- In a recent podcast, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said socialism was taking over the US.
- Mackey also expressed concern that younger people “don’t seem like they want to work.”
- The cofounder is leaving the chain in September and said he felt freer to express his opinions.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said he feared “socialists are taking over” in the US and that young people “don’t seem like they want to work.”
The cofounder of the supermarket chain made the statements in a podcast that was released on Wednesday with Reason magazine, a monthly libertarian publication.
“They’re marching through institutions,” Mackey said in the interview in response to questions around the labor shortage and the influence of the pandemic on Whole Foods.
“They’re taking over everything. It looks like they’ve taken over a lot of the corporations. It looks like they’ve taken over the military. And it’s just continuing. You know, I’m a capitalist at heart, and I believe in liberty and capitalism,” he said. “Those are my twin values. And I feel like, you know, with the way freedom of speech is today, the movement on gun control, a lot of the liberties that I’ve taken for granted most of my life, I think, are under threat.”
Spokespeople from Whole Foods and its parent company, Amazon, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The 68-year-old attributes much of the political and social changes in the US to the younger generation.
“I feel like I’ve become my father,” he said. “I don’t understand the younger generation.”
Whole Foods, the CEO said, has had difficulty recruiting workers since the pandemic started, even as the chain hiked wages. Mackey attributed the labor shortage to COVID-19 unemployment benefits and said the company had greater difficulty recruiting in more “liberal cities” like New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco.
“Younger people aren’t quick to work because they want meaningful work,” Mackey told Reason. “You can’t expect to start with meaningful work. You’re going to have to earn it over time.”
Over the past few years, Whole Foods and Amazon have been repeatedly accused of union busting. In 2020, Insider’s Hayley Peterson reported that the grocery chain had created a heat map to track stores that were at risk of unionizing.
Mackey is one of several to claim people no longer want to work. Earlier this year, Kim Kardashian sparked backlash when she said, “It seems like nobody wants to work these days.” It’s been an all-too-common refrain since the pandemic started, but the perception has been around for decades.
One expert previously told Insider the notion that younger generations are lazier and more entitled was just another “generational effect” or form of “back in my day.”
Mackey, who says he believes in “conscious capitalism” — a business philosophy that says companies should operate ethically and serve the interests of all, not just corporate interests — said he felt comfortable sharing his thoughts since he would be leaving the brand on September 1 after 44 years at the company.
“I have muzzled myself ever since 2009,” Mackey said, referring to an op-ed he wrote for The Wall Street Journal 13 years ago where he criticized Obamacare. The interview sparked backlash and a boycott on Whole Foods.
“My board basically shut me down. It’s like a father. They started attacking the child, and I was intimidated enough to shut up,” Mackey added.
But the CEO said in six weeks he would be fully free to express his political opinions.
“I was telling my leadership team, ‘Pretty soon, you’re going to be hearing about ‘crazy John’ who’s no longer muzzled, and you’re going to have to say, ‘We can’t stop John from talking any longer,'” Mackey said.
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