One year ago, we took that photo at Westwood Village, where QFC workers were demonstrating in support of hazard pay and for the right to wear union-sponsored buttons declaring that Black lives matter. Their union, UFCW 21, took the button issue to the National Labor Relations Board, and says the NLRB has ruled in its favor. From the union:
After Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on May 25, 2020, many UFCW 21 members working in grocery and retail stores chose to express their opposition to racism by wearing face masks (otherwise worn for protection from COVID) or other items bearing the Black Lives Matter slogan.
Although Kroger issued public statements expressing sympathy with the Black Lives Matter movement, managers at Kroger-owned stores in Western Washington started ordering UFCW 21 members to remove Black Lives Matter masks in August 2020.
UFCW 21 responded to the company’s Black Lives Matter ban by collaborating with Fred Meyer and QFC workers to distribute union-sponsored Black Lives Matter buttons with the UFCW 21 logo. When managers banned the Union buttons, UFCW 21 filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board. Kroger’s ban and the Union response received widespread local and national attention.
(Now) Region 19 of the National Labor Relations Board has informed UFCW 21 of its finding that Fred Meyer and QFC – both Kroger companies – violated federal labor law when it prohibited workers from wearing union-sponsored Black Lives Matter buttons.
Specifically, Region 19 found merit in UFCW 21’s charges that Kroger violated the law by: 1) failing to bargain with the Union over a change in workplace conditions – in this case the practice of allowing the wearing of buttons at work; and 2) prohibiting workers from taking action together – in this case, by wearing Black Lives Matter messages – to protest racism in the workplace and in society, generally.
Region 19 will now seek a settlement agreement with Kroger, which would likely require a change to company policy. If a settlement cannot be reached, Region 19 would typically issue a formal complaint and a trial would be held before an Administrative Law Judge, whose ruling would be subject to an appeal to the NLRB in Washington D.C.
“This is very uplifting. When workers were trying to speak out through these buttons and collectively say Black Lives Matter and Kroger said to take the buttons off, that was an insult. This decision is welcome news in our work to bring attention to social and racial injustice in the workplace and in our neighborhoods”, said Sam Dancy, a Front End Supervisor at the Westwood Village QFC in West Seattle.
The union is also calling for “meaningful steps to address racial inequities in Kroger workplaces.”