A North Portland New Seasons store is the eighth to announce its workers’ intent to unionize in the last six months. Employees at the Arbor Lodge New Seasons, located on N Interstate Ave. and N Holman St, made public its workers’ union drive Tuesday, after several weeks of organizing.
Unlike workers at other New Seasons stores that have announced unionization efforts, Arbor Lodge staff are waiting to file paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to start the official unionizing process until after going public with the movement.
“We wanted to get ahead of management’s anti-union campaign and make other workers more comfortable with the idea before filing,” said Alex Gage, a New Seasons employee who’s worked at the Arbor Lodge store since May.
Since workers at a Southeast Portland New Seasons store unveiled its independent labor union—meaning, it's entirely worker-led instead of associated with another established union—in May, New Seasons management has worked to stifle the growing movement. That includes hiring a union-busting legal team used to dissolve labor organizing at Trump hotels and distributing a letter to workers from New Seasons CEO Nancy Lebold sowing distrust in the protections a union can offer.
In a letter delivered to Arbor Lodge management Tuesday morning, Gage and other workers echoed the words of Lebold to explain their store's union drive.
"As Nancy recently expressed in her company-wide letter, we look forward to the company maintaining a neutral position as we move forward with our collective decision to organize our workplace," the letter reads. "Our intention is to provide every team member with the information they need in an open and honest environment."
Already, Gage said, some workers at the Arbor Lodge store have had management talk to them privately about why they shouldn't unionize. But, with the support of at least eight other Portland-area stores behind them, Gage believes Arbor Lodge staff are willing to join the labor movement.
Gage said the concerns prompting Arbor Lodge workers to organize aren't very different from issues raised by other New Seasons workers: Staff want living wages, a fair attendance policy (that doesn't blend sick days and vacation days), company decisions informed by local staff (instead of the whims of the international corporation that owns New Seasons), and adequate staffing levels.
"If we can attract workers with a union contract, that will lead to a more committed workforce for the long term," said Gage.
Arbor Lodge New Seasons workers plan to file union paperwork with the NLRB within the month.
Filing with the NLRB to unionize is a way to prompt employers to voluntarily recognize their workers' union. Yet this step hasn't been enough to gain the support of New Seasons' management in the past. Instead, store management have only chosen to acknowledge their employees' union once store employees hold an official vote—at which point management is required to recognize a union.
Two New Seasons stores have successfully voted to unionize within the past six months—the Southeast Portland Seven Corners store and the Northwest Portland Slabtown shop—and three more are awaiting an election date—one in Woodstock, another in Grant Park, and a third in Concordia.
Workers at two other stores—one in Hillsboro and another in Sellwood—have voted against unionizing.
In an email to the Mercury, an unidentified New Seasons spokesperson said that the company is "aware" that some of its staff is exploring union representation. They also referenced the "eagerness expressed by many staff members who wish to continue having a direct line of communication with management."
"We remain steadfast in our commitment to staff and support them in making their voice heard," wrote the New Seasons spokesperson. "The decision to join a union is one for staff to make for themselves, and we respect each individual’s right to consider representation."
"At New Seasons, every voice matters," they continued. "Listening to our staff, fostering respectful conversations and creating an atmosphere where ideas can thrive has been a commitment since day one."