Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Mackey Regarding Word Choice on Health Care

In an interview with NPR on Wednesday, Whole Foods Market co-CEO John Mackey discussed his new book, Conscious Capitalism, along with other topics such as health care. Today, John revisited his remarks on the Huffington Post and we are sharing them here.

I made a poor word choice to describe our health care system, which I definitely regret. The term fascism today stirs up too much negative emotion with its horrific associations in the 20th century.  While I'm speaking as someone who works hard to offer health care benefits to more than 73,000 team members, who actually vote on their overall benefits packages, I am very concerned about the uninsured and those with preexisting conditions. 

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. This is what Switzerland does and I think we would be much better off copying that system than where we are currently headed in the United States.

I believe that health care should be competitive in the open market to promote innovation and creativity. Despite the criticism of me, I am encouraged that this dialogue will bring continued awareness and a better understanding of viable health care options for all Americans. There is an alternative to mandated health care in free enterprise capitalism based on voluntary exchange for mutual gain. This alternative allows individuals and businesses to innovate and develop customized solutions to health care where a “one size fits all approach” fails.  Creativity and progress are stifled when government regulations dictate the parameters of what health care plans can be offered. Creative businesses, and the people who work them, can make something that has value for all stakeholders.

I need a new word or phrase to describe the state of health care now because it is something that I, like all folks entrusted with the wellbeing of a team, grapple with daily in this era.  I think for now I will simply call it government-controlled health care to distinguish it from free enterprise capitalist health care.  Clearly, I would prefer free enterprise capitalism in health care because it would greatly increase innovation and progress —just like it does in every other aspect of our lives, wherever it is allowed to exist. I hope those who are my critics, would recognize that we are all after an improved state of society, and not be distracted by the poor use of an emotionally charged word. 

If you would like to hear more from John, you can listen to him here:

CBS This Morning: “Bad Choice of Words”

Huffington Post

NPR Interview Part 1

NPR Interview Part 2

You can read more about John, his philosophy and his new book, Conscious Capitalism at:

Forbes: “Why Companies Should Embrace Conscious Capitalism”

Financial Post: “Making Money Need Not Be A Zero-Sum Game”

Investor Business Daily “John Mackey Built Healthy Food Empire”

Leave a reply

To provide feedback or ask a question about our company, a store or a product, please visit our Customer Service page.

For more information about posting comments to our blog, please see our Comment Posting Guidelines.

1163 comments

Comments

James M. says …

I can't wait for the day when your so called "Associates" will have the opportunity to vote for a union shop! That should shut you up real good! Just like Walmart you are ripping off your workers everyday they toil for you! SHAME ON WHOLE FOODS!

Stephen Smith says …

Every time Mr. Mackey comments publicly about politics, I'm completely turned off. He should keep his views to himself.

Raleigh says …

John Mackey is obviously ignorant about the Swiss health care system. It offers more government regulation than Obamacare, including price controls and strict oversight of benefit coverage. Mackey, like our current health care system makes me sick! This means I will boycott Whole Foods again!!! The last time Mackey opened his mouth I stayed out of Whole Foods, which was previously my only destination for buying groceries, for 6 months. I returned to shopping at Whole Foods 2x weekly and planned my next trip tomorrow. Well, here we go again. This time 6 months might not be long enough for this company to get it! Doesn't Mackey realize that healthcare is controlled by the insurance companies? Is that better than, say, Medicare? Good bye and good riddance Whole Foods!

pr ken says …

I will NOW BOYCOTT Whole Foods!!!! Your negative comments about Pres. Obama is disgraceful! Plus your organic foods that come from CHINA, WTF??

Gregg Weisskirk says …

Facism has its modern face in the Tea Party and Republican Party, not in public health initiatives which acknowledge that everyone has equal opportunity to health care. You lost our family as shoppers - forever.

S. P. says …

Mackey, I believe you said what you truly meant the first time. So take your apology and stuff it! I easily spend about $200 a week at WholeFoods only because I live in a neighborhood (of mostly black and brown people) where access to healthy food is limited. So I have to drive to the other side of town where the gentrifiers live to get decent food so I won't get sick. No more! I will be taking my business to Trader Joe's. Your food is way overpriced and I hear WF is pro GMO. No more of my WholeCheck! Good bye.

Markb3699 says …

Finally someone tries to do something about the health care system and all some people do is complain. If critics don't like the way the law turned out they have Republican obstructionists to thank for it. At least the president took action.

Anonymous shopper says …

Oh yay, the non-apology apology. If Mr Mackey doesn't issue a real apology then I'm boycotting whole foods. Not only has he made an incredibly ignorant remark. He's also displayed his inability to read dictionary definitions. How's he a CEO again? Oh... Right... His only purpose is to hurt workers via ripping them off.

