OxiClean may get the tough stains out but its spokesman, Anthony “Sully” Sullivan, ran into much tougher problems when his 11-year-old daughter was born with a rare genetic disorder that eventually caused her to have seizures.
Sullivan, who you may have seen fill Billy Mays’ shoes in commercials, has been visiting Austin for the last week to spread the word about the “healthy, not high” benefits of CBD. While he’s here, you might catch him talking with local podcaster JB Hager.
Sullivan’s daughter, Devon, was born with duplicated chromosomes that caused her to exhibit seizures when she was just seven years old. Sullivan said the pharmaceutical she was prescribed made her lose weight and typically vibrant personality disappear, which caused him to look for other treatment avenues.
“It's like a father’s intuition or a mother's intuition, you just know, and her personality just vanished,” Sullivan said. “All of the sudden I'm looking at my kid and I do not recognize this kid.”
When Devon’s mother, who has a Ph.D. in School Psychology, suggested they try CBD, Sullivan said his mind immediately went to cannabis and he certainly didn’t want his young daughter to get high. However, after a little research and a visit to a Vermont hemp farm, Sullivan weaned Devon off the medication and started her on CBD.
Not only did Devon’s seizures decrease but her personality bounced right back—that was when Sullivan decided that he wanted to create that purest medication he could for his little girl.
Though England-born Sullivan thought moving to the U.S. in his 20s was the craziest thing he would ever do, Sullivan now knows his craziest venture was becoming a farmer. Sullivan bought a 116-acre farm in Vermont, on which he planted 66,000 hemp seeds, and an Airstream trailer to live in while he tended the farm. Then was born, MONTKUSH, or “Happy Mountain," his CBD brand.
“Everyone thought I was crazy and even I thought, 'I don't know, this is a really bad idea,'” Sullivan said. “I couldn't stop thinking about it and I think I was just really inspired to do something really meaningful for Devon.”
The all-organic CBD, which is less than .3% THC and next to impossible to get high on, is made using a pressing process that is similar to how fresh-squeezed orange juice or olive oil is made. Sullivan said he felt accomplished in having created this rosin-based “elixir,” but the possibilities skyrocketed when he discovered the process was ideal for producing CBDA, the purest form of CBD.
When an Oregon State University study found that CBDA can “prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from entering human cells,” Sullivan said sales soared so high that the website almost crashed.
“It was kind of an accidental discovery—I was looking for the purest way to get (CBD) and I guess we got it,” Sullivan said. “I don't think I'm the first person in entrepreneurial history to have a little bit of luck. Then I flew down to Florida, gave it to my daughter and I could have stopped right then. I was like, ‘okay, mission accomplished.’”
The infomercial legend has no plans of leaving showbiz—if anything, he’s marrying the two lifestyles by documenting his journey to become a Kush farmer on his VICE TV show, “Kings of Kush,” which premiered in 2021.
The show follows his adventure from conception, to seed and sow, to harvest and manufacturing with the final episode titled “For Devon.” Plus, you’ll still see him in those OxiClean advertisements.
“It's a plant, it comes out of the ground, we squeeze it out, and my daughter has had unbelievable results from it,” Sullivan said. “But when people write the review that all of a sudden their life has changed because they've had some kind of condition that's been bothering them for years, this product that I've made is helping them, I'm like, ‘oh my god, this is something else.’”
MONTKUSH products are not yet for sale in retail stores, though Sullivan said they plan to break into brick and mortar stores when the time is right. However, you can get MONTKUSH products from the company’s website. In the meantime, Sullivan, who drove his Airstream all the way from Vermont, has some kind words for Austin.
“I've just been enjoying the Austin vibe,” Sullivan said. “I love it—I can totally see the attraction of ATX.”
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It's been a few weeks since a viral TikTok revealed poor working conditions at the Montopolis Dollar Tree in southeast Austin, and employee Maggie Lopez is still feeling its effects.
