- A Taco Bell employee live-streamed an argument with his boss, who fired him for refusing to take off his Black Lives Matter face mask last Monday, saying he could not bring “politics” into the building under company policy.
- Taco Bell told news outlets last week that it was disappointed to hear about the incident and was considering revising uniform requirements to address recent concerns.
- However, the company has been silent on social media and after a shorter version of the stream viral, #RIPTaco Bell and #TacoBellIsOverParty began trending on Twitter.
- Taco Bell then told media outlets Thursday that it apologized to the former employee and is working to clarify its mask policy so this doesn’t happen again.
The Viral Video
#RIPTacoBell and #TacoBellIsOverParty were trending on Twitter early Thursday after a video went viral of an employee being fired for wearing a Black Lives Matter face mask.
That now-former employee is a man in Ohio by the name of Denzel Skinner, who live-streamed the argument with his manager on Facebook last Monday. Skinner’s live-stream is over 30 minutes long, but a shorter edit that’s just under a minute has been shared across Twitter.
Skinner also later spoke to local news station WKBN, where he explained the lead up to his stream. He told the station that he wore the mask because the surgical ones provided to employees were inadequate in the hot restaurant. He said the store’s air conditioning system recently broke, making it harder to breathe with the surgical masks, so he switched to his more comfortable Black Lives Matter mask.
But when his manager spotted it and told him to take it off, he refused and walked out. He said he was then told that if he walked out of the restaurant, he would lose his job, and he did. That’s when the now-viral video begins.
“You just fired me because I got a Black Lives Matter on,” he says as the edited video begins. “You just told me I had to go home because I have a Black…”
“You told me you weren’t going to take it off,” his boss interjects off camera.
Skinner continues: “I’m not. I’m not. Because I’m standing up for what’s right. I’m not taking it off.”
Skinner explains that someone named Tammy, presumably another higher-ranking colleague, said employees could wear whatever mask they wanted.
“No she did not. She said it had to be plain. You can’t bring politics into the building,” the manager responds.
He replies, “Bro, I’m not bringing politics in, this is what I’m standing for. Like how is this considered politics?”
“How is it not Denzel?” she replies. He then reaffirms that he will not remove his mask and she says, “Ok, well then there’s nothing I can do for you. I’m just doing my job.”
She later tells him, “You don’t get it.”
“You don’t either,” he responds.
When she says that she does, Skinner explains that if she did, then his mask wouldn’t be a problem. “It’s not that it’s a problem with me, Denzel. It’s a company thing.”
She later says, “Would you let somebody wear something that said something about white people on it?”
“Bro, if that’s what they stand for, yes,” he responds.
The shorter video ends with the woman stating: “I’m not against what you stand for either, but I have to do what the company states.”
In the longer version, Skinner dives off and goes on to talk about his disbelief over what happened, asking people to share the video.
Skinner Continues to Speak Out
Skinner talked about the incident a little more on Facebook, saying he had worked for the company for eight years and found the reason for his firing “ridiculous.”
He later shared screenshots of text messages he received about the store’s mask policies, which do not prohibit him from wearing a Black Lives Matter mask.
According to the first screenshot, masks were not required but if worn, they had to be cleaned daily and cover the mouth and nose area. It also included some instructions for removing the masks, not wearing them under your chin, or touching them throughout the day.
The second screenshot said masks now had to be worn at all times and worn correctly, but again had no information about certain designs or messages being prohibited.
It’s also worth noting that Taco Bell’s employee handbook does not appear to make any reference to wearing “political” items.
When speaking to reporters, Skinner has continued to stress that Taco Bell’s policy does not prohibit him from wearing the mask, adding, “If the governor and governments are requiring us to wear masks, we should be able to wear any type of mask that you want.”
“And not only that, I still want everyone to believe that we still need justice for what is happening in this world and people need to be held accountable for whatever mistakes that they make. Black lives are going to always matter. Not just when some people want it to matter. It will always matter.”
Taco Bell Responds
Taco Bell apparently caught wind of the incident and emailed a statement to some local news outlets last week.
“We are disappointed to learn what took place in Youngstown. We are working with our franchisee that operates this location to understand what happened,” the company said.
