After ‘positive’ talks, New Seasons and community groups opposing new store set for Central District agreement — UPDATE: ‘Disappointed’

UPDATE 11/19/18 12:30 PM: Despite hopes of an agreement from representatives on both sides Friday, Monday, activists and community groups who have been engaged with New Seasons said they are “disappointed” that officials “gave no indication the company is committed to change.”

“We can’t wait around while New Seasons’ corporate leadership thinks a little more about respecting our community’s values, and we’re not going to stop calling on them to respect workers’ rights,” the group writes in a statement sent by the Good Jobs Coalition.

“We’re not going away,” the group writes, “and we call on other community members to join us…”

The full statement has been added at the end of this post.

The grand opening of New Seasons in Ballard included this group of protesters

Original report: Unlike what happened at its May opening in Ballard, you probably won’t see protesters greet New Seasons when it opens at 23rd and Union in 2019.

A company spokesperson said it plans to meet Friday’s deadline for a response after positive talks with community groups aligned to push back on the Portland-based grocery chain’s labor practices and its ownership’s anti-LGBTQ politics as it readies to open in the Central District.

Friday’s deadline is part of a community coalition’s demands for the chain:

During their meeting, organizers gave New Seasons co-president Kristi McFarland and other local reps a list of demands. If the demands are met, they said, their campaign against the company would stop. Among other things, they asked New Seasons to sign a neutrality agreement to let interested workers unionize, disclose workforce demographics, let low-income customers use Fresh Bucks to buy produce, stock affordable staple foods, and donate some of their local profits to affordable housing projects and community land trusts.

Nicole Keenan, executive director of Puget Sound Sage, an advocacy group dedicated to low-income people, communities of color, immigrants and refugees, has been part of talks with New Seasons and also categorized the negotiations as positive in a conversation with CHS Friday afternoon. Keenan joined reps from groups like the Squire Park Community Council in the discussions with New Seasons.

While we don’t yet know the specifics of the New Seasons response, the community campaign against the store which has included a “newseasonstories.com” website and neighborhood yard signs, appears to be approaching a fruitful conclusion.

UPDATE 3:40 PM: A New Seasons representative sent over the company’s response to the community groups. We’ve added the full letter at the end of this post. A company representative also provided the following statement:

At New Seasons, we are proud of our established track record as an active civic partner that is committed to directly engaging in building community in a way that reflects our shared progressive values. We’ve been working with a Central District Advisory Council made up of business leaders, local nonprofit representatives and neighborhood council members to understand the needs of the neighborhood, but when we were contacted by this group we wanted to hear their perspective as well. At the meeting, we shared our commitment to championing higher wages, comprehensive benefits for all kinds of families, an inclusive culture, as well as using our voice to stand up for affordable housing, hunger relief and other important social justice and workplace issues that affect everyone. We also took away some valuable ideas from our conversation that we will be exploring further.


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Labor has been at the center of the New Seasons opposition. In late 2017, a coalition of unions targeted the store’s expansion plans.

“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,” a statement from the coalition read.​ “​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.”

“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,” one labor representative said. “It cannot be New Seasons. It is not their intent. It is not their direction.”

The pushback to New Seasons hasn’t been limited to labor groups. Residents and speakers at a meeting about neighborhood development hosted by Africatown last year said they were concerned about the grocer coming to the Central District.

Others have accused the company of “pinkwashing”

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.

The company has pushed back, saying it shares Seattle’s “progressive values.” “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,” the company wrote in an op-ed published on CHS.

 Lake Union Partners, the firm developing the mixed-use building that will house the market on the northwest corner of 23rd and Union, has voiced support for its choice of anchor tenant for the project. “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,” partner Patrick Foley told CHS last year. “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.”

While no opening date has been set, business owners in the area said they have been told the new store should be open this winter.

