There is reportedly a serious push underway to unionize Whole Foods, which was bought by Amazon last year. Good. They are one of the most obvious union targets in America. There are others.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, in concert with Whole Foods employees, “sent an email Thursday to workers at most of the 490 Whole Foods stores urging them to back their unionization drive.” Whole Foods has faced union drives before, but nothing on a truly national scale. It will certainly be an uphill battle. But the RWDSU, led by Stuart Appelbaum (who we interviewed last year), is one of the nation’s more aggressive organizing unions—and one of the only unions that has had success organizing employees of major retail chains. They represent workers at Macy’s, H&M, and Bloomingdale’s, and their parent union, the UFCW, already represents major grocery stores like Kroger and Albertson’s.
There are several reasons to try to unionize Whole Foods now. It is a possible foot in the door to organizing a broad swath of blue collar Amazon workers, which is one of the most important goals for all of organized labor. (The letter sent to Whole Foods workers features Amazon quite a bit.) It is a powerful part of an industry that is already partly unionized, and a union Whole Foods would mean a Whole Foods that is not undercutting union competitors. And, more broadly, Whole Foods is exactly the sort of company that cultivates a do-gooder brand halo that unions should be targeting everywhere. Any company that uses its purported social conscience as part of its marketing is particularly vulnerable to union organizing, because they can be credibly charged with hypocrisy when they try to resist their own workers’ efforts to unionize. These companies constitute the low-hanging fruit of the yet-to-be-unionized segment of the economy.
Are you listening, Trader Joe’s? Are you listening, Starbucks? Lululemon? SoulCycle? Chobani? Every “clean energy” company? Fucking uhhh, Goop? Unions are part of social consciousness. I truly hope that union organizers are beating down your doors this very minute.
But until then, Whole Foods is a good start. And if you are a Whole Foods employee who would like to tell me what it is like working there right now, email me.