City Desk

Whole Foods Protesters Miss the Salad Bar

Single Payer Action promised yesterday to picket Whole Foods stores in New York, Austin, and D.C., and today, picketing they are: Neatly, sweetly, and sweatily, making the lunch scene at 1440 P St. NW the most bucolic  in the history of organic-food-store protests.

Holding up a piece of orange poster board three times as wide as she is that reads "Boycott Whole Foods," Carol Kramer is just waiting for Whole Foods CEO John Mackey to take it all back so that she can resume being a Whole Foods customer.

When asked if she misses the salad bar, Kramer makes a delighted face and then winces.

"I miss being in there," she says, nodding towards the door.

But single payer, or at least a public option, is more important to her than the salad bar, which she will not visit despite having driven all the way from Fredericksburg, Va.

Many of the picketers are former Whole Foods customers. And for a few of them, boycotting Mackey's stores has been a long time coming.

Adrienne Pine, a professor of anthropology at American University, admits that she's known about Mackey's "right-wing libertarianism" for a while now, but that his Wall Street Journal op-ed was "the straw that broke the camel's back," and the reason she switched from Whole Foods to co-ops and farmers' markets.

Pine came to the P St. location today to tell people that Whole Foods employees work under "very bad conditions" and that Mackey is a "notorious union buster" and a "key player in fighting the Employee Free Choice Act."

When pressed to name other bad conditions, Pine gives the same answer as United Food and Commercial Workers Executive Assistant to the President Mark Federici, whose crew is also handing out fliers: Mackey is bad for workers everywhere because he's anti-union and anti-health care.

Single Payer Action's Sam Husseini doesn't say much about unions, but he loves the idea of the U.S. modeling itself after and improving upon Canada's medical system.

"There are some problems [with Canada's system]," Husseini says, but "we're more technologically advanced than Canada and we can do it better."

Husseini can't name any improvements off the top of his head, and declines to comment on how an effective store boycott might affect low-level Whole Foods employees. Instead he refers Washington City Paper to Russell Mokhiber, the founder of Single Payer Action and the author of a viral essay which ends with this call for action: "Don't spend another penny at Whole Foods until John Mackey and his right wing friends are defeated. And single payer is enacted."

Mokhiber, dressed in all black, says that his efforts, among those of other Whole Foods protesters, have inspired "rightwingers" to start shopping at Whole Foods. He's fine with that.

"The CEO can say what he wants," Mokhiber says.

Protesters can boycott, and  "we'll let the organic tortilla chips fall where they may," he adds with a grin, after which he admits that he just came up with that phrase this morning.

But it seems the guilt just isn't strong enough today. One young man, upon reading Russell's tract, exclaims, "Fuck yeah! Keep on with the health care stuff," and then makes a bee-line for the salad bar.

Update: We now have a video of interviews with the protesters.

Photo by Andrew Beaujon.

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  • Truth Hurts

    Whole lotta hatin goin on round here. Several posts have been scary, written by angry, nasty, and seemingly dangerous people.

    Get some mental health help, folks (if you're fortunate enough to have good health insurance). Or move to a country where differing views are resolved through violence. This is the USA, remember? We had a recent election where people freely voted for change. Deal with it in a civilized way.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Hope you stay in Denver, bitch.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Once we Communists take over DC, everyone will eat WF quality food for free at all of our grocery commissaries. Each & every citizens will be entitled to $100 per week in free food. It'll be like being on another planet, a planet with a universal cradle-to-grave welfare state with free health care & free universities & longer lifespans with better health along with higher per capita incomes than on Planet USA. & five weeks of vacation & a hundred holidays a month.

  • Truth Hurts

    @ Angry Al: I've been coaxing you to be more civil and politic in your postings, yet you said what I'd only been thinking in your comment #51. Have to confess -- cracked me up! Let's hit happy hour accross from WF one day. We can wear disguises just in case.

  • Healthfoodie

    See you across from WF with your butt buddy truth hurts soon. We'll get it straight BEATCH.
    Truth Hurts, you don't like it too much when you're confronted do you?
    You loons think the country is yours cus Obama won. Well enjoy your short lived experiment it won't last.

  • Truth Hurts

    Healthfoodie: Let me know when you're coming to DC. I don't take your threats idly, so I'll act accordingly. You're a dangerous extremist. Hopefully, your posts will draw the attention of law enforcement authorities and they'll stop you before you kill someone. I'm pretty sure you've already committed felony threats. Your posts just might end up as evidence, especially if you keep it up. (I'm incorporating your posts re the WF video here).

