives — It’s Actually Cheaper Than Doing Nothing. (2014, March 25) Retrieved from

The State of Homelessness in America. (2016, April 6). Retrieved from

Sense of Community

by Martha Stewart

We are and have been a member of a different community. Every community has members with a high sense of community and some where the sense is low. What is a sense of community? It is when you feel that you are connected to a community that is interdependent. What is interdependent mean? You are dependent on each other and others in your community. Have you ever walked in your neighborhood and found groups of people talking to each other, who you know are neighbors? Of course, you have. We all have. You may have called a neighbor and asked if you can catch a ride to the supermarket because your car is in the shop. That’s interdependent. A neighbor may have stopped you on the side of the road just to ask how you are and if you want to go get coffee. There are some individuals who have never introduced themselves to their neighbors and never have that sense of community. The sad part about this is you never know who you can become friends with and who might be someone you can share things with. If you have taken a walk, in your neighborhood, on a weekend, a saw a neighborhood yard sale taken place, you may have thought to yourself, ‘why didn’t they ask me?’. These neighbors may not even know you exist because you never took the time to introduce yourself. Back in the 60s and 70s, mostly everyone knew who their neighbors were because they were always out and about, never staying in, hiding from the world. Their children played with each other, they got together at someone’s house for coffee to chit chat, and they pretty much knew each other’s business. They were fully connected to their community. Today, there are not that many people who do this anymore. People are afraid to get to know their neighbors because they are not sure of what they might think about who they are, what they do for a living, how they raise their children, whether or not they’re on state assistance and don’t want to be mocked, and any other issues that may arise that may keep them from getting to know them.

A sense of community consists of four elements: ‘membership, influence, reinforcement integration of fulfillment needs, and shared emotional connection’ (Byrne, 2014).
Membership is when you feel you belong to a community, you feel you have the right to belong there, you are part of the community, you have a personal connection, you have a sense of emotional safety, you feel accepted, and you identify with your community. If you have made many friends in the community you feel you have a personal investment, and you feel that you can identify with the people who belong there and feel encroached by people who you know don’t belong there. If we are part of a community, we have all had these feelings. We may or may not identify with all of them but we will have a sense of community. Just like a gym membership, you pay your dues to be there and you know who does and doesn’t belong.
Influence: This includes your making a difference and having an influence on other members of the community and they make a difference to you. Do you conform with what others do and say? As a member of your community you have a right to offer your opinion about what happens in and around your community and you also have a closeness to these people.
Reinforcement integration of fulfillment needs refers to you having something that the community offers and the community has something you want. You may also feel as though you have been rewarded when you participated in something the community has done. You also feel that you were respected for what you have offered and you should respect what others, in your
community, have offered. Do you feel you have some type of similarities to others? There may be more people in your community who feel the same.
Shared emotional connection bring people together. You share a common bond. You spend time together and the quality of this time is greatly appreciated. You also have an emotional connection that is going to build as long as you are in this community. Giving something of value to others, by way of knowledge and experience, just might get you the same. Everyone has different stories and experiences to share that you may come away with, something you can use in your own life.
Don’t just sit back. Get out and socialize with your community. Join a group. Even if it’s reading group at the library or a neighborhood yard sale, someone told you was coming up. You need to open yourself up to get something in return. Enjoy your community.


#UML #commpsych

Martha Stewart is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Byrne, Shannon, (6/2/2014), 4 Elements to Creating a “Sense of Community” by David McMillan, Retrieved from:

Far Away from Free

by Patricia Luki


In March 2016, the Human Rights Watch released an article and a video of how a mental health institution in Indonesia treats their mentally ill patients. The article talked about how most of the individuals in that institution was chained to their beds and were fed inhumanely (Human Rights Watch, 2016).

I was born and raised in Indonesia, and I have heard stories and have seen people who are mentally ill or disabled being locked up in their own home or in an institution. However, I have never imagined that it would grabbed an international media’s attention, and I am pretty sure that not many people in Indonesia are aware of this as well. Moreover, this resulted in having some of my American friends shared this article to me. It was very difficult to explain to my American friends that there is lack of support for the mentally ill, or even for individuals with physical or developmental disabilities in Indonesia. For example, Indonesia has a population of 250 million people; however, there are only 600 to 800 psychiatrists and 48 mental hospitals (Human Rights Watch, 2016). Not only that, people who are admitted in these mental health institutions were forced to take medications or subjected to “alternative” medicines, such as herbs, traditional massages and Quran reading in the person’s ear (Human Rights Watch, 2016). It sounds bizarre, but yes, this is something that is happening right now on the other side of the world. Although this practice of locking up patients in confined spaces, also known as pasung, was banned by the government in 1977, families, traditional healers and staffs in the institutions still continue to use this method on individuals with mental illness or disabilities (Human Rights Watch, 2016). When you look at Indonesia from this perspective, anyone would probably say “Oh wow, this country needs help.” And yes, we definitely do need a lot of help.

Community psychology is a field that has a strong interest in social justice, community education and building public awareness (Langhout, 2015). When I was reading Langhout article, I realized that Indonesia is still lacking in social justice, community educating and public awareness on most things, especially regarding mental health and disability rights. Also, Indonesia’s mental illness problems originated from the lack of community awareness, community education and government involvement and control (Human Rights Watch, 2016). Just like many other developing countries, there is still a huge stigma towards the mentally ill, and with the addition of the lack of appropriate services, the fate of these people are in the hands of “professionals” who mostly do not know what they are doing or what they need to do. For example, I have encountered many of my relatives who refrained themselves from taking their children with developmental disabilities outside because they still think that the “sickness” can be contagious. There is still lack of awareness what mental illness is and how to treat people with mental illness or disabilities in Indonesia. Many Indonesians still adhere to traditional herbs or alternative methods in healing any kind of diseases, even cancer!

It is scary if I think about how Indonesia is behind in having proper mental health care and laws. The Human Rights Watch said that the government should amend to the 2014 Mental Health Act to ensure that people with mental illness and other disabilities have the same rights as other Indonesians (2016). I also think that it is very crucial for Indonesia to increase the number of community-based programs and more trained professionals and staffs to educate the community and provide better services for people with mental illness and disabilities. Also, the field of community psychology is not as advanced or maybe even unknown to some universities in Indonesia. My goal is to become a BCBA and bring back the knowledge back home so that children with developmental disabilities will be able to get the proper services and improve their quality of life. However, if Indonesia does not change its laws or take actions in improving how they treat the mentally ill, I’m afraid that there is only little I can do back home. Indonesia still has a long way from advanced mental health care and proper laws for the mentally ill and disabled, and Indonesia is definitely still far away from free if there are still people chained up in their wooden beds in mental health institutions.

The video based on the Human Rights Watch article can be viewed here:  #UML #commpsych

Patricia Luki is a graduate student in the Autism Studies department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Barry, A. (Photographer). (2016). A mentally ill man is shackled at the Bina Lestari Mandiri healing center in Brebes [digital image]. Retrieved from

Human Rights Watch (2016, March 20). Indonesia: End Shackling of People With Disabilities. Retrieved September 06, 2016, from

Human Rights Watch (2016, March 20). Indonesia: Treating Mental Health With Shackles. Retrieved September 06, 2016, from

Langhout, R. D. (2015). Considering Community Psychology Competencies: A Love Letter to Budding Scholar-Activists Who Wonder if They Have What It Takes. American Journal of Community Psychology, 55(3-4), 266-278. doi:10.1007/s10464-015-9711-5

Salmon with a Side of Justice? Not On Our Menu!

by Josh Vlahakis

The restaurant industry in the United States, employing over 11 million workers (Jayaraman, 2016), is the nation’s second-largest industry (Henderson, 2012). Despite this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014) estimates that of the ten lowest-paying occupations in the United States, seven of them are positions found within the restaurant industry.

How can it be that one of the nation’s fastest growing industries is exacerbating poverty at a much greater level than other industries? The worst part of it is that many restaurant workers do not see the exploits of their labor; many of them do not know their rights or how to detect if they are being treated unlawfully. This is a social issue that is often overlooked and underreported; those who have worked in restaurants witness or experience injustices on a daily basis: no paid sick-time, wage theft, not being paid time-and-a-half for overtime work, etc. Oftentimes, restaurants employ undocumented immigrants who are afraid to speak up due to losing their job or the possibility of deportation.

Like many people in the United States, I enjoy going out to eat in restaurants, almost as much as I enjoy working in one, but it is hard to fully enjoy my experiences knowing how difficult it is for some restaurant workers to make ends meet and ultimately get treated humanely by their management.

Fortunately, the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC-United), a community-oriented organization, was founded to research and practice how restaurants can and should treat their workers more fairly. This organization understands the influence employers have on their employees, who create a social context in which marginalized restaurant workers are penalized for speaking up for themselves.

However, ROC-United empowers workers to stand together in the face of injustice using Urie Bronfenbrenner’s developmental approach, understanding that the individual and environment have a bidirectional influence on one another (Scott & Wolfe, 2015). As an intern and member of ROC-United, I preach to fellow restaurant workers that restaurants will continue their unjust ways if they remain unchallenged. I encourage them to practice what Bond (1999) describes as “connected disruption,” (p. 350) where the dynamics of a particular institution are challenged in order to “disturb complacency” (Evans, 2015, p. 360).

I have worked in a restaurant for nearly five years and am very passionate about the work I do and those with whom I interact. I love having the ability to meet people from innumerable cultures and backgrounds with the opportunity to brighten up their day. In such a rapidly-growing industry, why does it have to be designed to keep people in poverty? In short, it doesn’t have to be!

