We have received two letters from representatives of Whole Foods Market.
The following letter from Whole Foods, which spells my name wrong and is signed by the store manager of the Trolley Square location in Salt Lake City, Utah, is dated July 5th but was not sent until July 11, 2011 (the day by which I had asked to have a response to my letter). (I have removed my mailing address and the store employee's name from the body of the letter.)
There was apparently a post office error and I did not receive the letter until today. Whole Foods' position, as described in this letter, is wholly unacceptable. In spite of the fact that Whole Foods has stores in states that protect (and provide an enforcement provision for such protection) women's right to breastfeed in any public or private location in which they otherwise have a right to be, this letter seems to indicate that Whole Foods believes that they are fully justified in allowing store employees in states without such laws to freely confront breastfeeding women as they see fit.
In this television news piece that aired last night, the reporter stated that the Whole Foods representative who was interviewed “insists the workers who confronted Angelina did not violate store policy—just tried to make everyone happy.” According to this statement, it appears that Whole Foods does not have a corporate policy to ensure that its employees do not harass nursing mothers, which means that this situation could easily happen again in any Whole Foods location.
However, the following letter from Whole Foods, dated July 20, 2011 (yesterday) appears to offer hope for a positive resolution to this situation. It is from Libba Letton, who has engaged positively in the discussion on our Facebook page, and who appears to be supportive of policy changes to ensure that breastfeeding mothers are truly welcomed and supported within Whole Foods. (I have also removed contact information from this letter.)
Given the conflicting messages that have been conveyed by different Whole Foods representatives, we believe even more strongly that if Whole Foods Market is to continue to ethically maintain its claimed commitment to healthy living, it needs to take the initiative to immediately create, publicly distribute, and include in its employee handbook a clear policy affirming its support of breastfeeding women in its stores. This should include appropriate, consistent, and positive responses for similar situations in the future, as well as a commitment to training all current and future employees on the policy.
This is an opportunity for Whole Foods Market to affirm its own slogan of “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet” (TM) and to show that it does in fact wish to support women who are feeding their babies the perfect “whole food”—human milk.
We are in the process of composing a detailed response to Ms. Letton. We will post it here at the same time that we send it to her. We are also discussing ways to expand our efforts to illustrate to Whole Foods the benefits of taking a clear position on this issue.