Whole Foods Politics

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Last week John Mackey announced he was resigning as chairman of the board of the grocery chain Whole Foods. Coincidentally, Nick Paumgarten recently profiled Mackey in The New Yorker. He discusses the Whole Foods philosophy and the strange life of its now-former chairman.


Nick Paumgarten

Comments [33]

Ron from No. NJ

Although I am pro-union, I still shop at whole foods because I like what they have there (far better than Trader joes). It seems as though WF cares about workers a heck of a lot more than your average corporation. I Just read the New Yorker bit: Mackey "pays himself a dollar a year. No one at the company can have a salary more than nineteen times what the average team member makes." What if they put this kind of rule in more corporations.....

Jan. 05 2010 10:26 PM
Teresa from New York

wnyc got this wrong- John Mackey gave up his Chairman of the Board title. He remains the CEO of Whole Foods.

Jan. 05 2010 07:52 PM
Alison from Upper West Side

I disagree with his stance on healthcare but, my experience is that their prices are better than nearly all other healthfood stores. Although I like to support the Mom/Pops and do split my grocery shopping btwn them as well as my local, bodega-style grocers.

I would like to learn more about the good things they are doing to support local, organic farmers - thanks to the vendor that posted.

Jan. 05 2010 05:45 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Here's an interview w/Mackey from Grist magazine: He doesn't take as harsh a tone about unions as I've seen elsewhere, but he's still against them.

My search of Grist also turned up their report on an exchange btwn. Mackey & Michael Pollan (being interviewed on Leonard's show even as I type!): Not quite as "vs." as the headline implies, but interesting.

Jan. 05 2010 12:31 PM
Alison from Manhattan

There's some interesting research by a Dr (d'Amato (I think) that related blood groups with food intake - any ideas on that?? Very interesting to link blood groups - ex type O are meat eaters and that does best with their type...

Jan. 05 2010 12:12 PM
Jon P. from The Garden State

#14 adsf,

I could not have said it any better then you.

Jan. 05 2010 12:07 PM
hjs from 11211

John Lobell
but should i have to support someone, pay his salary when i feel he is harming me?

Jan. 05 2010 12:06 PM
Telegram Sam from Staten Island

Mackey is a loathsome, and if you think you're changing the planet by shopping there you're kidding yourself. However, compare WF to other NYC supermarket chains, which:

1) are just as expensive (moreso, in the case of Food Emporium) yet

2) have inferior produce, meat, etc, and far fewer organic, local, healthful, etc products

3) treat their employees far worse than WF in terms of pay, benefits, etc

That's why this pro-union, global warming believing liberal continues to shop there even though I know I'm making Mackey richer. I think if most WNYC listeners checked out the personal beliefs of the CEOs of most products you buy, they'd become Unibombers.

Jan. 05 2010 12:03 PM
Joel Friedland from Forest Hills

I was a stockbroker at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter for over a decade. In mid-June 1994, I had several accounts buy a 100 or 500 shares when Whole Foods bought a Los Angeles natural food chain. Whole Foods said all the acquired store managers and assistant store managers would have six months to prove themselves. On December 15 -- ten days before Christmas -- Whole Foods issued a press release that 28 of the 32 managers were fired or had resigned and were being replaced. I had my clients double up their positions saying that obviously Whole Foods had very tough minded management.

Jan. 05 2010 12:03 PM
Marcos from the Bronx

1) Whole Foods makes no commitments environment, organic et al. You thus not having any certain positive impact by shopping there.

2) Please answer the simple questions:

Are the employees at whole foods paid less than unionized employees doing similar jobs elsewhere?

How do the average out of pocket healthcare costs for WF employees compare to unionized employees in elsewhere?

Jan. 05 2010 12:01 PM
SuzanneNYC from Upper West Side

Whole Foods may be the second coming, but I don't shop there because it's just too expensive. Fairway is just as good -- and much cheaper. I'll take the difference and support the farmers at the many Greenmarkets around the city which is equally important. Eat seasonally and locally!

Jan. 05 2010 11:58 AM
Laura from Tarrytown

This is general: Brian, you've used the phrase "Christmas bombing" twice now on your show today. I know that California - where I was for the holidays - is another universe from NYC, but their news is pretty good and I don't remember hearing about a "bombing" on Christmas.

Jan. 05 2010 11:58 AM
John from Manhattan

Bottom Line: I shop at the new Costco on 117th because I can afford it.

Jan. 05 2010 11:58 AM
Josh Levine

1, and the rest of the listening audience -- if you think you like whole foods then i know you will love WEGMANS.

It's the real deal for real people.

Jan. 05 2010 11:57 AM

Ricardo, I've heard that their relatively higher prices are the result of paying their sources a fair price. This is fine, but doesn't automatically raise my own salary to have the ability to pay higher prices.

Jan. 05 2010 11:57 AM
John Lobell from NYC

Interesting how biased and kneejerk the WNYC audience is. God forbid someone should express views different from their orthodoxy. You could listen carefully and perhapse learn something, or know that you are right and they are wrong.

Jan. 05 2010 11:57 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

The only whole foods I have ever been in is in Port Washington/Great Neck. It is a store for the rich. Try Trader Joe's.