Allan Perez says …

I will not be snooping at Whole Foods any longer.

Margaret says …

Board of Directors of Whole Foods do you exist? Lose this loser co-CEO before he destroys your business by speaking and acting against your customers' well-being. Or are you all working to overturn the Canada Health Act and abolish our government run universal health care system? If so, hit the road all of you, back to the U.S. I'll be looking for my organic groceries elsewhere.

Ron Gunden says …

I too regret your poor choice of words recently and in 2009. Thank goodness in our area we have HEB as an outstanding grocer in lieu of Whole Foods, which is where we will be shopping. I am a small business owner who is happy to provide outstanding health care to our employees

Douglas Merilatt says …

Poor word choice or not, Mr. Mackey's sentiment is clear and I profoundly disagree with it. I live on Miami Beach within three blocks of a Whole Foods Market and several blocks of a Fresh Market. I'll now be exclusively taking my business to the latter.

EP says …

Very short sided comment by the CEO. Does he not realize that at least HALF of his customers do not agree with him and his comments?? I own a business and if I alienated HALF of my customers, I'd be out of business. Don't look for me to enter his stores again. And I'm part of the 1%! By the way, I'm a responsible business owner. I provide outstanding health insurance to my employees because it is the right and moral thing to do. It costs me a lot, but I can sleep at night.

winston vickers says …

I WAS an avid Whole Foods shopper. I find it offensive and stupid of John Mackey to equate any particular regulatory scheme as "fascism" because he doesn't particularly agree with it, when his stores are totally dependent on vigorous other regulatory schemes that "tell people how they should run their businesses" such as those that govern food safety, worker safety, truth in labeling, etc that his stores would go broke without. Imagine if only the free market ruled meat packers and other food processors - all the people that would be sickened or die and their families, or who were defrauded with false labeling, would be looking to sue not only the companies producing the product but also the retailer (ie Whole Foods). Right now Whole Foods and Mr. Mackey use those regulations that are good for their business as a shield, while criticizing those they don't like, the height of hypocrisy. In addition, he has contributed to climate change denial in the past - another instance where he apparently thinks that because he has some good ideas (and Whole Foods's approach to food is a good one) that ALL his ideas are good ones (even those relating to areas of science he knows nothing about), and should be widely disseminated. The board of Whole Foods should strongly consider getting rid of him - he seems to have gotten way too full of himself if he is ready to throw around such terms as fascism. Next thing you know he will be joining the Limbaugh types and using some of their other favorite terms like Nazi and Hitler to refer to people he disagrees politically or policy-wise with. Can't wait to hear his next pronouncement from on high - probably on gun control or something else he knows nothing about.

Ron Thorstad says …

Today I decided to move my weekly grocery shopping from Whole Foods to Sunflower, which is closer to my home anyway. John Mackey doesn't represent American values as my wife and I see them.

Sylvia says …

Near the end of the work day today I found myself explaining to colleagues that I needed to use my WF gift certificate because after it is spent I will no longer shop at WF because of Mackey's Obamacare remarks. Help me understand why businesses that often benefit from tax breaks and other government incentives want to deny essential services and supports to individuals and groups,even people who buy their good and services? Also, why do we think it is okay for 'investors" and businesses to control access, quality and quantity of health care in order to ensure profits/income for the few at the expense of the many? Such practices clearly lead to lack of or limited health care coverage due to affordability. This, in turn, results in poor health outcomes, financial ruin for some, and untimely or excess deaths for others. Other countries with single payer/universal health care have better outcomes, their citizens live longer, and no business or corporate entity profits from the ill health of others. Also, WF has a large flourishing store in the UK; England has universal health care. Has WF indicated to the English that their health care system is fascist? Finally, shame on Mackey; the people who will ultimately pay for his spouting his personal beliefs will be employees of WF. As patronage at WF markets falls off in response to his ill informed remarks, people who had no input in informing his remarks will be laid off and/or have their work hours reduced. Patronizing WF is a choice; optimal health and health care is not! Why is this message lost on the entitled advantaged?

Edgar Brenninkmeyer says …

Mr. Mackey, leave Austin (even though it is a very nice place in Texas), and move to California. Then join Kaiser Permanente. Great healthcare system! Just what you look for: it is competitive and creative, EMPOWERING THE INDIVIDUAL TO MAKE WELL INFORMED CHOICES in order to live a healthy, happy, and productive life, without necessarily shopping at Whole Foods every day - some Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers host local farmers' markets right on their doorstep. Now THAT is good creative healthcare! A pity that you have to go without Kaiser down there in Texas...:-)

Lori F says …

Too bad about the word choice, John. But obviously, you thought you could say it with no consequences. I'll be shopping at Central Market from now on. As a consumer, I'm tired of your tirades.

