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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 23, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 08
New Seasons Markets bad for workers, bad for communities
Section One
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New Seasons Markets bad for workers, bad for communities

Employees warn Seattle about their boss

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

'New Seasons will tell you everything you want to hear,' Terra Bosart warned. 'But listen to their workers. Listen to the people who know what they're like.'

New Seasons, a Portland-based grocery chain, is trying to break into the Seattle market, with one store open in Mercer Island, another almost ready to open in Ballard, and a third planned for 23rd and Union in Seattle's Central District.

Bosart worked for the company for 12 years, until she was fired, she says, for trying to organize her fellow workers. Along with several other current and former New Seasons employees, she was in town recently to talk to Seattleites about working conditions there.

The company's promotional materials describe it in glowing terms. A New Seasons store is 'a happy place' where management is 'firmly committed to environmental stewardship, to giving back to our community, and to providing a progressive workplace where our staff thrives,' the company website claims.

The reality is much different, Bosart says, especially after New Seasons was acquired by Endeavour Capital, a venture capital outfit, in 2010. After former Starbucks exec Wendy Collie was installed as CEO in 2012, the company became even more corporate and started to crack down on employees.

'When I started [the glowing description] was true,' Bosart recalled. 'There was a time when working for New Seasons was a badge of pride. No more. They kept saying the words but they didn't deliver the reality.'

The situation became particularly bad for LGBT workers, Bosart says.

'I was asked to help facilitate trainings on transgender issues for managers and staff,' Bosart says. 'And management seemed genuinely pleased to know how to relate to their transgender employees.

'Later on, after Endeavour Capital came in, management became much more antagonistic. People noticed the difference in how management treats them.

'I think about it, and I'm so angry because of all our transgender employees who are now trapped in dead-end jobs where they're never allowed to succeed because they're different.'

Bosart's colleague, Peter Szczepanek, added that Endeavour Capital has financial ties to Murdock Charitable Trust, which funds anti-LGBT groups, including one backing North Carolina's anti-Trans legislation in 2016.

'I'm extremely disappointed,' Szczpanek said about New Seasons' links to Murdock Trust. 'No, I'm angry. Look, I'm bi. I moved from Michigan to be in a place where I could feel comfortable being who I am.

'To find out that their profits are funneled into homophobic hate groups...Anger, for sure.'

Szczepanek still works for New Seasons, and says that the company's attempts to intimidate employees have increased as in-store organizing has gained traction.

'It's all scare tactics and bullying,' he says. 'Most people are quietly supportive, but they don't want to risk their jobs, so they feel they can't be actively involved.'

In spite of the intimidation, employees have achieved some successes. The company recently agreed to raise base wages by 50 cents per hour and to provide paid parental leave.

Three complaints have also been filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency charged with enforcing labor laws. One charges New Seasons with illegally firing Bosart. A second is based on the firing of another New Seasons worker, Adrian Mendoza. The third alleges that managers are interrogating and coercing workers to deter them from organizing.

Bosart, Szczpanek, and several other New Seasons workers appeared at a public forum at Casa Latina on February 22.

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