UPDATE 3:40 PM: Here is the full letter from New Seasons in response to the coalition groups:

Nicole and community members,

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me and the New Seasons Market team last month. We appreciated the opportunity and wanted to send a follow up note – please ensure those who were in attendance at our meeting but not on the original email receive our response.

We are excited to serve the diverse community in the Central District and overall Seattle market, and are committed to being responsive to the many voices that make up each unique neighborhood. In addition to meeting with you, we’ve engaged with a wide range of community leaders, advocates and residents over the last two years, and have been welcomed as a progressive employer and positive contributor to the neighborhoods where we operate.

We have a lot in common, with years of work championing higher wages, comprehensive benefits, an inclusive culture, and staff-friendly employment practices. Our staff have a strong voice in shaping our policies and programs including paid parental leave, secure lifestyle scheduling, paid volunteer opportunities, career development and much more. As a civically active company, we use our voice to stand up for affordable housing, hunger relief and other important social justice and workplace issues that affect everyone. We’ve been recognized as being one of the best grocery employers in the country, one of the very few who are certified as a B Corporation, and we are always looking for how we can improve.

We took away some ideas from our conversation that we will be exploring further, including broadening our public advocacy for affordable housing and tenant protections in Seattle and other markets where we operate, supporting Got Green’s restorative justice practices as part of our operating policies, and expanding our SNAP matching donations in Oregon farmer’s markets to include our Seattle neighborhood stores. We had already begun conversations with Fresh Bucks and look forward to learning more about the retailer program. It’s been our consistent practice to donate 10% of our after tax profits to the community, which we’ll continue to do as we open our Central District store.

We are looking forward to meeting more of our new neighbors and collaborating with them toward our shared goals of making the store a vibrant hub and force for good in the community.

Wishing you and your families a very healthy and happy holiday season,

Kristi

UPDATE 11/19/18 12:30 PM: Here is the complete response from the coalition to the letter from New Seasons.

Community Groups Disappointed New Seasons Won’t Commit to Respecting Workers’ Rights

The coalition of community groups that met with New Seasons Market corporate executives issues this public response to the company regarding its expansion plans in the Central District:

 

“On Friday, New Seasons Market HQ sent a response to our community coalition’s proposals. We had asked them to commit to real changes in the areas of workers’ rights, gentrification and displacement, and their financial ties with the Murdock Trust.

Unfortunately, while they said they plan to “explore” some of our ideas around affordability and inclusion, they gave no indication the company is committed to change. In fact, they had nothing new to say in response to our proposals around respecting workers’ rights, and no response to our call to cut ties with the Murdock Trust, a major donor to hate groups that fight our community’s values.

Let’s be clear: hearing from a corporation that they’re willing to consider adopting restorative justice practices, advocating for affordable housing and tenant protections, and accepting Fresh Bucks in their stores is a huge win. When we come together to hold companies accountable, we can have an impact. But all we have from New Seasons at this point are words. The company has yet to make concrete commitments in any of these areas.

We can’t wait around while New Seasons’ corporate leadership thinks a little more about respecting our community’s values, and we’re not going to stop calling on them to respect workers’ rights. Respect for workers is central to respect for our community. We offered concrete solutions such as bringing in the organizations the City of Seattle funds to do workers’ rights trainings, and remaining neutral when employees want to organize for better working conditions.

Instead, we got boilerplate language from their PR materials about how friendly they are. That’s not good enough.  We’re not going away, and we call on other community members to join us—after all, we live here.”

 

About this group: These community groups are all members of the Good Jobs Coalition, a coalition of economic and racial justice groups and community members working together to hold companies accountable to community values of respect for workers’ rights, diversity, and inclusion. This group of Central District community groups and leaders came together in advance of New Seasons Market’s expansion into Seattle’s Central District, and asked the leadership of the chain for a meeting to discuss community concerns. Learn more: RejectNewSeasons.org

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22 thoughts on “After ‘positive’ talks, New Seasons and community groups opposing new store set for Central District agreement — UPDATE: ‘Disappointed’

  1. Bow to the demands of 12 people with a banner, fists in the air, and a lawn sign budget… or else.

    The whole narrative that the Murdock Trust is “a part- owner” may be factually true but a gross misrepresentation of the actual context. Isn’t the Murdock Tust a ~1.5% holder in a private equity company and this private equity company invested in New Seasons? A far cry from the narrative the activist spin. I guess willful omission of facts to deceive is only an issue when the “others” do it.

