Whole Foods swears it's done exploiting Colorado prisoners for cheap labor. Promise.
Whole Foods is everyone’s favorite place to spend $14 on a pear or bankrupt themselves buying smoothies, but now, it’s also the center of a Colorado prison labor exploitation scandal that does nothing to improve its famed “we’re gonna fuck you and fuck you hard!” image.
The company recently agreed to change their policy regarding the company’s stance on using cheap, exploitative prison labor after a massive protest at one of the company's stores went down. The protest materialized after it was revealed the company had been slanging tilapia, trout and goat cheese produced through Colorado inmate programs at select locations since 2011.
Whole Foods claims all goods produced with the controversial prison labor should be off the shelves at Whole Food stores by April 2016.
Michael Silverman, a Whole Foods spokesman, tells the Denver Post the company decided to end the practice because some customers were uncomfortable with it. Well ... no shit.
Creating manipulative prison labor laws to siphon positions from the private-sector, which consequently further diminishes basic employment opportunities in a struggling economy for the sake of multi-billion dollar conglomerates is something we’re all little uncomfortable with. Nothing weird or potentially deceitful here, folks.
The tilapia, trout and cheese under scrutiny come through Colorado Correctional Industries (CCI), a division of Colorado's department of corrections. CCI’s website claims its mission is to train inmates with skills and work ethics that help them secure employment after release.
Marc Mauer, executive director of a criminal justice research and advocacy group agrees the program could benefit inmates by giving them training and useful skills, but there also remains possibility for corruption because companies pay far less for prison labor than they otherwise would. No chance an insatiable, ravenous, hellhound-like rogue or unobstructed capitalism would ever take advantage of any massive, glaring loophole like that, right?
And while the program is probably well-intended, it really does nothing for inmates. Nothing helps an incarcerated person pull themselves out of perpetual destitution caused by low-income than an occupation that requires rudimentary skills and entirely lacks the prospect of upward mobility.
Inmates in the program are paid 74 cents to $4 a day, according to this report, and are eligible for performance bonuses as well. These bonuses could be used towards presumably more dependable shivs, extra helpings of dehydrated yams and decorative throw pillows.
According to USNews, Colorado Correctional Industries said it employed more than 1,800 inmates. The company had the ambitious goal of doubling the program over the next decade before everyone made a big fuss about it. Sorry to rain on that exploitation parade.
Even Whole Foods' whole ‘holier than thou’ PR team couldn’t protect them from this media storm. If it looks, walks and talks like a corporate wolf in sheep’s clothing, it probably is, just ask the prison-labor shepherds tending to the flock.