Don’t Boycott Whole Foods.

Via on Aug 15, 2009

boycott whole foods john mackey

wall street journalJohn Mackey Wall Street Journal healthcare

For years, John Mackey, the libertarian founder of Whole Foods (who I’ve met and talked with a few times) has—luckily for Whole Foods’s PR squad—kept his right-of-the-right views more or less under the radar.

Then, a week or so back, he posted a slam of Universal Healthcare coverage in The Wall Street Journal (a venerable paper that’s right-of-center-in-a-mostly-good-way, as opposed to the shrill Fox or leftist MSNBC, both of which treat politics like sports instead of stuff that actually matters). John Mackey’s article, which read right out-of-the-Republican-playbook, began with a quote of no less than Margaret Thatcher—never exactly a friend to the People.

john mackey whole foods

Enter Sh*t Storm

Now, suddenly, everyone and their mother has called for a boycott of Mr. Mackey’s Whole Foods. There’s a Facebook group with thousands of members. There’s been so much negative traffic and “I will boycott Whole Foods” messages on twitter, Whole Foods hasn’t even tried to put out the fires as they have with past controversies (such as his taken-out-of-context comment, only last week, that Whole Foods “sells lots of junk”; or his infamous commenting on his own blog and anonymous tirades against Wild Oats, which he was trying to buy out, and later did). There’s been so many complaints from Whole Foods largely green-minded customers—the very ones who’ve made John rich (one of his homes is in Boulder, just two blocks from where I write this)—that yesterday they temporarily shut down the comments forum page on Whole Foods (not very democratic of ‘em, hey?)

But I, for one, am not going to boycott Whole Foods. I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Why?

  1. Whole Foods is a vast organization, with thousands of staff, many if not most of whom disagree with John’s idealistic, superior Libertarian views. We live in a democracy, with a lowercase “D.” We don’t have to hate those we disagree with—we just have to beat them at the polls, and in the halls of Congress.
  2. John doesn’t own Whole Foods. It’s public.
  3. Whole Foods, thanks to his leadership, has shown the way for thousands of green-minded companies. He and WFM have shown Wall Street that green can make green. For that, I am grateful—there is a reservoir of gratitude that will not be easily overcome by his anti-union views, by Whole Foods never having supported elephant over seven years even as I see them advertise in countless less-than-green publications and forums.

So we can agree to disagree, for now. Of course, if we fail to pass healthcare reform because we just can’t give a care to fix an inefficient stystem that’s also painfully unfair and bad for America’s economy, I’ll be mad as hell and I’ll look for somewhere to place the blame, and I’ll look for somewhere else to spend my hard-earned conscious consumer dollars.

In the meantime, I got Obama’s back. Do you, Whole Foods nation? If Mackey’s ill-advised screed motivates us to get off the couch and get active, 40 million uninsured Americans may owe him one.

boycott whole foods john mackey

boycott whole foods john mackey

Bonus, don’t make us Mad as Hell, Congress:

Waylon Lewis is the founder of elephantjournal.com

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About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | facebook.com/elephantjournal | twitter.com/elephantjournal | facebook.com/waylonhlewis | twitter.com/waylonlewis | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom

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30 Responses to “Don’t Boycott Whole Foods.”

  1. maxipants says:

    Well reported, friend. For all of Mackey's tirades and libertarian views, one must admit he walks his talk. Whole Foods health care packages are made available to any employee working over 28 hours per week; a standard rare in the corporate world.

    And, I must agree, Whole Foods employees and most of their products are of the ilk that deserve my support.

  2. From FB:
    Ben Wyskida, Matthew Cohen and Ashleigh Grace like this.

    Brookstar S: HA HA!!! I used to work Ideal Market/WFM, until I was fired, which was such a blessing in disguise.

    Devon B: i would never boycott whole foods for this. I would boycott them because they continue to sell conventional produce, and charge a premium for organics. Just look at the price comparison between whole foods, and vitamin cottage next door. Vitamin cottage has consistently lower prices on organic produce, because they only sell organic, if whole foods truly cared about organic agriculture, and not just bottom line, they would have dropped all poisoned produce long ago.

