Workers at a Cambridge Whole Foods are approaching a week of persistent walkouts after several employees were sent home last Wednesday for wearing Black Lives Matter face masks.
In a statement shared with The Boston Globe Monday, the employees at the River Street store in Cambridgeport demanded that the Amazon-owned supermarket chain “take real procedural action to join the anti-racist, Black Lives Matter movement” and provide “the freedom for all Whole Foods employees to explicitly support Black lives.”
For the 5th consecutive day, @WholeFoods employees in @CambMA are sent home without pay for wearing #blacklivesmatter facemasks @WFBLM @MayorSiddiqui @Marc_C_McGovern @qzondervan @VoteAyesha19 @kryland_ #BLM pic.twitter.com/E0a8wcuEOq
— Lisa Dreier (@lisadreier) June 28, 2020
The group also shared a call-to-action online Tuesday asking all Whole Foods team members to continuously wear Black Lives Matter masks starting Tuesday. The statement notes that while the company brands itself as supporting the movement, management at the supermarket still forbids workers from showing solidarity with it.
“We will not stop until Whole Foods recognizes its current hypocrisy and commits itself to real change instead of performative, empty activism,” the statement said.
Join us today, June 30th, at 6PM for our 7th day of walk-outs. We at the River St. @WholeFoods will be standing in solidarity with the Black lives management still prevents us from supporting. Lets demand change! Let’s demand action! Join, support, share! #blacklivesmatter #blm pic.twitter.com/SCeWsRRNYS
— Whole Foods BLM (@WFBLM) June 30, 2020
Employee Savannah Kinzer also started a Change.org petition making the same demands Friday. It now has over 2,000 supporters.
Countless companies including Whole Foods have claimed support in the fight for racial justice through social media posts and press releases. The Whole Foods website features a prominent banner stating that “racism has no place here,” though it does not include the phrase “Black lives matter.” An invitation to “learn more” links to a lengthy mission statement that never mentions race or discrimination.
A statement from a Whole Foods spokesperson last week said that the employee dress code forbids “clothing with visible slogans, messages, logos or advertising that are not-company-related.” The statement also said that workers are offered new face masks if the ones they’re wearing don’t comply with the code.
Employee Kirby Burt told Liberation News, a monthly paper published by the Party for Socialism and Liberation, that other dress code violations like masks with Narragansett and Red Sox logos were ignored by management for months. Burt noted that managers are now more strict on addressing those violations in the wake of the Black Lives Matter mask controversy.
Management at the Whole Foods at the River Street location in Cambridge, Massachusetts, copying the patterns from other…
Whole Foods workers across the U.S. have donned Black Lives Matters masks this month after two employees in New Hampshire were sent home for wearing the masks. Team members from stores in Seattle and Philadelphia have held similar protests to their Cambridge counterparts.
👁️ WATCH our new video, ✏️ SIGN our petition: https://t.co/uaZr4p3Q7T @Wholefoods & @JeffBezos should do more than pay lip service to the #BlackLivesMatter movement and stop retaliating against workers who are organizing to support civil rights. #WFMSaysNotoBLM pic.twitter.com/LJvP1908RT
— Whole Food Workers Seattle (@WfmWsl) June 29, 2020
Some other large companies like Starbucks and Taco Bell now explicitly allow their employees to wear Black Lives Matter masks at work. Both companies faced similar backlashes this month after management reprimanded workers for showing solidarity with the movement while on the clock.