Whole Foods Boycott Grows

CEO, John Mackey, Shoots Himself in the Birkenstock

Comments (25)
Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Western Mass. Single Payer Network and Western Mass. Jobs with Justice have thrown their support behind a national boycott of Whole Foods.

The boycott was sparked by a recent op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, which sounds a very different note from the supermarket chain's earthy-crunchy image. In the piece—headlined the "The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare"—the libertarian Mackey argues against increasing government's role in the healthcare system. In the column—which begins with a quote from Margaret Thatcher—Mackey writes that, while he agrees that the healthcare system needs reform, "the last thing our country needs is a massive health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficit and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system."

Instead, Mackey calls for a reform driven by "more individual empowerment." Among his suggestions: the repeal of government mandates on what insurers must cover ("What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual customer preferences and not through special-interest lobbying."); tort reform to curtail "ruinous lawsuits" that drive up doctors' malpractice insurance rates; and an unspecified reform of the Medicare system "that creates greater patient empowerment, choice and responsibility."

"[W]hile all of us empathize with those who are sick," Mackey goes on, access to healthcare should not be a guaranteed right, but rather should be "provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges." And—echoing the hecklers who've dominated town-hall meetings around the country in recent weeks—he claims that "All countries with socialized medicine ration health care by forcing their citizens to wait in lines to receive scarce treatments....

"Rather than increase government spending and control, we need to address the root causes of poor health," Mackey writes. "This begins with the realization that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health."

Many of Americans' health problems are "self-inflicted," he writes, and could be prevented by diet, exercise and "other healthy lifestyle choices" (including, presumably, buying the natural and organic products on the shelves of his supermarket chain). Nowhere in his paean to responsible behavior does Mackey mention any degree of corporate responsibility for public health—the industries that pump pollutants into the air and waterways, say, or makers of unhealthy food who spend billions to market their crap to kids.

Mackey was already the nemesis of organized labor and other progressives before his op-ed ran. The CEO also opposes the Employee Free Choice Act, and in April, Mother Jones magazine (available for purchase, by the way, at the checkout racks at Whole Foods) reported that it had obtained an internal company document that named remaining "100 percent union-free" as a key corporate goal.

Cathy Cochran-Lewis, a spokeswoman for the company, sent the Advocate this statement: "While Whole Foods Market has no official companywide position on the healthcare reform issue, we would not want our very successful and sustainable healthcare coverage to be jeopardized. Our CEO submitted an opinion piece last week with the intention of expressing his own viewpoints and providing constructive ideas to support reform, as President Obama invited America to do.

"We have heard from individuals who both agree and disagree with John's ideas as there are many opinions and emotions surrounding the ongoing healthcare reform issue, including lots of differing views here inside of Whole Foods Market," the statement went on. "We appreciate those diverse perspectives but it is unfortunate there is misinformation and confusion out there to cloud John's good intentions.... One single opinion piece is far from the sum total of what Whole Foods Market has been known to offer for the past 30 years. Our customers can be assured that our primary focus is to continue to serve our valued shoppers, to ensure a great work environment for our Team Members, and to support our communities and our planet as a whole."

Jobs with Justice and the Single Payer Network point out that there are other local food stores that support their communities, including Stop and Shop, which is unionized, and Northampton's River Valley Market co-op. (And, for the next couple of months at least, the Valley is filled with farmers' markets and farm stands, where the community can directly support local food producers.) The activists also plan a boycott action at the Hadley Whole Foods sometime next month.

