By Don McIntosh
We finally know how much New Seasons Market spent to talk its employees out of unionizing: $325,855.
In a federally mandated public disclosure signed March 25, 2019, Vice President of Human Resources Corey Routh declared that New Seasons paid that amount to Cruz & Associates, a union-avoidance consultancy based in Rancho Cucamonga, California.
The disclosure, known as an LM-10, says New Seasons made an oral agreement with Lupe Cruz of Cruz & Associates in October 2017, in effect “to persuade employees … not to exercise … the right to organize and bargain collectively.”
A group of New Seasons employees — working with United Food & Commercial Workers Local 555 — had announced a union campaign at the company on Nov. 1, 2017. Within weeks, union-busting consultants were in stores talking to workers.
The anti-union meetings took place in November 2017, but the LM-10 shows payment wasn’t made until Feb. 13, 2018, possibly to delay disclosure for a year.
The delay prompted the workers rights group Portland Jobs With Justice to file a complaint today with the U.S. Department of Labor, alleging that Cruz and Associates and New Seasons violated the law by filing late disclosures.
And New Seasons may actually have paid more than the disclosed amount. The disclosures are required under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. But the U.S. Department of Labor has long interpreted the law to say that only “persuader” activity — in which consultants talk directly to front-line workers — must be reported. That means any billings for meetings consultants had with New Seasons managers and supervisors didn’t have to be disclosed. In an audio recording of one of the anti-union meetings with workers, Cruz said he personally trained then-CEO Wendy Collie and most of the company’s department managers.
New Seasons presents a public image as a progressive grocer, a “B Corp” committed to people and planet, not just profit. But hiring Cruz & Associates puts it in the company of some of the most anti-union corporations in America. In the last couple years Cruz & Associates has fought union campaigns among nursing home workers in Orlando; warehouse workers in New Jersey; and hotel housekeepers at Trump Hotel Las Vegas, the Sheraton in Stamford, Connecticut, Courtyard Hotel in Carlsbad, California, and Embassy Suites & Hilton Garden Inn in Chicago.
Support for the New Seasons union campaign flat-lined after the company brought in the anti-union consultants. By late spring, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555 laid off organizers it devoted to the campaign. In July, New Seasons Workers United announced a decision to continue independently of UFCW. The group has been less active since then.