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The New York Times on “a new kind of labor battle: union workers versus corporate do-gooders,” noting that socially conscious retailers such as Starbucks and Whole Foods are being labeled as anti-union, though they don’t seem to be suffering the same sort of negative publicity that affects Wal-Mart – also assiduously anti-union – on a regular basis.

In the case of Starbucks, it is a company perceived in many circles as politically correct because “it provides health care benefits and stock options to many part-time employees. It says it is committed to paying coffee growers in impoverished companies above-market prices for the beans. And its chief executive, Howard Schultz, called for universal health care coverage long before it became popular for corporate chieftains to do so.”

At Whole Foods, the Times writes, “the organic foods supermarket maintains what it calls socially responsible sourcing guidelines and supports alternative energy,” but it also “has a chief executive, John Mackey, who is hostile to organized labor. In 2003, he told Fortune magazine that unions are ‘highly unethical and self-interested’.”
KC's View:
The big problem for unions is that an increasing number of Americans seem to be agreeing with Mackey’s assessment of unions. Even if people believe that unions have an historical role, the general consensus seems to be that union organizers tend to be more interested in their own power and prerogatives than in their memberships. Certainly that seems to be the case with the union approach to Tesco – the unions aren’t even waiting to find out what the pay scales and benefits will be when the UK-based retailer comes to the US before attacking the company. It’s nonsense.

We do think that cynics – and both journalists and pundits tend to fall into this category – have to be careful when they use phrases like “corporate do-gooders.” For some, that seems to have a slightly derisive tone…but for many people, we think, the idea of corporate do-gooders is a positive notion in a world where companies like Enron are seen as more emblematic of the business world.