Grocery chain Whole Foods Market faced sharp criticism Friday for a policy that forbids employees from wearing poppies, prompting British Columbia’s Premier, along with several politicians across Canada, to reach out to the company.
The policy is a blanket ban on anything other than the retailer’s basic uniform — a Whole Foods apron, coat or vest, hat, and standard-issue name tag — and doesn’t single out poppies, the Amazon-owned chain said.
Whole Foods is an American multinational supermarket with its headquarters based in Austin, Texas, however, the rule nonetheless has drawn widespread condemnation from the Canadian market.
British Columbia’s Premier, John Horgan, took to social media Friday to call out the grocery chain’s decision.
C’mon @WholeFoods. Wearing a poppy for Remembrance Day and Aboriginal Veterans Day is about honouring people who have given so much in service to others. Give your heads a shake. #LestWeForgethttps://t.co/nEsVixhJ6X
— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) November 6, 2020
“C’mon [Whole Foods]…Give your heads a shake,” Horgan tweeted.
Horgan wasn’t the only Canadian politician to chime in on the decision either.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government has been in touch with the U.S.-based company, which has 14 locations across Canada.
“Whole Foods has made a silly mistake that I’m hoping they will correct very quickly,” he said.
Trudeau’s comments came as the House of Commons adopted a motion by unanimous consent calling on all Canadian employers to allow their staff to wear poppies during Veterans Week, which began Thursday.
Meanwhile, Ontario’s premier said he would take action to ensure everyone is able to wear a poppy while at work.
“I find it absolutely disgraceful. I find it disgusting,” Doug Ford said of the Whole Foods policy during an appearance in Ottawa on Friday.
“We’re going to introduce legislation immediately that permits any employee — any employee, no matter where you work — to wear a poppy.”
The premier’s office said details of the legislation are still being ironed out.
Whole Foods said it updated its dress-code policy last month to specify the ban on anything other than the standard uniform in an effort to clarify the rules for employees.
“Whole Foods Market honours the men and women who have and continue to bravely serve their country,” a spokeswoman said. “With the exception of those items required by law, our dress code policy prohibits any additions to our standard uniform.”
The retailer will observe a moment of silence on Remembrance Day and donate to the Royal Canadian Legion’s poppy campaign, the spokeswoman said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the poppy policy is part of a broader issue at the company.
“It was wrong when they banned staff expressing support for Black Lives Matter and it’s wrong to ban the poppy,” he said, referencing an ongoing lawsuit in the United States.
A federal lawsuit filed in Boston on July 20 alleges that the supermarket chain disciplined, intimidated and retaliated against workers who wore Black Lives Matter face coverings earlier this year.
According to that lawsuit, store managers cited the company dress code, which prohibits slogans or logos not affiliated with the company, as the reason for prohibiting Black Lives Matter messages.
Whole Foods’ decision has also sparked other grocery store chains to chime in on the matter, outlining their own poppy-wearing policies.
Our store teammates are finding unique ways to keep the spirit of Remembrance Day alive in this unprecedented year. You can support your local legion in store or online via @RoyalCdnLegion My Poppy campaign: https://t.co/dgiPzvuklw #lestweforget #showusyourpoppy pic.twitter.com/lTGTwCqEkV
— Sobeys (@sobeys) November 6, 2020
“Our store teammates are finding unique ways to keep the spirit of Remembrance Day alive in this unprecedented year,” Sobeys tweeted, along with photos of prominent poppy displays, and a staff member wearing one of the pins.
Loblaws, meanwhile, was more direct.
“We allow and encourage our colleagues across the country to wear poppies. We have supported our veterans through poppy sales for years, and are making a donation to the Royal Canadian Legion,” the company tweeted.
With files to the Canadian Press.