    Have these activists looked at the investment structures of their 401k, their pensions, all store they shop in, the shows and movies they love, the shoes they wear, the toilet paper they wipe their butt with?

  2. One of the union’s demands was that the grocery store create a plan to fight the youth jail….I dont work for them but I was in the room when the umion asked for this.

    • “One of the union’s demands was that the grocery store create a plan to fight the youth jail”

      Because if they don’t fight the new youth detention center, for every croissant they bake, an innocent child will be incarcerated for doing absolutely nothing wrong

  3. I’ve been employed by New Seasons’s Ballard store for over 6 months. I’m a beneficiary of their commitment to hire people who live in the neighborhood they operate in, and I know several more who also walk to work. Other employees have also been able to move closer to work since beginning their employment. I have found New Seasons to be committed to living their touted values, to be generous with their pay and benefits, and to take employee and community concerns seriously. Frankly, I feel disturbed by the efforts of the ‘New Seasons Stories’ group to threaten the jobs of the 100+ employees who work hard every day to help our Ballard store be successful. Especially as union reps have come by my house as part of their door-knocking and told my partner that we shouldn’t shop there, even when a cursory review of their claims fails to hold up to easy questions or deeper scrutiny. I’m saddened that some of my neighbors take the union-funded literature/campaign at face value, and haven’t taken the time to talk to us in the store. I am profoundly grateful for the community members who come in regularly, and have gotten to know many of the staff by name, and continue to support us by shopping with us. I know many of my colleagues are excited to help open the CD store, and to be good community partners. I hope that the groups reaching out to engage in dialogue with our leadership team feel heard, because I know we will all work very hard as a newcomer to the community to honor and respect those who have called the area home for generations. Please come visit us in our Ballard store and see for yourself.

    • “I feel disturbed by the efforts of the ‘New Seasons Stories’ group to threaten the jobs of the 100+ employees who work hard every day”

      Don’t forget: modern Socialism is all about PREVENTING people from working, and removing job opportunities for everybody.

  4. This is all so ridiculous. New Seasons are a bunch of wimps for giving into these Socialist bullies and all of their absurd demands. I mean seriously…who do these guys think they are?

  5. “donate some of their local profits to affordable housing projects and community land trusts”
    Community land trusts? Like Africatown? Why can’t anyone clearly say and denounce that Seattle has a group of activists who extort as a norm? That’s exactly what it is. You see it on a national level too but Seattle is ground zero for progressive “tolerance” of all things done under the guise of the “oppressed”. It’s a shakedown. And the $ almost always goes to the same people/organizations who do not represent most of the neighborhood although they always represent themselves as “the community”.
    They are like the mafia. And don’t forget many people defended those extortionists and thugs too by pointing out how generous they were to the poor Italian community.

      • In rushing past the Grocery Outlet webpage to find the private equity firm webpage, maybe you missed this part:

        4. Independent Operators
        Each store is a local, independently run, family business.

        I made a point of stopping the owner of the Madrona store to tell him what a wonderful and friendly crew he has. The owners of that store, and the employees, are the nicest, hardest working, un-douchy people you could ever meet. The owners drive down from Marysville to work in their store themselves, and hire heavily from our community. They make a point of hiring a diverse bunch, especially people who might need a 2nd chance or have had challenges, and are working hard to get past them. If you really want to support your community, shop at G.O.

