The Health Care Debate Part 2: Mad About Mackey

An August 11 editorial by Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey on health care reform has generated an enormous amount of discussion on the Web. Following the publication of the Wall Street Journal piece, many people have been using social media tools to organize a boycott of the organic food company. As of August 27, the Facebook group Boycott Whole Foods had more than 29,600 members and links to a related blog, Twitter account and flickr pool.

A man protests outside a Whole Foods store.

A man protests outside a Whole Foods store.

On August 18, the Wall Street Journal published its own editorial criticizing the boycott. “Those who actually read Mr. Mackey’s piece may find the racket puzzling. The CEO suggests ways to reform health care without a new deficit-busting entitlement,” it says. It also notes that “Whole Foods is a publicly traded company, so the effects of a real boycott would mainly damage the pocketbooks of those nice Whole Foods employees and its stockholders,” and that “Whole Foods’ Web site has its share of angry customers, but they have been joined by many supporting Mr. Mackey’s position.” (As of August 27, the site’s forums section had more than 2,460 separate message threads and over 18,300 posts about health care reform.)

“Mr. Mackey wrote his op-ed to join a national debate on a subject that will affect his company and employees. He deserves credit for exercising his right to free speech, no matter the risk this currently entails in our politics,” the Wall Street Journal says.

The CtW Investment Group, a major shareholder in Whole Foods that is affiliated with union pension funds (Whole Foods is not unionized), argues the controversy over Mackey’s editorial goes beyond the issue of free speech. On August 25, the group issued a letter to Whole Foods’ lead independent director calling for the CEO’s removal, noting that “Mr. Mackey’s article was not a citizen’s ‘letter to the editor,’ but a lengthy op-ed that explicitly tied him to Whole Foods by identifying him as the CEO.” According to CtW, “This is not the first time Mr. Mackey’s unsanctioned communications have damaged Whole Foods’ image with consumers and investors.”

Should people closely affiliated with companies have restrictions on what they can say and write? And does it make sense to boycott a company over something not directly related to its products?

4 thoughts on “The Health Care Debate Part 2: Mad About Mackey

  1. Back in 2008, this Whole Foods, CEO John Mackey (how old is this kid?), was caught posting negative comments (trash talk) about a competitor on Yahoo Finance message boards in an effort to push down the stock price. So now I am suppose to take this loser seriously? Please, snore, snore.

    It’s funny we hear Republicans say that they do not want “faceless bureaucrats” making medical decisions but they have no problem with “private sector” “faceless bureaucrats” daily declining medical coverage and financially ruining good hard working people (honestly where can they go with a pre-condition). And who says that the “private sector” is always right, do we forget failures like Long-Term Capital, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Enron, Tyco, AIG and Lehman Brothers. Of course the federal government will destroy heathcare by getting involved, Oh but wait, Medicare and Medicaid and our military men and women and the Senate and Congress get the best heathcare in the world, and oh, that’s right, its run by our federal government. I can understand why some may think that the federal government will fail, if you look at the past eight years as a current history, with failures like the financial meltdown and Katrina but the facts is they can and if we support them they will succeed.

    How does shouting down to stop the conversation of the healthcare debate at town hall meetings, endears them to anyone. Especially when the organizations that are telling them where to go and what to do and say are Republicans political operatives, not real grassroots. How does shouting someone down or chasing them out like a “lynch mob” advanced the debate, it does not. So I think the American people will see through all of this and know, like the teabagger, the birthers, these lynch mobs types AKA “screamers” are just the same, people who have to resort to these tactics because they have no leadership to articulate what they real want. It’s easy to pickup a bus load of people who hate, and that’s all I been seeing, they hate and can’t debate. Too bad.

  2. Thank you very much for your interesting comments! In a separate blog entry about the town hall meetings on health care, my co-worker Steve wrote that “all of the available free press and free speech is not going to make any difference when you have no interest in giving it a fair analysis.” How do you think we can get past this problem?

  3. I agree with steve, healthcare interests and conservatives are making a stand against government healthcare plans because they want to score a political point. The arguments they’ve put forward lack common sense, the whole campaign reeks of a political battle, not one about policy.

    I think obama’s opposition recognizes that healthcare is a good place to slow the president down, they’re working in damage-control mode, they think they have to stop or slow reforms by any means. They’ve forgotten the public good here, they would prefer the nation falter under the administration just to prove they are more capable of leadership.

    A way to circumvent this stubborn behavior is to draw attention to its roots and force opposition leaders into a debate about the facts. I don’t know how to do that, if they’d rather create a firestorm and scream about their misguided concept of socialism, how do we make them think rationally about a plan? Conservative voters seem content with this response, its almost as if the long-term goal of damaging the democratic agenda will be for the best – they’re focused on politics, not how their constituents can gain or lose. They’ve forgotten why they were put in power, instead of serving the majority of their constituents, they’re ensuring power for themselves and their fellow party members.

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