High Voter Turnout Gives Two PCC Workers a Seat at the (Board) Table

by Luke Schaefer

After a hard earned nomination and a lengthy push by grocery worker union UFCW21, a tidal wave of new voters swept PCC frontline workers Laurae McIntyre and Donna Rasmussen onto the co-op’s board of trustees, the first PCC workers to reach the board in 15 years.

“As PCC continues expanding, many coworkers and I feel it’s important to have a worker voice on the Board of Trustees to ensure the customers, workers and our local communities are kept front and center in decision-making,” Rasmussen said in a campaign statement. “Members built this co-op, and I believe our co-op can grow while holding onto its values and connection to our communities.”

McIntyre and Rasmussen’s victory can be attributed to voter turnout, levels of which have been unseen in previous PCC elections. Rodney Hines, CEO of Métier Brewing Company, led this year’s election with 9,397 votes followed by Rasmussen with 7,051 votes and McIntrye with 6,661 votes. 

The number of votes for McIntyre alone eclipse all votes counted in PCC’s 2018 board election, where candidate Michael Hutchings led the race with just 1,645 votes. All PCC members were encouraged to vote in the 2021 election and picked a candidate for each seat as opposed to just one.

The push to elect frontline workers to the board didn’t come out of nowhere. PCC became the largest chain co-op in the nation due to frequent expansion in the last decade. At the same time PCC has drawn criticism from members for opposing beneficial policies for workers. 

In a controversial move earlier this year, CEO Suzy Monford made a plea to the city to make PCC exempt from a $4 per hour pandemic wage hike for grocery workers less than a year after opening a massive location in Seattle’s Central District.

Efforts to nominate the worker candidates were met with hostility from the co-op. McIntyre and Rasmussen were not endorsed by PCC and as such were required to gather signatures from 2% of members to make the ballot. According to UFCW21, signature gathering efforts outside several stores were met with calls to police by the co-op, although PCC has denied this publicly.

PCC also omitted both candidates from online voter guides that were emailed to all members as well as informational posters in PCC stores. The two were also excluded from PCC’s annual membership meeting where the other candidates had the opportunity to promote their platforms.

The controversial election and the subsequent win by McIntyre and Rasmussen have served as an appropriate backdrop for the co-op’s struggle to negotiate a union contract with UFCW21. A wage proposal by PCC was swiftly rejected by the union earlier this year on the grounds that only senior employees qualified for 25-cent raises. Negotiations are still ongoing.

UFCW21 held info-pickets outside several PCC stores last month to demand a better contract for workers and encourage members to vote for the worker candidates.

Luke Schaefer is a reporter for the UW Daily.

Featured image: A supporter of Donna Rasmussen and Laurae McIntyre holds a cardboard cut out of the two PCC employees during an Apr. 14, 2021 demonstration demanding their inclusion on the PCC board. (Photo: Alex Garland) 

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