One of Seattle’s most popular suppliers is embroiled in electoral controversy with its employees.
This week, PCC Community Markets, a 68-year-old grocery cooperative, began collecting votes from member-clients for three vacancies on its board of trustees. And for the first time in a long time, a candidate form, often nominated by industry leaders, includes two front-line PCC staff.
But PCC senior management does not advise members to vote for those workers: Donna Rasmussen, 56, and Laura McIntyre, 69. it has its preferred candidates. According to the rules of the cooperative, they have to collect more than a thousand signatures each to present their names on the ballot.
Moreover, according to Rasmussen’s McIntyre’s union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, which is in contract negotiations with the PCC, the cooperative called police at some 15 PCC locations during a petition effort.
“The response from PCC was quite rude,” said Rasmussen, who works at PCC’s View Ridge. “I was kind of surprised by that.”
PCC officials disputed that they had contacted any PCC employee, although one of the cooperative’s landlords called the police “to implement a policy not required by the landlord when the union set up a table on the sidewalk in their mall,” a PCC spokesman said.
But the cooperative officials admit that they want members of the board with more business experience to help the country’s largest grocery cooperatives navigate an industry that was already tough before COVID-19. The nominees nominated by the PCC Board are Rodney Heinz, CEO of Metier Brewing, current President Brad Brown, retired CEO of REI, and interim CEO of PCC, from May to December 2020.
Although PCC boasts impressive growth. It has 90,000 members, compared to 56,000 in 2015, and it faces the same competition – labor force growth, which increases profits for all suppliers, say the cooperative officials.
In 2019, the last year for which its financial results were revealed, the cooperative had a net profit of $ 2.1 million for $ 300 million, says Heather Snavel, Vice President of Marketing at PCC. But in 2020, the PCC spent $ 4 million on risk payments, additional cleaning, and other costs associated with the epidemic.
Add the challenges of rapid expansion – six new stores in the last decade – ուն you have a business with unique management needs, says Snavli. “There is no other food partnership like ours,” he says. To help run a “business of that size,” the PCC has a “list of experiences they are looking for” among board candidates.
But Rasmussen և McIntyre believes that it is the PCC’s unique circumstances and challenges that make the voice of the board worker so necessary.
They say that even before the epidemic, customer members feared that PCC was losing some of its community-based charms due to its rapid growth and growing corporate leadership. Susie Monford, the current CEO of PCC, was the president of QFC, which is owned by Kroger; His predecessor, Kate Hardy, was a senior executive at Starbucks.
Customers “think it’s no different than entering any other grocery store in the chain,” said McIntyre, a Fremont PCC employee who says he has worked for PCC for about seven years and has been a member since 1980. from mines.
PCC staff were concerned about the cooperative’s strategy earlier this year after newly hired Montford wrote to Seattle Mayor Enni Durkan to oppose the city’s offer of a $ 4 per hour risk pay for food workers.
“Unlike large corporate procurers who have seen steady sales growth in the country, we have not had a steady increase in sales, we do not have a national footprint on which to rely on these costs, nor the cost of doing business in Seattle,” wrote Monford. ,
McIntyre said Montford’s letter hurt him and many of his colleagues. “Well, he does not have our backs,” McIntyre said of the feelings he has heard from many colleagues.
UFCW officials decided to pursue the candidacy last summer. Although the cooperative’s by-laws allow for two board members, PCC officials say there has been no staff-level trustee for years.
Rasmussen և McIntyre said they were recruited to run at the end of last year, և they այլ other union members ները UFCW staff began collecting signatures in November. Any member can run for board, but candidates not approved by the board need the signature of 2% of all members. But because the union could not communicate directly with members, the PCC refused to distribute members’ emails, and the approximately 1,800 signatures required by each candidate had to be collected in person, with each candidate having to follow PCC rules to apply on the spot.
Both Rasmussen and McIntyre say they had no problems with their own store managers simply repeating store policies. Indeed, McIntyre says that his store manager told him “he thought I was a great candidate” for the board.
But the union said more efforts to collect signatures had met with resistance. The PCC’s management “threatened to call, in fact called the police several times during the council nomination phase,” an UFCW spokesman said in an email.
This included a November 17 call by the Buryen PCC to the Bourdieu Police Department and a call to the Redmond Police Department by the PCC in Redmond, the UFCW reported.
A UFCW spokesman said Greenlake Village’s Greenlake Aurora PCCs had called the Seattle Police Department and Bellevue’s Ballard PCCs had called their private security companies to “order PCC staff.” to collect signatures on the property. “
Pressing the union several times, the council spokesman said that “it is possible to call the police if the unemployed violate the rules of mediation”, but others were adamant that “we do not call the police on the NSC employees.”
It is difficult to say how the controversy will turn out in terms of elections. Voting takes place on May 3, but turnout is usually low. Last year, PCC board candidates averaged about 2,900 votes each. (The PCC online voting system, the union said Thursday, was resolved by a service provider on Friday, the PCC said.)
Rasmussen, one says he is encouraged by the number of members who encouraged him to run. “What makes me optimistic is what I hear from my clients / members,” he says. “Feels it’s right.