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COLUMN

Happytown

You want swans? We got swans. Also, political crack and cracked corporate politics!

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Really? You used your corporate e-mail address to send us that message? Who does that? We know that Whole Foods CEO and founder John Mackey leans conservative/Libertarian (did you see his August 2009 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, titled “The Whole Foods Alternative to Obamacare”? Among other things, it suggested that most people’s health care problems are “self-inflicted” and that no one has an intrinsic right to health care), but we couldn’t imagine that the company would be so laissez faire about its corporate image that it’d let employees send ethnic slurs with its name attached.

We called Whole Foods media relations to tell the company about the nature of the e-mail we received and to ask if that would be an OK thing to send the media from the office desktop. (For the record, we didn’t reveal the intolerant employee’s name – the economy is bad enough and we don’t want to be responsible for making it any worse. See? Liberals aren’t all bad.)

Spokeswoman Libba Letton told us that the company supports its employees’ right to free speech and that “we don’t even have an Internet policy, necessarily.” She made it clear, though, that the company would not appreciate employees using their corporate e-mail addresses to send screeds or slurs. “Everybody has the right to their own opinion,” she says. “If he wants to write a letter to the editor, more power to him. I’d prefer that it come from his own personal e-mail account, because it could be misconstrued as coming in on behalf of Whole Foods. We’re a grocery store, we try not to take stands” on things that might alienate customers.

We asked the letter writer if he’d like us to publish his letter. He thanked us for our response but declined to answer our question. We think that probably means no.

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