IKEA came under fire on Tuesday after one of its stores in Atlanta planned a menu in honor of Juneteenth that would feature fried chicken and watermelon.
The Scandinavian furniture chain's Georgia location sent an email to employees last week alerting its staff members that "to honor the perseverance of Black Americans and acknowledge the progress yet to be made," the IKEA branch is rolling out the special menu on the federal holiday. The store-wide memo also announced that the it will be showcasing videos to observe Juneteenth.
The special Juneteenth menu also included collard greens, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, and candied yams—all traditional Southern comfort food.
According to the retail workers, the menu perpetuated racial stereotypes on an occasion meant to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.
An unnamed employee, who asked to remain anonymous, told CBS46: "You cannot say serving watermelon on Juneteenth is a soul food menu when you don't even know the history. They used to feed slaves watermelon during the slave time."
Other employees, who refused to appear on camera over fear of repercussions from company leadership, told the local outlet that IKEA management needs to do more to educate themselves on black culture moving forward.
Personnel said that the menu choices were insensitive and ignorant, causing several employees to want to quit with some not coming back to work.
33 outraged employees called off from work, which sparked an internal email response from the store manager on Saturday. "She said I truly apologize the menu came off subjective," one of the staff members told CBS46.
Employees said the decisions behind the creation of the menu should have included voices of color first. "None of the coworkers who sat down to create the menu—no one was black," the staff voiced to the television station.
The store manager told employees and CBS46 that the menu changed after the complaints, but staff said that the menu was just delayed one day, "[t]hinking that everyone who was upset by the Juneteenth menu stayed home on Juneteenth and wouldn't notice, which just added insult to injury."
CBS46 reported that the revised menu included corn bread, mashed potatoes and meatloaf. A picture taken by the same employee displayed what was served in store the day after Juneteenth: fried chicken, mac and cheese, and collard greens.