A Very 99 Percent Holiday
Guess which Seattle bookstore gives the most back to the community. Guess! Nope, it's not Elliott Bay Book Company—though that's owned by a good lefty bleeding-heart businessman. And nope, it's certainly not Amazon .com, which celebrates Tea Party values by keeping money out of communities with its nationwide war against paying sales taxes. (Also, Amazon is run by libertarian douchebag Jeff Bezos, who gave $100,000 last year to defeat an initiative that would create a tax on the very wealthiest in this state.)
The correct answer is University Book Store, which has charitable giving written into its DNA. Founded in 1900, UBS was transformed during the Great Depression into a for-profit corporate trust of the University of Washington, overseen by a board of trustees made up of five UW students, four faculty members, and one UW administrator. The board votes on all major decisions relating to the bookstore, with the greater goal of promoting the university's general welfare.
What this means, according to public relations manager Stesha Brandon, is that the bookstore "gives back a portion of our proceeds to the campus," to the tune of about a million dollars a year—a fairly substantial chunk of the store's $50 million annual earnings. The money you spend on books at UBS goes toward a student rebate system—$28 million has been refunded to UW students and faculty since 1930, Brandon says—and three quarters of a million dollars last year went to a textbook scholarship for students in need of financial assistance. UBS's trust was built with the understanding that the community should come together to support those who devote their lives to learning; beliefs don't get much more Occupy-friendly than that.
But that's not the only reason to give UBS your business. The store cares about its workers, too: Brandon praises UBS CEO Bryan Pearce for being "very supportive of making sure we don't have layoffs in this economy. That's been one of his driving principles." Instead, as Amazon eats away at bookstore profits, Pearce has been "finding other ways of controlling costs." Something else Amazon doesn't do that University Book Store does: sponsor 500 public book events a year, 80 percent of which are totally free of charge. (Elliott Bay is the same way.) Hosting readings and lectures and keeping them free is one of the most democratic charges a bookstore can keep. Knowledge belongs to the people.