VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Following widespread criticism, Whole Foods has changed its policy and will now allow employees to wear poppies while on the job.
Canada’s Minister of Veterans Affairs confirmed the news on Friday in a post on Twitter.
“Just spoke to the Chief Operating Officer of Whole Foods. Employees will now be able to wear their poppies at work,” Lawrence MacAulay wrote. “The poppy represents those who’ve served, fought, and died for Canada, and it’s deeply personal to everyone here. Glad to hear they’re changing course.”
Whole Foods ‘welcoming team members to wear poppy pin’
“Our new unified dress code policy is intended to create consistency and ensure operational safety across all of our stores,” Whole Foods said in a new statement to NEWS 1130, Friday afternoon.
“Our intention was never to single out the poppy or to suggest a lack of support for Remembrance Day and the heroes who have bravely served their country. We appreciate the thoughtful feedback we have received from our customers. Given the learnings of today, we are welcoming team members to wear the poppy pin in honour of Remembrance Day. As was previously planned, we will also be observing a moment of silence on November 11, as well as making a monetary donation to the Legion Poppy Fund.”
Statement I just got from @WholeFoods confirms employees are now allowed to wear poppies ahead of #RemembranceDay. “We appreciate the thoughtful feedback we have received from our customers.” @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/e6JxxGv8yf
— Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) November 6, 2020
Whole Foods faced backlash after an employee revealed a new dress code policy prevented them from donning the poppy in the lead up to Remembrance Day.
A new uniform policy went into effect at the grocery store chain’s locations on Nov. 2, according to Business Insider, which reported last month that changes were coming. Whole Foods’ policy prohibited, among other things, buttons or pins on employee aprons.
A person identifying themselves as a Whole Foods employee in Ontario wrote on Reddit that they put a poppy on their apron on Thursday and was “immediately” told they had to take it off because they’re not allowed to wear them.
“Apparently this came directly from our HR person,” the employee added. “The reason given was something along the lines of ‘well if we let you support this ’cause’ then it opens the door for allowing support [ie. buttons and pins] for other causes and we just don’t wanna go there, so we’re saying no to everything, even poppies.’”
Other people who also identify themselves as employees at Whole Foods locations across Canada, including B.C., said they, too, had been told they can’t wear poppies, adding it’s because of the new uniform policy.
News that Whole Foods wasn’t allowing employees to wear poppies was first reported by CBC on Friday morning, with the company’s move sparking heavy criticism online, and making Whole Foods trend on Twitter.
Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, has 14 locations across Canada, including seven in B.C.
Legion thankful for support
The Royal Canadian Legion issued a statement prior to the grocery chain making changes to its policy.
In an email, the BC/Yukon Command of the Royal Canadian Legion said it was thankful to everyone, including Whole Foods, who contributes “in various ways to the National Poppy Campaign.”
“While retailers must set their own corporate policies, unless there are safety concerns we do encourage wearing poppies at all times as a show of respect for our fallen, and as a symbol that helps educate Canadians about the sacrifices of our veterans.”
It did not provide any further comment on the matter.
‘I think Whole Foods has made a silly mistake’
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the matter on Friday morning before Whole Foods changed course.
“I think Whole Foods has made a silly mistake,” he said, adding that he hoped the company would “correct very quickly.”
Trudeau noted MacAulay had engaged with the company directly to “highlight that they made a mistake.”
Other leaders expressed their disappointment online, with Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan saying, “All Canadians should be able to wear the poppy, no matter where they work.”
Canadians wear poppies as an act of Remembrance. We wear them to honour the sacrifices made by our Veterans for our freedoms and values. All Canadians should be able to wear the poppy, no matter where they work. https://t.co/daBJBAeKu1
— Harjit Sajjan (@HarjitSajjan) November 6, 2020
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also shared their thoughts on Twitter, as did B.C. Premier John Horgan.
Following the criticism, and ahead of Whole Foods’ change of heart, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced his government would introduce legislation prohibiting employers from banning staff from wearing poppies during Remembrance Week.
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) November 6, 2020