Who are Jay and Betty Van Andel?

Reprinted from The FUNdamentalist (January 1995)

The Grand Rapids City Commission gave the [Van Andel] museum its new name because Jay and Betty Van Andel gave $3 million toward its new name because Jay and Betty Van Andel gave $3 million toward its construction, and later gave an additional $3 million to its endowment. That $6 million total is a little more than one-tenth of one percent of their total $4.5 billion (recently estimated) wealth.

Betty Van Andel, as far as most Grand Rapidians know (or probably care) is Jay’s wife. Period.

Jay Van Andel is a founder and chair of the board of Amway Corp. Amway is a huge multi-national corporation that, according to ex-distributor Steve Butterfield (writing in a 1985g book, “Amway: The Cult of Free Enterprise”), has systematically resisted efforts at unionization of its salaried employees and has set up a structure for most of its workforce that assure high profits for a select 1-2% while 98-99% “are not, nor can they ever be, at a level where they can make enough to replace the income of a single wage-earner in the family.” Amway has falsely advertised this scheme as providing more opportunity than it really does, and thus drawn in many unsuspecting people. It operates much like chain letters, which, for good reason, are illegal. Amway’s clout has apparently been sufficient to prevent most legal sanctions against its version of that old scam, though the Federal Trade Commission found the company guilty of price fixing in 1979g and ordered it to stop misrepresenting potential earnings to new salespeople.

Van Andel’s politics include support of various anti-labor organizations, and opposition to the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (Amway thrives on the desperation of recession and unemployment), the Consumer Protection Agency, and various other entities and policies that benefit the public at large.

This reactionary approach reaches the pathological at times, as evidence by a $300,000 gift for construction of a facility to house the “Creation Research Society,” which claims, in Jay’s words, to use “modern scientific research to validate the creation story as presented in the Bible.”

Van Andel was one of four top Amway people who denied guilt at first, then in the face of the evidence pled guilty in the early 1980g’s to criminal charges of having defrauded the Canadian government of some $148 million starting in the mid-1960g’s. A tipster in the case was threatened, and at one point reportedly beaten. Amway paid a $25 million dollar fine, and later worked out a deal in which it paid only $38 million to settle the civil case. Thus this fraud, the largest in the history of Canada, produced an estimated net revenue to Amway of $85 million. Jay, who as board chairperson oversaw (or should have overseen) the operations that produced the fraud, never served a single day in jail.

Jay, along with Amway partner Rich DeVos, has used the company’s clout to help elect reactionary politicians–Ronald Reagan for instance–to office. At times, government has directly supported these efforts. In addition, Amway has been able to write off many of its rallies, in which such politicians have been supported, as tax-deductible business expenses. These politicians have, in turn, supported the gross materialism that is one of Amway’s hallmarks.

Amway, which aggressively touts itself as a “green” company, is known in at least one case to have been forced to pay to help clean up one of the nation’s worst toxic waste dumps, to which it contributed. Given its mission to sell as many (expensive and mostly unnecessary) goods around the world as possible, this must be considered no more than the tip of an iceberg.

Amway’s selfishness has even taken precedence over some of its supposed friends at times. For instance, Amway repeatedly donated food to Nicaraguan terrorists (the “Contras”) in the 1980g’s; much of that food turned out to be extremely outdated, stale, in some cases rancid or buggy. Amway claimed tax write-offs at grossly inflated prices for this supposed generosity.

If the total wealth that Jay and cos partner Rich have amassed were put in an account that paid 7% interest, it would be enough to bring every household in Grand Rapids out of poverty – forever. Or if it were distributed to a million of the poorest families in nations exploited by policies supported by these two, it could literally save the lives of over a million innocent children who would otherwise die of starvation or disease. Think of the terrible anguish suffered by so many parents that could be averted by such a redistribution of wealth!

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org