BOSTON --- The Teamsters, Jobs with Justice and Organic Consumers Association protested Thursday against Whole Foods Market and its leading supplier United Natural Foods, Inc. at the Natural Products Expo East trade show at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
According to a Teamsters' press release, the groups worked to "highlight Whole Foods'
hypocrisy as a company that supports sustainability, but is publicly
opposing President Obama's health insurance reform."
Attendees at the expo, which is the largest natural, organic and health products trade show on the East Coast, were greeted by members from the three groups who distributed informational leaflets. An airplane flew with a banner attached that read, "Whole Foods Don't Bash Obama." Later, the Teamsters interrupted the expo's award ceremony to provide Whole Foods with the "Mean-Spirited Award," a parody of the expo's annual "Spirit of Organic Award."
"We are here to represent Massachusetts residents who shop at Whole Foods and are dismayed with the company for opposing a public health care system," said Russ Davis, Executive Director of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice. "We stand with the Teamsters and Organic Consumers Association to ask Whole Foods to support health care reform, increased sales of certified organic products from small, local producers, and the application of domestic fair trade that allows workers to form collective bargaining unions."
In a controversial Wall Street Journal op-ed, Whole Foods' chief executive attacked President Obama's efforts to reform America's ailing health care system. The op-ed said that Americans have no intrinsic right to health care and should not feel entitled to equal medical attention. It also said that health care should be an individual responsibility with little or no help from the government.
"Health care and negligent health care providers are a major concern for American families," said Sean O'Brien, President of Teamsters Local 25 in Boston. "We live in a society where big business and greedy insurance industries take advantage of American workers and consumers. This is a national crisis that requires reform and government intervention."
The organizations also criticized Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods for selling food and products that are greenwashed and labeled "natural" instead of being certified organic.
"Whole Foods needs to sell a lot more certified organic products rather than conventional items greenwashed as 'natural,'" said Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of OCA. "The company brands itself as one that is working towards a sustainable future, but sustainability cannot exist without the preservation of the public's health through a reformed health insurance initiative, the promotion of workers' rights including their right to unionize, and the advancement of certified organic food."