New Seasons Market’s Pinkwashing Over Anti-LGBTQ Owner

By Danni Askini and Dustin Lambro

In a textbook example of pinkwashing, New Seasons Market, a grocery chain with stores on Mercer Island and in Ballard, is handing out Pride t-shirts to employees and sponsoring Seattle Pride.

Pinkwashing is the term for the common practice of putting up rainbow flags during Pride celebrations in June, then ignoring us the rest of the year. For New Seasons Market, pinkwashing is sponsoring Seattle Pride while one of its owners, the Murdock Trust, sends millions to groups that fight LGBTQ rights at every turn.

We LGBTQ Seattleites cheer on employees branded with corporate logos who march in Sunday’s parade. We’re grateful for the public recognition and sparkly swag, but the Monday after Pride isn’t all rainbows. Tired and sunburned, many of those marchers return to uncertain jobs, managers hostile to collective bargaining, prohibitively expensive medical plans, and an ever-widening pay gap between CEOs and workers. It’s a familiar situation for too many LGBTQ employees, including those working at New Seasons Market.

But New Seasons’ corporate executives cross the line when they excuse the anti-LGBTQ 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-LGBTQ, anti-choice, and anti-worker groups including $212,000 to a LGBTQ conversion therapy provider, the Portland Fellowship. This Oregon organization offers “biblical instruction, accountability groups and counseling” to “liberate” LGBTQ people from their same-sex attraction. In 2015, the Portland Fellowship opposed the Oregon legislation banning the use of  “conversion therapy” on LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ student groups, and almost a million dollars to the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alliance Defending Freedom has been called the largest anti-LGBTQ organization in the country. This Murdock Trust grantee uses high-powered lawyers to defend LGBTQ conversion therapy, fight against marriage equality, and promote anti-transgender discrimination bills and initiatives around the country, including North Carolina and Washington State.

Just a few weeks ago, Alliance Defending Freedom represented the plaintiffs in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig, successfully arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court that a business should be able to discriminate against a gay couple.

New Seasons is majority-owned by funds managed by Endeavour Capital. Since 2000, the Murdock Trust has invested millions in Endeavor Capital funds, including those that own New Seasons. As New Season’s profits go up, the Murdock Trust gets richer

Many in Washington and Oregon have called on New Seasons to cut ties with the Murdock Trust. But all we’ve heard are excuses from New Seasons. The corporation has responded with thin rationales about the size of Murdock’s ownership stake in the company, or that the owners’ actions have “no bearing” on New Seasons. In an internal memo to staff, New Seasons even defended its owner, stating that the Murdock Trust “does not fund projects that contribute to discrimination of any kind.”

If New Seasons won’t take a stand, we will. We’ve joined other LGBTQ leaders in Seattle, including King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, former legislator Brady Walkinshaw, and Equal Rights Washington’s Monisha Harrell, in calling on the Seattle Pride Committee to remove New Seasons Market as a sponsor. We cannot allow any business to use Seattle Pride to market products while its profits benefit groups that discriminate against its own LGBTQ employees, customers, and members of Seattle’s community.

Danni Askini is executive director of the Gender Justice League. Dustin Lambro is political director of Teamsters 117, which represents employees of Gay City.