Monday, August 17, 2009

Whole Fools

I rarely shop at Whole Foods, which has two locations in the Twin Cities. If I am looking for organic foods, I tend to look for them at the regular grocery store I shop at or go to Trader Joes, which one person described as the "poor man's Whole Foods."

But I might consider shopping at the grocery chain more in the near future because of the insane and asinine boycott going on by some on the Left. Why would people who normaly shop at the organic retailer decide to abstain? Because their CEO wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal denouncing the Obama plan and offering a plan of his own.
I read that oped and thought it was interesting. I didn't agree with everything, but Mackey made some good points and I thought nothing more of the article.

But obviously it did upset some people who expected that Mr. Mackey should support what they support. This is what was written in a guest voice post at the Moderate Voice:
The thing is, when Rupuert Murdoch published an anti-health care security op-ed from Whole Foods CEO John Mackey in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, a few progressive latte drinkers decided they didn’t need to buy their arugula at Whole Foods anymore, and called for a boycott. After all, the big marketing gimmick for Whole Foods is that they’re a socially responsible company which sells food that is actually good for you (even if the products are very over priced)...

Whole Foods has always marketed itself to a fairly educated and financially secure customer base. This is why they can successfully sell healthy (and primarily organic) foods, at a higher cost. The company has also fostered the image that it has an altruistic streak in supporting progressive causes.

With a single op-ed in an uber conservative national newspaper, this wholesome image has been blown to bits. In the course of writing 1,165 words, CEO Mackey has caused more potential damage to the Whole Foods corporate image than an e-coli outbreak in the meat room.

In calling for support of the boycott of Whole Foods, I’m making an educated guess that their average customer is very politically progressive in nature. And that is why, if liberals and progressives quit shopping at Whole Foods, the impact would be quickly apparent to the company’s Board of Directors. By quickly, I mean by this coming Monday morning when the weekend receipts are tallied.

A Facebook group has been set up and has about 10,000 members. Here's the description of that group:

Whole Foods is NOT a company that cares for communities and they have built their brand with the dollars of deceived progressives. No more. My $ will no longer go to support Whole Foods' anti-union, anti-health insurance reform, right-wing activities.

Whole Foods? Right-wing?

I decided to take a look at the activities going on at my local Whole Foods in Minneapolis. They have a program where you save 10 cents on using reusable bags and you can donate that money to a local charity. The Whole Foods Blog has a campaign to have fresh and healthy school lunches as opposed to the processed foods that kids eat. From my cursory glance, this is hardly a right-wing operation.

Radley Balko shares some of what this "right-wing operation" has done:

Let me see if I have the logic correct here: Whole Foods is consistently ranked among the most employee-friendly places to work in the service industry. In fact, Whole Foods treats employees a hell of a lot better than most liberal activist groups do. The company has strict environmental and humane animal treatment standards about how its food is grown and raised. The company buys local. The store near me is hosting a local tasting event for its regional vendors. Last I saw, the company’s lowest wage earners make $13.15 per hour. They also get to vote on what type of health insurance they want. And they all get health insurance. The company is also constantly raising money for various philanthropic causes. When I was there today, they were taking donations for a school lunch program. In short, Whole Foods is everything leftists talk about when they talk about “corporate responsibility.”

And yet lefties want to boycott the company because CEO John Mackey wrote an op-ed that suggests alternatives to single payer health care? It wasn’t even a nasty or mean-spirited op-ed. Mackey didn’t spread misinformation about death panels, call anyone names, or use ad hominem attacks. He put forth actual ideas and policy proposals, many of them tested and proven during his own experience running a large company. Is this really the state of debate on the left, now? “Agree with us, or we’ll crush you?”

Blogger Freddie DeBoer thinks all the harping on the right about this (in this case a blog post by Rod Dreher) is hypocritical, but the fact is there is a lot of hypocrisy on both sides. Liberals tut-tut when conservatives try to strong arm those who don't agree with them and ignore their own attitudes towards those who have different ideas.

What is interesting here is how so many who used to support Whole Foods think that the company should basically affirm their views. If they support health care reform with a strong role for government, well, then so must Whole Foods. They also tend to assume that beacuse they are "green" and organic, well then they must be left-leaning just like they themselves are.

The fact of the matter is, one can care about the environment and also be a libertarian. One can be into organic foods and vote Republican. Just because someone buys fair-trade coffee doesn't mean they voted for Obama. It just means they like fair trade coffee.

When I buy ice cream, I tend to get Ben and Jerry's ice cream even though I tend to disagree with them politcally. But I also know they do some good things in the world and they have good ice cream. I don't need my ice cream company to agree with me 100 percent.

The problem here is not that Mackey doesn't support the President's plan. The problem here is assuming that Mackey should mirror the view points of Whole Foods' customers.

No comments: