Whole Foods protesters wave signs

About 20 protesters—including Ben Day, the newly elected chair of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC)—were at Whole Foods Market at 413 Centre St. on Oct. 31, the first day the store was open, to protest the grocer’s refusal to negotiate a community benefits agreement (CBA).

The protest, organized by the group Whose Foods? Whose Community? The Coalition for a Diverse and Affordable JP, took place at the bus stop outside of Whole Foods.

The protesters, some dressed like vampires for Halloween, held signs that said “Whole Foods, don’t be a corporate vampire,” “Sign the agreement,” and “JP’s 99 percent deserve 1 percent W.F.’s revenue.”

Day said that he was there to support locally owned businesses, affordable housing and culturally appropriate food in Hyde Square. But, he said, he is thinking about other strategies for tackling those concerns.

“At some point you have diminishing returns by focusing on the Whole Foods fight,” he said.

Martha Rodriguez, another newly elected JPNC member, also attended the rally.

The JPNC recently voted to revive its Ad Hoc Whole Foods Negotiating Committee.

Whole Foods officials met with JPNC members once in September, but said following that meeting that they were unwilling to sign an agreement.

“We always have hope,” said Cheryl Desanctis, one of the protesters.

Requests from the JPNC’s “Good Neighbors Agreement”—its proposed CBA—included things like a request for a dedicated, community-run fund to support JP non-profits and a commitment by Whole Foods about what percentage of its hires would be local.

Whole Foods rejected the proposed CBA out-of-hand, saying they do a significant amount of charitable giving and local hiring, but refusing to submit to community control over those practices.

The issue of whether Whole Foods should sign a CBA has been a divisive one in the neighborhood and it is unclear how widespread support for a CBA is at this point.

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