Whole Foods using 'heat map' to track, thwart union efforts at its stores

The system identifies stores 'at risk of unionization,' internal documents say.

A Whole Foods market.
A Whole Foods market.
(Robert Alexander/Getty)
Updated: April 25, 2020 - 2:59pm

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Whole Foods, the Amazon-owned grocery chain known for its pastoral chic and its mainstreaming of organic food commerce, is reportedly using demographic numbers and other data points to identify which stores are most at risk for unionization efforts, with the goal of clamping down on that activity before it becomes "problematic," according to leaked internal documents.

The company is allegedly using a "heat map" to track the stores across the country most vulnerable to union agitation. Key data which it uses to make those judgments include the demographic diversity of a store, the unemployment rate in the region around it, company violations documented at the location, and the number of calls each store logs to human resources. 

"This early identification enables resources to be funneled to the highest need locations, with the goal of mitigating risk by addressing challenges early before they become problematic," documents obtained by Business Insider state. 

Whole Foods is owned by Amazon, a company with its own well-documented history of resistance to unionization efforts within its ranks. A 2018 video created by Amazon officials, and distributed to Whole Foods managers, stated that the company is "not anti-union, but we are not neutral either." 

"We do not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers or shareholders or most importantly, our associates,” the video said. 

The company has also posted job listings asking for workers with experience in "handling union organizing activities" and "responding to potential union activity."

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