Though it may be counter-intuitive in a pro-shareholder world, the incentive for grocery stores to treat their employees with dignity and pay a living wage already exists in the bottom line. Whether you want to frequent a pro-labor grocery store to shop with as clear a conscience as possible, or you just want the better service that decent labor rights yield, check out these three grocers:
1. Whole Foods:
Whole Foods seems to use the conscientious, ethical grocer image as a marketing strategy of its own right. It was first grocery store to sign onto the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' fair labor agreement way back in 2008, guaranteeing basic human rights for the farmworkers who harvest the Florida tomatoes you buy at Whole Foods. The stores stock plenty of fair trade products and boast an impressive commitment to selling locally-grown and -produced food.
While Whole Foods offers medical insurance and competitive wages, it is explicitly anti-union. Libertarian CEO John Mackey has not only critiqued unions for pitting workers against management, but proclaimed that according to his reading of the constitution, U.S. citizens lack "any intrinsic right" to healthcare. While money spent at Whole Foods supports a company consistently named on Forbes’ "Best Places to Work" list, it also supports anti-union efforts and conservative values.
2. Trader Joe's:
Trader Joe’s is like Whole Foods’ precocious younger sibling: spunky, upbeat, and a little more approachable. With a starting salary at $10-$12 an hour and health insurance even for part-time crew members, it’s no small wonder that everyone working at Trader Joe’s seems to have a smile on their face. Unfortunately, workers at Trader Joe’s are not unionized. However, full-time crew members get paid upwards of $40,000 annually a solidly living wage, with room for mobility up to six-figures. Other fringe benefits include dental coverage and an employee discount.
After a 2-year campaign, Trader Joe’s signed onto the CIW fair labor agreement in 2012. Fair trade foods are in high supply and clearly marked, but steer clear of their shrimp, whose supplier has been linked to child labor practices in Thailand.
Costco clerks and warehouse workers earn an average of $41,000 a year, provided they work full-time. A wholesale "warehouse club," Costco lacks the earthy-crunchy refinery of Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but allows members (customers) to buy grocery and household items in bulk and has one of the best labor rights track records in the country for a chain of its size. Only a small portion of Costco stores are unionized — most locations in California and some scattered around the Northeast. However, the company’s Employment Agreement guarantees that all Costco workers gain the same benefits as those who are unionized. Costco also carries fair trade certified products.
For other unionized grocery stores check out Safeway, Ahold, Kroger, or any of the stores listed here.