Comments (25)
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Remember, John Mackey does not get any income from Whole Foods. He pays salaries to 50,000 employees, and profits go to charities. So, IF a boycott is effective, who will it hurt? In case you can't figure it out, the answer is the charities and employees.
Posted by Don on 8.25.09 at 14:43
I believe WF is a publicly traded company and so profits go to the shareholders not employees and charity. Therefore by boycotting you are letting shareholders know that they should be thinking about a new CEO!
Posted by ihefb on 8.25.09 at 15:56
it's still his company and will burrnnnnn. boycott now
Posted by pissed on 8.25.09 at 15:59
WHEN Whole Foods Market gets a new CEO I'll back, BUT not a moment sooner!! You can bet your "wild oats" that MANY more are on board with that solution!!
Posted by Sally on 8.25.09 at 21:21
Don, do you really think he doesn't get any income from being the WF CEO? and do you really think all the profits go to the employees and charities? uff... please...
Posted by Don? on 8.25.09 at 23:35
Only a rich guy would talk about "voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges". My family went into debt when my Mom's insurance ran out. The view from Mackey's ivory tower has left him out of touch.
Posted by Joe on 8.25.09 at 23:37
More individual empowerment? Yes, John Mackey. I shop elsewhere. Thanks for the wise words.
Posted by quin on 8.26.09 at 0:15
Mr. Mackey doesn't pay anyone. Whole Foods is a public company, responsible to the shareholders and employees. It's not the intention of the boycott to hurt WF employees - Mr. Mackey stated his opinion and I'll state mine: I now shop elsewhere. Simple as that.
Posted by Charlie Clements on 8.26.09 at 5:56
if you want to learn more and join the cause....please go to facebook and join the whole foods boycott... i worked for them years ago in berekeley and i can say there is one pile of unpleasent smelly stuff behind the lemon grass and french roast ... it just has taken years to come to light on a larger scale... truly this corp is in some ways less honest than wal-mart...please take time to learn what's behind their mask....
Posted by maureen burt on 8.26.09 at 6:08
Get a life you wack jobs. Go ahead and boycott. Won't make a difference. You liberals are so angry at the world.
Posted by Ken on 8.26.09 at 9:57
Too bad this hysteria to muzzle free speech doesn't extend to the entertainment business. I'd love for them to all shut up and sing or dance or do whatever they do.
Posted by AZLakePowell on 8.26.09 at 12:20
The evil corporations!!! How dare anyone try and make a profit!!! I have never shopped at whole foods. In light of this ridiculous boycott, I plan on shopping there as much as possible.
Posted by Rob on 8.26.09 at 13:33
I find it rather ironic that the biggest welfare junkies in this country, the large corporations, who rely largely on government assistance and intervention on behalf of their own narrow interests, would try and play the whole "small government" card. Interventionist government on behalf of the wealthy, free markets for those of us who actually work for a living.
Posted by Daniel on 8.26.09 at 14:29
With monsanto appointments such as tom vilsack as agriculture secretary and michael taylor in charge of food safety, the obama movement is an abominable engine of toxic frankenfood. Whole Foods, by contrast, does not stock genetically modified frankenfoods. I'll continue to shop at Whole Foods.
Posted by Childsen on 8.27.09 at 10:31
I find it more than a bit frightening that here in the Valley, which should be a bastion of free speech and rational, collegial debate, we still find people on both sides of issues attempting the personal demonization of individuals simply on the basis of a differing opinion. Regardless of how you feel about Mr. Mackey's opinions, it is simply wrong to stoop to this kind of villification. First we hear about concerned citizens being marginalized as "Astroturf" and now we hear about personal vendettas against individuals who are simply trying to have a calm, democratic discussion. For shame.
Posted by Keith C. McCormic on 8.27.09 at 13:34
While you may have issue with the vilification of Mackey-where you bothered by his smack-talking wild oats? A company he eventually took over and was investigated by sec for his deeds. It isn't just Mackey's op-ed,it his body of work that speaks of a man far removed from the smoke/mirror philosophy he sells to folks for a premium. And if one is going to pad their pockets enticing consumers with a philosophy as much as their products than he has no ground to cry foul...
Posted by patsydecline on 8.27.09 at 15:14
