Whole Foods Market: Ethical Labor Vs. Unionization


By Michael Bradley

Well known for its natural and organic products, unfailing return policy (They’ll take a half eaten apple back if you didn’t like it), and free samples galore; what you may not know about Whole Foods Market is its outstanding track record for labor relations and employee satisfaction.

For example. Not only are all Whole Foods employees paid a living wage (For more information on living wage click here), but all shifts at Whole Foods occur in either six or eight hour periods (Eliminating the “part time pin balling” that occurs in most other stores [Where employees may be asked to work three hours one day, two hours the next, ten the day after, etc.]). Every employee (Part time or otherwise) is entitled to health insurance, dental care, retirement savings plans, and profit sharing when the store exceeds given sales quotas (During holidays especially, these bonuses provide substantial supplemental income to workers at the store).

Further, all employees receive twenty percent off store prices when shopping for groceries (Even during sales periods), and can receive an additional ten percent by engaging in store healthy living initiatives. Stock options, scholarship programs, worker appreciation days, performance incentives, transparent compensation systems (Any Whole Foods Employee can privately view the salary of any other employee), corporate compensation limits (No executive can earn more than nineteen times the average worker salary), and an incredibly lenient lateness and call out policy (You aren’t late until ten minutes after your shift begins, and you can call out from work three times per month without excuse) make it hard to argue that Whole Foods employees are treated any way other than incredibly well (Especially in an industry as notoriously unfair to workers as the grocery industry).

Various unions and political bodies have attempted to organize Whole Foods over the years, without even the vaguest semblance of success. Some extremists have even gone as far to brand the franchise as “Anti-labor” or “Union busting”, but let us remember the reason our unions exist in the first place. To provide fair wages and deserved benefits to classes of worker subject to exploitation or mistreatment. The Whole Foods employee does not fit this definition of worker, and in fact has proven to be one of the happiest workers in America over the past fifteen years of Fortune’s “100 Best Places To Work”. Truth be told, if more companies rewarded their employees in the fashion that Whole Foods has adopted, labor organization as it stands wouldn’t be nearly as important in the american workplace.

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