Target: Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb
Goal: Ask Whole Foods to continue changing an outdated and prejudice policy
Following the suspension of two Spanish-speaking employees, Whole Foods was forced to revise an old policy stating that “English-speaking workers must speak English to customers and other employees while on the clock, unless the customer speaks another language.” This policy, surprising from a very progressive-minded retailer such as Whole Foods, was clearly racist and came at the expense of people working in the US who are from other countries or who have families who speak languages other than English.
The two employees from Albuquerque, New Mexico were suspended for a day with pay after complaining about the policy. Although CEO Walter Robb has said that the employees were suspended due to their workplace behavior rather than for speaking Spanish, it is not difficult to see the prejudiced roots of the policy and the true reasons behind the suspension of these two employees. Groups such as the New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens understandably threatened to boycott Whole Foods due to the outrageous policy and the suspension.
The policy has recently been revised to say that employees who speak English and need to communicate with an English-speaking customer are asked to “please speak with them in English, unless requested otherwise by the customer.” In addition, the policy asks employees to switch to a “common language” (hinting at English) to be “inclusive and respectful” to others who may wish to join in the conversation while on the job.
While certainly an improvement from the previous policy, the revised policy still rings of racist undertones and highly favors English, even in states such as New Mexico where a large portion of the population speaks Spanish and which has a strong Hispanic history. Tell CEO Walter Robb to continue working on revising this discriminatory policy.
Dear Mr. Robb,
The suspension of two of Whole Foods employees in Albuquerque, New Mexico threw into light the need to revise the company’s prejudiced Employee Language Policy. While I thank you for revising this policy, it still needs significant work to become truly inclusive.
Although the revision was not intended to be discriminatory, the underlying message of the policy is still that English is the most legitimate language and that speaking other languages is something to be discouraged. There is no place at a progressive retailer such as Whole Foods for a prejudiced, discriminatory policy like this one. Even the revised policy as it now stands highly favors speaking English at the expense of employees and customers who speak other languages.
Especially in states such as New Mexico where there is a significant Hispanic history and where many people speak Spanish, there should not be such an emphasis on speaking English and there should certainly not be retribution for speaking Spanish.
Although you have said that the two employees who were suspended received the suspension for workplace behavior rather than speaking Spanish, the limited revisions on the Employee Language Policy make that difficult to believe and it seems as though racism is still at the heart of that situation.
Thank you for taking the effort you have so far to revise this policy. I certainly hope that you continue to work on it with groups such as the League of United Latin American Citizens as you have said you will.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr