Worry for Whole Foods workers: Daily Bullshit, June 16, 2017

Updates

  1. Originally published June 16, 9:27 am.
  2. June 16, 11:16 pm:
    • Donald Trump appears obsessively self-destructive as he threatens to fire the special counsel investigating his team’s relationship with Russia.[1] (James Comey)

Whole Foods

Amazon, an employer with a terrible reputation for how it treats its workers,[2] is acquiring Whole Foods.[3] It’s hard to imagine that any facsimile of so-called ‘conscious capitalism,’ which at least evinced concern for stakeholders rather than just shareholders,[4] can now survive at Whole Foods.

This so-called ‘conscious capitalism,’ which preserves the inherent inequities of any system of exchange,[5] looks very much like organizational development theory, which is more a set of practices than a particularly coherent theory with explanatory power. Organizational development theory has had some success in empowering workers, thus improving productivity, product quality, and customer service, and thus improving the bottom line, but nonetheless more often than not fails to survive in corporations.[6]

This is something of a quandary: Why does a traditional authoritarian ‘theory X’ approach to management, in which workers are presumed to be lazy and stupid, seem to socially reproduce itself without difficulty but a less authoritarian ‘theory Y’ approach often prove unsustainable even when profitable?[7] It seems explainable only if we presume that authoritarian control is a more compelling inducement for managers even than profit. Which helps to explain the horror of Amazon’s workplaces. And, in turn, one might suspect that in a ‘theory X’ regime, with that accusation that “[t]he average man is by nature indolent—he works as little as possible,”[8] managers are actually projecting their own deficiencies onto workers.

And so, it would seem, Whole Foods workers are headed into a very dark alley. Where they once enjoyed at least some respect, they will now be subject to a vicious working environment in which they are infinitely replaceable. This will be bad for all concerned; probably more than any other major retailer, Whole Foods depended on the appearance of corporate responsibility for its appeal. Even if John Mackey remains CEO,[9] it will now be Jeff Bezos pulling the strings, and that appearance will be difficult, if not impossible, to sustain.

Austen Hufford, Annie Gasparro, and Laura Stevens, “Amazon to Buy Whole Foods for $13.7 Billion,” Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-to-buy-whole-foods-for-13-7-billion-1497618446


James Comey

James Hohmann, “Prospect of Trump firing Mueller keeps becoming more untenable,” Washington Post, June 16, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/06/16/daily-202-prospect-of-trump-firing-mueller-keeps-becoming-more-untenable/5942f946e9b69b2fb981dd36/


  1. [1]James Hohmann, “Prospect of Trump firing Mueller keeps becoming more untenable,” Washington Post, June 16, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/06/16/daily-202-prospect-of-trump-firing-mueller-keeps-becoming-more-untenable/5942f946e9b69b2fb981dd36/
  2. [2]Daniel D’Addario, “Amazon is worse than Walmart,” Salon, July 30, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/07/30/how_amazon_is_worse_than_wal_mart/; Mike Daisey, “Amazon’s brutal work culture will stay: bottom lines matter more than people,” Guardian, August 22, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/22/amazon-brutal-work-culture; Josh Eidelson, “Amazon Keeps Unions Out By Keeping Workers in Fear, Says Organizer,” Alternet, January 22, 2014, http://www.alternet.org/labor/amazon-keeps-unions-out-keeping-workers-fear-says-organizer; Nichole Gracely, “‘Being homeless is better than working for Amazon’,” Guardian, November 28, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/28/being-homeless-is-better-than-working-for-amazon; Simon Head, “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers,” Salon, February 23, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/; Dave Jamieson, “The Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp,” Huffington Post, n.d., http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/life-and-death-amazon-temp/; Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld, “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace,” New York Times, August 15, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html; Natalie Kitroeff, “Amazon drivers say they are pushed to the limit as holiday deliveries reach a frenzy,” Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-amazon-drivers-20161218-story.html; Hamilton Nolan, “What Is Life Like For an Amazon Worker?” Gawker, July 29, 2013, http://gawker.com/what-is-life-like-for-an-amazon-worker-949664345; Alex Seitz-Wald, “Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy,” Salon, July 30, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/07/30/amazon_is_everything_wrong_with_our_new_economy/; Spencer Soper, “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse,” Morning Call, September 18, 2011, http://articles.mcall.com/2011-09-18/news/mc-allentown-amazon-complaints-20110917_1_warehouse-workers-heat-stress-brutal-heat;
  3. [3]Austen Hufford, Annie Gasparro, and Laura Stevens, “Amazon to Buy Whole Foods for $13.7 Billion,” Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-to-buy-whole-foods-for-13-7-billion-1497618446
  4. [4]Nicole Aschoff, “Whole Foods represents the failures of ‘conscious capitalism,’” Guardian, May 29, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/29/whole-foods-failures-conscious-capitalism
  5. [5]Max Weber, “Class, Status, Party,” in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 119-129.
  6. [6]Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley, The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned From Patagonia’s First 40 Years (Ventura, CA: Patagonia, 2012); Chip Conley, Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007); Gary Heil, Warren Bennis, and Deborah C. Stephens, Douglas McGregor Revisited: Managing the Human Side of the Enterprise (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2000); Art Kleiner, The Age of Heretics: A History of the Radical Thinkers Who Reinvented Corporate Management, 2nd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008); Carol Sanford, The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability and Success (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011); Marvin R. Weisbord, Productive Workplaces: Dignity, Meaning, and Community in the 21st Century, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012)
  7. [7]Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley, The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned From Patagonia’s First 40 Years (Ventura, CA: Patagonia, 2012); Chip Conley, Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007); Gary Heil, Warren Bennis, and Deborah C. Stephens, Douglas McGregor Revisited: Managing the Human Side of the Enterprise (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2000); Art Kleiner, The Age of Heretics: A History of the Radical Thinkers Who Reinvented Corporate Management, 2nd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008); Carol Sanford, The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability and Success (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011); Marvin R. Weisbord, Productive Workplaces: Dignity, Meaning, and Community in the 21st Century, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012)
  8. [8]Douglas McGregor, quoted in Gary Heil, Warren Bennis, and Deborah C. Stephens, Douglas McGregor Revisited: Managing the Human Side of the Enterprise (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2000), p. 132.
  9. [9]Austen Hufford, Annie Gasparro, and Laura Stevens, “Amazon to Buy Whole Foods for $13.7 Billion,” Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-to-buy-whole-foods-for-13-7-billion-1497618446

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