Capitol Hill Community Post | New Seasons Market Is pinkwashing over anti-LGBTQ owner

By Danni Askini and Dustin Lambro

In a textbook example of pinkwashing, New Seasons Market, a grocery chain with stores on Mercer Island and in Ballard, handed out Pride t-shirts to employees and sponsored Seattle Pride.

Pinkwashing is the term for the common practice of putting up rainbow flags during Pride celebrations in June, then ignoring us the rest of the year. For New Seasons Market, pinkwashing is sponsoring Seattle Pride while one of its owners, the Murdock Trust, sends millions to groups that fight LGBTQIA rights at every turn.

We LGBTQIA Seattleites cheer on employees branded with corporate logos who march in Sunday’s parade. We’re grateful for the public recognition and sparkly swag, but the Monday after Pride isn’t all rainbows. Tired and sunburned, many of those marchers return to uncertain jobs, managers hostile to collective bargaining, prohibitively expensive medical plans, and an ever-widening pay gap between CEOs and workers. It’s a familiar situation for too many LGBTQIA employees, including those working at New Seasons Market.

But New Seasons’ corporate executives cross the line when they use the CHS Blog to excuse the anti-LGBTQIA practices of the corporation’s part-owner, Murdock Trust, including sending money to the group behind the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

According to its own tax forms and records, Murdock has provided millions to anti-choice, anti-worker and anti-LBTQIA groups including $212,000 to a LGBTQIA conversion therapy provider, the Portland Fellowship. This Oregon organization offers “biblical instruction, accountability groups and counseling” to “liberate” LGBTQIA people from their same-sex attraction. In 2015, the Portland Fellowship opposed the Oregon legislation banning the use of  “conversion therapy” on LGBTQIA minors, a heinous practice recently banned in Washington State.

Murdock has also given $1.24 million to the notorious Focus on the Family, $1.9 million to fake women’s health clinics, millions to private educational institutions that openly discriminate against LGBTQIA student groups, and almost a million dollars to the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Just a few weeks ago, Alliance Defending Freedom represented the plaintiffs in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig, successfully arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court that a business should be able to discriminate against a gay couple.

Declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alliance Defending Freedom has been called the largest anti-LGBTQIA organization in the country. This Murdock Trust grantee uses high-powered lawyers to defend LGBTQ conversion therapy, fight against marriage equality, and promote anti-transgender discrimination bills and initiatives around the country, including North Carolina and Washington State.

New Seasons is majority-owned by funds managed by Endeavour Capital. Since 2000, the Murdock Trust has invested millions in Endeavor Capital funds, including those that own New Seasons. As New Season’s profits go up, the Murdock Trust gets richer.

Many in Washington and Oregon have called on New Seasons to cut ties with the Murdock Trust. But all we’ve heard are excuses from New Seasons. The corporation has responded with thin rationales about the size of Murdock’s ownership stake in the company, or that the owners’ actions have “no bearing” on New Seasons.

Worse, in an internal memo to staff, New Seasons defended its owner, stating that the Murdock Trust “does not fund projects that contribute to discrimination of any kind.”

If New Seasons won’t take a stand, we will. We’ve joined other LGBTQIA leaders in Seattle, including King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, former legislator Brady Walkinshaw, and Equal Rights Washington’s Monisha Harrell, in calling on the Seattle Pride Committee to remove New Seasons Market as a sponsor. We cannot allow any business to use Seattle Pride to market products while its profits benefit groups that discriminate against its own LGBTQIA employees, customers, and members of Seattle’s community.

Danni Askini is executive director of the Gender Justice League. Dustin Lambro is political director of Teamsters 117.

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30 thoughts on “Capitol Hill Community Post | New Seasons Market Is pinkwashing over anti-LGBTQ owner

  1. A socialist and a union director are bashing a non-union grocery store. Well, color me surprised! New Seasons should rid themselves of the 1.5% minority owner, although Askini and Lambro will just find another excuse to bash this non-union shop.

  2. Well, Murdock Trust sure sounds like an anti-gay organization, but the connection to New Seasons sounds a little tenuous. They’re one investor in a capital management company that if taken as a whole would manage enough funds to have majority ownership?

    How does this relate to the day to day ownership and management of the company? Serious question. I don’t know the answer.

  3. Ok, maybe I’m dumb, but how does a grocery chain prevent an organization from taking an investment position in them? How would a grocery chain prevent any organization from buying into them? Murdoch has a 1.5% interest and no seat on the board, so what realistically can they make New Seasons do? Endeavor Capital is also in an investor in Zoom Care- are they being boycotted too?

  4. Has anyone ventured to speak with any employees at the New Seasons locations in our backyard? Someone told me that one of the union people leading the fight against New Seasons now works for the union? The employees I’ve talked to say that they disagree with a number of the claims on the Reject New Seasons campaign, and that the toughest part of their job is feeling unwelcome in the communities they’ve long-lived in. I don’t condone the Murdock Trust in any way, but an investor in an investor is far removed from daily operations and feels like quite a stretch. This all reads as a disgruntled former employee doing their ultimate best to burn a bridge.

  5. I’m as blue and left as you can get without also becoming a totalitarian prick like our current Rapist in Chief, but even I can tell that this is a made up controversy desperately looking for an audience. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of investments and finance knows that New Seasons day to day managers and board has no control over who owns shares in their company. And not all workplaces benefit from being represented by unions. I’ll trust that the employees can speak for themselves. Kudos to CHS for presenting both sides of the faux controversy. #fauxrage

  6. Good grief can I be put out of my misery please? This has got to be the most fake controversy I’ve read about in a long long time. Can we get over sanctimonious selves people? Last time I checked we are living in a free country. New Seasons should be able to run their business how they see fit. If they don’t want to unionize, then that’s their business. For all you pretend outraged people out, why aren’t you up protesting at non-union Trader Joe’s? Are you researching all of their investors too? I’ll bet you’d uncover some people that don’t live up to your high moral standards. I haven’t heard of New Seasons breaking any laws so don’t shop there if you’re sooooo offended. There are plenty of choices. Safeway on Madison, Groc-out, Central Co-Op, QFC up the Hill, oh…and don’t forget, the non Union Trader Joes…hahah. Peace out.

  7. Yikes, it looks like New Seasons hired a bunch of commentators to discredit this article! New Seasons is owned by a private equity company which the average person cannot invest in. Private equity entities are set up for the sole reason for the wealthy class to increase their wealth…not for the betterment of the companies they purchase or the workers of those companies. Private equity companies are seen as so toxic that some countries are considering banning them. For example, a Canadian PE firm is actively buying local meat and sausage companies, cornering the market, and now shutting plants, laying off workers…all in the nice-sounding name of “efficiency”.

      • Well, it is a bit suspicious when you comment repeatedly in defense of a corporate group on multiple threads, echoing the PR statements issued by the company. You are also on a neighborhood news site that who’s target audience are the residents of a neighborhood that is predominantly populated by what you would call the “fringe left” (Sawant won twice, overwhelmingly, and will win again). You are also overlooking (or simply dismissive of) the fact that the people who don’t want there money going to an anti-lgbtq group probably don’t describe themselves as “fringe left”, but rather, like myself and the author of this article, members of the lgbtq community.

        As a queer trans woman, I sure as F will never spend a dime at new seasons, and will tell my friends not to, for as long as Murdock is an investor. For the record, I live and shop in the neighborhood, and I am not affiliated with a union or political groups (although I have donated to both Sawant and the Gender Justice League).

    • Ava,

      I challenge you to read through these comment sections going back a few years; you’ll notice Jim, Nathan, and Rich are at least semi-regular posters (Jim’s like an uber poster) not the paid corporate shrills like you and DaR seem to suspect. Believe it or not most people could care less that some anti-LGBT trust holds a 1.5% interest in a company. To most of us it the goods they provide, how they provide it, and where they provide it that matters.

      Feel free not to shop at New Season’s when they move into our neighborhood, I’m sure the $2-5K a year you would have otherwise spent there isn’t going to hurt their bottom line. Also, do you rigorously research all the investors for every other place you shop?

    • No, Ava, actually the neighborhood isn’t “predominantly” populated by “the fringe left”–it isn’t. It’s predominantly populated by what most people would call “the moderate left” (whatever moderate means in Seattle). I’m reminded of a famous quote attributed to Pauline Kael, a film critic for the New Yorker, when she was shocked that Nixon won (in a huge landslide): “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”
      Now, I know as a queer trans woman you think your voice is more important than, say, the voice of a mere cis-gendered homo like me (triple-word score as compared to only double-word score?), But in actuality it isn’t.
      It may shock you to realize that all the people you surround yourself with are *not*, in fact, a representative sample of even the greater 3rd District that voted for Sawant. Sawant won because her supporters were more energized and turned out– not because she reflects the 3rd district so closely. The 3rd district includes lots of the Central District too, not just die-hard Capitol Hill activists. Some of them are people who don’t require of their grocery store a parent company that’s MORE than 98.5% “pure”. Some of them probably don’t care at all. But a large part are probably willing to wait and see what kind of corporate citizen New Seasons turns out to be; how happy their workers are; how LGBT-friendly they are in real life (as opposed to in blog-life).

      And no, I’m not in any way a corporate shill. Shit– I didn’t even cash those two checks George Soros sent me. Stop pretending you speak for so many people. Your opinion is just one of many.

      • Ava, at least, is a long time commenter, so I’m always eager to hear her opinion.

        As for the political makeup of the neighborhood, it seems like the bar is shifting rapidly. If supporting $15 minimum wage and everyone’s right to use the bathroom in peace makes me far left then sign me up.

        If I have to support the head tax and care about 1.5% ownership of a grocery store to be far left, then I guess I’m moderate left.

        With Kennedy retiring, this queer is keeping the powder dry for bigger issues than minority grocery store ownership.

        And it looks like the unions now have bigger fish to fry as well.

      • Ok, I don’t have time to reply to everyone, and do care to argue about the political leanings/make-up of the neighborhood or who comments more, as that has nothing to do with the actual discussion.

