Chobani’s founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant of Kurdish descent, has an inspiring success story to tell. Mr. Ulukaya moved to the United States in 1994, since then managed to start a successful business that is estimated to be worth between $3 billion to $5 billion, and employing 2,000 full time employees. Mr. Ulukaya did not forget his roots however, and decided to use his influence to help refugees and migrants. For that he received threats, racist epithets on social media, and calls to boycott Chobani.
This election once again brings out the worst of us to the surface. Chobani has yogurt factories in upstate New York and in Twin Falls, Idaho, and it seems that employing more than 300 refugees in his factories and starting a foundation to help migrants is just too much for some to take. Fringe websites have published fabricated claims that Mr. Ulukaya wants “to drown the United States in Muslims.” And the mayor of Twin Falls has received death threats because he openly supports Chobani. Far right propaganda websites like Breitbart also connected Chobani refugee hires with rapes and a spike in tuberculosis, with no sufficient evidence to tie it all together.
One argument against hiring refuges and migrants is the claims that local businesses need to take care of Americans first. Well, Mr. Ulukaya made sure he did just that. This April Chobani CEO told workers that he would be giving them shares worth up to 10 percent of the company when it goes public or is sold. The goal, he explained, is to share the wealth they have helped build since the company was established.
Assuming Chobani is worth $3 billion, the average employee payout would be $150,000. The earliest employees however will be given a larger amount of shares, possibly worth over $1 million. Rich Lake, a lead project manager, who was one of the original group of five employees Mr. Ulukaya hired, said, “It’s better than a bonus or a raise… It’s the best thing because you’re getting a piece of this thing you helped build.”
Of course the xenophobia infected ignored Mr. Ulukaya’s accomplishments and contributions over the last decade, and focused only on what feeds their narrow minded intolerance.