  • Healthfoodie

    Don't you people get it? You are pissing off most of America and we are sick and tired of this push towards communism. We won the cold war but now we are being attacked from within.
    The CEO of Whole Foods put forth good ideas to improve the Health Care system and he has the right to his freedom of speech.
    There are many posts on this site calling for the Unionization of this Company and that is an assault on free enterprise. The Employees of this company deserve better than you thugs destroying their peaceful work environment. It is your activism that is instigating the anger of the majority of Americans and your silly threats of my arrest for some imaginary crime is laughable. Take your Saul Alinsky handbook and shove it.

  • tony

    I simply can't believe there are people who want the doctor's office to be more like the DMV. Seriously, I hate going to the doctor, so I avoid it. Actually, I hate going to the DMV even more though. As I see it, I HAVE to go to the DMV from time to time & it sucks ass. I can only see the government health plan forcing me to "get checked out" once a year by the doctor. That would suck ass just like the DMV. Plus, I imagine that the doctor would be grossly understaffed like the DMV & any time that I have to go there I will need to count on a half a day completely wasted.
    The government can't do anything better than me, or the free markets. They certainly aren't going to do it cheaper. I can't think of anyone who likes Medicare. Its a giant pain in the ass.
    Clearly all of this is opinion. I will give government run health care a shot if we end the practice of witholding income & payroll taxes from employees. If everyone had to write checks when the tax bill was due then people would realize how much every piece of entitlement actually costs. That would put a quick stop to all of this intrusion in the name of Obama!

    Oh yeah, the financial "crisis" was caused by selective regulation and government intervention in the free market...not the free market. The next one will be worse because of the prescedent set with the "TARP" program. How does the government prevention of failure encourage conservative financial action by big (usually well connected cronies) financial instutions? I say bet big because the worst that can happen is that you don't loose

  • tony

    Oh yeah, lets not forget that unions are always good for unions. They are only sometimes good for employees. I am wondering what mistreatment they are going through that justifies them giving up their freedoms as individual employees to join a union, other than to increase the union influence.

    Give em a reason because the best I can tell there isn't one

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    The license bureau is run better than the ER - shorter waits, better service. In states with proper funding, it takes 15 minutes; in DC, it still takes just an hour.

    Try that in the ER some night.

  • tony

    Only been to the ER once - Had a shot of morphine in me within 10 minutes. It was expensive as hell though. I doubt just because we substitute the government for unitedhealthcare it would get any cheaper. Give me some vested interest in how my money is spent & I will be damn sure to get the cheapest adequate care. leave it to a 3rd party, whomever it may be and I really don't have the time or motivation to care what they pay. That was July 9th 2008.

    I don't explicitly avoid "whole paycheck" which is the term I use to affectionatly describe the high prices there. But I am much more likely to go to wegmans because there grocery prices are much more in line & they still have one hell of a prepaired meals section.

    Whole foods has some bangin soup though

  • Healthfoodie

    Hey to all my new friends. Here is a breakdown of salaries of the union bosses in comparison to Mr. Mackey.
    Who should be picketing who?
    Don't you fools know that unions are the mafia?
    You should care about the grass roots little guys out there and not thug unions.

    Enjoy your dinners.

  • Proud Liberal

    I've never seen more bone-headed posts in my life, with the possible exception of "TruthHurts" and "Brian". Don't the rest of you get that we are the only country in the so-called "modern" world that clings to employer-based healthcare, primarily because corporations have a stranglehold on our democracy, and that people in Britain and Canada are sick of hearing U.S. conservatve talking points about how crappy their healthcare system is?

    And as far as Jim Mackey is concerned, well, he's been an embarrassment for Whole Foods for a while now, going back to 2007 when the FTC tried to block the Wild Oats merger because of "anti-competitive behavior". He's just another corporate shark who doesn't care about anything but the bottom line.

  • Pingback: Liberal protestors give up only thing they love as much as health care reform: Whole Foods | Minus30

  • Any Rand was a hypocrite hack

    There are no free markets, and therefore claiming they work is like claiming unicorns win the Kentucky Derby. Pure fantasy. Stop labeling people and trying to say what everyone does or doesn't care about. Put down Atlas Shrugged and start thinking for yourself while living in reality.

  • Ayn Rand was a Hypocrite Hack

    The Democrats were and are correct. You're wrong. The facts prove your ideology is deeply flawed and illogical. Good day.