Sheila Payne stands outside Whole Foods Market on a sweltering day. People hurry in and out of the store, eager to escape the heat, but Payne hasn't come to shop. She and three other activists are informing customers that the nation's largest chain of natural food groceries has refused to sign a pledge supporting better wages and working conditions for California strawberry pickers.
Going after the UFW: When activists were passing out literature outside Whole Foods market about the UFW grape boycott, Whole Foods called the cops on them and had them arrested. Embarrassed by the public outcry, Whole Foods promised to honor the boycott and stop selling non-union California table grapes. Whole Foods later broke its promise when they moved their store a couple of blocks away, saying the agreement applied only to the old store.
Whole Foods attacks environmentalists: Whole Foods has taken a similar hard-line stance against environmentalists working to protect sea turtles. An estimated 150,000 endangered turtles drown in shrimp nets each year, according to the Earth Island Institute, a San Francisco-based organization that led the campaign for dolphin-safe tuna. But when the group approached Whole Foods to request the chain carry only shrimp caught in nets certified to protect sea turtles, chief executive officer John Mackey once again sided with industry and blasted the activists. "We will not be coerced by Earth Island Institute or anyone else to support advocacy programs against our will," Mackey e-mailed the group. "Your attacks on Whole Foods Market are strategic mistakes." Earth Island has responded by picketing Whole Foods stores in California, Texas and Delaware. "I thought this would be right up their alley," says Todd Steiner, who directs the sea turtle program. "They claim to be really progressive, but their seafood counters are a big part of their profit margin. They've determined that this won't help their bottom line -- and their bottom line is more important to them than doing the right thing for the environment."
The entire article can be found here at the Organic Consumers Association.
As the Texas Observer argued recently, “People shop at Whole Foods not just because it offers organic produce and natural foods, but because it claims to run its business in a way that demonstrates a genuine concern for the community, the environment, and the ‘whole planet,’ in the words of its motto. In reality, Whole Foods has gone on a corporate feeding frenzy in recent years, swallowing rival retailers across the country…. The expansion is driven by a simple and lucrative business strategy: high prices and low wages.”
May 8, 2009 Article in CounterPunch
Whole Foods employed similar tactics in 2006, after truck drivers working at its San Francisco-based distribution center voted to unionize with the Teamsters. The company fired two of the drivers, altered its sick-leave policy, froze wage increases, refused to provide information to the union that was necessary to negotiate a contract, and “harassed and disciplined employees,” found NLRB investigators, who concluded that “Whole Foods engaged in a variety of retaliatory measures to discourage union activity.” Read the rest from this 2006 Mother Jones article.
A Whole Foods Market store in Albuquerque reportedly suspended two employees for violating the company's "English-only" policy by speaking Spanish to each other during work hours.
According to one of the employees, Bryan Baldizan, the one-day suspension was handed to him and a female employee after they complained to a manager about the policy.
Read the June 2013 story from Gawker here.