Workers at a Whole Foods in Cambridge, Massachusetts staged a walkout on July 1 to protest management’s decision to not allow employees to wear masks supporting Black Lives Matter. Earlier in the week, the boss had sent home workers who had been wearing masks with the slogan – provoking outrage amongst the store’s workers. They organized themselves for the walkout. As one of the workers said in a speech, “silencing our support for Black lives is silencing the customers and communities we hold dear.”
Whole Foods and Amazon – the company that owns Whole Foods – have previously come out in “support” for Black Lives Matter. The banner on the front page of the Whole Foods website reads “Racism has no place here,” and a quick search on Amazon for Black Lives Matter reveals that “Amazon stands in solidarity with the Black community.” Like thousands of other corporations and businesses, Amazon and Whole Foods pretend to care about social issues – but only so that they can market themselves better and make a buck. There certainly wasn’t any wave of corporate support for Black Lives Matter in 2014 after the murder of Michael Brown or in 2015 after the murders of Freddie Gray and Eric Garner. Not as many people were as activated and engaged then, so there was much less marketing potential for corporations to exploit.
This silencing of workers at Whole Foods is just another example of how thin corporate commitment to ending racism actually is. Corporations cannot and will not end 400 years of institutionalized racism in this country. Instead, we should look to the workers at Whole Foods who organized themselves to fight against racism. We all need to organize ourselves and fight!
featured image credit: Nathan Klima / The Boston Globe