Conscious Capitalism and Willing Participants

Last week, a joint article from Alternet and, accused Whole Foods Market of “screwing workers.”  How so?

According to the grumblers, Whole Foods Market screws workers because it is anti-union.  They even cite a pamphlet titled “Beyond Unions” that the company gives to its employees to prove it.  Somehow this is unacceptable.  Naturally, it never occurred to the lunkheads that paying dues to a union chief may not be in the best interest of workers.

“Whole Foods isn’t anti-union,” said Whole Foods Market co-CEO, John Mackey, in response to the criticism.  “Our team members are not being prevented from joining unions, they’ve chosen not to… Why would they want to join a union?  Whole Foods has been one of [FORTUNE’S] 100 best companies to work for, for the last 16 years.  We’re not so much anti-union as beyond unions.”

Over the 27 years Whole Foods Market has been in business, Mackey has developed a unique business philosophy.  He recently co-authored a book titled, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, which details his business objectives.  Rather than a worker against management and owners model, Mackey advocates “a type of free-enterprise capitalism, where companies commit to a higher purpose beyond profits and seek to serve and align all shareholders involved (e.g. employees, investors, suppliers).”

Who knows if Mackey’s system is entirely achievable.  Nonetheless, it’s an objective worth striving for…and one that’s certainly better than the grocer’s union model pioneered by Jimmy Hoffa.  In contrast with Mackey, here’s a brief review of Jimmy’s life purpose…

The Anatomy of a Mulish Ogre

James Riddle (Jimmy) Hoffa grew up a two bit hood rat, slumming the back alleyways of Detroit’s ragged west side.  He dropped out of school in the 9th grade to get on with ‘it’.  But the problem for Jimmy was he hadn’t a clue what ‘it’ he should get on with.

He also suffered from several grave emotional disorders…namely he was a mulish ogre.  Jimmy greeted a punch to the face like a kiss from a goddess.  Completing his character trifecta was an early strain of a debilitating mental syndrome that has since become a national epidemic…the entitlement syndrome.

So it was with the disposition of a loaded gun that Jimmy showed up for work at the Kroger Grocery and Baking Company warehouse one night in the spring of 1931.  There, as the gods would have it, a severe resentment with his boss set his life’s purpose in motion with the relentless fury of a runaway steamroller.

Jimmy was too much of a brute to see that which was not directly before his very eyes…

…that his job was not a right.

…that if he didn’t like it he could go work elsewhere.

…that if he didn’t want to work for someone he could start his own company.

In fact, the world was a much freer place back then.  Barriers to entry were minimal…no business license, no city permit, no state sales permit, no county fictitious business name filing.  All Jimmy had to do was save up a couple days pay, buy a basket of strawberries, and go door to door…earning a little profit for his enterprise.  He could’ve been in business for himself by week’s end.

Conscious Capitalism and Willing Participants

Instead, the mulish ogre steamrolled forward, bullied his coworkers, and called for a work stoppage just as a truck loaded with perishable Florida strawberries pulled into the warehouse.  Several days later Jimmy had a union contract.

Soon after his career with Kroger ended.  For the money as a union shill was too good to pass up.  Jimmy bullied his way to a fulltime job with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, ultimately becoming its president.  There, through fear and intimidation, Jimmy organized worker strikes and boycotts…and leveraged mob connections to racketeer employers and bend them to meet his will.

Jimmy was finally busted for attempting to bribe a grand juror and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.  But Tricky Dick Nixon later commuted his sentence and Jimmy was again stirring up worker strife by late 1971.  By 1975 he had double crossed one too many, and disappeared from the face of the earth.

Almost instantly, upon Jimmy’s vanishing, the world became a better place.  His nonexistence was a marked improvement to the face of the earth.  The sun shown brighter, the roses smelled sweeter, and the birds sang in beautiful harmony.

Mackey, as opposed to Jimmy, brings value to the world each and every day through Whole Foods Market and his objectives of conscious capitalism.  He endeavors to give people what they want and he invites his employees to willingly participate in this undertaking.  Obviously, if his customers don’t like it they can shop elsewhere.  Moreover, if his employees don’t like it they can work elsewhere.

Mackey’s deeds do not include force or compulsion.  They include hard work, superior products, and honest persuasion.  These are deeds union grumbles will never strive for…they’re too busy taking mandatory breaks and whining how the boss man screwed them over.


MN Gordon
for Economic Prism

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