New Seasons Market workers in Portland have been publicly demanding meaningful change at work, including higher wages and more consistent pay increases, for more than a year. Workers and a community coalition in Seattle have joined that fight as the chain has expanded up into the Puget Sound region. And yesterday, workers got a big win: New Seasons announced a plan to raise starting wages in all their stores to $15/hour, and add more frequent pay raises and an improved pay scale.
Here in Seattle, most grocery workers already make at least $15/hour. But it’s high time for a raise for all the New Seasons workers in Portland, southern Washington, and Northern California who have watched their rent and cost of living go up for years without pay increases to match.
The fight’s not over. New Seasons workers have seen expected raises delayed indefinitely, or subject to arbitrary decisions, favoritism and disparate treatment before. There are tons of other issues workers have brought to management that haven’t gone away. Workers in Seattle are still facing retaliation for speaking up on the job, and still fear getting fired under the unfair attendance “points” system. And, of course, we have yet to see how the company is actually going to implement these promises around wages. With no union in the workplace, New Seasons workers have to find ways to hold the company accountable to these promises without the same rights as union workers enforcing a contract. Wage scales with no contract are an easy system for management to abuse.
Holding a corporate employer accountable is hard, especially a notorious union-busting company like New Seasons. But this win provides further proof that when workers get together and demand changes, employers have to listen.
They only make a profit because of the work we do — and it’s nice when even an aggressive union-busting employer like New Seasons has to acknowledge that.