Wake-up call for Whole Foods

A campaign backed by UFCW activists from both sides of the Canada-U.S. border was in full force in Vancouver recently, where the U.S. multinational grocery chain Whole Foods held its annual shareholders’ meeting on March 8. Whole Foods, with headquarters in Austin, Texas, operates more than 270 “natural foods” retail stores across the United States as well as six locations in Canada.
Outside the meeting, activists from UFCW Canada Local 1518 were joined by UFCW Local 21 members from Seattle, as well as by picketers from the Teamsters, the Sierra Club of British Columbia, and the B.C. Federation of Labour. The action was intended to pressure Whole Foods – a company whose top management has denied the existence of climate change; sold food labelled as organic that wasn’t; and has also faced a number of union-busting charges – to sign a pledge to end its unsustainable business practices.

Inside the meeting, the pressure was also on. Two of the proposals backed by the Council of Institutional Investors, or CII, were passed to make it easier for shareholders to get rid of a director whose conduct is deemed inappropriate, and the return of a majority vote for shareholder proposals rather than the current “supermajority.” UFCW International Executive Vice-President Pat O’Neill is a board member of the CII.

“Standing together, UFCW International, UFCW Canada, and UFCW Canada Local 1518 gave Whole Foods a wake-up call when it got to Vancouver,” says UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley. “Now they know they will be held accountable wherever they operate in North America.”

Pictured from among the UFCW Canada demonstrators are (l-r) Local 1518 organizers Paul Sanghera, Nimi Chouhan, Patrick Johnson, and national representative Keith Murdoch.

DIRECTIONS • Vol. 10 No.10 • March 15, 2010