Our VoiceHealth & Environment

“Organic Means Respecting Workers’ Rights”

Katie Bezrouch • Sep 25, 2009

On Labor day Ronnie Cummings, the co-founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), wrote an open letter to John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods Market (WFM). The letter is a response to WFM’s threat to sue the OCA for violating their “intellectual property rights.” This unwarranted claim is undoubtedly a knee-jerk reaction to a petition circulated by the OCA titled: “Tell Whole Foods and UNFI: Organic Means Respecting Workers’ Rights.”

Instead of acknowledging the bogus claim, Cummings decided to take the higher ground and give WFM a chance to redeem itself. In the beginning of the letter, Cummings is quick to point out that “A number of our members, as well as journalists, have asked me recently why OCA hasn’t joined in the call for a boycott of Whole Foods Market.” The answer is that the Organic Consumers Association doesn’t want a fight, it wants real change. In the past they participated in several successful campaigns to better the organic standard and WFM has, until now, been cooperative.

So Cummings response and request is simple: Live up to your motto and start selling the “Highest Quality Natural and Organic Products”, and follow through with your “Values” by caring about community and environment. He reminds WFM that:

“Fair trade and economic justice (including health care justice), as part of an overall green and organic economy, are the only way we are going to reduce poverty and conflict. Whole Foods Market and United Natural Foods like to brag about how your workers are part of your family, and how well you treat them (some of them tell us otherwise). But our question on this Labor Day 2009 is what about the workers throughout your mostly conventional/so-called natural supply chain? What about the thousands of non-unionized and exploited farm workers in California, Texas, Florida, Mexico, and Asia who supply most of your produce? What about the immigrant feedlot and slaughterhouse workers in Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska? What about the truck drivers, food processing workers, and warehouse staff across the country? Aren’t we all one family?”

Cummings closes the letter by kindly asking Whole Foods to:

1) Agree to a public commitment on the part of WFM (and your major wholesale supplier UNFI) to double your sales of organics from 1/3 of sales to 2/3 of total sales within three years.

2) To obtain a public commitment by your major supplier, UNFI, to give retail members of the National Cooperative Grocers Association-who are doing a qualitatively better job of promoting and selling organics-to receive the same preferential discounts that WFM are receiving.

3) To publicly acknowledge that Fair Trade principles and practices need to be implemented as part of your entire US/North American/global supply chain for food and organic/natural products, not just for the minority of products produced overseas and certified as Fair Trade

Add your support to this request. Tell Whole Foods to step it up.

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