Employees of the grocery store New Seasons’s Slabtown location have shared their intentions to unionize, according to a press release. The New Seasons Labor Union (NSLU) — the independent union representing Southeast Division and Sellwood locations of the grocery chain — will represent workers at another store as they seek higher wages and more control over company policy.
Employees of the Slabtown New Seasons location have specifically noted frustrations related to understaffing, and unreasonable expectations considering the lack of employees at the store. “I can’t remember the last day we were fully staffed,” says Slabtown employee Hans Heintze in a public statement. “A few months ago, the CEO visited and scorned conditions on our sales floor. A week or two later, our store manager called a long-winded huddle in the middle of the day and said that we all needed to be working harder. We had been short-staffed for months straight.“ A company spokesperson says that New Seasons is actively trying to fill open positions, hosting job fairs, offering hiring bonuses, and promoting job ads on social media.
“We are aware of interest from some staff at the Slabtown location to form a union, and we respect their right to consider representation via the steps set forth by the National Labor Relations Board,” says a New Seasons spokesperson in a statement. “The decision to join a union is one for staff to make, just as it’s always been and always will be. This is also not the first time in our company’s history staff have explored this option, and — as we always have — New Seasons respects this decision process.”
Members of the union have challenged the premise that the company has been supportive of their intentions to unionize. The NSLU has posted pictures of anti-union literature the company sent to employees on Instagram, and employees told the Portland Mercury that management removed union flyers from the Division location break room, replaced with a company notice saying documents left in the break room needed to be approved by management. The company did not respond to the paper’s questions about the alleged retaliation against employees.
Currently, three New Seasons locations have scheduled elections, either beginning this week or currently in process: The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has mailed employees of the Orenco Station New Seasons their ballots, to be mailed back no later than August 22; the NLRB should mail ballots to Sellwood and Division Street employees by the end of the week.