Liberal activist group MoveOn.org has started a boycott against organic foods grocery Whole Foods Market, claiming that the company has an “English Only” language policy that was used to suspend two New Mexico employees.
MoveOn’s activism comes amid debate in the Senate over a comprehensive immigration reform bill but seems to be based on erroneous information. Specifically, employees were not, in fact, suspended for violation of any Whole Foods language policy.
The petition accuses the grocery store of trying to get Spanish-speaking workers to “deny their heritage” by asking them to speak English while on the clock:
I will not shop at Whole Foods until you reverse your anti-diversity policy and permit employees to communicate with each other in the language they know best.
Whole Foods Market’s commitment to organic and natural foods has made it a national leader in responsible food choice, but your policies prohibiting employees from speaking their own language or organizing to overturn these anti-diversity policies directly contradicts your commitment to “team member excellence and happiness.”
A company which forces its employees to deny their heritage and speak only English won’t get my business. I urge you to reverse your discriminatory policy and encourage your employees to be as proud of their heritage as they are of their company.
The petition comes at a time when Democrats and some Republicans are pushing comprehensive immigration reform, while at the same time pushing anti-assimilation polices such as demanding multicultural studies be expanded in elementary schools to bolster student’s self-esteem. This bullying by MoveOn is a perfect example of anti-assimilation rhetoric; an aggressive shaming based on the notion that there is something wrong with a private company having polices that encourage clear communication in English. According to Yahoo News:
Ben Friedland, Whole Foods Market Rocky Mountain Region Executive Marketing Coordinator, said the Austin, Texas-based company believes in “having a uniform form of communication” for a safe working environment.
“Therefore, our policy states that all English speaking Team Members must speak English to customers and other Team Members while on the clock,” Friedland said in a statement. “Team Members are free to speak any language they would like during their breaks, meal periods and before and after work.”
Friedland said the policy doesn’t prevent employees from speaking Spanish to customers who don’t speak English, nor does it prevent them from speaking Spanish if all “parties present agree that a different language is their preferred form of communication.”
Letton told the AP that in addition to safety reasons, the policy is in place so employees who don’t speak Spanish don’t feel uncomfortable.
And another Whole Foods spokeswoman told The Ausitinist:
When we’ve said our policy is to speak English in the stores, we mean that English is the default language, AND we want our Team Members to use their judgment about when it’s appropriate to speak other languages. We default to English because of the reasons we’ve stated, but want to allow our TMs the freedom to decide when it’s time to use other languages.
While this policy seems entirely reasonable, it has met with predictable ire from the anti-assimilationist left. Of course, in their zeal to promote their causes, the left oftens get the basic facts wrong. The promotional letter that MoveOn.org sent out begins:
Two Whole Foods employees in New Mexico were recently suspended for complaining when their manager told them they could not speak Spanish on the job. Asked to reverse the decision, Whole Foods said no and said their “English-only” policy is here to stay.
MoveOn has technically worded this partially correctly, but the paragraph gives a false impression as to why the employees were actually suspended; it wasn’t because of any English-only policy. As Whole Foods has made clear, there is no English-only policy. Gawker piled on this error with a piece entitled “Whole Foods Workers Suspended for Violating ‘English Only’ Policy.“
Instead, the employees in question were suspended for rudeness in front of customers. Furthermore, they were suspended for one day. On top of that, they were suspended with pay. As The Austinist reports in a statement from Whole Foods:
“We recently had an incident where two (employees) became upset when they believed they were told in a team meeting they could not speak Spanish at work,” company spokeswoman Libba Letton said in an email. “They misunderstood. Due to their rude and disrespectful behavior both in an office and in the store in front of customers, they were suspended with pay. Their suspension was due to their behavior alone.
“The store launched a full investigation based on their claims,” she continued. “Seventeen (employees) who attended the meeting confirmed that the language policy was discussed, and that at no time were they told they could not speak Spanish.”
It’s not the first boycott by liberal groups that Whole Foods has faced this year; founder and CEO John Mackey was called on the carpet for accurately using the word “fascism” to describe Obamacare. The Daily Mail reported:
“Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism,” Mackey told NPR. “Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production but they do control it. And that’s what’s happening with our health care program with these reforms.”
Mackey was beaten down by the language police for the “negative associations” of the word fascism in relation to President Obama. He tried to clarify his position.
I believe that, if the goal is universal health care, our country would be far better served by combining free enterprise capitalism with a strong governmental safety net for our poorest citizens and those with preexisting conditions, helping everyone to be able to buy insurance.
None of this sated progressive protesters, who still expressed outrage over Mackey daring to promote a health care system used by Switzerland.
A call to Whole Foods for comment by Breitbart News was not answered at press time.