Tuesday, June 18, 2013

No Habla Espanol In Whole Foods

It has always been a pet peeve of mine. People who migrate to the United States for a slice of the American dream but don't learn or practice speaking English.
There are many countries in the world where you cannot earn a living, raise a family, or even survive if you don't speak in their native dialect. But here in America anyone and everyone can settle into their own little pocket of society and reap the benefits of living in America without knowing the slightest bit of English.

Faced with a boycott, Whole Foods has revised its English-only language policy for employees on the job after two of the chain's employees in New Mexico were temporarily suspended from work for speaking Spanish, they claimed. Calls for a boycott prompted Whole Foods to change its company language policy.

In a blog post, Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb maintained that the two workers received one-day suspensions for unacceptable “workplace behavior,” not for speaking in Spanish as the two alleged.

But his post said that the issue had prompted the retailer, which tends to court a customer base known for more politically progressive views, to reevaluate its company handbook’s stance on English-language usage.

Previously, the company policy stipulated that employees must speak English “if you speak English and are in the presence of customers.” Conversations with other workers had to be in English “any time you are on the clock and discussing work-related tasks or subjects.”

In my opinion this company policy is more than fair. Each and every job has its policies and stipulations which employees must adhere to. I fail to see the issue in requesting that employees speak a language that everyone in their work place understands. 

The revision, which Robb said would be discussed at upcoming store meetings across the company, softens that wording.

“When speaking with customers or fellow Team Members, please make sure you are sensitive to others who may want to join your conversation or ask you a question. If needed, switch to a common language to be inclusive and respectful,” it said. Workers still are required to converse in English with shoppers “unless requested otherwise by the customer.”

“Sounds like it’s corporate revisionism,” said Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, whose New Mexico chapter contacted Whole Foods after the incident. “For them to make a mistake of this magnitude means there are other problems,” he said. “A diverse company wouldn’t have done this.”

“They’re heading in the right direction, but we’re still not convinced they’ve done enough,” Wilkes said. “I think it should say use of Spanish in the workplace is encouraged... and the company values multilingualism as an asset.”

This is definitely corporate revisionism. Masterful word smithing with appeasement as the ultimate goal. Which wouldn't be an issue if the the original policy actually needed to be revised.

The League, arguing the rule violated New Mexico's constitution protecting Spanish and America-Indian languages, had considered calling a boycott of Whole Foods.

Despite its hippie roots, this isn’t the first time Whole Foods has had to do damage control after angering liberal consumers. When promoting his new book in January, Whole Foods’ other co-CEO, John Mackey, used the word fascism when discussing President Obama's Affordable Care Act, a statement he later retracted after some customers called for a boycott. Mackey also provoked ire for saying climate change is “perfectly natural and not necessarily bad.”

“It’s surprising that a company like Whole Foods, which had had the reputation of being a fairly modern company, would have a system like this in place that’s so backwards,” Wilkes said of the retailer’s former language policy.

In his blog post, Robb said, “We will remain open to further changes as we continue to seek third-party perspectives.”

What people fail to understand is that whole foods first and for most is a business. A business who's image has been carefully crafted to cater to a selected niche group. Many of whom fly the flag of progression but are actually "hip" contrarians who are not as forth right with their conservative views. So this does not surprise me at all. While the New Mexico store is especially susceptible to a boycott because of its population, I wonder what the sentiment is in other parts of the country in reference to an English only policy. The comment of co-C.E.O John Mackay in reference to the Affordable Care Act or Obama Care, was a tell tale sign of his indifference toward racial tolerance. This was much more than a hint.

While I fully support an English speaking policy, I do not support racism under the guise of good customer service. It is nothing more than a smoke screen for bigotry.


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