Whole Foods employees in Westlake protest over Black Lives Matter masks

SEATTLE — Several Whole Foods employees in Westlake are refusing to work after they said the company wouldn’t let them wear masks with a Black Lives Matter message.

Shoppers at the Westlake Whole Foods were greeted with a very familiar message Friday night.

Outside the store, protesters shouted, “Black Lives Matter!”

It was a growing chorus, given by the very grocery store employees who work at Whole Foods.

“I work tomorrow at 2:30 and if they make me take my mask off, I’ll immediately leave,” said one worker.

This week, store employees said at least one of their co-workers was forced to walk off the job after he was told he couldn’t wear a Black Lives Matter mask.

Ye in an interview with KIRO 7 News, workers insisted their style has never been an issue before.

“What I’m wearing today, technically with my band patches, I am out of dress code,” said one employee. “I have worn this before and never have (store managers) said anything.”

“I believe a lot of my co-workers were unfairly targeted because of the color of their skin,” added another worker. “I’ve been here for two years and wear the mask as much as anyone else.”

Whole Foods told KIRO 7 News it’s simply following company protocol, saying in part, “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.”

Employees who are refusing to work disagreed, saying Black Lives Matter is more than just a slogan.

“It’s not a political statement,” a worker told KIRO 7. “It is just a fact. Black lives matter and black lives are important right now. They need to be the center of the conversation.”

Protesters said they’ll be back in front of Whole Foods tomorrow and for as long as it takes for them to be allowed to wear their Black Lives Matter masks.

Whole Foods said it offered at least one employee a different mask to wear, but they refused.

The company said employees who don’t follow its dress code won’t be allowed to work this weekend.

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