August 15, 2009

Don’t Boycott Whole Foods.

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.

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.

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

Waylon Lewis is the founder of elephantjournal.com

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