  6. I also work for the Ballard store, since it’s opening, and echo the sentiments of Caredforwoker. I love working for New Seasons. I have not said that about a job for a long time. The company has shown that it truly does care for it’s employees and the community it operates in. The benefits are great (better than my last union run store position), I’m earning more, the staff is friendly and diverse, and management has been open and responsive to the employees. The company is committed to helping the community in several ways by food donations, raising money for local charities, and encouraging employees to volunteer in neighborhood outreach projects. Add to that, the store supports many local and NW producers by carrying their products.
    This week the Good Jobs Coalition and UCFW 21 have been out picketing our store with their “Reject New Seasons, Respect Worker’s Rights” signs. Several of my fellow employees have expressed their displeasure with the efforts of these groups to disrupt our business and jeopardize our jobs. These protesters advertise they’re there to “respect worker’s rights” but they are showing very little respect to us who actually work there and are very happy with our situation. Frankly, we all feel like we are being bullied by the unions and these other pro-union groups for some poor decisions people at the corporate level may or may not have made in the past. I think it has become apparent to us that the reason these groups keep attacking New Seasons is that it has not gone union yet and they won’t accept that the majority of employees are happy and don’t feel they need a union presence.
    I used to work for Fred Meyer Greenwood, and I don’t recall these union groups out protesting when that store expanded (edging out the Greenwood Market). That store has done more to harm than help that once quiet pedestrian neighborhood as far as traffic congestion, the increase of criminal activity, and driving home/rent prices up. Could it be because Fred Meyer was already union?
    Anyway, yesterday several us New Seasons employees decided that we should go out and join the paid union picketers with our own pro New Seasons signs. Our manager thought it was a great idea and gave us the go ahead to do so, even though may of us were still on the clock. We went out there and it was heartwarming when I saw a couple customers come up and support us saying they didn’t believe all the rhetoric and signs all over the neighborhood, especially after talking to some employees and finding none of us had bad things to say about New Seasons.
    One of the union reps came up to us to say they were willing to listen to us and answer any questions. A couple of my coworkers started to engage with him, basically saying what I mentioned earlier, and that several us of feel that our jobs are being threatened by their tactics. One of my coworkers stated our concerns very eloquently, I was so proud of her. I pointed out that if their intention was to get our store to join their union, their efforts were doing more to harm their cause than help. To the union rep’s credit, he seemed very receptive to what we had to say and I am grateful that at this personal level he seemed to show us some respect. And, in turn, we said we respected their right to say what they want and express their views, but their methods of trying to stop our business and our livelihoods left something to be desired. I hope this small engagement gets some of them to realize they are actually hurting us workers who’s rights they advertise they are fighting for.

  7. The tactics employed against New Seasons belong in an alt-right playbook. Strategic planning and willing misinformation that most of these individuals would detest if it wasn’t coming from their own mouths. It’s disgusting.

    New Seasons is a perfectly fine employer and a company that tries their best to do right by the communities they serve. They have been a respite for me after years of union grocery work.

    In regard to the rebuke of letter from New Seasons? How could anyone ask for more than exploration without the store open and with negotiations only just beginning? A two week turn time to put everything down to paper? They heard your concerns and are taking them in as part of a larger strategy? That isn’t what you wanted!? That isn’t how business works. Until strategic partnerships are struck with Green Bucks, how can the company promise anything?

    Do you think New Seasons opening up displaces people? In the prior committee meeting, New Seasons promised to employee 70%-80% of their workforce for the Africatown store from the neighborhood. Why is that promise swept under the rug in this article? You think New Seasons is a harbinger for gentrification? What about Met Market in Sandpoint? PCC in Burien? The giant PCC going up in Fremont? What is the difference? The fact that the union isn’t going to be getting a cut?

