In April, Costco began requiring employees to wear face masks while at work due to the coronavirus pandemic. Employees began to wear all different types of masks, colorful masks, masks with alcohol logos, their favorite sports teams, rainbow Pride masks, and masks with black, white, and blue American flags, the symbol for supporting police.
None of the aforementioned masks was an issue, but when employees began wearing Black Lives Matter amid nationwide protests over racism and police brutality, employees began being sent home and told they could not wear BLM apparel, reports Buzzfeed. Costco claims the masks violate their dress code policy.
In May, Costco CEO Craig Jelinek issued a statement that the company was committed to “building a diverse workforce” and that everyone would be treated fairly and respectfully in an inclusive environment. Employees do not feel the company is living up to what was said in his statement.
At a store in Louisville, Kentucky, six employees were sent home for wearing Black Lives Matter masks. Employee Niko Bracy, a cashier, wrote a letter that included his resignation to Jelinek, prompting the CEO to fly out to Louisville to meet with employees.
“I sent this letter directly to the Costco HR department, As well as to the CEO Craig Jelinek. Craig responded. He implored me to reconsider. And offered to come to the store in person to discuss this further. I accepted. Be the change folks. Using your voice works,” Bracy wrote on Facebook.
Jelinek met with employees for over three hours but maintained that if he allowed employees to wear Black Lives Matter apparel, then All Live Matter apparel would also have to be permitted to be worn. Employees were disheartened after the meeting.
In another example, managers at a Costco warehouse in Bridgewater, New Jersey, told Andy Wagnac that he would have to remove his Black Lives Matters mask. The cashier’s assistant saw one of his fellow coworkers in a Blue Lives Matter mask who was not told to remove the mask until another employee complained in response to being told Black Lives Matter masks are against the company’s dress code policy.
This prompted Wagnac to start a Change.org petition, which has garnered over 1,200 signatures, that calls for Costco to stop silencing Black Lives Matter.
“Costco, who proudly states the importance of treating their members with respect and their employees like family, has made no mention of their support for their Black ‘family members’ who are all suffering and grieving during these times Black Lives Matter,” Wagnac’s petition reads.
These incidents are not isolated. Employees at Costco warehouses in Delaware and Chicago were told they could not wear their Black Lives Matter masks or were sent home. Some were threatened with suspension if they did not comply. A dozen other warehouse employees told Buzzfeed they were able to wear whatever masks they wanted, except for BLM masks, which are considered “political.”
Another Louisville employee, Kirsten Doan, was pulled off the floor in mid-June and told that a BLM mask could “cause hostility between other people,” by her manager, the publication reports.
“They are not with us,” Wagnac said to Buzzfeed. “They are afraid of losing money over standing for our identity.”