Whole Foods is working to recover from a PR brouhaha. Two workers in Albuquerque claim that they were suspended from their jobs at the grocery chain because they were speaking Spanish on the job.
Whole Foods spokeswoman Libba Letton has denied their claim, saying instead that the employees were suspended for being “rude and disrespectful.” However, in a statement to the Associated Press
, Ben Friedland, Whole Foods Market Rocky Mountain Region executive marketing coordinator basically said it’s company policy to have workers speak English during work hours, saying the company supports “having a uniform form of communication."
The company posted the following bilingual statement on their website
“Our policy is that the default language is English, for consistent communication, inclusion, and especially for safety and emergency situations. We want our team members to use their judgment about when it’s appropriate to speak other languages. We are proud of our multilingual team members and try to work with customers in other languages whenever needed!
“The facts are: two team members in New Mexico became upset when they believed they were told in a team meeting they could not speak Spanish at work. That was not what was communicated. They were suspended with pay due to rude and disrespectful behavior. Their suspension was due to their behavior alone, not for speaking Spanish.”
So, workers were suspended because they got upset when they thought they were being told they couldn’t speak Spanish at work. Whatever the language, it seems semantics are at the core of this argument.
ProgressNow New Mexico, a local grassroots organization, is calling for a boycott of the chain, and it posted on its website
“(Whole Foods’) policies prohibiting employees from speaking their own language or organizing to overturn these anti-diversity policies directly contradict their commitment to ‘team member excellence and happiness.’”
It includes a link to a MoveOn.org petition
The New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens is also threatening to launch a nationwide boycott unless it changes its policy—fast
New Mexico has protections for Spanish speakers in its state constitution, according to the Albuquerque Journal
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