Company’s neutral position is wrong for these times
Re “Whole Foods workers sue over Black Lives Matter masks” (Business, July 21): Every business needs policies in order to run smoothly. But sometimes policies must change in the face of facts, or simply give way to more important concepts, such as right and wrong. The Whole Foods policy of neutrality in social and political matters is understandable in normal times, but these are not normal times.
There is a famous quote, widely attributed to Dante Alighieri and paraphrased by John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.: The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. This is a time of crisis for our country. It has always been so for people of color, from the day they are born. But now, following the killing of George Floyd, there is an opportunity to eliminate, or at least diminish, racial prejudice. There is no middle ground: Either Whole Foods believes Black lives matter or it doesn’t; preserving neutrality by hiding behind policy won’t do.
Whole Foods needs to take a side. Until it does, this white shopper will buy his groceries elsewhere.
The workplace is a free-speech-free zone
Because workers in the United States basically have no rights against their employers and have to accept take-it-or-leave-it contracts in order to work (and survive), I don’t see how the workers suing Whole Foods can win in court.
By the same token, Whole Foods can dictate what workers wear on the job. They can ban, permit, or require some, all, or no messages — in some, all, or no stores — at some, all, or no times. The workplace is a free-speech-free zone for workers.
Whole Foods will do whatever it thinks will maximize profit. That means that the best strategy for the Black Lives Matter movement here is to make enough noise and organize boycotts to turn customers away from the stores until the company does the right thing. And I definitely think the right thing is to wholeheartedly support BLM and denounce white supremacy and police violence.
Lawsuits are useless to accomplish this goal, however, unless they are just part of the noise-making strategy — in which case I believe they are frivolous.
Charles “Terry” Nichols
Hypocrisy runs deep here, given owner Amazon’s clout
In a recent column (”Whole hypocrisy,” Metro, June 28), Yvonne Abraham provides valuable context by highlighting the dichotomy between Whole Foods’ public statements and corporate practices relating to the Black Lives Matter movement. However, the Amazon-owned grocery chain’s decision to send workers home for wearing Black Lives Matter masks highlights a deeper issue than mere hypocrisy.
Amazon has amassed and leveraged immense lobbying power at the federal and state levels. Amazon uses this power to take overtly political actions such as shaping labor laws to serve its financial ends. The company’s efforts to oppose unions, another political sphere of influence, are also well documented.
In other words, by enforcing its attire policy, Whole Foods’ parent company has established a double standard whereby its lobbyists are paid to advance a corporate political agenda while its associates are forced to maintain a facade of corporate political neutrality.
I contend that Whole Foods’ employees have a viable case that these conflicting practices violate their rights to free speech.
The problem is, all printed masks have to pass the same test
The issue of wearing Black Lives Matter masks at the Whole Foods in Cambridge should be pretty easy to solve. If the managers of the store allow anyone to print anything they want on their masks, then there is no problem or perceived bias. However, consider what some of those other masks might publicize. How about “All lives matter,” or “Abortion should be outlawed,” or “Bomb (choose a country)”? It’s a matter of everyone has the right or no one has the right, isn’t it?
Betty Ungar Lapide