Part One: ‘Living Ten to a Yurt’

Northampton and Greenfield, Massachusetts

The Tofu Curtain Spotlight team recently completed a weeks-long investigation into head shop working conditions, and the results were shocking. We discovered workers exploited in unconscionable fashion, and shop owners who display a callous indifference to their plight. Our findings included: unsafe workplace conditions that expose employees to carcinogenic levels of incense smoke; forced dress codes (including itchy hemp t-shirts and humiliating man buns); and terrible prog rock music at least thirty years out-of-date. Shop owners commonly defend their practices by pointing to ‘free’ housing provided to employees, but our investigation uncovered unsanitary and overcrowded living quarters, including one shop with ten employees forced to share a single yurt. This ‘worker housing’ was in dreadful condition, with no running bong water, disorienting psychedelic posters on the ceilings, and an overheating lava lamp that was recalled by the federal government in 1975.

When confronted with the plight of his own workers, Northampton’s Shop Therapy owner Akhbar Jones was unapologetic: “My workers are treated just fine. And if they think otherwise… well they know where the door is. I heard someone’s opening a new vape shop in the Holyoke Mall…they can go work there if they don’t like it!”. When pressed further, Jones became even more defensive: “how the hell do you think I can sell ponchos for under twenty bucks? Huh? I’m not running a charity here. Wait…what was the question again?”.

Most workers were afraid to speak on the record, but Ben Anjery, assistant manager of The Enthusiast in Greenfield, did contact us shortly before press time: “We’re fed up. The OSHA violations around here are ridic. Have you ever had to lift a 6-person hookah by yourself? I threw my back out man. Now I’ll have to be on medical cannabis for the rest of my life.”

Tofu Curtain will continue to monitor the plight of Pioneer Valley head shop workers. In the meantime we trust that our exclusive investigation will lead to a full hearing by the Northampton City Council, followed by at least one scathing editorial in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.