Yum! Brands has apologized and Starbucks recently reversed its ban on Black Lives Matter apparel
Some companies that have been posting public statements against racial inequality are now getting called out for not practicing what they preach.
Taco Bell is the latest franchise under fire. The Yum! Brands-owned
taco chain shared a statement from CEO Mark King across its social media accounts in early June that read, “We don’t tolerate racism or violence against Black people. We’re committed to being part of long-term solutions. And we have more work to do.”
But now a former Taco Bell shift leader has gone viral for sharing a video recounting how he was fired for wearing a Black Lives Matter face mask to work..
Denzel Skinner, 26, of Youngstown, Ohio has worked at Taco Bell for eight years, and said that the company did not include anything in its face covering policy that dictated what can and cannot be printed on a mask. But when he walked into his Liberty Township store wearing a Black Lives Matter face mask last week, a manager told him to take it off. He refused and left, local NBC
affiliate WKBN reported. Skinner said he was then told that if he walked out, he would lose his job. And he did.
Here’s a clip of the encounter, which has already drawn more than 1 million views on Twitter
About 30 people joined him in a peaceful protest last Friday, marching from a nearby Aldi to the Taco Bell where he used to work. “No hatred towards Taco Bell, none whatsoever, but once again, I just want justice,” Skinner told WFMJ. “We need justice. All lives can’t matter until black lives start mattering.”
Taco Bell told MarketWatch in an emailed statement that Yum!’s chief people officer and chief diversity and inclusion officer both apologized to Skinner last week. “We believe Black Lives Matter. We were disappointed to learn about the incident that took place in Youngstown, OH,” the Taco Bell company statement reads. “We take this very seriously; we have been working closely with our franchisee that operates this location to address the issue.”
That hasn’t appeased many angry customers yet. While the video was posted last week, it didn’t blow up on Twitter until Thursday morning, leading to hashtags including #RIPTacoBell and #TacoBellIsOverParty as many customers called for boycotting the chain, as well as other Yum! Restaurants like Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Some posters also shared tips for recreating favorite Taco Bell menu items at home.
Still others shared the counter-argument that if employees can wear Black Lives Matter masks and other apparel, then wearing merchandise supporting the NRA or pro-life groups shouldn’t be considered controversial, either.
It’s a complicated issue that more workplaces are having to face during the renewed reckoning with racism that companies and individuals are facing in the wake of several high-profile killings of black Americans by police officers, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks. And experts and activists had recently warned MarketWatch that corporate statements supporting racial equality and condemning police brutality could lead to backlash if they aren’t followed through with actions that aid progress.
For instance, there were recently calls to boycott Starbucks
after it was revealed the Seattle coffee giant was banning workers from wearing any Black Lives Matter apparel — even though the company has tweeted the phrase “black lives matter” on its own corporate Twitter account. The backlash was so fierce — especially because Starbucks has allowed workers to wear paraphernalia supporting other causes, such as LGBTQ rights — that the company later reversed the ban.
“We’ve heard you want to show your support, so just be you,” wrote Starbucks executives including Roz Brewer, chief operating officer of the coffee giant, in a blog post. “Wear your BLM pin or T-shirt. We are so proud of your passionate support of our common humanity.”
On the flipside, a Georgia police officer went viral this week for tearfully accusing her local McDonald’s
of withholding part of her breakfast order on purpose because she’s a cop. The backlash — both against the officer and the burger chain — led McDonald’s to apologize to the officer and release a statement clarifying that she “was never denied service.”
But whether or not Americans can wear their support for movements like Black Lives Matter at work differs from place to place. There is no federal law, and only a handful of state laws, “that potentially protect an employee’s right to speak out at work about an important social issue,” employment lawyer Paula Brantner told MarketWatch. “Of course, that would be against the law if a black employee was fired for wearing [a Black Lives Matter shirt] but a non-black employee was not terminated for wearing something similar,” such as an “All Lives Matter” shirt, she said.