Workers at a Cambridge Whole Foods sent home for Black Lives Matter masks

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up to date on June 26, 2020 | 1:02 PM

Six of the seven employees despatched house from the River Street Whole Foods in Cambridge Wednesday for carrying Black Lives Matter masks. —Handout by way of The Boston Globe

Employees on the Whole Foods on River Street in Cambridge say they had been despatched house by retailer managers this week after they wore Black Lives Matter masks to work.

“Today, I and about 12 of my colleagues got sent home from work for wearing Black Lives Matter masks,” Kirby Burt wrote on Facebook on Thursday. “We were told it was ‘against dress code’ and that Whole Foods doesn’t allow brands or ‘political statements.’ We don’t think this is a political statement or a brand. We believe it’s a statement of basic human rights and compassion.”

In her put up, Burt identified that each Whole Foods and its father or mother firm, Amazon, have posted statements in assist of racial justice and the Black Lives Matter motion.

“Why is allowing team members to wear BLM masks one step too far?” she wrote.

According to The Boston Globe, the motion on the Cambridge retailer was organized by Savannah Kinzer after she noticed experiences of Whole Foods employees in other states being despatched house for refusing to take away Black Lives Matter masks.

On June 15, Kinzer created a GoFundMe page to buy masks for the demonstration.

“Our Whole Foods policy states ‘You must wear Whole Foods Market shirts/tops (or industry-related organizations with which we are affiliated),’”she wrote. “So let’s make the BLM organization industry-related! After all, it is a simple statement that EVERYONE should support. It does not have to be political, it is simply human rights. Hopefully the publicity over social media will catch on and other Whole Foods workers will join across the country.”

When Kinzer and her colleagues put the masks on at work on Wednesday, a supervisor instructed them they needed to both take off the masks or go house, in line with the Globe. Seven of them walked out, and, on Thursday, Kinzer introduced extra masks to move out to coworkers. She and a couple of dozen different workers had been once more despatched house.

“People are allowed to wear rainbow pins in support of the LGBT community, so I don’t see what the difference is in this,” Kinzer told NECN. “It’s so basic. It’s not political. It’s human rights.”

Leavar Michel, who was among the many employees who participated and was despatched house, instructed the Globe that some workers had been afraid they’d lose their job in the event that they joined in.

“Employers understand what power they have because of the lack of jobs available, and I think they’re using that to force people to not spread the message to avoid offending customers,” he stated. “It’s not like we’re rioting or doing anything. We’re wearing masks.”

“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 stated in an announcement to Boston.com. “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.”

Kinzer identified in an interview with the Globe that workers carrying Patriots masks or different face-coverings bearing messages have gone unchallenged prior to now, although on Thursday employees had been instructed to take off masks with Red Sox and Narragansett logos.

“When I first got into the job and applied, they were very inclusive about everything,” Michel instructed NECN. “Race, gender, age, anything. And so now that they’re sending us home because we want to support a movement for human rights, it kind of contradicts what they’ve been preaching since I’ve applied for the job.”