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It seems that no matter what Whole Foods does to promote its commitment to the Boston community, it continues to answer the critics, even though it is now only about 200 people who have gone on record to oppose the construction of a new Whole Foods supermarket in the Hyde Square section of Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood.

Here is the email that the anti-Whole Foods group, Whose Foods?, issued on the morning of October 3:

Whole Foods must pay JP employees a living wage

Last Wednesday, Whole Foods market announced a job fair in Jamaica Plain this week. While the fair is an important step towards restoring jobs to 415 Centre St., Whole Foods has offered no guarantee that those jobs will pay well enough for workers to actually live in JP without housing assistance.

Nearly 200 neighbors have signed a statement demanding that Whole Foods pay a living wage to workers residing in Jamaica Plain and enter a binding agreement. Contrary to their glossy image, JP Whole Foods’ entry-level wages are below the living wage in Boston — $10 an hour to start, more than $3 an hour below what our city has determined to be a wage sufficient to keep a family of four on or above the poverty line.1 Whole Foods should pay all its workers a living wage.

Why does Jamaica Plain need a binding agreement to trust that Whole Foods will do right? Because Whole Foods has shown time and time again that it will do whatever it can to cut costs at the expense of good jobs. Whole Foods is the second largest non-union food retailer in the United States after Wal-Mart, and has also refused to hire union electricians for the Jamaica Plain store’s construction despite daily picketing by the IBEW for the last two weeks at the location. The Whose Foods / Whose Community? Coalition for an Affordable and Diverse JP stands in solidarity with the picketers.

Neighbors will continue to demand that Whole Foods pay its workers a living wage by entering into a binding agreement with Jamaica Plain. The agreement should also provide funding for anti-displacement work, affordable housing, youth programs, food assistance, and local business assistance.

By this afternoon, Whole Foods’ Northeast Regional Office had sent us a statement about the Whose Foods? email. Here it is:

Whole Foods Market is proud to be among the highest paying employers in the grocery industry.  Beyond paying above what our competitors pay, we offer benefits to full and part time employees, as well as a 20% discount on all Whole Foods Market purchases. Our generous wage and benefits package along with the fact that 70% of our team members are full time, are among the reasons we have been named on Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” every year, for the past 14 years.  We would encourage anyone with concerns about our employees earning a living wage to visit our website for a full outline of our benefits.  www.wholefoodsmarket.com/careers

Prior to a new store opening, Whole Foods Market uses an open shop bid process to request and receive competitive bids for goods and services involved in the construction process. Contractors bid on the identical job and we make our decision based on quality and price — which is smart and standard business practice.

Whole Foods Market supports the rights of all workers, union and non-union, to work in a safe environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, and any other unlawful conduct. We work diligently to comply with all local, state and federal labor laws and we work hard to find the best partners to help us build our new stores. More than 50% of the sub-contractors that we hired for the new Jamaica Plain store are, in fact, union trade organizations.

In the end, the opinions of 200 people (some of whom don’t even live in JP) have been heard. Whole Foods has literally gone out of its way to respond their critics. With growing unemployment in this country, isn’t it time to just move on and let Whole Foods run a business? As people around the United States express their rage against corporations, they should be lucky that Whole Foods is actually the kind of corporation this country needs more of.

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