Local protests over Whole Foods CEO's opinion piece
Around a dozen protesters were in front of the Whole Foods on Route 9 in Framingham this afternoon, handing out fliers calling for CEO John Mackey to be fired.
Mackey recently wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, arguing that against more government involvement in health care and saying that people do not have an “intrinsic right to health care.”
“My heart wouldn’t bleed if he left,” said Dean Ethier, an organizing director with the United Food and Commercial Workers. “You need a compassionate person who’s for reform.”
The opinion piece has become a target of supporters of health care reform, with a “Boycott Whole Foods” Facebook group attracting more than 22,000 people so far.
Ethier said he wasn’t trying to get people to boycott the company, but simply to educate people about Mackey’s views.
Robin Rehfield, a Whole Foods spokesperson, said the protest hadn’t affected business. She stood outside the store, handing out letters from the store manager to customers with questions.
“There have been some people that have come in and explained their thoughts on the situation, but it’s been both sides,” Rehfield said. “We just want to ensure shoppers that we’re going to keep doing what we do best, which is selling the highest quality natural and organic foods.”
Rehfield said Mackey does support health care reform, just not the type proposed by President Obama. In any case, she said, the opinion piece expressed Mackey’s personal views and not a company position.
But the protesters said those views are troubling.
“I was so incensed by the Wall Street Journal article that I had to do something,” said Newton resident Maxine Bridger, who carried a sign that read: “Health Care Is a Human Right.”
“Whole Foods appears to be such a reasonable, benign organization,” Bridger added. “But I can’t trust anything Whole Foods says anymore.”
Robert Kass, a Westborough resident who came to the store for pizza on his lunch break, said he barely noticed the protest. He said he thinks health care reform is “absolutely critical” but that both Mackey and the protesters have the right to speak their mind. The whole thing is “probably a little overblown,” he said.
Another shopper, Amy Foster, said she hadn’t read the opinion piece and couldn’t say whether Mackey’s views would alter her shopping habits. “I would need more than a headline to make a decision like that.
Diane Arnheim said she drives 35 minutes to the store about once a week and that she agrees with Mackey’s views.
“I’m going to come even more often now that I see people picketing a decent man,” Arnheim said. “Maybe I’ll come twice a week.”