portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article portland metro

Madison, Wisconsin Whole Foods Workers Vote Yes on Unionization

A big shout out to Whole Foods workers on Couch Street in Portland!

Whole Foods Workers Win Union Representaton

Saturday, July 13, 2002

We Win!Workers at Whole Foods Market on Madison's west side voted yesterday and with a solid majority won union representation with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1444. The final vote tally was 65 - 54 with very high turnout among the 125 workers eligible to vote in the National Labor Relations Board-supervised election. UFCW Local 1444 also represents workers at Kohls, Woodmans and several other Madison-area and statewide grocery stores.

"This was a sweet victory and important for labor for a couple reasons," says David Newby, President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. "This is a prominent nationwide chain of 134 stores and - until today - none of them were unionized. I think we can expect to see more organizing as a result of the victory here. Secondly, it's significant that this was a group of young people in their twenties and early thirties who people don't normally think of when they think of union workers."

Read the rest of the story.
View photos of the celebration immediately after the election.
View photos of the victory party.

Whole Foods CEO Lobbies Workers to Vote No on Union

Friday, July 12, 2002

Millionaire CEO Mackey grovels to underpaid workersIn a pathetic attempt at asking for forgiveness and a second chance, John Mackey, President and CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc. secured a victory Wednesday night for the Madison Whole Foods employees who want to form a union at their store.

In a marathon three hour meeting, Mackey warned that voting for a union would, in effect, turn the Madison store and the employees over to "the dark side." No joke, he actually used an explicit analogy to "the dark side" - "anger, fear, resentment, mistrust," will ruin the unique culture of whole foods, according to him.

Read the full report.
Click here for information on Whole Foods' anti-union website.

Rally at the Whole for a union!Two days before their vote on whether to join UFCW Local 1444, workers at Whole Foods rallied with their supporters outside the store. The election is taking place today, and results are expected by 6:30 this evening.

Listen to a report from WORT.
View photos of the rally
Watch a video of the rally: Real video / Quicktime video

Whole Foods Workers Vote on Union Friday

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Demand the Right to Organize (Cartoon: Mike Konopacki) Workers at Whole Foods Market on Madison's west side are organizing to win a voice in their workplace. If a majority of the store's more than 120 workers vote "union yes" in a National Labor Relations Board election on Friday, Madison will be home to the first unionized store in Whole Foods' national chain of 134 stores.

"Winning this election would be an extraordinary victory. Whole Foods is a staunchly anti-union company that likes to hide behind a progressive image and its team concept," said Dan Welch, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1444. "Make no mistake, this company will use every weapon it can muster to remain union free, but I think these workers are up to the fight."

Read more about Friday's election.

Whole Foods Unionizing Rally Today 4:30 to 6:00

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Whole Foods logo A Whole Foods worker writes:
Please support the unionizing effort at Whole Foods by attending the election rally today, Wednesday, from 4:30 to 6:00 on the sidewalk outside the store at 3313 University Avenue. This will be a POSITIVE rally - showing our support and encouragement for the workers who are fighting to unionize, in the face of an ugly union-busting campaign by Whole Foods management. No "anti-Whole Foods" stuff, please - the unionizing effort is all about making Whole Foods a better place to work by allowing true worker participation in creating their work environment. These workers need to know that the Madison community is behind them in their struggle to obtain workers' rights.

Click here for more information.

Whole Foods Workers Take to the Airwaves on WORT-FM

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

The WholeMembers of the Whole Foods union organizing committee spoke on WORT Monday evening about their campaign to win a contract with local 1444 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union. Whole Foods began an aggressive anti-union campaign shortly after a majority of workers signed cards indicating their support for the UFCW. An election is scheduled for July 12.

Click here to listen to the broadcast.

Whole Foods Unionizing Update: Election Set for July 12

Saturday, June 8, 2002

NO Speech NO Discussion NO UnionFor the past eight weeks, workers at the Whole Foods Market in Madison have been carrying out an intense unionizing effort, with the assistance of Local 1444 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). The campaign reached a high point in late May when, after gathering union authorization cards from a significant majority of employees, workers presented Whole Foods with a letter demanding recognition of the union for the purposes of negotiating a contract.

As expected, Whole Foods refused to recognize the union, and even went so far as to respond in a faxed response to the UFCW that they "seriously doubt" that a majority of workers support unionizing.

The UFCW filed a petition for an election with the National Labor Relations Board the following day. The election is set for July 12, at which time workers will vote whether or not to unionize.

Read the full update.

Whole Foods Workers to Management: Recognize our Union!

