Whole Foods reverses course, will allow employees to wear poppies after public outcry

The supermarket chain earlier said the ban was part of a recently updated uniform policy

True patriot love was loud and clear and forced U.S. supermarket chain Whole Foods to stand down Friday after the company banned employees from wearing a poppy on the job to mark Remembrance Day.

The company said the rule was part of a recently updated uniform policy.

An employee at Whole Foods Market in Ottawa told CBC she was told by a supervisor that wearing the poppy would be seen as “supporting a cause”; that if they allowed poppies to be worn for this particular cause it would mean they would have to allow or consider other causes.

The same employee said they’ve been allowed to wear poppies in previous years.

The initial ban prompted politicians from all political stripes to denounce the policy, calling it “shameful and wrong.”

In a statement which announced the policy change, Whole Foods said, “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.”

“Given the learnings of today, we are welcoming Team Members to wear the poppy pin in honour of Remembrance Day.”

Earlier on Friday, MPs in the House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion that called on all Canadian employers to allow their employees to wear poppies during Veteran’s Week.

Parliament also invited Whole Foods CEO John Mackey to appear before the standing committee on veterans affairs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters earlier on Friday he thinks Whole Foods “has made a silly mistake that I am hoping they will correct.”

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole posted a video message online calling the dress code policy “stupid” in a tweet.

“The poppy is not a cause, it is a sign of respect,” O’Toole said. “The sacrifice of Canadians in the past provides the freedom for a US grocery chain to be stupid today. Let’s tell Whole Foods to stop trying to be Woke Foods.”

“I find it absolutely disgusting and disgraceful,” Premier Doug Ford told reporters on Friday when asked about the Whole Foods policy.

Other supermarket chains have jumped at the chance to show support to the Royal Canadian Legion and its “Poppy Campaign.” Sobeys posted a photo on Twitter featuring a staff member wearing a poppy, while Loblaws said in a statement that company leaders “allow and encourage” employees and colleagues to wear poppies.

The Royal Canadian Legion said in a statement that the poppy “is fundamentally a symbol of great respect and thankfulness for Canada’s Fallen, for those who have sacrificed for our freedoms today.”

“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,” the legion said.

Whole Foods has 14 locations in Canada.