Irene says …

I want to know whether these views reflect the policies of he company. If so, I won't be shopping at Whole Foods anymore.

Jack Johnson says …

We typically shop at WF 2 to 3 times a week for the food and the staff both of which are generally wonderful. Mackey's words and more importantly, his ideology, have poisoned my WF view. It'll be tough leaving WF, but I must say goodbye. So I guess John's choice this time is a lose, lose, lose.

GERRY HALL says …

Will not be in another Whole Foods Store. This attitude is unacceptable. And another point...I want to know that the food I buy is "whole' food. Other wise I can go to any neighborhood grocery.

Frank J Riefkohl says …

BOYCOTT WFM Thanks for showing your true colors. The only way Corporate American learnsis through Profit or Loss.

Marlyn Hollembeak says …

I am with you completely! Fascism works for me!

Beth Lockwood says …

My son has stage IV cancer. He is lucky that he lives in Massachusetts where they originated Obamacare, otherwise, his premiums under a free market healthcare system would increase astronomically or he could lose his health insurance if he was unable to work. Up until now I was a loyal Whole Foods shopper. No more.

Doug says …

Being a firm believer in the First Amendment, I support your CEO's right to express himself. However, as a consumer, I am convinced that one of my greatest powers is how I elect to spend my money. I choose to no longer spend my money at Whole Foods. I don't want my cash 'voice' to support such views. And, incidentally, the 'apology' only served to strengthen my resolve.

Doris Bass says …

Too bad, you have lost my business, and your store is only 2 blocks away from where I live.It is not like you can't afford to pay for health insurance for your employees, with the inflated prices you charge. There is a reason your store is called "whole paycheck" by many. I love Trader Joe's and they have organic greens also. Your apology was really hollow. If you have never been victimized by the private health insurance market , you have no right to criticize what Obama has done.

Gene in L.A. says …

For the time being I'll continue shopping at Whole Foods, but I disagree almost entirely with your post. More countries have state-provided, tax-paid healthcare than the system you find so appealing in Switzerland. We must be concerned with all our citizens, not just the more well-to-do who patronize your stores.

Pat says …

I have shopped at Whole Foods a couple of times each week for years. No more. Obamacare is fascist? How about sticking to groceries, not speaking out on healthcare? If you don't want to adhere to healthcare laws, I recommend that you join with other employers of low wage workers and lobby for single payer system. That way you won't have to deal with healthcare, increasing insurance rates, and more regulation. Makes your life so much simpler. I also recommend that you get media training so you are able to choose words more carefully and frame your ideas more thoughtfully.

Tim Coyle says …

I USED to go out of my way to shop at and support Whole Foods - that ended today. John Mackey's use of the term fascism to describe health insurance reform was offensive and ignorant. Furthermore, I will urge all friends and family to stop shopping at Whole Foods as well - and most of them will, or have already, come to the same conclusion as I. Good Luck!

Natalie says …

very disappointing, you have lost me as a loyal customer.

Rick says …

Goodbye Whole Foods. Another politically-spouting CEO. Calling Obamacare socialism (as is Medicare -- some socialism is a good and valued part of a capitalistic society) wouldn't have been quite as bad. But calling it facism is absurd and uneducated. And your lame "clarification" doesn't explicitly back off. What dictionary are you using, the Ayn Rand unabridged. Whole Foods -- NEVER again. I know you're in Texas, but I didn't think Austin was as blindly red as the rest of the state.

Brad Harris says …

Tell your CEO to get a new dictionary or a new job. Better yet....get him a new passport.....anywhere but here. My whole pay check won't be spent with you any longer as long as he is there.

Tim Coyle says …

I USED to go out of my way to shop at and support Whole Foods - that ended today. John Mackey's use of the term fascism to describe health insurance reform was offensive and ignorant. Furthermore, I will urge all friends and family to stop shopping at Whole Foods as well - and most of them will, or have already, come to the same conclusion as I. Good Luck!

Lucy Herrman says …

How unfortunate that you should comment to such a negative degree about our president's policies, which, by the way, most of your customer base happens to agree with. You must be oblivious to having social responsibility. Your ethics have to be called in question. Why wouldn't you want your employees to have excellent health care? Cid's Foods, a small natural market in Taos, NM, has incredible community and employee presence and gives back to both as a matter of business plan. Their community and employee involvement is an absolute gem. I must think twice before I will shop at Whole Foods again.