Jan. 05 2010 11:56 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I didn't stop shopping at Whole Foods when I heard about his stand on the health care bill. I stopped years ago, when I heard about his anti-union stance--he even shut down a store whose workers voted to unionize. I now actively support smaller health food stores that are near Whole Foods stores to help keep them in business.

I realize the picture is more complex than that & that WF also does good things, as Ricardo [1] points out, but I don't shop there for the same reason I look for fair trade products.

Jan. 05 2010 11:56 AM
Sam from NYC

If John Mackey wants to oppose the health care overhaul, that's his right. As a supporter of President Obama and the Democrats, I'm just happy that there's at least one person on the other side of the aisle who seems to offer anything positive, which in Mr. Mackey's case is a quality supermarket that takes relatively good care of its employees.

Jan. 05 2010 11:56 AM

When I'm craving some fancy expensive food trucked in from 3000 miles, or flown in from 10000 miles or more, I loves Whole Foods! (When I'm craving some Chinese junk food I'll swing by Trader Joes...)

How Whole Foods and Trader Joe's became conflated with "doing good" one must credit either both these companies' flacks, such as Craig David from Crain's and other local hyper bobbleheads...

Jan. 05 2010 11:55 AM
GW from Bronx

Mackey is into a "progressive" market because you can make a lot of money doing it. There are millions of hipsters that love the elitism of paying through the nose for food that is not for "the masses" The rich and their hangers on have always wanted better "stuff". This is not said to denigrate. It is just the facts of the phenomena. No whole foods in poor neighborhoods that's for sure ... oh, perhaps you don't feel as "green and progressive" as you did before I pointed that location centered strategy of WF out huh?

Jan. 05 2010 11:55 AM
Denis from Brooklyn (in L.A. at the moment)

I think John Mackey is a charlatan. He simply wants to make money and has found a great niche. His opinions regarding Global Climate Change are not ignorant but dangerous. The left is being mocked - we are the shoppers and our money is being used to advocate for positions which are anethema to us.

Jan. 05 2010 11:54 AM
whoindatgarden from Brooklyn

Whole Foods succeeds for the rich who feel good having shopped there, their way of contributing to being Eco Friendly etc while driving in their SUV's to their winter houses in Vermont or to their summer homes in the Hamptons.
I wonder if Whole Foods accepts EBT Food Stamps and if so what can one afford to buy out there.
Good for the folks who shop there, feel good...

Jan. 05 2010 11:53 AM
Joe from New York City

Can we please hear some clarification regarding Mackey's views on global warming? Does he really contradict the overwhelming majority of reputable scientists on this issue, or has he been quoted out of context?

Jan. 05 2010 11:52 AM
chj from brooklyn

I did not see the piece in the New Yorker so I don't know if Macky's vehement anti-union efforts where touched upon. A few years back he wrote a piece where he compared unions to Sexually Transmitted Diseases. He said something along the lines that "they are fun to get, but impossible to get rid of." Clearly, he is just about making money for himself, not any particular progressive orientation.

Jan. 05 2010 11:51 AM
andy from manhattan

equating whole foods with organic is a major misnomber, particularly since they have over the last several years moved decidedly towards "natural" foods, which have none of the quality controls that certified organic foods do, but a significant part of the higher organic price!

if it doesn't say organic, you cannot rely on it being "natural!"

Jan. 05 2010 11:50 AM
Robert from NYC

Trader Joe's has fair prices and good quality unlike rip-off Whole Foods.

Jan. 05 2010 11:45 AM
Jon P. from The Garden State

Say it isn’t so?!?!?! The mighty ruler of the overpriced food store for the rich and the righteous does not live, eat and breathe the politics his righteous store caters to? Where will his flock now go to get fleeced for their food? Trader Joe’s? Or are the prices there to cheap for the Whole Foods customer? Or does our lord Whole Foods already own Trader Joe’s just like they bought up or put out of business all thier other competitors? Oh wait, that sounds like Wal-Mart. But rich righteous people don’t shop at Wal-Mart. This is a day of moral dilemma for the rich and righteous whole food customer...

Jan. 05 2010 11:18 AM
Stephen from Miami Beach

What a screwball.

Jan. 05 2010 11:16 AM
Robert from NYC

Well ps [3] you can bet you sure will hear more from him now that he's not tied to Whole Foods and can express himself without causing problems to that company. He's free to be who he is.

Jan. 05 2010 10:27 AM
hjs from 11211

mackey, a college dropout, is also a climate change denier. hope we don't hear from him again.

Jan. 05 2010 09:33 AM
hjs from 11211

I hope he's been forced out because of his ridiculous public stand on healthcare reform. I guess boycotts work.

Jan. 05 2010 09:27 AM
Ricardo from South Bronx

I thank Whole Foods for helping my small food company based in the South Bronx to stay in business in these tough economic times. Mackey's policy of supporting local producers by actively looking for new local products, not charging stocking fees to vendors, and even lending money through Whole Foods' Local Producers Loan Program is a blessing for small producers.

Jan. 05 2010 08:22 AM

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