Posts tagged with "Costco"

Trump’s Goodyear boycott shows how political and social tensions can flare over workplace attire

August 21, 2020

On August 19, President Donald Trump urged Americans nationwide to boycott Akron, Ohio-based Goodyeartweeting, “Don’t buy GOODYEAR TIRES – They announced a BAN ON MAGA HATS.”

The tire company said there was no specific ban, but it had asked employees to refrain from some workplaces expressions that might inflame political and social discourse at work.  

And Goodyear is not the only American business that is trying to stop divisive debates in the workplace. Even as companies declare support for the Black Lives Matter movement, some are not allowing employees to wear masks or other attire that expresses solidarity with the cause, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Employees have pushed back against what they say is an attempt to silence them—staging protests at Whole Foods, denouncing Trader Joe’s on Twitter, calling for boycotts of Taco Bell and Starbucks—while their employers defend the restrictions as a matter of dress code.

Alrady, there have been attire-related incidents: On Long Island, New York, a Target customer was asked to leave after confronting an employee wearing a Black Lives Matter mask and asking if she didn’t think all lives matter, according to news reports describing the June 25 incident.

Employers, reluctant to alienate customers or employees, may hope banning personal statements across the board will keep conflict at bay. But they must consider the legal ramifications of restricting certain forms of expression, and the cost of bad publicity and poor employee morale, the Tribune notes.

“This is definitely a challenge employers are going to face, if not now it is likely they will face it in future,”  Lauren Novak, an attorney with Schiff Hardin in Chicago who represents employers in labor and employment cases, told the news outlet.

.In the Chicago suburbs, a Costco employee told the Tribune that she wore a Black Lives Matter mask to work after hearing about managers making racially insensitive comments to other employees at the warehouse. After working two shifts with the mask, the employee was called into a manager’s office in late June and told to stop wearing it because it was “political,” “controversial” and “disruptive,” the employee told the Tribune.

In a silent protest in the days that followed, the employee, who is Black, said she arrived at work wearing the mask, made sure people were watching, and flipped it inside out upon clocking in.

“For so long we have been taught that we cannot speak out against an unjust system that affects every aspect of our life,” said the employee, who has worked at Costco for more than a decade and asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. “We are supposed to shut up and take it.”

Cellphone photos of Costco’s employee handbook that the employee provided to the Tribune show its dress code says only that employees must be “neat, clean and professional.” People identifying themselves as Costco employees have posted pictures of themselves on Facebook wearing attire at work that celebrates LGBTQ pride.

Costco declined a request from The Chicago Tribune to comment or answer a list of written questions.

Last week, the Chicago-area employee said she was given permission to wear a mask depicting a raised fist as long as it doesn’t include words. The employee plans to make more such masks to distribute to co-workers who want them.

Private employers have the right to regulate what employees wear to work. But restricting some forms of expression could risk violating labor or employment law.

Employers should consider whether employees are wearing Black Lives Matter masks to protest racially discriminatory working conditions, which could be considered protected, concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act, Novak said.

Employers also could face allegations of discrimination or creating a hostile work environment if the dress code policy isn’t consistently enforced and disadvantages people based on race or another protected class, said Fern Trevino, an employment lawyer in Chicago who represents workers.

They could run into issues if attire celebrating LGBTQ pride is permitted but Black Lives Matter is not.

“Employers should inform employees of the dress code policy in writing and should assure the policy is consistently and equitably enforced,” Trevino said.

Some companies have responded to public pressure—and some have not.

Taco Bell apologized after an Ohio employee who declined to remove his Black Lives Matter mask was fired from a franchised restaurant, saying “we believe the Black Lives Matter movement is a human rights issue and not a political one.” The fast-food chain told USA Today that it doesn’t prohibit the wearing of such masks and is working to clarify its policies.

However, Whole Foods says that “in order to operate in a customer-focused environment,” employees must comply with its long-standing dress code prohibiting clothing with visible slogans, messages, logos or advertising that are not company-related. It provides face masks to employees if theirs don’t comply.

Whole Foods, which sent home two New Hampshire employees for wearing Black Lives Matter and “I Can’t Breathe” masks, has seen protests in Massachusetts, Philadelphia and Seattle over the issue.

A central concern for employers is that allowing employees to wear Black Lives Matter apparel will provoke other employees to don All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter—or other potentially divisive slogans, Novak said.