    Further, calling for restorative justice!? Unlike union grocers in the area, New Seasons is not only openly a second chance employer but also does not drug test employees as a rule. They have an active partnership with the Urban League. They have diversity training required for all managers who do interviewing. There are no questions about criminal background during the application process and New Seasons has a positive relationship with FareStart where some of the most incredible employees I have worked with have come from. When I went through orientation I saw people people as diverse as the neighborhood I work in. Try finding that in a PCC, Met Market or QFC.

    This article is part of a motion that is nothing more than a bullying tactic. Most of the picketers outside of my job last week were kind enough, but the leader of the pack was willing to stand by the fact that it was a smear campaign because “the ends woulds justify the means”. And even those people who were kind? They are trying to get people to not shop at MY JOB. This isn’t just politics for me and my coworkers. This is a job that pays well and afford me and my partner health insurance. A company that contributes their own money to my 401K. A company that gives me free money for my health savings account. And not just me, anyone that works here has access to that!

    New Seasons is an easy target because they are a small business, plain and simple. I am sorry if the local grocery union wants to have a monopoly on the money of myself and other middle income workers, but they do not speak for those of us who they are “advocating” for. I am sure author of this article thinks they are being helpful, but in fact, this is part of the problem. Even the article cited for “neighborhood pushback in the Africatown” states that Union Members were skeptical of New Seasons. Not concerned members of the neighborhood. But fear mongering UFCW EMPLOYEES with a job to do.

    UCFW 21? Turn your attention to people who are paying you union dues and do something about the lack of union representation for your workers not getting predictability pay, and not being compensated at fair market values, or being asked to work 7 or more days in a row without any sort of premium pay. Get an annual deductible as low as us workers at New Seasons. Get paid paternal and maternal leave for your employees no matter how long or short they have worked for your stores.

    And for all the lobbying groups like Washington CAN? Please, connect with your voter base, don’t pick fights to solicit donations and favors from the union or union-paid legislators and representatives. You’ve done fabulous work in regards to advocating for affordable housing. THIS isn’t your finest work. This isn’t sticking up for communities you should be serving. This is all about the cold-hard dollar for a profitable donor.

  8. As a 10+ year employee of the Ballard New Seasons, I can say that it is the best place to work!

    Don’t listen to all those other employees, who claim that New Seasons treats their workers bad, they are paid shills from BIG GROCERY UNION.

    New Seasons only treat us like gods! Everyday, I come in to work and get a massage from our store manager. Then, the CEO comes and personally helps me out with my shift, so I can rest…what class!

    Raises are a weekly occurrence and I even got promoted to CTO the other day, just because they value me so much! Our health plan includes ambrosia from the gods, which cures all illnesses, including aging…WOW!

    After my 2ish hour shift, I am paid for 8 hours and sent home with a gift card for unlimited spa use.

    I love you New Seasons and will continue to work for you until the day I die!

    • All of the values including generous pre-tax account contributions and affordable healthcare for me and my partner are completely true. I would know, I used to work for QFC and my partner used to work for Met Market in Sand Point where he was worked to the bone and was lost in a sea of white employees, unheard, mistreated, and chronically ignored by his union rep. when he tried to elevate his concerns. He told me horror stores of people not being able to visit dying relatives. He worked 5 hour shifts 7 days a week to avoid overtime. He witnessed abusive staff members continue to be gainfully employed because of seniority. And even after all this, I am willing to say that is just one person’s experience and not representative of every union employer.

      I respect your ability to use sarcasm, but I don’t work on the PR team for New Seasons. I just really am sick and tired of “union shrills” to use your words. I am flattered that you don’t have any informational rebukes to the employees who have spoken up on this website and in person. It’s very telling.

      According to the UFCW 21 website, their goals are to

      1 – Build a stronger union membership in workplaces already part of UFCW 21.

      2 – Organize workplaces where workers want to have a union but do not yet have one.

      3 – Make sure that the voice of workers is heard in the halls of government and on the campaign trail.

