Grocers at odds with workers over Black Lives Matter buttons

The National Labor Relations Board believes Kroger violated the law and is negotiating a settlement.

“Black Lives Matter” buttons were distributed by UFCW 21 to Fred Meyer and QFC employees in August 2020.

“Black Lives Matter” buttons were distributed by UFCW 21 to Fred Meyer and QFC employees in August 2020.

EVERETT — Workers at Fred Meyer and QFC should be able to wear Black Lives Matter buttons on the job, the National Labor Relations Board says. Retail giant Kroger, which discouraged some workers from doing so, is reviewing a settlement agreement.

Tom Geiger, a spokesperson for the union that represents the Kroger employees, said members were asked to remove buttons that said “Black Lives Matter,” after the union handed them out in August 2020. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 alleged Kroger failed to bargain over a change in workplace conditions and prohibited workers from taking action together — both violations of federal labor law.

The NLRB found merit in both claims, said Region 19 Director Ronald Hooks. Hooks, who heads the NLRB’s Northwest Regional Office in Seattle, said the Division of Advice found that “both of those acts by the employer constituted violations” of federal labor law.

Memos from the Division of Advice, which offers guidance in difficult cases, are not typically available to the public while the case is open. Hooks said Region 19 received the memo in mid-September and is negotiating a settlement with Kroger.

“We are reviewing the proposed settlement agreement,” wrote a Kroger spokesperson Monday. “Our company is unequivocal in standing with our Black associates, deeply listening and taking action to advance more diverse, inclusive and equitable communities.”

If the NLRB believes there is merit to allegations against an employer, attempting to negotiate a settlement is the first step in resolving a case. If the parties can’t reach an agreement, the NLRB issues a complaint against the employer. That leads to litigation.

Hooks said if the parties can’t reach a settlement, he expects the NLRB would issue a complaint sometime in October.

For Fred Meyer and QFC workers, the update was a welcome one. Workers wore the Black Lives Matter message to support the movement, and because many had experienced or witnessed racism in the workplace, said Geiger, the UFCW 21 spokesperson.

“The message of Black Lives Matter that the workers were wearing was both an expression of a problem they were experiencing or witnessing in the workplace that they wanted addressed and also a comment about what was and continues to be happening in our society in general around racism, and racism toward Black people in the community, specifically,” Geiger said.

In Snohomish County, employees at Fred Meyer and QFC first wore face masks and other items that said Black Lives Matter after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer. The officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, ultimately killing him, while other officers watched.

Floyd’s death sparked international protests against police brutality and racial inequality. The 2020 Black Lives Matter movement became one of the largest social movements in U.S. history.

As the summer progressed, however, some of the workers were told they weren’t allowed to wear the slogan, Geiger said. In some cases, Kroger management suggested workers wear a bracelet that said “Standing Together.”

“It showed how much Kroger completely missed the point,” Geiger said.

In August 2020, UFCW 21 gave its members the Black Lives Matter buttons. The union filed a grievance with the NLRB, after workers were asked to remove them.

Katie Hayes:; Twitter: @misskatiehayes.

Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

The oldest known meteor shower, Lyrid, will be falling across the skies in mid- to late April 2024. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)
Clouds to dampen Lyrid meteor shower views in Western Washington

Forecasters expect a storm will obstruct peak viewing Sunday. Locals’ best chance at viewing could be on the coast. Or east.

Everett police officers on the scene of a single-vehicle collision on Evergreen Way and Olivia Park Road Wednesday, July 5, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Photo provided by Everett Police Department)
Everett man gets 3 years for driving high on fentanyl, killing passenger

In July, Hunter Gidney crashed into a traffic pole on Evergreen Way. A passenger, Drew Hallam, died at the scene.

FILE - Then-Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., speaks on Nov. 6, 2018, at a Republican party election night gathering in Issaquah, Wash. Reichert filed campaign paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission on Friday, June 30, 2023, to run as a Republican candidate. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
6 storylines to watch with Washington GOP convention this weekend

Purist or pragmatist? That may be the biggest question as Republicans decide who to endorse in the upcoming elections.

Keyshawn Whitehorse moves with the bull Tijuana Two-Step to stay on during PBR Everett at Angel of the Winds Arena on Wednesday, April 17, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
PBR bull riders kick up dirt in Everett Stampede headliner

Angel of the Winds Arena played host to the first night of the PBR’s two-day competition in Everett, part of a new weeklong event.

Simreet Dhaliwal speaks after winning during the 2024 Snohomish County Emerging Leaders Awards Presentation on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Simreet Dhaliwal wins The Herald’s 2024 Emerging Leaders Award

Dhaliwal, an economic development and tourism specialist, was one of 12 finalists for the award celebrating young leaders in Snohomish County.

In this Jan. 12, 2018 photo, Ben Garrison, of Puyallup, Wash., wears his Kel-Tec RDB gun, and several magazines of ammunition, during a gun rights rally at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
With gun reform law in limbo, Edmonds rep is ‘confident’ it will prevail

Despite a two-hour legal period last week, the high-capacity ammunition magazine ban remains in place.

Everett Fire Department and Everett Police on scene of a multiple vehicle collision with injuries in the 1400 block of 41st Street. (Photo provided by Everett Fire Department)
1 in critical condition after crash with box truck, semi in Everett

Police closed 41st Street between Rucker and Colby avenues on Wednesday afternoon, right before rush hour.

The Arlington Public Schools Administration Building is pictured on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
$2.5M deficit in Arlington schools could mean dozens of cut positions

The state funding model and inflation have led to Arlington’s money problems, school finance director Gina Zeutenhorst said Tuesday.

Lily Gladstone poses at the premiere of the Hulu miniseries "Under the Bridge" at the DGA Theatre, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Mountlake Terrace’s Lily Gladstone plays cop in Hulu’s ‘Under the Bridge’

The true-crime drama started streaming Wednesday. It’s Gladstone’s first part since her star turn in “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.