Pro-labor advocates opposed to the grocery chain’s planned arrival in the Central District gathered outside the office of Lake Union Partners Monday afternoon to hand over a letter asking the developer to reconsider plans for Portland-based New Seasons to anchor the East Union mixed-use project.
“As more upsetting news surfaces about New Seasons, we ask that you work with members of the Good Jobs Coalition who live in the Central District to address our concerns about New Seasons,” the letter reads. “We don’t believe New Seasons is a good fit for our community, and we want to work with you to find a solution that meets the needs of long-time Central District residents.”
Labor representative and Federal Way resident Gabriel Prawl who attended the letter handover Monday said he opposes New Seasons because it is a bad employer and will contribute to displacement in the Central District.
“The goal is to make a grocery store that is affordable and also creating jobs for the people in the community that is being displaced,” Prawl said. “It cannot be New Seasons. It is not their intent. It is not their direction.”
The plea to Lake Union Partners follows reports that New Seasons is retaliating against a group of workers trying to organize a union. Two workers involved in the union efforts say they have been fired because of their involvement in the labor effort.
UPDATE: LUP’s Patrick Foley tells CHS his company is aware “UFCW has an issue with New Seasons Market because they are not a part of their union.”
“We have a signed lease with New Seasons and we are excited about the positive attributes they will bring to the neighborhood, including more than 100 local, competitive-wage jobs,” he writes. “We interviewed a number of union stores for this location including Metropolitan Market, and PCC as well as a non-union store in Ken’s Market of Phinney Ridge neighborhood, all of which declined for their own business reasons.”
In September, CHS reported that Lake Union Partners had decided on New Seasons to anchor its mixed-use project coming to the northwest corner of 23rd and Union. The under-construction East Union building the New Seasons will call home is the second of three developments for Lake Union Parters at the intersection.
New Seasons is also being considered as the anchor grocer slot in the development projects set to arise around Capitol Hill Station. The grocer planned to open its first Seattle location in Ballard next year. Labor groups have opposed the company’s expansion to Seattle citing “an anti-union climate” at the company.
The pushback to New Seasons isn’t limited to labor groups. Some residents and speakers at a meeting about neighborhood development hosted by Africatown this fall also said they were concerned about the grocer coming to the Central District. “When we looked at New Seasons, knowing they’re a B Corp, they’re held to rigorous standards every year,” Joe Ferguson of Lake Union Partners told meeting attendees in November. “What we saw, is a community minded grocery store and one who is committed to come into the neighborhood and be a part of the solution. They make a commitment to hire within two miles of the store, 70%-80% from surrounding neighborhood.” One person asked how many of the jobs the project will create will go to people of color? “I would envision that looking like the neighborhood,” a New Seasons representative said.