WASHINGTON — CtW Investment Group, a fund associated with the Change to Win union coalition, last week said it had sent a letter to the board of directors of Whole Foods Market asking for the removal of John Mackey as chairman and chief executive officer, citing his recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that was critical of health care reform efforts.
The letter was sent as the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which is part of Change to Win, staged a handful of protests at Whole Foods locations around the country and as thousands of consumers pledged to boycott the chain in online postings on Facebook and other websites.
In the piece, Mackey criticized government intervention in health care and offered suggestions for cost savings, citing his own company's plan as an example. He argued that Americans have no more “intrinsic ethical right” to health care than they do to food or shelter.
One UFCW local in La Jolla, Calif., said it planned to distribute information to customers about Mackey's position.
“The purpose of these efforts will be to set the record straight about health care reform and to raise serious concerns about Whole Foods CEO's position on this critical issue,” the UFCW local said in a prepared statement. “These events will be part of a series of regional educational efforts being planned for the coming weeks.”
In addition to protests in Southern California, local protests took place last week at Whole Foods stores in various markets around the country, including Ohio and Minnesota, according to local reports.
The UFCW and CtW Investment Group are also pushing for the Bravo cable network to drop Whole Foods as the sponsor of the “Top Chef” show, reports said.
In a prepared statement, Bill Patterson, executive director of CtW Investment Group, said Mackey was seeking to capitalize on Whole Foods' reputation to “champion his personal political views,” and in doing so has offended many of the company's customers.
“This is not the first time Mr. Mackey's unsanctioned communications have damaged Whole Foods' image with consumers and investors,” he said. “At a time when shareholders are looking for Whole Foods' management to focus on improving operations in an uncertain economy, we cannot afford the risk to our company's brand reputation caused by Mr. Mackey's indiscretion.”
Mackey has been criticized in the past for his writings, including his series of postings on a Yahoo! stock message board under a pseudonym in which he criticized Whole Foods' competitors and a blog post on his company's website in which he criticized the Federal Trade Commission for its investigation of Whole Foods' acquisition of Wild Oats.
Whole Foods declined comment last week.