    Devon B: besides, I have a good mind to boycott Holdren, and Obama for appointing him.
    http://zombietime.com/john_holdren/

    Ben W: Last straw for Whole Foods. Should have left them over the union stuff, definitely finished now.

    Devon B: ahhh the anti-union stance is another reason. Of course if you boycott every corporation that is anti-union, you'll find yourself boycotting most everything. Maybe our only option.

  3. Choosing to shop elsewhere based on the political views of a single Whole Food employee sends such a convoluted, nonsensical message. What would happen if we chose our groceries/realtor/gas/bank/gym/utilities based on, say, the religious views of the owners/general managers? I'd pretty much be stuck in a backwoods tent. A boycott is traditionally a tool of change, used to get companies to amend their practices and policies in order to more effectively meet the needs of the community. Boycotting based on Mackey's views is stubborn, not optimistic. If you are all for universal healthcare (as I am), cool. Write your Senators, attend rallys of those who support the initiative, sign petitions. But the more you let the issues affect where you go, what you do, the more you are encouraging division and working against the true nature of "community." Now, if you are all for a boycott of WF based on their $9 bag of walnuts, that's another story…

  4. sublimekesel says:

    Choosing to shop elsewhere based on the political views of a single Whole Food employee sends such a convoluted, nonsensical message. What would happen if we chose our groceries/realtor/gas/bank/gym/utilities based on, say, the religious views of the owners/general managers? I'd pretty much be stuck in a backwoods tent. A boycott is traditionally a tool of change, used to get companies to amend their practices and policies in order to more effectively meet the needs of the community. Boycotting based on Mackey's views is stubborn, not optimistic. If you are all for universal healthcare (as I am), cool. Write your Senators, attend rallys of those who support the initiative, sign petitions. But the more you let the issues affect where you go, what you do, the more you are encouraging division and working against the true nature of "community." Now, if you are all for a boycott of WF based on their $9 bag of walnuts, that's another story…

  5. Berniewentboom says:

    Imagine if every great social movement in this country's history took your laissez-faire attitude toward direct action… the advancement of universal single payer health care is the great moral dilemma facing this nation – a nation in the capitalist dark ages when it comes to this (and a bucket full of other) issues. Mackey and his public company have made a killing on the backs of progressive-minded customers. Trying to find common ground and reaching across the aisle in a gentile manner is one of the main reasons that health care for all is getting bitch slapped by the right who are playing for keeps. (Same with the ongoing murder spree in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan). The so-called Obama "liberals" are as pathetic as Clintonian liberals – the same gutless liberals Phil Ochs sang about 30 years ago. The progressive left needs to grow a pair and they need shots of courage, like the Panthers and Malcolm gave MLK.

    A boycott of the right wing union-busting libertarian fools company based on his capitalist gibberish is a good start.

    • Love your enthusiasm, but this ain't sports, and boycotting a company that's done a lot of good, much more good than ill, much more good than most companies, and upon which many other good companies' success is based upon because their founder has views that are contrary to the health of our nation and economy, pun intended…feels like shooting ourselves in the foot.

      The progressive left doesn't need to "grow a pair," as you so macho-ly but it—we found our cajones after 2000, methinks—but we do need to get off the couch and make our voices heard in the halls of Congress. Have you called your Congressman? If not, I'd like to see less heat and see more light. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2009/07/want-healt

  6. Mark Kraft says:

    If the CEO of a public company calls its food "junk" and antagonizes a great number of the company's customers with his political rants, then he has become a liability to the shareholders and should step down!

    CEOs should have the common sense not to use their soapbox for personal polemics that are harmful to the company… and the way Mackey has been speaking lately makes me wonder whether he has the emotional maturity necessary to do his job properly.

    I will most certainly shop at Whole Foods again… once its CEO has been replaced.