Lopez was filmed working alone at the location May 1 in a since-deleted video that saw 2.9 million views and over 450,000 likes.
In the video, stacked boxes littered the floor, shelves were left unstocked and a leaky, broken air conditioning unit welcomed customers into the understaffed storefront.
@trishmartinez32#x_bazan06#fyp#fypシ#tiktok#friends#like#comment#4upage#4u#share#viralvideo#trending#wow#4upageシ♬ original sound - Patricia Martinez
Lopez, who now works at the dollar store's Springdale location, says she was left with the aftermath of a 90-hour workweek, lost wages and a mystery illness after the store closed a few days later.
"Nobody ever told me... that there was no air conditioning. They didn't tell me there was danger of getting robbed," Lopez told Austonia. "Nobody said anything... they didn't care."
The location didn't shut its doors because of the TikTok exposure: instead, an AC unit specialist doing routine maintenance found employees working in extreme heat and said it was too hot for employees to continue working.
"To operate a business, you have to have your temperature within a certain parameter," Ikaika, the specialist who didn't disclose his full name to protect his job, told Austonia. "As soon as you walk in, you start sweating... it's not good at all."
Lopez said working in 90+ degree heat became the norm in her two months at the location as air conditioning units remained broken for months before the closure. She added some employees, including her former manager and several customers, passed out in the store due to the heat. But she said company leadership remained unresponsive.
Lopez said she sent her district manager, Veronica Oyervides, screenshots of 90+ degree temperatures inside the store. (Maggie Lopez)
Four days after the air conditioning repairman told employees they should no longer keep working at the store, Lopez said her district manager, Veronica Oyervides, was asking her to come back in to prep the location for reopening. Lopez worked May 8 in the shuttered store prepping it for a reopening, which has yet to happen. Oyervides has declined to comment.
Ever since she started working in the deteriorating Dollar Tree, Lopez said she often wakes up with nosebleeds. She said she's constantly thirsty, her hands shake, and she's experiencing headaches and mood swings—symptoms she believes are due to long-term exposure to mold.
Former assistant manager Linnea Bradley told Austonia she has been hospitalized with symptoms linked to heat and stress after working at the store.
"We are sick and corporate does not give a shit," Lopez said. "What kind of damage did these stupid units do to our bodies?"
Lopez hasn't sought care for her symptoms. She says she makes $13.50 an hour and doesn't have health insurance.
Former employees have more complaints than just the heat: Lopez said that personal safety became a concern in the understaffed store. Catherine, a former employee who wished to only reveal her first name, said she's witnessed large-scale theft and instances of mismanagement in her months as a stocker at the location.
"They have no security, no cameras... they don't want you to have anything in writing," Catherine told Austonia. "It's just complete chaos."
Catherine said that she and other hourly employees were given zero hours for weeks on end as managers, who work on salary, were left to run the store alone from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. She said some managers became so desperate they were hiring homeless people to help stock shelves in exchange for a drink and a bite to eat.
While Catherine (top, middle) often had zero-hour weekly schedules, Martinez, who was paid on salary, worked back-to-back 90-hour workweeks. (Catherine) (Claire Partain)
"They actually did have people willing to work, they just refused to give them hours," Catherine said. "I'm not understanding whether Dollar Tree wants to go under... are they doing this as a tax break?"
Other Austin Dollar Tree locations have reported similar issues. Former manager Jonathan Martinez, who says he was supposed to work 45 hours a week, says he was racking up 90+ hour workweeks and sleeping in the store as he shouldered both the Montopolis and William Cannon locations while his newborn baby was in the ICU in March.
Martinez kept extra clothes in this office after working seven-day weeks at two Dollar Tree locations. (Claire Partain)
Martinez said he slept on boxes as he juggled the job and visiting his newborn in the ICU. (Claire Partain)
Martinez said he slept on boxes as he juggled the job and visiting his newborn in the ICU. (Claire Partain)
"As long as the store stays open, there are corporate people getting bonuses," Martinez, who quit last week after receiving a $100 annual bonus, told Austonia. "Six months ago, when corporate people had a shitload of bonuses, that's when they upped the price (of everything in the store from $1 to $1.25)."
