Do You and I Really Have Freedom of Speech?

Interestingly, in yesterday’s post I wrote, “When small-business-damaging laws are being considered at the national and local level, we have to speak out.” In today’s local paper there was a story about John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods.  In a recent op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal Mackey offered his suggestions for health care reform.

Mackey’s comments have stirred up a firestorm because they have been perceived by some of Whole Foods’ liberal customers as being anti-Obamacare.  As you might imagine, a company specializing in organically-grown foods does attract a lot of liberal customers.  Some of them are threatening to boycott the chain.

I’m not going to dive into the health  care debate, at least not today, but you have to admire Mackey’s courage to offer a counter proposal knowing the make-up of his company’s customer base.  But, here are some things that I find interesting:

  • The President has solicited suggestions regarding health care reform.  Mackey’s comments seem to be answering that call.
  • Proposing a different plan from the one that’s currently on the table doesn’t seem to be such a terrible thing, especially in a democracy where the right of free speech is guaranteed.
  • Mackey may be CEO of Whole Foods, but his words don’t necessarily represent the company.
  • Do WF’s liberal customers really want to punish a company that seems to be so in touch with their views and life style?  After all, if the company were to go away, where would they find the same selection of organic and specialty foods?
  • I didn’t read all 4,000 + comments on Mackey’s blog, but if the first couple of pages are any indication, he has a lot of support.

Like I said, this blog isn’t a referendum on health care reform but as I wrote yesterday, don’t business owners and executives have a right and a responsibility to speak out on subjects that are important to their companies?  Obviously Mackey feels strongly enough about the subject to put his name on an article in a national publication.  As a responsible CEO you have to believe that he feels an alternative to the current health care reform bills floating around on Capital Hill would be best for his company, his employees, and his customers.

Where does that leave small business owners?  Don’t we have the same right and responsibility?   Should we back off on important issues for fear of adverse customer reactions?

Personally I think Mackey did the right thing.  What do you think?

Here are some other points of view:

What can John Mackey and Whole Foods learn from publicizing their views on health reform?

“Health Care Stirs Up Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, Customers Boycott Organic Grocery Store” from ABC News

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One Response

  1. Where does “freedom of speech” fit into that? Nobody stopped him from saying what he wanted to say, but people have a right to react to things people say that they don’t agree with. Speech can be in the form of boycotts, also.

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