“We are committed to fighting racial injustice and hosting open forums to give restaurant teams an opportunity to discuss racism in America. Our priority is to be an inclusive brand while keeping team members and customers safe.”
The statement also said that because of supply shortages, employees are allowed to bring their own face coverings, however, it said, “As this is a fluid situation, we’re in the process of considering the need to revise mask and uniform requirements to address recent concerns.”
Still, Skinner said that he would not ask for his job back or return if asked. On Friday, he and about 30 people peacefully marched to the Taco Bell to protest his firing.
Internet Gets Angry
Even though all of this unfolded last week, it seems to have really started picking up attention online late last night and early this morning. That’s because people like YouTuber Elijah Daniel have been sharing the short video on Twitter.
Daniel, as you might know, has been very vocal about protests and efforts that support BLM over the last few weeks. And he helped bring a new wave of attention to the video, along with Denzel’s Facebook posts and screenshots.
Even though Taco Bell made it’s statement to some local media outlets, it’s been silent on social media.
The company’s last post is from June 2 and it links to a letter from Taco Bell CEO Mark King, which condemns racism and says the company is “committed to being part of long term solutions.” But notably, that posts also said the company is muting its channels for the rest of the week to reflect, learn, and listen. It’s been well over a week, however, and all its social media pages remain silent.
It’s been well over a week, however, and all its social media pages remain silent.
So to that message, Daniel said, “nahhhhhh sorry we sad about it but y’all goin too, i have your name tatted on me, been in commercials and y’all unfollowed me for just asking you about it lmfao. it’s also been 2 weeks since your statement and you haven’t done anything? disappointing. #RIPTacoBell.”
Along with Daniel, a ton of people expressed their disappointment with the fast-food chain, with some calling for a boycott.
Others said that the fight for black lives isn’t a political issue and were confused by the firing given Taco Bell’s recent pledge to be a part of the solution.
Some have shared similar experiences they’ve faced, with one operating room nurse saying she left her job after she was told she couldn’t wear a mask that said, “My son deserves to live.”
A lot of people are also comparing this situation to backlash Starbucks faced last week when people learned that its employees were banned from wearing Black Lives Matter attire under its dress code policy. The coffee chain at the time, prohibited employees from wearing attire that advocates for a political, religious, or personal matter. After a flood of outrage, it walked back on that policy and promised to send out BLM t-shirts co-designed by the Starbucks Black Partner Network.
So with this incident at Taco Bell, people are finding a lot of these big company statements in support of Black Lives Matter hollow.
Taco Bell’s Latest Statement
After seeing the backlash this morning, Taco Bell issued another statement to more news outlets, essentially hitting the same notes it did before by saying it was disappointed.
“We take this very seriously; we have been working closely with our franchisee that operates this location to address the issue,” it said.
“Our Chief People Officer and Yum!’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer spoke with Denzel last week to apologize and discuss the situation.”
“Our goal is to ensure our policies are inclusive and keep our team members and customers safe. While our policies at restaurants do not prohibit Team Members from wearing Black Lives Matter masks, we are working to clarify our mask policy so this doesn’t happen again.”
Still, people like Daniel think they should be more vocal. He told Insider that Taco Bell “posted two weeks ago that they were ‘going mute for a week’ to make changes, sort of the opposite of what any brand should be doing, and still have yet to do anything publicly. Whether they’re doing things privately, that’s fine, but this isn’t a time to be private. It’s great that they apologized, but what is being done about his firing? The manager?”
Kim Kardashian to Pay $1.26 Million to SEC Over Unlawful Crypto Promotion
According to the agency, stars and influencers must disclose how much money they earned for crypto advertising.
Kardashian Pays Up
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced Monday that it has charged reality TV star Kim Kardashian for “unlawfully touting crypto security.”
Kardashian has agreed to pay $1.26 million in penalties, disgorgement, and interest while cooperating with the SEC’s investigation. The media mogul did not admit to or deny the SEC’s findings as part of the settlement, but she did agree to not promote crypto assets for three years.
