Regulators Should Block Amazon’s Acquisition Of Whole Foods

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By Nick Stumo-Langer for ILSR – In response to Amazon’s announced acquisition of Whole Foods, Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) and co-author of Amazon’s Stranglehold, made the following statement: “Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods raises significant anti-competitive issues that should be deeply concerning to federal antitrust regulators and the public. This deal would allow Amazon to leverage Whole Foods’ 444 U.S. stores in ways that would dramatically amplify Amazon’s online market power, by integrating these locations into its vast logistics and delivery network. And it would give Amazon, which already sells more clothing, books, toys, and consumer electronics than any other retailer, a substantial share of an even bigger consumer goods category, groceries. Regulators should block this acquisition.” ILSR’s recent report Amazon’s Stranglehold traced Amazon’s rapidly expanding reach and its impacts.

Whole Foods Represents The Failures Of 'Conscious Capitalism'

People exit a Whole Foods Market in New York. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

By Nicole Aschoff for The Guardian – It’s hard to think of a better poster child for “conscious capitalism” than Whole Foods Market, the high-end grocery store that made a name for itself selling organic produce in feel-good, mood-lit stores. These days, the chain is floundering and a potential buyout is on the horizon. What does that say about the conscious capitalism it championed? Same-store sales have declined for six straight quarters, and Barclay analyst Karen Short estimates that 14 million Whole Foods customers walked away during the same period. Last month activist hedge fund Jana Partners swooped in, buying up 8.3% of the company’s shares and demanding an overhaul. Whole Foods responded by reshuffling its board, bringing in a handful of big box retail stars and promoting Gabrielle Sulzberger, who hails from private equity, to chairwoman. A failing firm isn’t exactly news. In the dog-eat-dog world of global capitalism lots of companies have their moment in the sun only to crash and burn a few years later. But Whole Foods was supposed to be different.

Whole Foods Says It Will Stop Selling Foods Made With Prison Labor

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By Allison Aubrey for NPR – Whole Foods Market has announced that by April of next year it will stop sourcing foods that are produced using prison labor. The move comes on the heels of a demonstration in Houston where the company was chastised for employing inmates through prison-work programs. Michael Allen, founder of End Mass Incarceration Houston, organized the protest. He says Whole Foods was engaging in exploitation since inmates are typically paid very low wages. “People are incarcerated and then forced to work for pennies on the dollar — compare that to what the products are sold for,” Allen tells The Salt.

Whole Foods Union-Busting

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Don’t look now, but Whole Foods seems to be interpreting the “whole planet” part of its corporate branding as a Manifest Destiny-style call to market conquest. In an exhaustive Fortune magazine cover story this April, “Whole Foods Takes Over America,” Beth Kowitt explained that the high-end grocer has quietly bulked up into one of America’s leading retail food chains, with plans to operate 1,200 stores over the next few years (counting stores in the UK and Canada). The chain has seen its revenues double and its profits triple since 2007, Kowitt reports, and has lately taken to launching new stores in low-income shopping areas, such as Detroit, Newark and the South Side of Chicago. On one level, it’s heartening that more choices to purchase quality, non-industrial food have penetrated into lower-income neighborhoods. However, Whole Foods is far from a model of progressive values. Founded and run by John Mackey, a recovered hippie and especially dogmatic libertarian in the Randian grain, the chain has notoriously lowballed health benefits and campaigned to crush anything resembling a union organizing drive among its more than 70,000 employees. “The union is like having herpes,” organic baron Mackey infamously announced. “It doesn’t kill you, but it’s unpleasant and inconvenient, and it stops a lot of people from becoming your lover.”