CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A Cambridge Whole Foods is facing backlash from employees who are now walking out on the job.
More than 20 employees who work at the River St. location left work this week after they were told they could not wear Black Lives Matter face masks.
On Wednesday, seven employees walked out after they were told they couldn’t wear Black Lives Matter masks. On Thursday, 13 walked out and on Friday another employee was told to leave.
“I don’t have words for it, it’s still so crazy and surreal,” said Leavar Michel, a Whole Foods Employee.
Boston 25 News spoke to Michel just before his 11:30 a.m. shift Friday at the Whole Foods but he came walking right back outside shortly after his shift already started.
“After about 12 minutes I was approached by the store leader and he said he wanted to speak with me,” said Michel.
That manager told him he had to remove his Black Lives Matter mask or leave.
“He said I was in violation of dress code, and then I told him well Black Lives Matter isn’t a brand, who owns the LLC for the Black Lives Matter the brand,” said Michel.
“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 Whole Foods spokesperson told Boston 25 News. “Team Members with face masks that do not comply with dress code are always offered new face masks. Team Members are unable to work until the comply with dress code.”
“People are allowed to wear pins, LGBTQ pins and they have never called us out on wearing our Red Sox masks and Patriots masks,” said Savannah Kinzer, another Whole Foods employee.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Whole Food’s parent company Amazon, pledged support to Black Lives Matter earlier this month, donating $10 million dollars to organizations that support the movement.
“We believe [that] because Amazon and Whole Foods have already come out and support the movement that this is industry affiliated, if they support it, why can’t we as the back bone of this company,” said Kinzer.
Employees who spoke to Boston 25 News said they just want store leadership to do the right thing.
“I mostly do closing shifts so I’m going home in the dark and for me that’s scary,” said Michel. “Seeing police at night while I’m driving, that’s so scary and I risk my life to come to work and help people that’s my only goal and now it seems like the store doesn’t support my life.”
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