Editor’s note: New Seasons is among OPB’s sponsors.
The National Labor Relations Board has charged Portland-based grocery chain New Seasons Market with unfair labor practices. The union representing workers at the New Season’s location in Hillsboro said the company’s improper actions during a union election, caused the vote to fail. The union is hopeful that the NLRB will call for a re-election.
United Food & Commercial Workers Local 555 represents grocery workers across Oregon, Washington and Idaho. New Seasons workers at the Orenco Station location in Hillsboro, reached out to UFCW Local 555 in early 2022 for assistance in organizing a union at their store. This was following a buy-out of the grocery chain by Good Food Holdings, a subsidiary of the South Korean company, E-mart, in 2019.
Last September, a majority of workers voted against forming a union, but according to the union’s communication coordinator Miles Eshaia, the ballot count was illegally influenced by the company.
”We allege that CEO unlawfully threatened to rescind benefits and rewards to employees that they had been receiving in the event the employees unionized,” Eshaia said. “And that had a chilling effect on support for the union and affected the results for the election.”
In a statement responding to the claims, a New Seasons spokesperson wrote, “New Seasons Market disagrees that it engaged in any alleged unlawful conduct described in the NLRB complaint, which is particularly evident given that 90 percent of eligible Orenco Station staff participated in the election and overwhelmingly voted against union representation.”
The union documented incidents of unfair labor practices from May through September of 2022 in its complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. The Board decided that the claims had sufficient merit to make a case against New Seasons. A hearing is scheduled for April 18.
“So the hearing looks at the damage that was done by the unfair labor practices, and then the NLRB penalizes accordingly,” Eshaia said. “... It could find that we get a new election.
New Seasons Market said in the statement, it respects the rights of staff members to choose whether they want union representation.
“In the upcoming hearing on these matters, we look forward to further demonstrating that New Seasons Market acted in a lawful manner and that overturning the election is not warranted,” the statement said.
In a separate but simultaneous effort, a New Seasons location in Southeast Portland successfully voted to unionize in September 2022.