It’s a “woke” world we’re living in now: Employers will have to decide whether they will take a stance against those viewpoints, she said.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Over 2,000 people have petitioned Costco to add a vegan hot dog to its food court menu

October 7, 2019

It may not be in the Zagat guide, but a visit to Costco’s food court menu-which serves a menu of pizza, hot dogs and ice cream—is a on the must-do list of most shoppers when they visit the big-box store.

Now, according to Business Insider, nearly 2,000 people have signed a petition for the warehouse retailer to introduce a vegan hot dog to its food court menu. The Change.org petition was started by Scott Hildebrand, who wrote on the website that he has been vegan for eight years and has eaten a meat-free diet for over a decade.

“We need to work with companies to make plant-based options more accessible,” Hildebrand, who lives near Costco’s headquarters in Washington State, said in a statement. “Our family, like countless others, are regulars at Costco. I’d love to see them extend plant-based options to the food court, so we can enjoy veggie hot dogs after a Sunday shopping trip.”

Costco already is on the same page. The company has announced that some stores will start selling a plant-based burger within in the next few weeks, Business Insider reports.

Indeed, the stores actually went too far and  sparked a backlash in July 2018, the new outlet says, when it cut its Polish hot dog from its menu in favor of vegan and healthier options like açai bowls and organic burgers.

“Sorry, but when I feel like a hot dog or pizza, a salad is the last thing on my mind,” the petition reads.

The petition also notes the growing availability of vegan and plant-based options nationwide, including Burger King’s Impossible WhopperKFC’s Beyond Fried Chicken, and Ikea’s rollout of a vegan hot dog.

The petition is directed toward Costco CEO Craig Jelinek.

A Costco representative did not return a request from Business Insider for comment.

Research contact: @businessinsider

Consumer wallets ‘spring a leak’ as prices soar on diapers, kitty litter, and toilet paper

February 12, 2019

Most of us cut back on everything but the essentials when household prices go up, but our budget remains the same. However, according to a February 10 report by The Wall Street Journal, the cost of staples—including such fundamentals as diapers and cat litter—is expected to increase in 2019, leaving us little choice but to ante up.

Producers of household products, from toilet paper to bleach, are set to raise prices again this year after already hiking prices in 2018, hoping to offset higher commodity costs and boost profits, the financial news outlet says.

New Jersey-based Church & Dwight already has increased prices for about one-third of its products, including Arm & Hammer cat litter and baking soda, and some OxiClean cleaning products.

“The good news is that competitors are raising [prices] in those categories as we speak,” Church & Dwight CEO Matthew Farrell said on a conference call last week, during which the company reported higher quarterly sales and lower profits.

What he left out of that statement to financial analysts was that it was good news for the company and its stockholders—but not for America’s consumers.

The company is now discussing more price increases with retailers, including for personal-care products, Farrell told analysts Tuesday. Those brands include Nair, Arm & Hammer Toothpaste, Orajel, Simply Saline, Waterpik, and Viviscal, among others.

Other household names that are planning to release similarly “good” news, according to the Journal, include Procter & GambleColgate-Palmolive, and Clorox, which are raising prices in response to higher costs of raw materials and transportation, as well as unfavorable foreign-currency swings.

For much of the past decade, the Journal notes, price cuts have been far more common than price increases as U.S. companies were mostly reluctant to test consumers’ spending power and brand loyalty in a fragile economic recovery.

When companies tried to raise prices, “they better have had a uniquely strong innovation or be willing to lose market share to competitors,” Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Ali Dibadj told the news outlet.

Adding to the challenge of raising prices is that more shoppers have been switching to store-branded paper towels and discount detergents, or opting for online upstarts such as Dollar Shave Club.

Traditional brands also have been under pressure from big-box retailers such as Costco and discounters like Walmart Inc. and Amazon to keep prices low—pushing the manufacturers to focus on lowering costs in their supply chains or pare back advertising.

Finally, after failing to see success when they tried to combat weak demand by lowering prices, the industry’s biggest player, P&G, shifted its course last summer, announcing it would charge more for several of its brands—and several rivals followed suit, the Journal reports.

The recent price increases are largely playing out in the companies’ favor, Wells Fargo Securities analyst Bonnie Herzog told the Journal. Sales volumes of household and personal products in the United States. declined 1.4% in January, according to Bernstein’s analysis of data from Nielsen. Dollar sales of those products rose 0.7% in the period, Bernstein said, indicating that the price increases, on balance, are padding the bottom lines at consumer-goods companies.

How consumers will deal with the price hikes long-term remains to be seen.

Research contact: aisha.al-muslim@wsj.com