“Since I began talking about a union, I have been subject to intimidating comments and retaliatory discipline.”

On September 20, 2018, a New Seasons worker in Ballard spoke out publicly, testifying to the Washington State Investment Board about working conditions in stores and calling on the investment board to help workers hold New Seasons Market accountable to our standards for worker’s rights.

Here’s what he told them:

[Trent photo]
Trent Wu

Good morning.

 

My name is Trent Wu. I’m here to talk about this board’s investment in Endeavour Capital. I work for an Endeavour Capital portfolio company.

I am a cook in the prepared foods department at the New Seasons Market in Ballard, WA.

 

New Seasons is not living up to its creed as a progressive, socially responsible company that respects workers’ rights.

 

New Seasons enforces a punitive attendance policy that puts pressure on employees — workers handling your food — to come to work when they are sick. Our store is so starved for resources and good management that prepared foods employees have had to bring in their own thermometers to ensure hot foods are stored at the proper temperatures.

 

I have seen new employees put to work on dangerous equipment without adequate training or supervision. And I have been personally discouraged from reporting injuries. New Seasons’ company-wide injury rate in 2016 was more than twice the overall rate for the grocery industry. When workers are injured or refused adequate training, they’re not just lowering standards for Seattle grocery workers, but it’s lowering food quality for customers as well.

 

When workers started speaking out, New Seasons hired Cruz & Associates, a well-known union-busting firm that has done work for Donald Trump hotels. Since I began talking about a union, I have been subject to intimidating comments and retaliatory discipline. Co-workers recently told me that management asked them to spy on me, and that’s why I filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

 

Endeavour Capital is complicit in these low-road practices. It must have approved New Seasons’ plan to expand from Portland into Seattle, even though Endeavour already owns Metropolitan Market, a similar, highly successful grocery chain in the Seattle area.

 

Why would Endeavour favor New Seasons to compete with Metropolitan Market?

 

Could it be because Metropolitan Market is unionized?

 

Could it be because, unlike my co-workers at New Seasons, Metropolitan Market employees have a pay scale with guaranteed raises based on length of service, an excellent health insurance plan that is affordable even for families, a defined benefit pension, and cannot be subject to arbitrary discipline because they have just cause rights under their union contract?

 

Washington State Investment Board oversees public employee fund investments in Endeavour Capital. You can call on Endeavour and New Seasons to engage with stakeholders, to have serious discussions with the organizations that are here supporting me today, such as the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, Washington Community Action Network, and Northwest Accountability Project.

 

Hold New Seasons accountable to its own stated standards. Thank you.

One Comment on ““Since I began talking about a union, I have been subject to intimidating comments and retaliatory discipline.””

  1. I also work at NSM in Ballard, and would like to thank Trent for having the courage to speak out about the working conditions there. I began working there about a month before it opened, have been there every working day since, and can vouch for the accuracy of his testimony. It’s been an extremely disappointing experience, particularly given that the almost utopian working environment they described during the hiring process, and in training, bears absolutely no resemblance to the current reality. I put everything I had into getting this store up and running, took ownership of my assigned tasks, and was genuinely excited to be part of the company they described. Six months in? I’m working on my exit strategy. And it’s not just the draconian demerit system they’ve cooked up to lower the number of full time employees, or the lack of respect they show in things like scheduling, or the disorganization and screw-ups.

    I’m also planning my exit strategy because I believe this store is doomed. It’s losing $200,000 a month, in a city that doesn’t look kindly on anti-union investment corporations, is too small to attract enough regular customers to support it, particularly in that location, the list goes on. But, if it doesn’t collapse beforehand, the final and fatal blow will come when the new super PCC opens up down the street, a highly respected local brand, with it’s underground parking and rooftop gardens and restaurants, 4 or 5 times the size and selection as NSM, a huge prepared food department, the list goes on and on. Not to mention all the other competition in Ballard.

    The original owners of NSM may have very well meant what they said about treating employees like family, and must have at least had some business sense in order to build their small franchise. I don’t know. I do know that private investor don’t like stupid investments that lose money, and I think that pressure is being reflected in the chaos in we’re seeing in the store right now, and that anyone above department head knows the place is a goner and doesn’t want to be the one that get’s blamed for this ill-conceived venture. And, of course, the easiest way to do that is blame on us, the people who actually do the work. And I can’t wait to leave.

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