From the Madrona News:
New Seasons Market: Letter to the Editor
Harvey Sadis, 35th Ave.
Developer Lake Union Partners recently announced that Portland-based grocery chain New Seasons Market will open a store at the northwest corner of 23rd & Union in 2019. Many local residents are upset that New Seasons Market was chosen without community input and despite controversy around the company’s labor practices
and business ties.
At a public meeting last October, Monisha Harrell challenged Lake Union Partners, saying that New Seasons Market is “exactly the opposite of what we said would benefit this community and this is what you’re trying to sell us.” Harrell had previously helped to identify community needs at 23rd and Union as a consultant for the City of Seattle.
In an interview with ARCADE magazine last year, Lake Union Partners’ Patrick Foley more or less admitted that New Seasons Markets is not what the community wanted: “With our East Union project, the community was worried we were going to put in a high-end grocery store that the average citizen cannot afford. That’s challenging for us because we… can’t be the ones setting the store’s prices.” A recent price comparison revealed that New Seasons Market is up to twice as expensive as Safeway for many products.
Some fear that New Seasons Market will escalate gentrification and displacement. According to the Oregonian, New Season’s former Chief Development Officer, Jerry Chevassus said “(New Seasons) targets neighborhoods in the process of gentrification… Often, the addition of a New Seasons will push rents and home values higher, adding
to that process.”
There is also concern about one of New Seasons Market’s major investors, the Murdock Charitable Trust. Murdock has contributed millions of dollars to anti-LGBTQ, anti-worker, and anti-choice organizations. New Seasons Market’s expansion in Seattle could ultimately send profits to the Murdock Trust and help fund extremist organizations that actively undermine our shared values.
Meanwhile, hundreds of workers across Portland have been organizing for living wages, safe staffing, a reasonable sick leave policy, and a voice on the job. Tyhler Williams has worked in New Seasons Market’s Central Kitchen for over 3 years and still makes the company’s minimum wage. Under the company’s sick leave policy, some workers say they feel pressured to work sick–or risk being fired. Instead of meeting with workers to discuss their concerns, the company hired Cruz and Associates, a self-proclaimed “union avoidance firm” with a record of contracting with workers’ rights violators like the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. Nonetheless, Portland New Seasons Market workers have continued to organize for improvements in their stores.
Here in Seattle, over 30 community groups, elected officials, and faith-based organizations have come together to form the Good Jobs Coalition. The coalition is demanding that New Seasons Market respect workers’ rights and work with Lake Union Partners to address the community’s concerns about gentrification and affordable food.