Gov. Peter Shumlin has delivered political messages to dozens of different kinds of audiences over his 11 months in office. He’s made statements on health care reform, renewable energy, gay marriage, UVM’s future and holding the line on tax increases.
On Monday, the governor took time out of his busy schedule – just before he left for a two and a half day sojourn in Los Angeles for a Democratic Governor’s Association conference — to use his bully pulpit to send a message to a “corporate bully” — Chick-fil-A fast food restaurants.
Shumlin called a press conference to lend his support to a funky t-shirt printer in Montpelier who has become a cause célèbre in less than a week. Bo Muller-Moore, founder of the EatMoreKale hand silk screened t-shirt and inimitable sticker franchise, received a cease-and-desist order from Chick-fil-A this fall, demanding that the Montpelier resident stop using the “eat more” slogan and shut down his website. The Georgia-based corporation alleges that Muller-Moore is infringing on its “eat mo chikin” trademark. Last month, Muller-Moore’s lawyer, Daniel Richardson, challenged the order. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and the New York Times.
The governor jumped on the media bandwagon on Monday and poked fun at the $3.5 billion a year chicken sandwich purveyor – in the interest of supporting a small signature Vermont business.
“Here’s a clear message to Chik-fil-A: If you think Vermonters don’t understand the difference between kale and a chicken sandwich, we invite you to Vermont and we will give you a lesson about the difference between kale and a chicken,” Shumlin told the gathering of print and TV journalists at Capitol Stationers in Montpelier. “They have very distinct features that should be noticed. Kale is a vegetable, chickens are birds. Birds create manure, kale eats manure. There are other differences as well, but I don’t want to get carried away.”
Shumlin unveiled a new t-shirt – “Team Kale” (and stickers) – that Muller-Moore will be selling for his legal defense fund in the counter suit against Chick-fil-A. The governor’s office promoted the new sales items as a way to support Vermont’s local agriculture and the local economy.
“Team Kale is an effort to raise money for Bo’s defense fund to send Chick-Fil-A a clear message don’t interfere with buy local, don’t interfere with our agricultural renaissance where we’re growing local food and selling it locally because more and more Vermonters care where their food comes from, what’s in it and who grew it,” Shumlin told reporters. “Don’t mess with our efforts to grow jobs, one job at a time.”
A legal fight could, as Muller-Moore put it, “get real expensive.”
“They are fat cats with deep pockets,” Muller-Moore said. Then Shumlin finished his sentence: “And we’re Vermonters trying to sell Team Kale t-shirts. This is as good an example as any of a simple way for David to meet Goliath and for the good person to win.”
Laurence Miller, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, and Chuck Ross, secretary of the Agency of Agriculture, were also on hand to give remarks.
A Burlington Free Press reporter asked why the governor’s administration was singling out Eat More Kale when there are likely lots of other businesses in the state that would also like public support from his office.
“Our business folks have seen extraordinary adversity,” Shumlin said. “It’s been the roughest recession in American history, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to support every single job creator in Vermont and when a corporate bully comes in, we’re going to kick you out. We say no way.”
Muller-Moore, who has received an overwhelming number of orders since last week (he’s been putting in 13 to 14 hour days), makes a modest living from the t-shirts, which he prints in his home studio.
Shumlin held up the Eat More Kale enterprise as an example of the kinds of creative mom-and-pop outfits that keep Vermont’s economy going.
“We are a state of small business people,” Shumlin said. “Eighty percent of our businesses have fewer than 50 employees.”
The “Team Kale” t-shirts sell for $50; stickers cost $10; and vinyl transfers are $15. For more information, go to Eatmorekale.com.