    • After the Wild Oats incident a few years back, Mr. Mackey was asked not to give interviews for awhile. That's why he's never given one to elephant, though he agreed to a few years back. Again, I don't agree with him—I don't think his statement could have come at a more damaging time for the cause that is universal, efficient healthcare (what he have now is neither affordable nor fair)…that said, I do think Whole Foods itself is a great company, overall, and that its employees are far, far more liberal than Mr. Mackey overall, and that Mr. Mackey has hopefully done the weak-kneed Obama-friendly masses a favor by getting us off the couch and realizing that we have to get active if we want healthcare passed.

      That's all.

  7. Holy cow! My Huffington Post blog on this matter made the home page yesterday, and is still on front page of their Blogs page, and GREEN. 141 comments and counting, egad, not all of them even-tempered. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/waylon-lewis/why-i-

  8. Bill Carroll says:

    Waylon, I agree with you. Whole Foods is a public company. Do we monitor the comments all major shareholders? Quite frankly, this issue is far larger than whole foods. Those who waste their energy and time boycotting whole foods just take away energy from the main battle for health care. Put your efforts where they count if you really care about the issues.

    • Berniewentboom says:

      Since you believe everyone from Ralph Nadar, single-payer.org, and countless others are wasting their time, list some possible efforts for direct action and/or civil disobedience that may help build support for real health care reform… and please don't suggest calling your congressman or other politically naive actions.

  9. Kevin Hotaling says:

    I agree with most of this well-reasoned article, but you must know I have to make an editorial correction here: libertarians are NOT right of right.

    They believe that politics are two (or three) dimensional, and that on the y-axis, one must consider the spectrum from complete personal responsibility at the bottom, complete federal control at the top, and state / local rights in between (libertarians, of course, leaning below center, in opposition to both parties, which lean toward centralizing local and state powers into DC).

    Many people seem to be mistaken on this point of late.

    P.S. The libertarian point of view would probably suggest that Mackey did a service to society by putting his 8 alternate solutions into the public sphere because adding options to the marketplace allows for a more informed decision. If his suggestions are not viable, surely they will just be dismissed.

  10. innappropriate yogi says:

    well, waylon, you live in boulder. its kind of hard to boycott whole foods there…theres no where else to buy food because they've already taken over ever grocery store there! go vitamin cottage I guess.

  11. [...] “Don’t Boycott Whole Foods,” says Waylon Lewis at elephantjournal.com. [...]

  12. amyshouse says:

    Hi Waylon,

    I can appreciate your stance on this issue. However, your polarizing words are unappealing. This has nothing to do with throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Please. People are angry about Mackey's stance on healthcare, and rightly so. I read his article in the WSJ (by the way, WSJ is owned by NewsCorp, same company that owns FOX news, yeah. Maybe you should do some research before assuming that WSJ is a benign and reasonable entity??).

    Mackey is pretty clear that he does not believe that healthcare is an intrinsic right (much like food and shelter he stated, but we don't make sure to provide those things to everyone do we so why start with healthcare?). This is disconcerting to me. I don't feel good about the Whole Foods brand and I don't intend to shop there for the time being. I read a rebuttal letter to Mackey from one of the co-founders of WF that I thought was brilliant.

    http://www.democracyforamerica.com/blog_posts/295

    So, clearly Mackey's opinions are his own and do not reflect the totality of what WF as a store represents. But honestly, people are fed up and angry and feel helpless around this debate. What are we to do when this man that supposedly runs a company we have trusted all these years comes out with such views? In the WSJ no less (FOX!)?

    No, Mackey is not WF. But his views are alarming and for a company that has built their rep on trust, health and the greater good…well, it just feels like a betrayal. That doesn't make me want to step into the store. I could change my mind over time and once again resume going there but for now it feels better to me to stay away. There are plenty of farmer's markets to source from here (Berkeley, Ca).

    So please, you may feel that this is throwing "the baby out with the bathwater" but I say- how about letting people feel how they feel for the time being and support them for wanting a real option for themselves and their countrymen?? You cannot completely de-couple Mackey's views from the WF store itself. Right now I look at the WF brand and my stomach just turns a bit. Like I said, this could change (as things tend to do), but for now we could use your support in at least acknowledging what is happening here- a betrayal to the WF brand, an attack on the narrative that we have been sold by the very person who represents the place.

