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Capitol Hill Community Post | New Seasons Market Shares Seattle’s Progressive Values

By Kristi McFarland and Forrest Hoffmaster, Co-Presidents, New Seasons Market

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.

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20 thoughts on “Capitol Hill Community Post | New Seasons Market Shares Seattle’s Progressive Values

  1. No you don’t. Even sidestepping all the “he said, she said” allegations, your own article tells me that you do not share our values. Am I better represented by a locally-grown coop that is proudly unionized, or an out-of-town chain that plays legalistic games to claim their staff aren’t eligible to run a union drive?

    • Is there a reason why you are comparing New Seasons to a locally-grown coop? Why not do an Apples to Apples comparison to Fred Meyer, QFC, Safeway, Trader Joes, Whole foods, Grocery Outlet, Red Apple…

      Without doing too much research I would imagine some of their practices, wages/benefits, quality of food are in line with said grocery stores mentioned above.

    • Whole Foods isn’t unionized. Where’s your protest? Why is New Seasons specifically singled out?

      I wouldn’t mind shopping at PCC, if they’d bother to open up on Capitol Hill. Madison Market has always had high prices, a poor selection, indifferent staff and more sanctimony than I care for. I’ve shopped them periodically over the previous 20 years – they were best 20 years ago.

      • Newsflash: PCC costs more than Madison Market. In fact, as one who’s worked with the industry for years, I can assure you that PCC’s prices are typically the highest in this market -but, at least those who can afford to shop there get important ‘bang for their bucks.”

        BTW, the entire grocery industry (maybe excepting Trader Joe’s and some very small independent players) is bonkers now. And, there are some fair attacks on New Seasons that shouldn’t be written off by buying Corporate Speak dished to us. The reality is, why the fuck are huge capital investors investing in grocery? Gorcery is FOOD PROVISION, a necessity that comes with anemic profit. The investors piece in New Seasons just smells rotten.

  2. This is not a community post, this is an elaborate PR gesture. Withering lack of judgment in authorizing its post to a community news site. If New Seasons wishes to respond to the allegations reported in multiple sources, the company may do so under the aegis of journalism, not op-ed. I don’t donate to CHS to be fluffed by companies, this subject’s ill-repute aside.

    • They asked for the opportunity and, to be honest, I was curious to read what they wanted to say. The situation going on with their planned market at 23rd and Union is an unusual one that the company, the developer, and the surrounding neighborhoods and possible customers are going to need to work out. I felt it was worth the risk of broadcasting their message here on CHS.

  3. There was a price comparison by the ST years ago and Fred Meyer came out on top, this link is to a more recent one where Fred Meyer also comes out on top (Winco is not in Seattle).
    Unlike Whole Foods, New Seasons is well known for selling conventional as well as organics – so they could be added to a future comparison fairly easily.
    Red Apples were part of the Unified Grocers co-op, but now they are part of Supervalu.
    I shop at TJ’s as if it’s my religion so if NS had plums on sale for $1 I’d be unlikely to boycott them for not being union.
    Either way – glad to see them address community concerns in print – that is a step forward.

    • Did you read the whole article? This is what’s clear:

      “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.”

      • I read it, and it’s pretty clear to me that 1.5% of the money I spend at new seasons will go to an anti-lgbtq company, therefore I will spend $0.00 there.

      • That’s not how that works. That’s not how any of this works. First off Murdock Trust only owns 1.5% of the Endeavour’s Fund V, not New Seasons. And even then, owning 1.5% of something does not translate into them getting 1.5% of every dollar you spend there. They might get 1.5% of the profit, but groceries profit margins are tiny compared to most other retail. This is just basic math. So trust me, nobody is buying a yacht with the money you may or may not spend at this market.

        I’m not making any statement about whether or not someone should shop there or not. I shop at QFC because it’s on my way home from work. And even with some of the racist stuff that’s gone down there recently, it’s not really practical for me to shop anywhere else. But do what you gotta do to sleep at night. But make your decision based on actual facts and by using some critical thought please. Just because a couple of liberal leaders whose jobs depend on creating a conflict or maintaining a David and Goliath narrative with every issue, doesn’t mean they are right. You can make your own informed choices. Just sayin’…

  4. On Fathers Day I was invited by my son, an employee of New Seasons in Portland, to walk in the Portland Pride parade with their group. I’m gay, he is not. There were about 125 participating New Seasons employees from the various stores. Each store had a sign that they had filled in with their own words. There were employees wearing rainbow flags, trans flags, bi flags. There were gay parents. New Seasons provided staff members with shirts (I had to buy mine) for all to wear. The group was inclusive as any other business and I got to interact with several of them. It was all very genuine and honest. Get to know the employees and you get a much different of how truly they respect their communities.

  5. So is New Seasons market is infact anti LGBTQ+? If so why are they being allowed to do business in our City? But then the other millions of questions I have like why are the junkies allowed to wonder and steal and defecate all over the City. Or why is this”Market rate” being allowed 2,000 for a one bedroom apartment that’s fucking stupid. Then add in some company who secretly is anti LGBTQ one must question our city Representatives.