According to a statement from the SEC, federal regulators found that Kardashian “failed to disclose that she was paid $250,000 to publish a post on her Instagram account about EMAX tokens.”
“This case is a reminder that, when celebrities or influencers endorse investment opportunities, including crypto asset securities, it doesn’t mean that those investment products are right for all investors,” SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in a statement.
The investigation stemmed from a post that Kardashian made on her Instagram story in the summer of 2021 promoting EthereumMax. In it, she asked her 330 million followers if they were interested in cryptocurrency while giving information about the coin. The post included a swipe-up link for users to get more information and potentially invest in it themselves.
While Kardashian did include a hashtag denoting the post as an ad, the SEC said that did not go far enough. In the group’s statement, Gurbir S. Grewal, the Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, explained that anyone advertising crypto assets “must disclose the nature, source, and amount of compensation they received in exchange for the promotion.”
A “Reminder” For Crypto Promoters
As a result, the billionaire businesswoman is paying a $1 million penalty fee. On top of that, she has to pay $260,000 in disgorgement, accounting for the payment she received from Ethereum Max and interest.
Kardashian’s lawyer released a statement saying the star has “fully cooperated with the SEC from the very beginning.”
“She remains willing to do whatever she can to assist the SEC in this matter,” the statement continued. “She wanted to get this matter behind her to avoid a protracted dispute. The agreement she reached with the SEC allows her to do that so that she can move forward with her many different business pursuits.”
This is not the first time Kardashian’s EMAX post landed her in hot water. A U.K. watchdog previously condemned her for shilling the coin, and she was sued earlier this year over allegations that she artificially inflated the coin’s value.
Gensler said that he hopes the charges from the SEC will serve as “a reminder to celebrities and others that the law requires them to disclose to the public when and how much they are paid to promote investing in securities.”
Misinformation Makes Up 20% of Top Search Results For Current Events on TikTok, New Research Finds
According to the report, the app “is consistently feeding millions of young users health misinformation, including some claims that could be dangerous to users’ health.”
Misinformation Thrives on TikTok
As TikTok becomes Gen Z’s favorite search engine, new research by journalism and tech group NewsGuard found that the video app frequently suggests misinformation to users searching for news-related topics.
NewsGuard used TikTok’s search bar to look up trending news subjects like the 2020 election, COVID-19, the invasion of Ukraine, the upcoming midterms, abortion, school shootings, and more. It analyzed 540 videos based on the top 20 results from 27 subject searches, finding false or misleading claims in 105 of those posts.
In other words, roughly 20% of the results contained misinformation.
Some of NewsGuard’s searches contained neutral phrases and words like “2022 election” or “mRNA vaccine,” while others were loaded with more controversial language like “January 6 FBI” or “Uvalde TX conspiracy.” In many cases, those controversial phrases were suggested by TikTok’s own search bar.
The researchers noted that, for example, during a search on climate change, “climate change debunked” showed up. While looking up COVID-19 vaccines, searches for “covid vaccine injury” or “covid vaccine exposed” were recommended.
Dangerous Results Regarding Health and More
The consequences of some of the false claims made in these videos can be severe. NewsGuard wrote in its report that the search engine “is consistently feeding millions of young users health misinformation, including some claims that could be dangerous to users’ health.”
Among the hoards of hazardous health claims were videos falsely suggesting that COVID-19 vaccines are toxic and cause permanent damage to organs. The report found that there are still several videos touting the anti-parasite hydroxychloroquine as a cure-all remedy, not just for COVID, but for any illness.
Searches regarding herbal abortions were particularly troublesome. While certain phrases like “mugwort abortion” were blocked, the researchers found several ways around this that lead to multiple videos touting debunked DIY abortion remedies that are not only proven to be ineffective, but can also pose serious health risks.
NewsGuard claimed that the social media app vowed to remove this content in July, but “two months later, herbal abortion content continues to be easily accessible on the platform.”
Other standard forms of conspiracy fodder also occupied space in top search results, including claims that the Uvalde school shooting was planned and that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
TikTok’s Search Engine Vs. Google
As part of its research, NewsGuard compared TikTok’s search results and suggestions with Google and found that, by comparison, the latter “provided higher-quality and less-polarizing results, with far less misinformation.”