        My point is, I DO care that 1.5% of money I’d spend there would go to a company that supports anti-lgbtq causes. Many of you are dismissing it as only 1.5%; I have a credit card that gives me less than that percentage of my spending back, and it does add up over time; and if you multiply that 1.5% by thousands of people, on a weekly basis, across multiple stores, then you have a significant amount of money going to this group. That is why it matters…and yes, there are other places I will not shop for similar reasons.

        Also, if it is such an insignificant amount, in a privately held investment group, why is New Seasons making such an effort to defend them, rather than parting ways?

        As for DaR’s speculation that outside forces were trying to skew this argument, it likely came from seeing that so many comments here were supportive of giving New Seasons a pass, and like me, feeling confused that so many people here would make so many excuses in order to defend funding anti-lgbtq causes.

      • New Seasons can’t “part ways” with the company that owns them. The company that owns them has a 1.5% investment in them by a probably-shitty other company. So even if that company owns 10% of New Seasons’s parent company (doubtful) that means the shitty company might control 0.15% of New Seasons, if my math is correct. So, how do you envision this “part ways” working?

      • JIM, you seem to be making a distinction between the “owners of new seasons”, and “new seasons”, when they are the not isolated entities. When you buy food at New Seasons, that money goes to the “owners of New Seasons”. Just like how when you buy food at Whole Foods, it is going to Amazon (which is why you see Amazon ads and discounts at WF… or so I hear). If you don’t want to support Amazon, you probably shouldn’t shop at WF. I do not want to support Murdock, so I will not shop at New Seasons. The fact of the matter is, the ownership of New Seasons is anti-lgbtq, and if they are unwilling to accept the consequences of that, it is up to them to find a solution, not us.

        The owners have complete control over who they partner with; if they choose to partner with a-holes, that makes them a-holes too. We as consumers have every right to say “we refuse to give you a-holes our money”, and also the right as a community to say we don’t want you in our neighborhood, and the right to say that we don’t want you to profit off our community and then use those profits to oppress us.

      • Thanks, Jim…..I was going to comment along the same lines as you did, but you’ve done it for me!

        Capitol Hill is NOT majority “fringe-left,” but more like majority “left of center.” Call us the “silent majority” if you want (we’re not always silent!), but we are here, and we vote.

    • This is the second comment I’ve seen in the last two weeks accusing commenters of being paid trolls. I’ve never seen that before in years of reading this blog. Oddly, both times the accusation was made by a commenter I’ve never seen before.

      Newsflash, not everyone agrees on everything. By the way, Safeway is owned by a private equity company.

  8. (The below comment is solely mine and does not necessarily represent the views of New Seasons Market)

    Okay, LOUDLY FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK:

    As a fully fledged homosexual LGBTQIA alphabet soup of a human being who currently works for this company let me set the record straight with one excerpt from our leadership teams’ statement to staff and the community.

    “Unfortunately, there have been recent attempts to damage our reputation. One such example is to question our stance on LGBTQIA rights. We have a longstanding relationship as an ally in the LGBTQIA community. Staff of New Seasons Market have developed and led outstanding training programs on LGBTQIA awareness that are now used by other local businesses and celebrated by our partner, Basic Rights Oregon. Our healthcare plans ensure equal access to quality care for staff across the gender spectrum, including care related to transition.

    Recently, some groups have begun to highlight the small investment of Murdock Trust in an Endeavour Capital fund as a way to attack our commitment to progressive values. The Murdock Trust is just one of numerous investors in Endeavor’s Capital Funds, and their investment represents less than 1.5% of Endeavour’s Fund V, which holds an ownership interest in New Seasons. The actions of a Murdock Trust have no bearing on the policies, operations or decisions of either Endeavour or New Seasons.”

  9. Hmmm, could the narrative instead be “New Seasons pulls one over The Murdock Trust by taking their money and supporting LGBT causes with it.” I wonder if there is a blog out there where anti-LGBT internet citizens are demonizing The Murdock Trust for not pulling all of its money out of Endeavor Capital and thus removing their support for LGBT friendly New Seasons?

    We certainly do seem to live in the times of “outrage culture” and binary viewpoints.

  10. Why do people in Seattle seem to want to hate New Seasons so much? Go there, talk to the employees there, get to know them, their service and products. I moved to Seattle from Portland and New Seasons is a cross between Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and no sinister than either of those. As I said in the other thread, my son works there in Portland. I joined them in the Portland pride parade. As diverse group of people as you will find on Capitol Hill. I do not understand why the desire to hate them is so loud.

    • We have a few people who don’t understand the difference between being a wholly owned and controlled subsidiary, and having a tiny investment made IN your parent company by a 3rd company who has no effective control over you. Math escapes some people, apparently.

      • I’m holding out hope that New Seasons will end up snagging the location in the light rail development. This is nothing against the Asian store which is rumored to be the front-runner, but New Seasons would have a broader appeal.

      • I’m hoping New Seasons lands at the light rail complex too. Corporate giant Kroger’s QFC could use some competition.

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