There's no better place to try out "ethnic" dinners than Whole Foods. Where else can you pick up organic paella, a zesty quinoa salad, rumchata, approachable Argentinian wine and locally-sourced flan at the same store? I'm feeling spicy and Spanish tonight! Let's do this, Whole Foods!
Alas, Whole Foods loves to stock its shelves with horchata, but bristles at the thought of its workers speaking in Spanish while they do so. Two Hispanic employees of New Mexico have claimed that they had been suspended for a day after they wrote a letter to the store manager who told them speaking in Spanish was not allowed during working hours.
Bryan Baldizan and Lupe Gonzales were suspended for the incident last month, which Whole Foods officials state had nothing to do with their challenging the no-Spanish policy instated by the manager, but for being "rude and disrespectful." How rude! They wanted to speak their native tongue in a state where 46.7% of the population is Hispanic and in a country that has no official language. No respect, I tell ya!
But the non-apologies didn't stop there. Ben Friedland, Whole Foods Market Rocky Mountain Region Executive Marketing Coordinator (Good God, his business card must be long) stated that Whole Foods believes in "having a uniform form of communication" in the work environment. "Team Members are free to speak any language they would like during their breaks, meal periods and before and after work," said Friedland, "…Our policy states that all English speaking Team Members must speak English to customers and other Team Members while on the clock." Another press statement argues the English-only policy is in place "for consistent communication, inclusion, and especially for safety and emergency situations."
Does that mean Whole Foods has an English-only policy? OMG no, they embrace diversity in every aspect, you guys! Letton went on to say, "At Whole Foods Market, we take pride in the diversity of our Team Member and customer base. We recognize with this diversity comes the challenge of different languages spoken."
Ah, yes. Different languages are challenging, like a making an authentic, free trade empanada. Now, Whole Foods officials have doubled back to say Letton's "use of the word 'must' is an overstatement," meaning speaking Spanish in stores isn't against company policy, per se, just looked down upon. However, trendy Spanish labels for organic Venezuelan dark chocolate? Sounds good.