Open Letter to Whole Foods Boycotters

Earlier, we mentioned Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s op-ed regarding health care reform. Although we greatly appreciated the article, many others did not — and are touting a boycott of Whole Foods.

Now, we at YAL will always respect the right of individuals to boycott whatever business they want for whatever reason they wish as a matter of personal liberty. However, I’d like to ask anyone boycotting Whole Foods to consider a few questions first — after the jump, of course.

Dear Whole Foods boycotters,

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey recently voiced his opinions on health care in this op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. Personally, I found his article rather prescient and considered it to be a fairly apt summary of the type of health care reform that most free-market economists like me would support. I did not agree with every last detail of his plan, but as with every other piece on health care, I digested his thoughts and went on with my life.

Obviously some of you did not react the same way as I did. Judging by the comments on Mackey’s full post at his blog and what I’m hearing from the internet, a good number of people are advocating a boycott of Whole Foods in response to Mackey’s recent article.

Now, I never shop at Whole Foods and Mackey’s article is not going to change that. I would also never stop listening to Bruce Springsteen or U2 simply because they have publicly advocated political beliefs that I have strong disagreements with. But, I fully recognize your right to choose to engage or disengage in business with someone for whatever reason you please.

However, before you choose to boycott Whole Foods, I would appreciate that you ask yourself a few questions:

  1. If you boycott Whole Foods because of Mackey’s political views, are you prepared to seek out every single company you do business with and ensure that the CEOs of those companies supports your idea of health care reform? Will you divest from each and every company whose CEO does not agree with you on this issue?
  2. If you only oppose Whole Foods because Mackey took the time to make public his opinions, may I ask what is so terrible about people acting on their political beliefs, even if they disagree with you?
  3. If you want Mackey to be removed as the CEO of Whole Foods because of his political beliefs and activities, do you think that political beliefs are legitimate criteria for hiring and firing? I was under the belief that competence was the criteria we use to judge whether or not a person keeps his or her job.
  4. If the CEO of your company came out against universal health care, would you support a boycott of your own company? Even if the company was forced to lay people off as a result?
  5. Is boycotting companies whose CEOs disagree with you part of Obama’s plan to, as he said, “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long”? Or do the words “partisanship,” “pettiness,” and “immaturity” mean something else?
  6. Let’s say the organization of this boycott is successful to the point that some stores are forced to close. Now that all of the employees have lost their income and health benefits, is that an acceptable cost to punish Mackey for voicing political beliefs you don’t agree with? What would you say to those employees and their families who don’t have the income and benefits they were receiving from Whole Foods?

I respectfully await your response.

Preston Mui

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