Whole Foods workers in Seattle protested outside of the grocer’s Westlake location on Friday after being told they could not wear face masks with the Black Lives Matter slogan.
The Stranger first reported that the employees were asked to remove the masks and asked to leave if they did not comply.
Some employees then joined a protest outside the store.
People are gathering outside the store & chalking the sidewalk now. Come stand with these workers if you can! Or call the store & let management know how you feel! #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/8zyc7vYXWz
— ufcw 21 (@UFCW21) June 20, 2020
#WFMSaysNoToBLM day 2 at Westlake/SLU store @UFCW21 @PTE17 @SeattleTRU members coming thru! Workers want @WholeFoods to end retaliation, allow #BlackLivesMatter masks and removed armed guards from the store pic.twitter.com/ANHx8gwHAI
— Kasi (@KasiFarrar) June 20, 2020
In a statement, Whole Foods said that the masks did not meet the company’s dress code policy. The Amazon-owned company confirmed that six of its employees were part of the protest.
“In order to operate in a customer-focused environment, all Team Members must comply with our longstanding company dress code, which prohibits clothing with visible slogans, messages, logos or advertising that are not company-related,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Face masks are subject to our dress code policy, and Team Members that came to work at our Westlake store wearing face masks that did not meet this policy were offered new face masks. Some chose to wear them, while others declined. Team Members are unable to work until they comply with dress code, however no Team Members were kicked out of the store.”
Starbucks dealt with a similar situation last week. The coffee giant initially banned employees from wearing attire with the Black Lives Matter slogan. Starbucks then reversed course and changed its policy after backlash. It also said it would provide 250,000 Black Lives Matter shirts for employees.
A Taco Bell employee was reportedly fired for wearing a Black Lives Matter face mask.
Vice reported last week that a Whole Foods worker in Philadelphia was fired after protesting the store’s decision to give free food to police officers during Black Lives Matter protests. A Whole Foods spokesperson said the firing was not due to a disagreement with store leadership.
“The Team Member violated our policies against behavior and language that is threatening, vulgar and obscene towards a Team Member,” the spokesperson said. “Her actions were specifically directed towards an individual in the workplace and perceived as a safety threat, and she was separated as a result. We followed standard company practices when investigating the Team Member’s infractions and throughout the separation process.”
Amazon acquired Whole Foods for $13.4 billion in 2017.
Amazon put out a statement on May 31 condemning “the inequitable and brutal treatment of Black people in our country.”
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has been publishing messages of solidarity with the protestors to social media, including his responses to customers who are angry with Amazon’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement.