Labor groups oppose New Seasons Market as candidate for Capitol Hill Station tenant

Screen-Shot-2015-04-21-at-1.49.04-PM1-600x366Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 6.31.18 PMA Portland-based grocery chain believed to be the frontrunner to a large retail space on Broadway is already facing opposition from labor organizations that say the company is anti-union.

New Seasons Market has not been publicly identified as the anchor tenant for the four-site retail and housing development to surround the U-Link light rail Capitol Hill Station, but labor and advocacy groups believe it tops the list.

Last year developer (and fellow Portlander) Gerding Edlen said they were in talks with a northwest-based grocer interested in expanding to Seattle to become the anchor tenant to the “transit oriented development” project. New Seasons does fit the bill, though neither Gerding nor New Seasons have publicly confirmed a deal.

In a letter to the Sound Transit Board, eight Seattle unions and advocacy organizations said they are concerned with “an anti-union climate” at the stores and cite Seattle’s Metropolitan Markets or PCC Markets as better choices.

UPDATE: Gerding partner Jill Sherman confirmed New Seasons was the grocer the company had been in discussions with through the bid process, but said no final decision has been made on a tenant. Sherman has also met with the group Puget Sound Sage, one of the letter’s signatories.

“We have been made aware of the concerns,” Sherman said.  “New Seasons is very well respected in our market for their businesses practices.”

“We are puzzled why Sound Transit would agree to an out of region anchor tenant when we have several, home-grown choices of smaller, healthy foods grocery stores that would optimize local business opportunity,” said the letter.

The letter goes on to question the need for a grocery store at all in the “transit orientated development,” but also notes that grocery store careers can be among the best those without a college degree. New Seasons is planning to open its first Washington store on Mercer Island later this year.

The grocery industry, of course, is already busy on Broadway with two QFCs and a Whole Foods aiming for a 2018 opening at Broadway and Madison.

CHS learned of the opposition through an ad campaign purchased on the site by UFCW 21. Gerding Edlen has yet to respond to request for comment sent Monday afternoon.

Signatories on the letter include representatives from Puget Sound Sage, OneAmerica, Got Green, White Center Community Development Association, Church Council of Greater Seattle, Low Income Housing Institute, Teamsters Local Union No. 117, and SEIU 6 Property Services Northwest.

The group’s letter closes with a small carrot for Sound Transit if it chooses to get more involved in the retailer decision: A pledge of support for the upcoming Sound Transit 3 ballot measure.Screen-Shot-2015-06-22-at-11.12.06-PM-600x406

The March 19th service start of U-Link light rail service on Capitol Hill will be just one milestone among the massive changes coming to Broadway between Howell and John. Last year Gerding Edlen was selected as the master developer of 100,000 square feet of TOD housing, commercial, and community spaces. Gerding estimates the project to cost $124 million for three sites. Capitol Hill Housing was tabbed to develop, own, and operate a fourth site — a seven story, 86-unit affordable housing building.

A supermarket won’t be the only retail tenant. Plans for a retail “bazaar” at Site A-North, called The Market Hall, envision “a mix of local retailers, served by booths of varying sizes to accommodate the start-up entrepreneur as well as more established specialty retailers.” Gerding says it plans to work closely with the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce to select a retail broker and future tenants.

According to Gerding’s original timeline, construction for Site A is slated to start this summer and last through August 2017. Gerding expects the entire project will be open sometime in 2018.

UPDATE: Kshama Sawant voiced her support for the letter Tuesday via Twitter:

Labor letter to Sound Transit

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

31 thoughts on “Labor groups oppose New Seasons Market as candidate for Capitol Hill Station tenant

  1. didn’t SoundTransit sell the land to private developers? if so, shouldn’t the unions be bringing their asks to them, not SoundTransit?

  2. We passed $15/hr., we have paid sick leave. This seems more like an increase our union membership drive than increase the quality of life issue.

    • I mean… or a minimum wage and paid sick leave (the latter of which is notoriously hard educate employees about and enforce) aren’t the only working conditions that allow employees to thrive…

  3. Whole Foods is also non-union. I know that gets some people’s knickers in a twist, but it hasn’t stopped a vast majority of progressives from spending a large portion of their food dollars there.

    • Whole foods is too expensive and I suspect New Seasons is too. I don’t mind paying a little more if my dollars stay in the community, but lining the pockets of some nut job from Austin gives me heart burn. My friend worked at New Seasons in Portland and said the stores were filthy and they treated her like a dog, when she complained about a handsy manager they fired her. I’ll never shop there.

    • I used to live in Portland and I can tell you that New Seasons is one of the nicest grocery stores around. Always clean and has some of the happiest employees there unlike a lot of the grumpy people at places like Safeway and Fred Meyer.

      Go check one out for yourself before making such uninformed comments.

  4. Good spot for a grocery store. Get off the train, get some groceries on your way home. Could care less if it’s union or not when you’re stopping in for milk. Or wine. Especially wine.

    • How is this a good spot for a grocery store? QFC is literally one block north of the future Light Rail Station. Geeze, some people lack basic knowledge of this neighborhood…

    • i think you mean two and a half blocks away. either that or literally means the same as “around about” in your book.

    • It’s called competition and that is a good thing, especially if it brakes the QFC monopoly on BWay. The ‘Q’ in QFC doesn’t stand for quality anymore, especially when it comes to meat, produce and perishables.

      And to your statement that people need to get a better understanding of this neighborhood? Perhaps you should have attended the many public hearings and comment sessions over these past years regarding development at the station. Top of the list: affordable housing followed by a grocery store that is not a big box corporate chain. After that a European-style covered market hall, which is to be included in the development.

      All of that came from a great deal of public comment. Perhaps you should have attended and provided your ‘knowledge?’

    • QFC and the other supermarket chains that are here on Capitol Hill don’t offer the same selection of products as the stores in other areas (West Seattle or Bellevue for example). I’ve never understood the reason for some items that actually sell get pulled from the shelves and things that never move get left there forever.

    • I agree with you about QFC, which really is a mediocre grocery store, and would love to have a higher-quality store at the light rail station. But of course with higher quality comes higher prices….definitely true for Whole Foods, Metropolitan Market, PCC, and presumably New Seasons. As in most things, you get what you pay for.

      As for the concern that this would mean too many supermarkets on Capitol Hill, I’m sure New Seasons won’t go in there unless they think there is a market demand.

    • Oh Andrew, I have quite the understanding of the neighborhood. Maybe you lack understanding of the word ‘convenience’ – at least so much that one right at the station is far more convenient when you live east of the station than it is when you have to walk 2-3 blocks out of your way. Thanks for your super constructive response.

    • I would like this too..but on Cap Hill it is abundance of riches with having 3-4 major grocery stores within half a mile or so..

  5. Unions do more than negotiate sick leave and salaries. They can and do help individual workers with issues and problems that come up. Can workers’ rights be protected without a union? Sure, but only when there are systems in place to protect individual workers’ rights and protect against problem-solving being done by firing or demoting an employee.

    And yes, the station would be a perfect spot for a grocery store.

  6. Have been to a New Seasons in Portland and it is a remarkable experience. Sort of like Whole Foods without the attitude. QFC is hardly special and it is part of perhaps the largest grocery chain in the US – Krogers. Long ago they ceased to be local or unique.

    As to Union or not – this is not the city’s business. Trying to bully the issue by labor is ugly and boorish. It is very much the reality that there are many fine employers that are not union, and many a union employer where the union staff do not have a good situation.

    • Have never been to one, but when I saw they were opening in Ballard, I went to their website to see what they are. And yeah, unless the actual stores are any better than the website, this is just another douchey place for the tech kids to patronize.

  7. QFC is perfectly fine. It has the basics and they aren’t overpriced to compensate for all of the gimmicky, flashy stuff that is part of the problem. Everything is now expendable and “convenient” and requires no imagination or creativity anymore.

    • ITA – I shop at the Broadway/Pike QFC frequently, and for the basics I need, it’s totally fine (and not overpriced). For produce I go to the Co-op.

      I do agree that the light rail station is a great place for a grocery, and it’s a better use of retail space than yet another high concept/high price eatery. I would prefer that a local-to-Seattle grocery were to be used, and IMO groceries should be union, but the culture of Seattle has changed and I don’t think that will keep people away.

  8. I’ll happily welcome a nice new grocery store, with or without a union. I just hope they have quality ready-made food selections. Something similar to Whole Foods, but will keep their thumb off the scale.

  9. I really feel like everyone is missing the point on union vs non union business. Do we not care about the quality of life of our fellow person? The reason the $15 minimum wage is now in Seattle, and the reason paid sick leave is as well is to do to the OVERWHELMING support from local unions. Unions due more than just protect the people in them, they work hard at improving worker conditions for EVERYONE. And when you put a non union business in, or shop at one instead of a perfectly good union one (PCC, Central, Met, Safeway, QFC…) you are taking power away from them to fight for all of us.

  10. THANK YOU Sound Transit for listening to organized labor and directing your staff to take a careful look at this out-of-state, non-union grocer. Worker safety, food safety, and quality of life for low and middle wage workers are ALL at stake!

  11. What we need there is a Metropolitan Market or PCC. The food selection and quality is great, the work force is knowledgeable, and friendly and as far as I know they are both local and pay their employees well. It’s a Win Win for our community.

  12. A Portland buddy works at Fred Meyer, a union shop. He is applying to New Seasons because it pays $2-$3/hour more.

    Look forward to the Sawant Army’s response/spin.

  13. I’d definitely think a PCC or other quality local option is preferable. Sound transit–please choose wisely! Let’s not welcome in a grocer that makes the battle for treating workers decently harder.

    • So in other words, Portland should kick out any and all Seattle retailers like Costco, Starbucks, and others?

      Why start a crazy regional war?

  14. As a longtime resident and worker in and around Capitol Hill, and a proud union member, I’d much rather see a union business here than a non-union one, let alone one with a potentially questionable labor record. I can’t speak to New Seasons’ reputation in their industry, but the letter signatories definitely have great reputations in theirs. Furthermore locally-owned businesses have been proven to provide more return to their communities than remotely-owned operations, dubbed the “local economic multiplier effect.” A locally-owned, pro-labor anchor business would be good for workers, good for Capitol Hill, and good for the Seattle economy. The choice seems obvious.