Kroger Store Demands Employees Replace BLM Buttons With Bland Corporate Wristbands
Back in August, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 handed out Black Lives Matter buttons to employees of Seattle-area QFC and Fred Meyer stores, two supermarket chains owned by Kroger. On Tuesday, they filed an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board against these stores for refusing to allow employees to wear the buttons at work, on the grounds that refusing to allow employees to wear the buttons is a violation of federal law and their union contract.
Employees are upset because not allowing them to wear the pins suggests that there is something controversial about the statement that Black Lives Matter. Additionally, rather than issuing some sort of official statement on the buttons and why they can't wear them, store directors have merely been pulling employees aside and asking them to take the pins off. It's almost as if they knew it was bad to ask employees to do that and were hoping to keep it a little more hush-hush.
Via Seattle Times:
"I think they're afraid they'll lose money" by offending some customers, said Motoko Kusanagi, who works at the QFC in Seattle's University Village, where she says the store's director has been "pulling people aside individually and asking them to take the pin off."
On Tuesday, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 filed an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) against QFC and Fred Meyer, both owned by supermarket giant Kroger, over the button ban.
"It's not a white thing, it's not a black thing — it's a people thing," said Sam Dancy, a union shop steward and a supervisor at Westwood Village QFC in Southwest Seattle, who is Black. "It's a human right — and it is our right to wear these buttons."
Tiffany Sanders, a spokesperson for the stores, says the stores have helpfully offered an alternative for those employees who "have expressed a desire to stand together with the Black community and show their support through their clothing, facial coverings and accessories" — wristbands! Wristbands that, of course, say nothing specifically about Black people.
One of these wristbands says "Standing Together," which Sanders says refers to Kroger's "commitment to Standing Together with our Black associates, customers and communities against racism in all forms," but, again, without specifically mentioning racism or Black people. Apparently, the way they demonstrate this is with a wristband featuring a saying that could mean literally anything. Sure, it could mean they are Standing Together against racism, but it could also mean they are Standing Together against cancer or that they are all Standing Together against cock fighting or they are all literally Standing Together because they are all, in fact, working at a grocery store. It is corporate-speak that is largely open to interpretation. In fact, it could even mean that they are all Standing Together to support racist police officers.
Unsurprisingly, employees were pretty offended by them:
Dancy dismissed the wristbands as a "backhanded slap" to employees.
"They're not standing together with us," he said. "If were, they would allow us to wear these pins."
Kusanagi said employees had largely ignored the wristbands. "There's a huge pile of them in the break room."
While Sanders did mention the wristbands, she has not commented on anything else, or said specifically why the stores felt that Black Lives Matter-ing was just too controversial a stance for a button.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse