Cambridge walk-out: Whole Foods employees boycott over facial mask policy

It began three weeks ago with two Whole Foods employees being told they cannot wear Black Lives Matter face masks on the job. The two employees in Bedford, New Hampshire were sent home for a violation of the company’s dress code policy.


The employees were told to go home several times, it is reported, for violating store policy by wearing face masks and sneakers imprinted with “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe.” One worker said they wore the apparel for two days before being told about the store policy.

“Just two days ago, they finally gave me the policy. They had never shown me anything in the policy that stated that we couldn’t wear them,” Styles said. “The way the situation and everything was handled was just very unprofessional and not understanding.”

Styles and Greene said they were told that if they refused to change their masks then they could not keep working their shifts, the paper said.

The two reportedly protested outside of the store with signs that asked cars to honk in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

A spokesperson for Whole Foods released a statement confirming that all employees sign an acknowledgment of company policy that “prohibits any visible slogans, messages, logos or advertising that are not company-related, on any article of clothing, including face masks.” Ms. Styles said she no longer feels comfortable there and is seeking employment elsewhere.

In solidarity with their fellow employees, some Whole Foods employees began to wear Black Lives Matter face masks in other stores. That included a store in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Whole Foods released a statement that all employees must comply with the dress code policy.


Whole Foods released a statement last week noting that “[i]n 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.”

The company said that employees are given the opportunity to comply with the dress code and are offered new face masks, but will not be allowed to work until they comply with the policy.

In order to appease the woke employees, an email was sent out stating the company was offering all a “special one-time bonus” for the month of June. Full-time employees would receive $500 and part-time employees would receive $250. This was to “express gratitude for the remarkable resilience and dedication” they have shown, much like what Amazon did for its employees. What happens when you appease activists? It is never enough. The employees said it was no longer about facial masks and walked out. They now demand “substantive change from the entire Whole Foods corporation.”

Now the original seven employees sent home protest outside the store, carrying signs. Their argument is that Amazon and Whole Foods talk a big talk about racial equality and make large financial contributions to causes but they don’t support employees making a personal statement.

Many of the protesters, like Jason Slavick — who lives just across the street from the store — used to frequent the market. He and other boycott organizers have contacted local store managers as well as corporate leaders to argue that a company that pitches itself as a values-oriented business should change its policy.

“There should be no place safe for racism, and the only way that happens is if they say it out loud and stop hiding behind neutrality,” he said.

Suverino Frith was one of the original seven employees who was turned away after showing up to work in a Black Lives Matter mask. The 21-year-old spoke before the crowd, urging them to continue fighting.

“These are careful people who want to be loud but not too loud,” he said, speaking about the company. “They don’t want to alienate anyone. They don’t really want to choose a side; they just want to seem like they are. Only that’s too bad, because we’re choosing a side for them.”


Mr. Firth worked seasonally for two years with Whole Foods. He said he knew about other stores sending employees home who refused to wear an approved face mask yet he was surprised when his store’s employees were sent home for the same reason. This is where the rub comes in – these employees feel entitled to dictate company policy though they are fully aware of the store’s policy when they accept employment from Whole Foods. They have it backward – company management dictates policy, not the disgruntled employees. What he and the others should have done, if they are so unhappy, would be to do as the woman in New Hampshire did – quit and find a new job. This isn’t hard. When you go to work for someone else, you don’t get to make the rules. If you no longer can abide by the rules, you leave.

There were over 40 protesters Sunday in front of the Cambridge Whole Foods. The protests began on June 25 and continue. They urge passersby to shop elsewhere and cheer when potential customers leave to do so. City Councilors Quinton Zondervan and Alanna Mallon attended the Sunday protest. Zondervan said, it “shouldn’t be necessary to get Whole Foods to do the right thing,” Really? No wonder the employees are so self-entitled. Their local leaders are of the same mindset. Whole Foods is “doing the right thing”, they are enforcing company dress code policy across the board.


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