Back in 2008, this Whole Foods, CEO John Mackey (how old is this kid?), was caught posting negative comments (trash talk) about a competitor on Yahoo Finance message boards in an effort to push down the stock price. So now I am suppose to take this loser seriously? Please, snore, snore. Its funny we hear Republicans say that they do not want faceless bureaucrats making medical decisions but they have no problem with private sector faceless bureaucrats daily declining medical coverage and financially ruining good hard working people (honestly where can they go with a pre-condition). And who says that the private sector is always right, do we forget failures like Long-Term Capital, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Enron, Tyco, AIG and Lehman Brothers. Of course the federal government will destroy heathcare by getting involved, Oh but wait, Medicare and Medicaid and our military men and women and the Senate and Congress get the best heathcare in the world, and oh, thats right, its run by our federal government. I can understand why some may think that the federal government will fail, if you look at the past eight years as a current history, with failures like the financial meltdown and Katrina but the facts is they can and if we support them they will succeed. How does shouting down to stop the conversation of the healthcare debate at town hall meetings, endears them to anyone. Especially when the organizations that are telling them where to go and what to do and say are Republicans political operatives, not real grassroots. How does shouting someone down or chasing them out like a lynch mob advanced the debate, it does not. So I think the American people will see through all of this and know, like the teabagger, the birthers, these lynch mobs types AKA screamers are just the same, people who have to resort to these tactics because they have no leadership to articulate what they real want. Its easy to pickup a bus load of people who hate, and thats all I been seeing, they hate and cant debate. Too bad.
Posted by Paul on 8.27.09 at 17:06
Here we are trillions in debt and it has accelerated into warp speed under the dems and obama. The republicans were smart shopper in comaparison to dem drunks with a credit card, and now you want to add trillions more with this health care abominable bill. You crazy dems. Kiss ANY health care goodbye if it passes.
Posted by Greg on 8.27.09 at 19:33
Congrats to Mo & the Advocate on this article, which has now gone worldwide. It is posted at Common Dreams at and there's a direct link at LabourStart at
Posted by Jon Weissman on 8.28.09 at 7:20
I am always glad to see Americans voicing their opinions, I may not always agree with them, but I enjoy it, so please keep boycotting Whole Foods Market, Inc., companies keep dropping sponsorship of the Glenn Beck BS, Astroturfers keep showing up at town hall meeting and get your shouts in (we all know you cant articulate your position and are all about hate) they hate and cant debate, sweet.
Posted by Paul on 8.31.09 at 10:11
DON'T BOYCOTT UNTIL YOU MAKE ONE LAST TRIP TO WHOLE FOODS! EVERYONE CAN BE A 'MYSTERY BOYCOTT SHOPPER!!" Load up your cart as you always would, then slip a note to Mr. Mackey in between the frozen food telling him that this is what you WOULD HAVE BOUGHT except that you changed your mind because of his idiotic ideas. Park your cart somewhere, and walk out of the store. Especially if you stack your purchases very randomly in your basket, returning all this to the shelves, ITEM BY ITEM, will take much longer than it took you to shop it, and it will send a REAL MESSAGE to Mr. Mackey about the consequences of his opposition to fairness in healthcare. I imagine the cost of paying employees to put all this back will hurt if it is widely practiced. I know it is kind of aggressive-passive but I sure had fun! (Remember this TACTIC when you have a Union strike and picket line AT A SUPERMARKET in your community. Nothing drives SCABS crazy faster than trying to return hundreds of items to the shelves, one by one.) We are ALL MYSTERY BOYCOTT SHOPPERS!!!
Posted by RaptureMeJesus on 9.3.09 at 12:39
Mackey's inane position was my starting point; now it's clear that it's time to go really local -- support our local outlets and forget corporate food altogether
Posted by chalcedony on 9.3.09 at 17:53
That would be real nice and productive. Inconvenience the employees who had nothing to do with him writing that article and therefore become the target of your maliciousness.
Posted by Christine on 9.4.09 at 13:49
I believe WF is a publicly traded company and so profits go to the shareholders not employees and charity. Therefore by boycotting you are letting shareholders know that they should be thinking about a new CEO!
Posted by sites enfants on 11.26.09 at 9:23
Boycotting is a choice I WOULD make in light of supporting the opposing point of view. However, since I am a teacher, I don't earn enough money to shop there in the first place!!! Can I continue to run through the store and eat all the samples though?
Posted by Aimee on 12.27.09 at 5:33



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