I joined ROC-United to help provide a stronger voice for the disenfranchised communities affected by corrupt malpractice. This organization practices many of the competencies of community psychology, including community inclusion and partnership. This is achieved through meticulous and tireless attempts to build an audible voice to ALL restaurant workers experiencing an array of different injustices. In order to promote diversity throughout the various positions in a restaurant, ROC-United also practices sociocultural and cross-cultural competence to demonstrate that the quality of front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house positions alike would benefit from a stronger demographic representation. If restaurant employers prioritized the quality of justice served to their employees, the level of guest retention would increase and employee turnover would decrease—two of the major objectives employers strive to achieve.

Social justice for restaurant workers directly impacts the overall health of our communities. Oftentimes, employees are forced to work while sick because they are told they will be fired otherwise (Jayaraman, 2013). In most restaurants, employees don’t have paid sick-time, which makes it nearly impossible to miss work for those who cannot afford a day off. These practices, which have become the norm in the restaurant industry, infuriate me to no end.

I got involved with ROC-United because I love working in a restaurant, and know many others who do as well, and we feel that we should be entitled to the same rights as those in other industries. These rights would not only impact the worker, but the overall health of our communities. People are more likely to go out to eat at a restaurant that they know treats their employees like human beings. If you work in a restaurant or know someone who does, please encourage them to share their stories anonymously with ROC-United or attend our “Know Your Rights” meetings that teach restaurant workers how to actively and legally resist wrongful practices by their employer.


#UML #commpsych #ROC #ROCBoston #OneFairWage


Josh Vlahakis is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.



Bond, M. A. (1999). Gender, race, and class in organizational contexts. American Journal of  Community Psychology, 27(3), 327-355.

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IDD Sterilization

by Maria Gebhardt, Univeristy of Massachusetts Lowell

Sterilization of the intellectually and developmentally disabled: An act of protection or modern day eugenics?

In 2014, a mother in Iowa forced her 20-year-old son, who has an intellectual disability, to undergo a vasectomy. The son did not consent, sued, and won- but not because he did not consent to the vasectomy; he won because his mother failed to get the courts permission prior to the procedure (Volokh, 2014).

Compulsory sterilization (sterilization without consent) remains prevalent in the intellectually and developmentally disabled community to this day. Though the practice of forced sterilization is illegal, the laws have loopholes and do not protect most of those deemed incompetent. These individuals are being coerced into vasectomies, hysterectomies, and tubal ligations oftentimes with no informed consent.

So many questions arise when discussing this topic: Is this sterilization ethical? Would we be better off allowing them to bear children? Should we educate and let them choose? Is birth control an option or is that also unethical? Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD’s) vary so greatly that it becomes hard to determine at what point we are no longer advocating for and protecting them and instead taking away their right to choose.

I have personally encountered a woman with an IDD who had a hysterectomy and thought she would one day become a mother, had once had a child and had a tubal ligation post-delivery without her personal consent, and many who took oral contraception daily without their knowledge. Even knowing these women personally, I don’t know which, if any, of these situations were ethical, although, I am certain they would not function effectively as parents. They did not have the knowledge or skills to care for a baby, at least not independently. Some of these women did have the desire to have a child though; perhaps allowing them to have a baby and placing them in an open adoption could have been an alternative? We don’t sterilize women in prison, or those with drug addictions or even those who have been found guilty of child abuse in the past, so why single out the IDD community?

Accompanied by the question of their right to choose is the issue of the risks of sterilization surgeries. Tubal ligations and vasectomies are relatively low risk but hysterectomies are still major surgeries, with significant risks. It is not ethically or morally right to put an individual through a major surgery to prevent pregnancy, especially without their informed consent.

Daily oral contraception can appear to be the “happy medium” but also raises some concerns. When a woman takes daily birth control, she receives plentiful information prior to receiving a prescription and she knows exactly why she is going to be taking it. Many individuals with IDD’s cannot comprehend the purpose and risks of the contraception. Almost all of these individuals take daily medication for health issues without comprehension of why they are being taken, which is understandable and ethical, but they are necessary for health and oral contraception is not.

Placing aside all ethical concerns and even medical concerns, a larger question remains: why are we ignoring the sterilization of individuals with IDD’s? This is a prime example of eugenics existing in today’s society. Are we taking away their ability to procreate in order to protect them from the health concerns of pregnancy and the trials of parenting? It is more likely that we are avoiding the risk of them having a child with an IDD and someone else having to raise and care for that child. If it is, as I suspect, the priority to avoid them passing on the disability and secondly, to protect them, then we, as an educated, developed, society, are allowing and ignoring eugenics. Maybe allowing them to procreate is not the answer but should they not have some say in that themselves? In ignoring the issue of compulsory sterilization, we are failing these individuals. The ethics on this matter may never be clear, but certainly the conversation should exist. #UML #commpsych


Volokh, E. (2014, April 18). Sterilization of the “intellectually disabled”. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Maria Gebhardt is a graduate student in Community Social Psychology Deaprtment at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.