Thursday, April 13, 2006

Everything you wanted to know about True World Foods in Kodiak

"On a mission from their leader, five young men arrived in Chicago to open a little fish shop on Elston Avenue. Back then, in 1980, people of their faith were castigated as "Moonies" and called cult members.

The Unification Church bought this house in Anchorage to indoctrinate seafood processing plant workers.

Yet the Japanese and American friends worked grueling hours and slept in a communal apartment as they slowly built the foundation of a commercial empire."

Now the vision of Rev. Moon to feed the world has pretty much been given up on, but not the building of a seafood empire. I won't repeat what this in-depth Chicago Tribune article already covers. I do have some further information on this organization that I've never seen anywhere.

It has to do with this house I used to go over to in Anchorage a lot. It's an impressive three stories, (maybe 9,000 sq. ft.), has a full shop that could overhaul a Mack truck, and a five acre lawn. Well, the folks I knew put it on the market and it sold to the Unification Church for over $900,000. The new owners were going to use it to indoctrinate workers before they went out to their plant in Kodiak, and one in Bristol Bay I heard later.

The business reason for this purchase was sound, I suppose. If you could talk your workers into giving back 90% of their wages to the Church, then the investment would pay for itself. And even piling on Rev. Moon's "worship me" doctrine on top of that doesn't matter a pile of peas.(Although I've seen the odd look in the eyes of a "company man" for another prominent seafood company, that starts with a "T" when saying "it's all about the man in the corner office.) But not paying fishermen matters to me.

Kodiak seiners went out for roe herring one spring without any sort of agreement with True World Foods, not even the common practice of the plant posting a price of one dollar as a starting point. After they delivered their catch and wanted some money for them, the company just thanked them for being so generous in donating their catches. Maybe the guy that runs True World Foods from Chicago headquarters, (he's of Japanese descent) went back into his office and shouted "Howtadoya."

The Washington D.C. contingent early on pushed the idea of locking fishermen to a particular processing plant. I sure wouldn't want to have a "forced linkage" to True World Foods. You wouldn't know if you'd ever get paid.