Whole Foods Tries to Ban Staff from Wearing Poppies to Remember First World War Dead
Amazon's upscale grocery chain hit with backlash over Remembrance Day ban
Amazon's upscale grocery chain Whole Foods Market has triggered a backlash after banning staff members from wearing poppies for Remembrance Day to remember those who died during the First World War.
The upscale grocer, owned by the world's richest man Jeff Bezos, attempted to ban staff in Canada from wearing poppies at work.
Poppies became a symbol of the fallen after they sprang up across the torn battlefields of France and Belgium in the wake of the First World War.
For over a hundred years they have been sold in much of the Commonwealth and former British Empire to raise money for military charities around Armistice Day.
But this year, the U.S.-headquartered company attempted to ban employees from wearing the symbols of remembrance.
The trendy food store reportedly claimed the ban was on grounds that they amount to “supporting a cause.”
“I was basically told… if they allowed this one particular cause, then it would open up the door so that they would have to allow or consider allowing other causes,” a whistleblower told the CBC — the Canadian public broadcaster roughly equivalent to Britain’s BBC.
“I was in shock actually. I was appalled. I couldn’t believe it,” they added.
The move was widely condemned after it gained traction in the media, however.
The move to ban the poppy led to criticism by many on social media, with Canadians expressing their feelings by taking to Twitter with the hashtag "#LestWeForget."
The government Veterans Minister personally intervened on the matter and the conservative premier of the province of Ontario, Doug Ford, announced he would introduce legislation providing workers with an absolute right to wear the poppy.
“No employer can force someone not to wear a poppy,” Ford declared.
Whole Foods Market eventually announced it had reversed the decision, according to Reuters.
"Our new unified dress code policy is intended to create consistency and ensure operational safety across all of our stores," a Whole Foods spokesperson said, adding that it was never the intention to single out "the poppy or to suggest a lack of support for Remembrance Day."
"I think Whole Foods has made a silly mistake that I am hoping they will correct very quickly," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa on Friday.
Remembrance Day is commemorated on November 11 each year.