“For example, searching ‘covid vaccine’ on Google prompted ‘walk-in covid vaccine,’ ‘which covid vaccine is best,’ and ‘types of covid vaccines,’” NewsGuard wrote. “None of these terms was suggested by TikTok.”
This is significant because recent reports show that young Internet users have increasingly turned to TikTok as a search engine over Google. While this might elicit safe results for pasta recipes and DIY tutorials, for people searching for current affairs, there could be significant consequences.
NewsGuard said that it flagged six videos containing misinformation to TikTok, and the social media app ended up taking those posts down. In a statement to Mashable, the company pledged to fight against misinformation on its platform.
“Our Community Guidelines make clear that we do not allow harmful misinformation, including medical misinformation, and we will remove it from the platform,” the statement said. “We partner with credible voices to elevate authoritative content on topics related to public health, and partner with independent fact-checkers who help us to assess the accuracy of content.”
Over 70 TikTok Creators Boycott Amazon as Workers Protest Conditions and Pay
As the company fends off pressure on both fronts, the Amazon Labor Union continues to back election petitions around the country including one filed Tuesday in upstate New York.
Gen Z Goes to War With Amazon
More than 70 big TikTok creators have pledged not to work with Amazon until it gives in to union workers’ demands, including calls for higher pay, safer working conditions, and increased paid time off.
Twenty-year-old TikToker Elise Joshi, who serves as deputy executive director for the advocacy group organizing the boycott, Gen Z for Change, posted an open letter on Twitter Tuesday.
“Dear Amazon.com,” it reads, “We are a coalition of over 70 TikTok creators with a combined following of 51 million people. Today, August 16th, 2022, we are joining together in solidarity with Amazon workers and union organizers through our People Over Prime Pledge.”
Amazon has refused to recognize the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) since workers voted to unionize at a Staten Island warehouse in April, and it has resisted collective bargaining negotiations.
Although the ALU is not involved in the boycott, its co-founder and interim President Chris Smalls expressed support for it in a statement to The Washington Post, saying, “It’s a good fight to take on because Amazon definitely is afraid of how we used TikTok during our campaigns.”
While the ALU posts videos on TikTok to drum up popular support for the labor movement, Amazon has sought to win large influencers over to its side. In 2017, it launched the Amazon Influencer Program, which offered influencers the opportunity to earn revenue by recommending products in personalized Amazon storefronts.
Last May, the company flew over a dozen Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok stars to a luxurious resort in Mexico.
Emily Rayna Shaw, a TikTok creator with 5.4 million followers who has partnered with Amazon in the past, is participating in the boycott.
“I think their method of offering influencers life-changing payouts to make them feel as if they need to work with them while also refusing to pay their workers behind the scenes is extremely wrong,” she told The Post.
“As an influencer, it’s important to choose the right companies to work with,” said Jackie James, a 19-year-old TikTok creator with 3.4 million followers, who told the outlet she will cease doing deals with Amazon until it changes its ways.
The ALU is demanding that Amazon bump its minimum wage to $30 per hour and stop its union-busting activities.
Slogging Through the ‘Suffocating’ Heat
Amazon is also facing challenges from workers themselves, with some walking out this week at its largest air hub in California, where company-branded planes transport packages to warehouses across the country.
They are asking for the base pay rate to be raised from $17 per hour to $22 per hour.
A group organizing the work stoppage under the name Inland Empire Amazon Workers United said in a statement that over 150 workers participated, but Amazon countered that the true number was only 74.
The Warehouse Worker Resource Center counted 900 workers who signed a petition demanding pay raises.
Inland Empire Amazon Workers United has complained about the “suffocating” heat in the facility, saying that temperatures at the San Bernardino airport reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for 24 days last month.
Amazon spokesperson Paul Flaningan, however, claimed to CNBC that the temperature never surpassed 77 degrees and said the company respects its workers’ right to voice their opinions.
On Tuesday, the ALU backed another warehouse’s decision to file a petition for a union election in upstate New York, roughly 10 miles outside Albany.
The National Labor Relations Board requires signatures from 30% of employees to trigger an election.