business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Seattle Times reports that employees at Kroger-owned QFC and Fred Meyer stores in the Seattle area have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), arguing that the company's ban on the wearing of "Black Lives Matter" buttons "violates federal labor law and their union contract."

According to the story, the United Food and Commercial Workers, "which represents around 13,000 workers in Puget Sound-area Fred Meyer and QFC stores, distributed the buttons in August.

"Officials at the Westwood Village and University Village stores declined to comment on the buttons or store policy. Tiffany Sanders, a QFC spokesperson in Bellevue, also declined to comment on the NLRB complaint or the specifics of the union’s grievance.

"But Sanders said QFC offered wristbands as an alternative for employees who 'have expressed a desire to stand together with the Black community and show their support through their clothing, facial coverings and accessories.'  One wristband bears the words, 'Standing Together,' and reflects the company’s 'commitment to Standing Together with our Black associates, customers and communities against racism in all forms,' Sanders said."

According to the Times, "Union officials said that when unfair labor charges are filed, the NRLB typically gathers evidence from union members and employers and then determines whether violations have occurred. The process generally takes one to two months.

"The dispute over BLM symbols follows months of protests over police violence against Black people - as well as many efforts by corporations to accommodate employee participation and support for the BLM movement."

KC's View:

This is a tough one for retailers;  I'm sure that there are a lot of concerns that a statement of support for one group of employees will alienate a group of customers.

But I'm not sure this is the battle they should be fighting.  We are in a particularly fragile moment, and I think I would stand with my employees.