Kroger settles with union on BLM button violation

May 9, 2023, 3:08 PM

Black Lives Matter buttons Kroger BLM...

A Fred Meyer employee wearing a Black Lives Matter button. (UFCW 21, YouTube)

(UFCW 21, YouTube)

A federal labor judge ruled in favor of Kroger employees’ rights to wear buttons in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement after several managers of Fred Meyer and QFC stores in Washington ordered workers to stop.

The decision aligns with a previous National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from September 2021 that said the grocery chains violated labor laws.

Labor board: Fred Meyer, QFC ban on Black Lives Matter buttons violated law

Kroger responded to employees wearing BLM masks in the workplace by banning them outright. Workers then instead chose to wear union-distributed BLM buttons, which were also subsequently banned. The company offered black and white bracelets that read “Standing Together” as an alternative.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 (UFCW 21) then filed an unfair labor charge with the NLRB, alleging that Kroger had failed to adequately bargain with the union over rules surrounding the wearing of buttons at work and had prohibited workers from engaging in a protest against racism and inequality.

“One of the core values of the store is inclusion, so we did not think ‘Black Lives Matter’ was a radical statement for this business,” University Village QFC checker Motoko Kusanagi said in a news release. “The amount of pushback we received for such a small showing of support still sits wrong with me to this day. I’m glad we could fight back.”

The case could not reach a settlement and therefore went to trial in April of 2022 before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ruled in favor of the workers Tuesday and found Kroger’s Fred Meyer and QFC had violated the workers’ rights. As a result of the ruling, the workers will be allowed to wear the buttons.

Administrative Law Judge Mara-Louise Anzalone wrote in the decision last week that “by collectively displaying the ‘Black Lives Matter’ message on their work uniforms, the employees, in this case, acted to advance their interest — as employees — to an affirmatively anti-racist, pro-civil rights, and pro-justice workplace.”

Hundreds of Fred Meyer, QFC employees say they’ve experienced problems receiving paychecks

Celebrating the victory, UFCW 3000 said they still have work to do to get equity for Black employees in hiring and promotions.

“It is important that workers’ rights and legal standards be protected,” UFCW 3000 President Faye Guenther said. “Kroger, the owner [of] QFC and Fred Meyer, continues to be a problem and needs to do a better job of hiring and promoting workers who are Black at every level of the company and making it clear that it will not tolerate racism from customers or employees.”

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Kroger settles with union on BLM button violation