  13. amyshouse says:

    Hi Waylon,

    I can appreciate your stance on this issue. However, your polarizing words are unappealing. This has nothing to do with throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Please. People are angry about Mackey's stance on healthcare, and rightly so. I read his article in the WSJ (by the way, WSJ is owned by NewsCorp, same company that owns FOX news, yeah. Maybe you should do some research before assuming that WSJ is a benign and reasonable entity??).

    Mackey is pretty clear that he does not believe that healthcare is an intrinsic right (much like food and shelter he stated, but we don't make sure to provide those things to everyone do we so why start with healthcare?). This is disconcerting to me. I don't feel good about the Whole Foods brand and I don't intend to shop there for the time being. I read a rebuttal letter to Mackey from one of the co-founders of WF that I thought was brilliant.

    http://www.democracyforamerica.com/blog_posts/295

    So, clearly Mackey's opinions are his own and do not reflect the totality of what WF as a store represents. But honestly, people are fed up and angry and feel helpless around this debate. What are we to do when this man that supposedly runs a company we have trusted all these years comes out with such views? In the WSJ no less (FOX!)?

    No, Mackey is not WF. But his views are alarming and for a company that has built their rep on trust, health and the greater good…well, it just feels like a betrayal. That doesn't make me want to step into the store. I could change my mind over time and once again resume going there but for now it feels better to me to stay away. There are plenty of farmer's markets to source from here (Berkeley, Ca).

    So please, you may feel that this is throwing "the baby out with the bathwater" but I say- how about letting people feel how they feel for the time being and support them for wanting a real option for themselves and their countrymen?? You cannot completely de-couple Mackey's views from the WF store itself. Right now I look at the WF brand and my stomach just turns a bit. Like I said, this could change (as things tend to do), but for now we could use your support in at least acknowledging what is happening here- a betrayal to the WF brand, an attack on the narrative that we have been sold by the very person who represents the place.

  14. [...] big sometimes to get attention and make change. *Ironically, however, my biggest break of all time, my defense of Whole Foods against the calls for Boycotts following CEO John Mackey’s Wall Stre…, was in the thoughtful vein. That article got picked up by the New York Times, Atlantic, and lived [...]

  15. [...] the most prominent national voice defending Whole Foods against a progressive calls for a boycott (my defense of Whole Foods on elephantjournal.com made the home page of the Huffington Post for close to a week, and was quoted in the New York Times [...]

  16. [...] of the wwworld) and was picked up by the NY Times and Atlantic, I was a lonely progressive voice defending Whole Foods when Mr. Mackey took on “Obamacare,” arguing in an infamous Wall Street Journal [...]

  17. [...] I also continued to defend Whole Foods from continued calls for a boycott that first arose after he published an [...]

  18. [...] the meantime, I got Obama’s back. Do you, Whole Foods nation? If Mackey’s ill-advised screed motivates us to get off the couch and get active, 40 million [...]

  19. watch movie says:

    The libertarian point of view would probably suggest that Mackey did a service to society by putting his 8 alternate solutions into the public sphere because adding options to the marketplace allows for a more informed decision. If his suggestions are not viable, surely they will just be dismissed.

  20. Blogroll links aint that great :P but i am not the admin :P Just Telling :P :D

  21. [...] back, Waylon Lewis went against the liberal masses, stood his Whole Foods lovin’ ground and didn’t boycott Whole Foods after a news story broke that right-of-the-right Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said “Who needs [...]

  22. I think it's great you're expressing your morals through how you spend your dollars. More of us should do that, across the board.

  23. It's okay, I'm frequently wrong.

  24. mattymoo says:

    the "founding fathers" – who's word is not infallible by the way (that's why they gave us amendments) also said we have the rights to "LIFE liberty and the pursuit of happiness." in this day and age when acces to basic medical care is the difference between life and not life perhaps it is time to address our right to life as spelled out in those founding documents.

  25. mattymoo says:

    of course i forgot the link – as i am wont to do! :)

    http://finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=WFMI#chart1:sy

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