Last month, Whole Foods CEO and cofounder John Mackey shocked many people with his op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on healthcare reform. (Quick refresher: "A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to healthcare, food or shelter. That's because there isn't any. This 'right' has never existed in America.") There was talk of a Whole Foods boycott. (Which would be much easier for conscientious shoppers to pull off here in Seattle, with our 462 neighborhood farmers markets, PCCs, and Metropolitan Markets, than say, Phoenix.) Three weeks later, the battle rages on.
On Friday afternoon, as Seattle food types twittered back and forth excitedly about the local albacore tuna Whole Foods in Bellevue was offering on special for $2.99 a pound, members of United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 21 (which represents QFC, Red Apple, Madison Market, PCC, and Safeway employees) were standing outside the Bellevue Whole Foods, handing fliers out to customers drawing attention to Mackey's stance on healthcare reform. Earlier in the week, they had done the same thing in front of the Ravenna and Westlake stores. The events were part of a national "Shopper Awareness Program" organized in opposition to what UFCW believes are Mackey's efforts to undermine meaningful healthcare reform.
Along with calling the Bellevue police to kick UFCW team members out of the private parking lot and onto the sidewalk, Whole Foods countered UFCW's efforts by handing out fliers of its own. The letter, addressed "Dear Valued Customer," begins: "Thank you for your interest in the unusual activity out front of our store today. We'd like to take this opportunity to tell you our side of the story since there is so much misinformation, confusion, and quite frankly, lies being told out there." It goes on to tout Whole Foods' "innovative business practices," list all the "positive change" the company is enacting across the world, and aggressively calm customers ("Rest assured, John is pro-health care reform."). It's a masterpiece of corporate defense, really, right down to its personalized closing: