At New Seasons Market, we were excited to open our second Seattle area grocery in Ballard in May. We believe our commitment to delicious and healthy food, community advocacy, environmental sustainability, the regional food economy and progressive workplace policies aligns with values important to the people of Seattle.
Recently, New Seasons Market has been the subject of more social media activity than usual. A small group of current and former staff has come together to discuss organizing efforts. This group has not been elected or certified by the National Labor Relations Board to represent the staff of New Seasons Market.
Our staff has the right to choose whether or not they want to be represented by a union and if the staff chooses to unionize, we will support their decision. While we are in communication with current organizing staff to meet and understand the group’s questions and concerns, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union and some of their allies have launched a social media campaign in Seattle with the intention to paint – falsely – our neighborhood groceries as anti-gay and unsupportive of staff.
We’d like the opportunity to introduce ourselves and respond to the claims made about us, so you can separate fact from inaccuracies.
The story of New Seasons begins in 1999 when three families came together with 50 friends to launch a neighborhood grocery in Portland. Since then we have grown, slowly, into a small regional chain where each store is uniquely designed to reflect the needs of the surrounding community, to offer local products, to hire staff locally and to donate 10 percent of our profits back into the community.
As an employer, from the outset, we have believed that respecting and empowering our staff is the only way to meet our goal of being the friendliest grocery in town. Our pay and benefits are comparable to or better than industry standards. We offer robust healthcare plans and are one of the few companies to offer a paid parental leave program that recognizes all parents and types of families.
Years before Seattle passed its landmark secure scheduling law, we began posting schedules two weeks in advance and committed to providing our staff with a consistent schedule week to week. Our policy is to hire from the neighborhoods where our stores are located – our new Ballard grocery has already created more than 100 new local jobs – and we are partnering with the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle in recruiting a diverse pool of candidates for those positions. We offer an employee profit sharing plan, and another 10 percent of our profits is contributed to local community non-profits in the neighborhoods our groceries are located.
We have a high percentage of long-tenured staff and significantly higher staff retention rates relative to competitors. This track record has earned us recognition on Forbes’ 2018 and 2017 national lists of Best Midsized Employers.
Our responsibility extends beyond our stores to the broader community, to local farmers and vendors, and to the region’s retail workforce. We publicly advocate for fair workweek regulations, marriage equality, affordable housing and increasing minimum wage.
However, in the past few months, our values have been questioned in several ways.
Contrary to claims you may have read or heard, there has been no intimidation or retaliation against staff who support the organizing effort. The National Labor Relations Board investigated two claims of retaliation and dismissed both as having no merit. No one has ever been fired from New Seasons for expressing support of organizing efforts and no one ever will be.
Another issue that has been raised is our stance on LGBTQIA rights. New Seasons Market has always supported a diverse and inclusive workplace and community. We have and will continue to strongly oppose discriminatory programs and entities. 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 now used by other local businesses. In 2016, Basic Rights Oregon awarded their “Oregonians Against Discrimination Award” to New Seasons for our progressive transgender workplace policies. Our healthcare plans ensure equal access to quality care for staff across the gender spectrum, including care related to transition.
The same groups also highlighted the small investment of Murdock Trust in a fund run by Endeavour Capital, which holds an ownership interest in New Seasons, as a way to attack our commitment to progressive values. The Murdock Trust is just one of numerous investors in Endeavour Capital’s funds, and their investment represents less than 1.5 percent of Endeavour’s Fund V. The actions of Murdock Trust have no bearing on the policies, operations or decisions of either Endeavour or New Seasons.
Seattle is a progressive community that values the fair treatment of workers and that is why we chose to open our stores here. We invite everyone to learn more about New Seasons Market’s mission, values and commitment to being a great place to work as we establish our new Ballard store. We appreciate the opportunity to introduce ourselves and look forward to meeting you in our stores.