Whole Foods (pro & Contra)

Fast Company has an interesting puff-piece on Whole Foods, the progressive American supermarket chain.

I’ve also found a countering site that details some of the shitty things they do to their workers. (Both, incidentally, were found following threads from Kottke)

What particularly caught my attention in the FC article was John Mackey’s statement that factory farming would be illegal in 20 years. Which, if you consider the current state of farming, is nearly inconceivable. But such an amazing goal to set. WF is trying to set guidelines for how the meats they purchase are treated, and have just instituted rules for ducks (which include such basics as being allowed to swim!).

I’ve shopped in a WF before, and it was nice, and it was expensive, and I’ve heard some stories about what a good company they are. It was likewise enlightening to learn something about them from the workers trying to organize; the labour policy is touted repeatedly in the FC article as being excellent. But it goes to show something that my brother is often harping on about – regardless of the demographics, or policies of service-industry stores, what’s most often overlooked is the workers, because so often, service-sector jobs are seens as temporary or stepping-stone jobs, as opposed to careers, when in reality, if it’s the fastest growing industrial sector, that simply can no longer be the case. It’s highly commendable that WF sets strict guidelines for their providers, and is a pleasant experience, and seems to have generally decent CSR. But hey – while you’re out changing the world, why not shore up the relationships in your own house too? Of course, reading about historical activists, they all seem to be so outwardly focussed that almost universally, they were pretty shitty to their loved ones. Perhaps the committed corporation is just the same to its family.

The optimist in me, by contrast, say that while yes, WF workers could probably benefit from organization, they likely work in a generally better environment than non-unionized workers in other, more mainstream supermarket chains.

Labour! It’s such a complicated issue!