by Luke Schaefer
United Food and Commercial Workers 21, the grocery workers’ union, held informational pickets outside four PCC Community Markets in Seattle, Edmonds and Bellevue on Wednesday. In addition to demands for a union contract that includes higher wages and secure retirement, workers are calling for representation on PCC’s board of trustees after several controversial decisions have put the co-op’s community focus into question.
“Right now there’s a lot of anger [and] frustration, particularly since we started talking about wages,” said Quinn Rào, who picketed with other workers outside the Columbia City PCC Wednesday afternoon. “PCC’s wage proposal was just absolutely atrocious and insulting, and really not something that we feel aligned whatsoever with the company’s values.”
According to Rào, PCC’s proposal would only grant senior employees, known as Journeymen, annual raises of 25 cents an hour starting in 2022 with no guaranteed raises for junior employees. Because PCC renegotiates union contracts every three years, this would only guarantee 50 cent raises for employees who’ve already spent years with the company until renegotiations happen in 2024.
Picketers are aiming to raise PCC members’ awareness that three seats on the Board of Trustees are currently up for grabs. Donna Rasmussen and Laurae McIntyre, two long-time front-line PCC workers hoping to improve negotiations for other essential workers, are running for two of the seats.
Rodney Hines, CEO of Metier Brewing, is also on the ballot alongside incumbent candidates Brad Brown and Catherine Walker, both of whom served as executives at REI.
Although both Rasmussen and McIntire obtained signatures from two percent of all PCC members as required to make the ballot, PCC appears to be trying to dissuade members from voting for either candidate.
A bug in PCC’s voting software added incumbent candidate Catherine Walker to voters’ selections regardless of whether or not they chose her. PCC addressed this bug following a report from UFCW 21 and calls from The Seattle Times.
PCC omitted Rasmussen and McIntyre from the co-op’s annual membership meeting on Apr 7, where all other candidates received equal time to discuss their platforms. PCC also omitted the two from voter guide materials they emailed to co-op members as well as informational posters they hung in PCC stores meant to highlight the other candidates.
According to the union, store managers called police to report signature gathering efforts by UFCW 21 and the staff candidates outside a PCC in December. Since then, UFCW 21 created an online voter guide to endorse Rasmussen and McIntyre and provide information about both candidates that was missing from PCC materials.
James Mykland, a PCC member since 1983 and a staff member since 2007, said negotiating efforts between PCC and its union have only gotten more heated in the last decade. “[For] the last 10 years, every contract cycle, it’s taken six and seven or eight months to get the deal done and ratified. That’s way too long to wait.” Mykland said. He believes having PCC workers on the actual company board should steer the co-op back toward a focus on community.
PCC Market’s CEO Suzy Monford, a president of QFC (which is owned by Kroger), controversially pleaded with Mayor Jenny Durkan to oppose the four-dollar-an-hour wage hike for essential grocery workers during the pandemic on the grounds that a smaller chain like PCC couldn’t compete with the likes of nationwide grocery stores. PCC is currently the largest food co-op chain in the United States, with 15 locations, six of which opened in the last decade.
All PCC members and workers are eligible and encouraged to vote in the company’s board election. Voting ends May 3 and board members will be announced May 6 during the PCC General Membership meeting.
Luke Schaefer is a reporter for the UW Daily.
📸 A demonstrator carries a cutout of Donna Rasmussen and Laurae McIntyre during an Apr. 14, 2021 protest at the Columbia City PCC. Rasmussen and McIntyre are two PCC employees who were put forward via a petition by thousands of PCC members to serve on the PCC board. (Photo: Alex Garland)
Before you move on to the next story … The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers. Rainmakers give monthly at any amount. With over 900 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us get to 1,100 Rainmakers by the end of the year and keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible. If just half of our readers signed up to give $6 a month, we wouldn't have to fundraise for the rest of the year. Small amounts make a difference. We cannot do this work without you. Become a Rainmaker today!