By COLIN STAUB
Workers at a New Seasons Market in Northwest Portland are organizing with an independent labor organization. They want higher wages, better staffing and a voice in company policy-making.
The New Seasons Labor Union on Aug. 15 filed for a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) union election covering 112 workers at the 2170 NW Raleigh St. store, also dubbed the “Slabtown” location after its surrounding neighborhood. In announcing the union campaign, workers voiced similar workplace concerns as the other three New Seasons that have union campaigns underway (two in Southeast Portland and one in Hillsboro).
New Seasons worker Hans Heintze said the Slabtown store has been short-staffed for months, and that management is pushing current employees to work even harder. Steven Weiss, who has worked at the location for seven years, said there has been chronic understaffing and “unprecedented turnover.”
Their union campaign went public just before the beginning of Burger Week, a weeklong event where restaurants around Portland offer specialty burgers for a set price. New Seasons Market is sponsoring the event, which is hosted by the Portland Mercury. But Slabtown store workers say the understaffing made it difficult to prepare for the burger fest.
Deli clerk Julien Burdette said workers hadn’t been trained for Burger Week, even a day before it launched. The deli was just too short-staffed – eight workers left the department in the past few months, Burdette said.
All three Portland stores are organizing with the New Seasons Labor Union, while the Hillsboro location is affiliating with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555, which represents grocery workers at Fred Meyer and Safeway. The NLRB will count ballots for those three stores in the beginning of September.
The latest wave of New Seasons union efforts follows a 2017 campaign by UFCW 555 covering all New Seasons stores, and an informal worker-led campaign in 2012.