Or, why shop at Whole Foods?

When the CEO and founder, John Mackey, goes from calling the Affordable Care Act "socialism" in the Wall Street Journal last year to "fascism" on NPR this week to "apologizing" for using the word "fascism" then conflating the problems with the US health care system with the Affordable Care Act, it is evident that Mr. Mackey is not a person with whom meaningful dialogue can produce productive results.  He is an anarchist ideologue, duping many, if not most, of his customers.

I'm not calling for a boycott.  I don't think that would be sensible, in a situation like this.  The intent of a boycott is to instigate reform or otherwise change the behavior of the target so that interaction can then resume.  A boycott of Whole Foods would be ineffective and possibly counter-productive.

The time, effort and resources required to find compromise with a person like John Mackey would be much better spent redirected at businesses and causes worthy of support.

John Mackey is the kind of guy who dispenses his co-CEO to sing the praises of his company paying an average wage of $15 per hour plus unspecified benefits while getting the Yahoo! writer to point out that Walmart pays an average of $12.  Fifty-two, forty hour workweeks equals $31,200 (i.e. no vacation).  The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that a single worker paid on average $5,615 in health care premiums in 2012.  Add rent, transportation and taxes and John Mackey is the kind of guy whose employees may not have much left to shop at his own store, let alone many of his competitors and alternatives (to say nothing of the average $15,745 families pay in premiums on $31,200 per year).

John Mackey is the kind of guy who scores a two-day NPR interview to state that he will have to reduce employee wages to offer them better health insurance:

It's driving up our costs. The thing that we'll find out in the next couple of years is what will be required that we cover. And they're going to add a lot of other things on that we don't necessarily cover right now under our plan that will drive the costs up. Somebody has to pay for it. There's no free lunch.

So if they raise the cost of our being able to insure our team members, then that money has to come from somewhere. It's going to undoubtedly come from the team members themselves. They'll have to go with more part time people or wages will be slowly reduced over time, or they won't grow as fast over time.

INSKEEP: You believe that you're going to end up paying your people a little bit less over time.

MACKEY: Yes. Inevitably, that's going to be the case. This idea that there's this big profit pool that you can somehow or another absorb the cost on is fundamentally inaccurate. It'll have to come out of the labor pool. There is no other pool for it to come out of.

Yes, it is inevitably going to come from the team members themselves.  There is probably not a "profit pool that can somehow absorb the cost" because Whole Foods just increased shareholder dividends, at a cost of more than $44 million annually.  Apparently investors need to be well compensated so that employees can listen to their boss complain about how expensive it is to keep them from contaminating food with their their illnesses.

John Mackey is the kind of guy who claims in the NPR interview that he agrees with Michelle Obama's goal to reform the American diet:

"People in America are addicted to sugar, and to fat and to salt," he says, and as a nation, it's holding us back. "Food is intensely pleasurable, and people are afraid that if they change the way they eat, they'll stop having pleasure."

Still, he acknowledges how hard it can be to stick to a health-conscious diet. Restaurant meals, he says, rarely meet his personal dietary rules — not just no meat, but also no oil or refined flour. Luckily, Mackey jokes, there's a Whole Foods to be found wherever he travels.

This is rich, from the guy who makes an excellent profit selling exactly these kinds of foods.  Hell, his company is called "Whole Foods" while nearly every aisle in the store is filled with processed, sugary, salty, fatty foods.  Sometimes the boxes say "organic" or "local" or "made in Boulder, Colorado" which apparently cancels out the negative health effects of eating the food inside.

But more than anything, John Mackey is the kind of guy who likes to throw around terms like "socialism" and "fascism" and "corporatism" with regard to the Affordable Care Act and then, when pressed to name a specific change should President Obama call him to ask for one:

Well, that's good question. I would say everything that rolls back the bureaucrats telling you exactly how it must be would be positive. The government shouldn't tell everybody how the insurance must be or how the doctors must treat people. Instead, if the government wants to provide a safety net for our poor people who can't afford insurance to buy insurance, then they should provide that safety net.

I don't object to that. That's fine. It's just these fascist directives that the government's handing down about how it will be and how corporations must do it that I object to. And I think it's going to raise costs, and it's not going to be a good thing on balance

So the government should not tell businesses exactly how to insure employees (without naming specific examples) but should provide insurance to those who can't afford insurance?  It would seem that if the Affordable Care Act would drive a successful business owner to throw around terms like "socialism" and "fascism" then it would be easy to rattle off two or three or ten specific examples of why.  But no.  More to the point, why can't some people afford health insurance?  Is it because a pre-existing condition prevents them from buying coverage?  Surely that is addressed by the Affordable Care Act.  Or maybe it is because they only make $31,200 per year (or less) and need to make the decision between food and rent and health care?  It would seem that Mr. Mackey's logic implies that citizens in this category should be provided government subsidy to purchase health care.  Fortunately for him, these people are his employees.  I guess the government wouldn't be telling him how to provide health insurance to his employees because the government would be doing it for him.  A true, personal responsibility libertarian!  Why do something when you can get someone else to do it for you, for a fraction of the cost and with better results?!?

And so, a person like John Mackey does not strike me as the kind of person who is interested in dialogue or willing to change his views.  As such, let's take our business elsewhere.

Originally posted to ABlueKansas on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 01:13 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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