In the six months since Dollar Tree hiked its prices to $1.25, it's gained plenty of mostly negative national attention. In February, the Food and Drug Administration shut down an Arkansas distribution plant due to a massive rodent infestation, and several lawsuits have ensued. The company has also come under fire for selling allegedly expired over-the-counter medicine and its worker shortage at locations across the country.
One employee, who still works for Dollar Tree and wished to remain anonymous, said that they've seen or heard that many area locations are near their breaking point.
"I've seen the good, the bad, the bad to worse," they said. "And it's always a rinse repeat kind of thing... How many more (stores) will go? And what about the employees?"
"Every time I would tell (Oyervides) 'I'm just going to close, I can't stand it anymore,' she would say, 'No, no, no,'" Lopez said. "And I'd be so upset because why? They have my paycheck. It's just been mortifying... the most horrible year of my life."
Dollar Tree's regional director did not respond to requests for comment from Austonia.
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A group of environmentalists and other activist groups are calling on the city to withhold permits Tesla has requested, including for a battery cathode facility by the company’s headquarters near the Colorado River.
In a letter to Mayor Steve Adler and the rest of council, the groups say the manufacturing process will require a substantial amount of water and chemicals, and that as a result, a hazardous waste stream will form.
“Where will the toxic waste end up? How will Austin ensure that it doesn’t pollute the water?” the letter asks.
The groups, which include East Austin group PODER, the Texas Anti-Poverty Project, Hornsby Bend Alliance and others, demand that the city wait on permit approval until the company makes commitments to engage the community and protect the environment.
While building its own batteries could mean a significant reduction in production costs for the automaker, the groups say materials and processes involved in battery production have dangers. They pointed to Piedmont Lithium, a supplier for the facility, saying caution should be taken with battery production products to “avoid contamination of surface, ground and sewerage waters."
Last year, PODER launched an initiative known as the Colorado River Conservancy to protect the character of the river corridor. Paul DiFiore, manager of the initiative, talked about its aims to put protections in place for the riverfront neighborhoods. "That was the goal that Tesla maybe brought that to another level of urgency," DiFiore told Austonia.
The company has faced controversy with its environmental action before. Earlier this year, the company was fined $275,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency for high priority violations of pollution regulations at its Fremont, California plant.
The letter from environmental groups comes just as Tesla was booted from the E.S.G. index, which ranks companies for how they follow environmental, social and governance principles.
Yesterday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk pushed back against the index, calling it a “clear case of wacktivism.”
Exxon is rated top ten best in world for environment, social & governance (ESG) by S&P 500, while Tesla didn\u2019t make the list!\n\nESG is a scam. It has been weaponized by phony social justice warriors.— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk) 1652890157
Along with action on the cathode facility’s permits, the groups are also calling for collaborative work to remedy inequities in water access.
The letter describes how Tesla receives service from Austin Water, though the gigafactory is outside the boundaries of the service area. That’s because the Public Utility Commission granted Tesla a release from South West Water’s service, allowing them to instead turn to Austin Water for service.
Meanwhile, others in the surrounding area, like those in the Garden Valley neighborhood, rely on Aqua Texas Inc.—which has rates more than double that of Austin Water—for retail service. The neighborhood can receive wholesale service from Austin Water, however.
The groups point to this, along with other developments at the gigafactory—clearing large swaths of trees, filling in ponds and pouring acres of concrete for the factory—as a reason to enforce standards requiring companies to operate with social and environmental responsibility.
“If we do not raise the bar for the increasing number of corporations who wish to relocate to Austin or expand their presence, we risk losing precisely that which attracts people to live here in the first place: the clean, beautiful environment that is the foundation of our collective quality of life,” the letter states.
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