      Please, pay attention to unionized stores in your purview. Advocate on the campaign trail to make big picture changes that are long lasting. Picketing middle-income employees at their place of work isn’t productive and is not equal to being a part of positive change in the community. As for the second initiative? All I was trying to spell out is that myself a many of my coworkers DON’T WANT A UNION and more importantly DON’T WANT PAID UNION REPS THREATENING OUR JOBS.

      • Multiple “employees” descend on a blog article about their store with well worded, looooong posts, plenty of convenient, tabulated points and quick, well crafted responses.

        Amazon was caught pulling the same stunt when there were whispers of unionizing in their house, New Seasons is part of a massive conglomerate, so it’s not unreasonable to think they aren’t pulling the same stunt. New Seasons’s record when it comes to suppressing unions isn’t really favorable.

        All I was trying to spell out is that myself a many of my coworkers DON’T WANT A UNION and more importantly DON’T WANT PAID UNION REPS THREATENING OUR JOBS.

        If this is true New Seasons could put all this union talk to bed by simply allowing their employees to vote on collective bargaining. If the stories are false and you aren’t a PR shill, employees will reject it.

        Seems reasonable, right?

      • If at least half of my coworkers wanted to vote to unionize we would sign union authorization cards and vote.

        Paid union representatives have been outside out my place of employment threatening our work. They have blasted harmful messages onto our building. Stopped people who have been coming to shop at our store. Engaged in an elaborate marketing campaign to harm the company that employs us. They have snuck into our back rooms. Talked to us on the sales floor. One open secret is that the union has paid for a salt to work alongside us at the Ballard store.

        And yet, despite all this, all I hear from my coworkers is that we are sick of it. It’s a bullying tactic. It hurts me, an employee of the store. If it was our will to unionize, it would have already happened, and without all this undue external pressure exterted ON US not FOR US.

        The amount of employees speaking up is not a concerted effort. I’m not on the clock when I type this. My coworkers and I want the right to work unecombered, if you respected us you would leave it up to us.

        I wish you well, I am passionate because I love my job. I just wish to have my voice heard, and not be spoken for. I hope anyone reading this can understand that.

      • Paid union representatives have been outside out my place of employment threatening our work. They have blasted harmful messages onto our building.

        I go by that intersection (46th and 11th) every night and saw the protestors out there maybe three nights. If I recall, their messages were along the lines of “Shame on New Seasons” and “New Seasons treats employees poorly”.

        So “blasting harmful messages” seems like PR hyperbole to me.

        Stopped people who have been coming to shop at our store.

        They have snuck into our back rooms.

        Talked to us on the sales floor.

        If true, that sounds like criminal trespass and harassment to me. Did anyone call the police? Did anyone mention it to the media?

        If true, any of these accusations would be a dagger in any union’s hope of convincing New Seasons’s employees and a PR nightmare fo them.

        One open secret is that the union has paid for a salt to work alongside us at the Ballard store.

        Again, there’s plenty of local, right wing, anti-union news agencies that would gladly pick up on this story. Why not submit your proof to them?

        And yet, despite all this, all I hear from my coworkers is that we are sick of it. It’s a bullying tactic. It hurts me, an employee of the store. If it was our will to unionize, it would have already happened, and without all this undue external pressure exterted ON US not FOR US.

        The amount of employees speaking up is not a concerted effort. I’m not on the clock when I type this.

        And yet, the only stories in the news are about New Seasons’s anti-union tactics. If these are false, why don’t any anti-union employees take their story to the media? The only places I ever hear or read how employees are vehemently opposed to unionizing is well rehearsed comments on blogs, such as yours.

        My coworkers and I want the right to work unecombered, if you respected us you would leave it up to us.

        Again, if true, New Seasons should allow for a union vote and employees would vote it down. The unions will lose their voice in the matter and people will gain respect for New Seasons. This mess would be put to bed immediately.

        Until then, a lot of people will see New Seasons as a bad employer, with terrible employee treatment and an anti-union business in a very pro-union part of the country.

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