Update: Tea partiers are staging a “buycott” Tuesday evening at Whole Foods. Dana Loesch is urging her followers to buy their week’s groceries there. Heh. They’ll take a look at the receipt, gasp, and go back to Shop n Save the next week.
WillyK had some reservations about pressuring Whole Foods CEO John Mackey to stop using his position to speak out against health care reform:
Just occurred to me that an analogous situation was that of the Dixie Chicks, the singing group who had the guts to speak out about against the Iraq war and Bush’s excesses and suffered financially for it — just as Mackey serves a largely liberal group, these country singers were dependent on the fringer-land for their livelihood and they suffered for being out front about their beliefs. Certainly the boycott of their records (and the CD-burning, etc. parties) had the effect of intimidating free speech.
I would feel differently if Mackey were funding astroturf organizations or otherwise using Whole Food profits to organize against healthcare. I am not too outraged that he says what he thinks and that it is bunkum.
Good argument, Willy, but I still don’t have a problem with the demonstrations that United Food and Commercial Workers have been organizing nationwide. Even if this were a call to boycott–which it wasn’t–I’d just say that when a commercial entity knowingly offends a large portion of its customers, it shouldn’t be surprised if consequences follow. I was sorry to see the Dixie Chicks suffer. In fact, I bought one of their CDs in direct response to that. But so it goes. Just call me a free marketer.
In fact, though, yesterday’s rally wasn’t a call to boycott or a call for Whole Foods to fire Mackey. It was just push back, which is little enough considering his simple minded assertion that people could skip health care and just buy healthy foods from his stores instead. I don’t have the kind of pull it takes to get an op ed piece published at the WSJ, so I support this small attempt to let Mackey and his employers know how insulted we feel. Oddly enough, the signs weren’t about him. They were signs in support of health care reform. Only one demonstrator (a “wise Latina woman”) mentioned Mackey:
The demonstrators, 25 or 30 of them, fanned out along the sidewalk on busy Brentwood Boulevard in St. Louis, and got lots of honks for their pro-health care reform signs. (Those yellow t-shirts and striped umbrellas belong to UFCW members.)
Another good reason to put Mackey and Whole Foods on the hot seat is that the company has taken pride in its social consciousness, but the public might be less enchanted with the corporation’s benevolence if people had a few more facts about its behavior.
Mackey has said he believes workers should have the right to unionize, but when workers at two stores voted a union in, he went into full court press to stop the unions. It was the whole nine yards. For example, at a Madison, Wisconsin store that voted to unionize, the company tried unsuccessfully to subpoena Yahoo! for the e-mail records of the union organizing committee members. It tried, again unsuccessfully, to convince a judge that workers hired on at Whole Foods just to start organizing a union, with the ultimate intention of quitting as soon as they succeeded. The company fired two pro-union workers because one of them mistakenly made a deli drink with skim milk instead of soy. Instead of throwing it away, the worker gave it to a co-worker to drink. Once the union was actually certified, Whole Foods dragged its feet on negotiating sessions, sometimes canceling them, in order to prevent reaching a contract within a year, when it could legally petition to decertify the union.
In fact, Whole Foods, along with Starbucks and Costco, are lobbying to weaken the Employee Free Choice Act. Besides card check, the legislation would currently penalize employers who … wait for it … dragged their feet on negotiations.
I didn’t object to UFCW campaigns to make the populace aware of Wal-Mart’s sins, and although Whole Foods is wa-a-y better than Wal-Mart, that’s not necessarily saying a whole lot. Mackey and Whole Foods (as he runs it) deserve some bad publicity, and I’m here to offer it. I shop there, and because they offer items I can’t easily find elsewhere, I will continue to do so. But that doesn’t mean I can’t publicly shake a finger at them for their bad behavior.
And they may lose some business over this kind of publicity. Fair enough, say I.