Kat B says …

This was not not only a poor choice of words, but a window in to the CEo's ignorance about the current at state of healthcare. A for-profit healthcare system is not working in this country. Millions are without coverage. you cannot have a for-profit middleman like insurance companies making medical decisions. Get down in the trenches and out of your ivory cave. You have a tremendous amount to learn. Until you do, we will stay away from your stores which is unfortunate for all of us.

CHARLES FIESELMAN says …

Co-CEO Mackey is wrong. Right now false capitalism has led to the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries profiting massively at the expense of doctors, hospitals, and particularly, the uninsured. Capitalism does not lead to more choices but less as the larger buy out the smaller. I will be shopping less at Whole Foods. Many of my friends and particularly my wife, shops at Whole Foods... and I will be letting them know of your stand on health care. Also, if you are not providing health care to your employees, then you are asking the taxpayer to subsidize them when they go to the hospital and rack up unpaid bills. Thanks for nothing. You should be supporting universal healthcare that takes it out of business. That will make business more competitive with lower employee costs. Have everyone contribute to health care. After all, every one of us will need health care some day.

Joe says …

Your CEO's comments are disappointing!

chris pisano says …

Too much baggage with that word? Since when has it not had baggage? Look up the definition. It refers to dictatorial suppression of opposition. You lost me forever as a customer.

Alicia Spence says …

Guess you built your business all by yourself Mackey. Seems like ypu are doing pretty well. Take good care of your employees......I'm going to MoM's.

John Smith says …

What a shame that John Mackey has decided to get into the healthcare debate. Please stay were you belong in the overpriced "whole" food market. I wonder how your store would work if 30% or your customers walked out without paying for their groceries, another 40% walked out with "guaranteed coupons discounting your prices by 90%, The ones who do pay, would pay a very high price. You simply do not understand healthcare, and your remarks are very short sighted. Maybe whole foods should open a free healthcare clinic for the communities they serve?

Carina Haley says …

I'm not buying your walk back . You can't take back what you said and you can't get this customer back. You are another greedy CEO! I can shop elsewhere! Goodbye!

Unhappy Customer says …

Very poor decision on Mackey's part. Does he understand his customer base? Lost me and I'm sure many others who will no longer go to WF - too many other choices iof companies that don't bite the hand that feeds them.

Rick Koss says …

If the CEO of Whole Foods believes, regardless of his apology, that health care for everyone is Fascism then I can no longer shop there. The real issue is he is more worried about his millions of dollars in salary more than a national health care system that is actually based in the private sector. Too bad, cause I enjoyed shopping at Whole Foods.

Wendy Ashton says …

You are wrong, private insurance is full of greed and waste. I am sorry that you feel that profits are more important then people that need healthcare. And I am done will be going to Costco.

veronaguy says …

Mr. Mackey, Why shouldn't your employees, who on average make $10ish an hour, have health insurance as good as yours? Your company's profits under this president that you deride are up over 300%, how much have your employees salaries gone up during the same time? Shame on You!

sherri says …

Mackey continues to criticize Obama (as he did in 2009), when Whole Foods has turned a tremendous profit under Pesident Obama's leadership (check the records). Mackey is not willng to pass the profits down to his employees healthcare. He is being greedy and he needs to do business in a real "facist" country and see if he does as much business as he has here under the "facist" president in the United States. I WILL NOT shop at Whole Foods any longer and I advise any person that supports growth and fairness to join me in no more shopping at Whole Foods!

Peter Barberie says …

Dear John Mackey, I shop at your store and I am a gay urban lefty. Totally pink in every old and new sense of the word. I listened to your interviews on NPR and I WAS NOT OFFENDED AT ALL. You were intelligent and thoughtful and I enjoyed listening to you, even though I think you are 100% wrong on Obamacare, which I support. Thank you for speaking honestly and please continue to exercise your free speech.

penelope says …

To the CEO of whole foods..your total disregard for the health of not only your employes who do such a great service for you, but for others in this country who have been held hostage to ceo's of the insurance industry in only providing health coverage to the healthy....I am boycotting your stores and will encourage everyone I know to do likewise...maybe you might end of needing Obamacare.

Dan says …

My last trip to Whole Foods was my last trip. I have other options and will go those stores instead.

Cathy Wheeler says …

Mr. Mackey: I was excited when Whole Foods decided to open a store in Tampa, FL and have shopped their virtually every other week since then. I love the cheese section. However, due to your current health care comments I will no longer shop at Whole Foods in Tampa or anywhere else I go. Please know that other family members were also disturbed by your comments and will no longer shop at Whole Foods. Maybe you should spend a little time with the owner of Cosco...he could teach you a bit about making money while taking care of employees. You make plenty of money, I'm sure you won't miss us! You can find us at Trader Joe's in Sarasota!

Pages