Whole Foods, a company that has lately been beloved by yuppies, the middle class, and Wall Street alike, is facing demands for a union. But Whole Foods hates unions! How much? An insider tells us more.
Whole Foods is run by John Mackey, an infamously vain libertarian CEO who has said his company is "beyond unions," and compared unions to herpes. After our story last week on the employees of a San Francisco Whole Foods organizing to ask for higher wages and a union, we heard from a number of current Whole Foods workers. Some especially relevant information came from a veteran Whole Foods employee in Massachusetts, who recently left the company after she became fed up with the way that it treated its employees. She told us, "I have hired several people over this past year for my department and team, and part of the process now is after a [Team Leader] interviews and wants to hire a person the STL or Assistant STL must then meet the person to explain how [Whole Foods Market] is a 'non union" company. During orientation processes, it is beat over and over how 'non union' we are, which is infuriating because if we had been [unionized] then at least 100 full time positions could have been saved in my region alone."
She speculated that the newfound fervor for a union could be one result of shifts in the company's practices months ago, when some full time employees were knocked down to part-timers in order to help placate Wall Street. (And it worked—since August, the company's stock has risen by more than 25%).
Understanding there is an emphasis on the organization of a union at whole foods, which is in my guess is mostly a result of how abrupt various positions have been changing over the past year. The coworkers who were directly affected in my store and throughout the North Atlantic region were instructed to partake in a conference call regardless of whether they were working or off that day. On that conference call those team members were told that in the new fiscal year (this call took place in August and the new FY started September 29, 2014) their positions would no longer be full time and it was ultimately their responsibility to find hours they wanted to keep their full time status. Part Time team members technically can have health coverage, but the cost at part time was something $90/wk last time I check the pricing and PT are not eligible for company provided PWA funds but still required to pay the same deductible.
This is an excerpt from a region wide email explaining why [team member]s were getting their positions cut from our regional president Laura Derba:
"Where we are today shows us that what we do and what we represent to our competition is a very successful model and as a result everyone is getting into the game, our model has become very popular, to the point of imitation and others wanting a piece of our success. Our slower growth as company with many regions facing the same thing as we are has caused our total company sales growth to be lower than we expected, in turn Wall Street has responded by lowering the price/value of our stock by over 30%."
"All Region are looking at what this means and how this translates to them, everyone is crafting a plan that will carry the company into the future with strength and flexibility to be competitive wherever we need to be."
"That means we're reducing spending on other things and putting those dollars to work in areas where they'll produce results"
"The reality is with lower sales growth there are fewer dollars to go around, we have to question everything in front of us and ask is that 'want' or truly a 'need' - all areas from travel, admin structures, regional office structure as positions open up we will have the conversations around is that a positions that is critical to our business or is there another positions more critical we don't have, in person meetings/the way we share information, how often we hold events (All Access is going to move to every other year) etc. "
"At the store level we have restructured our Store Admin Teams based on total Store Volume, the result of that is some stores will have some positions that were 30-40 hours will move to 20 hour positions for the new FY, we have also moved Clean Teams to an external company not all stores have internal TM's that are clean teams but those that do those folks will move to a sales floor product team"
Of all the cuts made, roughly 5-7 full-time store positions depending on the store and only 1 regional position was cut and shifted back to the central office just so happened to be a position in the Team Member Services (our regional HR) department.
The inability of employees to get full time work hours is indeed an endemic problem to workers who don't have union protection. As are many other problems. Our tipster also sent several selections from the Whole Foods employee handbook, a few of which are pictured at the top of this post. (Click to enlarge.) Whole Foods emphasizes that it is an AT WILL employer, that can fire you at any time—although there is, of course, "Openness to discuss one's own compensation with leadership." And by the way, did you pay for that apple? "If you are spot-checked, please do not take it personally."
Whole Foods prides itself on the idea that it treats employees so well that they would never think to ask for a union. Clearly, that isn't realistic.