Sunday, May 26, 2002

On Friday afternoon, workers at Whole Foods picketed outside their store to demand union recognition. As Friday rush hour traffic passed along University Avenue, the employees held a press conference on the sidewalk.

While Whole Foods workers sent out press releases to all local media outlets, the Wisconsin State Journal didn't show up. Neither did the Capital Times. Nor did the local FOX, ABC, NBC, or CBS affiliates. In fact, the only media on the scene were IMC-Madison and Union Labor News reporters.

High-bandwidth video / low-bandwidth video
MP3 audio
/ real audio

Whole Foods Picket

Whole Foods Workers and Supporters Picket for Recognition

Saturday, May 25, 2002

A majority of the workers at Whole Foods on University Avenue have signed union cards indicating their support for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) local 1444. Whole Foods managers, who in 1996 hung a banner on the building that read "Whole Foods supports the right of its workers to unionize, should they choose to do so," have begun a nasty unionbusting campaign.

View photos from the demonstration.

Whole Foods Management Begins Anti-Union Campaign

Saturday, May 25, 2002

On Thursday night, the "new" management (about 7 regional staff have taken over) of Whole Foods Market began their anti-union campaign en masse. In typical union-busting fashion, workers were required to attend a meeting at which management refused to engage in any meaningful dialogue about the current unionizing campaign. Management told workers their side of the story for 30 minutes (reading from a script), with no room for questions. Then a question/answer session was held (but, of course, workers weren't required to stay for this - management obviously doesn't care if workers hear the other side of the story). Union supporters challenged management's assertions about the negative impacts of a union, to which management either did not respond or gave vague, unrelated, and misleading answers.

Read the complete report.

Read about the relationship between Whole Foods Market Inc., anti-labor sentiment, and the B-1 Bomber.

Whole Foods Workers Organizing

Friday, May 24, 2002

madison whole foods store banner supporting workers right to organize, 1997Having gathered a majority of the workers at Madison's Whole Foods Store, representatives of Whole Foods employees and Local 1444 of the United Food and Commercial Workers presented store management with a request for union recognition on Thursday morning.

The request was refused.

Workers will now file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for a workplace election, most likely to be held sometime within the next six weeks. In the interim, Whole Foods Market, Inc. is expected to mount an aggressive campaign against the union drive. The photo above was taken in 1996, when Whole Foods displayed their sign of "support" when faced with picketing related to a unionization drive in another city.

According to an open letter from the Whole Foods Madison Organizing Committee:

The ridiculously high turnover rate, wages that are lower than the industry standard, pervasive lack of respect, constant understaffing, absence of a legally-binding grievance procedure, and other poor and unfair labor practices - all of which have led to widespread low morale - highlight the simple fact that workers ultimately have no say in the terms and conditions of their employment at any Whole Foods Market - not just Madison. Workers are not recognized or appreciated for their contributions. Instead, Whole Foods relies on worker apathy and lack of investment in their jobs to keep turnover high, and for the most part, wages, benefits, and other working conditions poor.

A rally for the Whole Foods organizational effort will take place Friday afternoon at the store.

YAY! 14.Jul.2002 19:57


John Mackey's comments are typical of the namby-pamby Bobo, fearing that people taking responsibility for themselves will disturb the "consensus" Yuppies want to maintain in the workplace above all else.

Whole Foods (and other high-end stores like Nature's/Wild Oats) project an image of corporate responsibility with their focus on organic and good-quality food, yet end up playing as dirty as the square businesses they try to contrast themselves with.

Let's face it: these stores are no different in management than the large chains (which often are heavily unionized). They seek to keep wages and benefits low, and rely on anti-union misinformation and corporate prolefeed to keep workers away from unions, not to mention retaliation against union organizers. They just hide the iron fist in the velvet glove of being progressive, earth-friendly former hippies-turned businesspeople.

From a fellow Natural Foods organizer 15.Jul.2002 16:52


Congratulations to the Whole Foods workers. Allthough I wish that their victory could have been achieved through a union with a more democratic (and beneficial) track record. The UFCW has a reputation for not being the greatest union around, as a quick internet search will reveal through the number of UFCW reform sites.
I worked with workers at the the Wild Oats Nature's on Divison St. store during their election campaign with the Industrial Workers of the World, held in January of this year. We lost the election, but there is still a union presence and support in the store to this day, and we continue to organize. The IWW is a volunteer, self-organizing union, void of the beuracratic salaried-management of other unions. Namely, with the IWW, workers learn how to organize themselves, rather than being led down a primrose path by crafty union-pros.
Whole Foods in Madison have their well-deserved victory for now, and I hope the trend continues. Let's just hope that the UFCW comes through for them during contract negotiation time, where they traditionally let workers down...