Q&A

New Seasons staff are the heart of our business, and we’re proud of our legacy as a progressive and community-focused employer that offers industry-leading wages and benefits. As we always have and will, New Seasons respects that the decision whether to join a union is one for staff to make.

We encourage you to review the other pages on this website and the additional Q&A below (informed by questions we’ve received from staff), and to conduct your own investigation into what union representation would look like.

About the Unions

Q: Is the NSLU affiliated with the UFCW?

No, not to our knowledge. NSLU is a new, separate union that has filed to represent staff at our Seven Corners, Sellwood, Slabtown and Woodstock stores.

*Q&A added September 30, 2022

Q: If NSLU is voted in, will they have dues?

Nearly all unions require members to pay dues, which are used to fund things like legal representation, union representative pay and organizing-related activities. According to the NLRB, the National Labor Relations Act allows unions and employers to “enter into union-security agreements which require the payment of dues or dues equivalents as a condition of employment.” By law, union dues (and any fees) must be paid by union-represented staff members themselves and cannot be paid by New Seasons to the union on behalf of staff. In response to claims by an NSLU organizer representing Seven Corners, that dues will be limited or even non-existent, we recommend staff members ask how the union plans to fund itself and its activities, and what the dues might be. 

*Q&A added September 30, 2022

Q: Does New Seasons respect the rights of its staff members to unionize? Will it recognize a union?

Yes, New Seasons respects the right of its staff to choose or not choose union representation. Whatever staff decide will not change the fact that first and foremost all staff are an important part of our New Seasons Market team. And, yes, if our staff vote for union representation, we will respect that choice, recognize the union and go forward down that path in good faith.

We also respect the process set forth by the NLRB to ensure that staff have a free, informed, and protected voice in that decision, and will of course respect the outcome of any vote. We believe that employment under any union contract could look very different from the experience staff have now. For that reason, we strongly recommend every staff member read all the available materials and do their own research to make a decision that is right for them.

*answer updated September 30, 2022

Q: What happens during an objection process?

New Seasons staff at Orenco Station voted 60 to 37 against unionization. As we’ve said before, we respect each staff member’s right to choose or not choose union representation.

Following an election, the Union and the company have 7 days to appeal the results by filing “election objections” with the NLRB. On September 2, the UFCW filed objections to the Orenco Station election. On September 7, the UFCW amended those objections. The NLRB is still reviewing and processing those objections and determining whether a hearing will be scheduled. In the meantime, store business continues as usual.

*Q&A added September 30, 2022

Q: Have any stores filed a petition to unionize? Are any stores currently unionized?

Representation petitions have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for five of our stores. On September 1, staff members at Orenco Station voted against representation by the UFCW. On September 7, staff at Seven Corners voted for representation by NSLU, and on September 8, staff at Sellwood voted against representation by NSLU. Our staff members at Slabtown will vote in an election to determine if NSLU will exclusively represent staff there. Ballots will be counted on October 20. Staff members at Woodstock will vote in an election to determine if NSLU will exclusively represent staff there. No election has been scheduled yet.

*answer updated September 30, 2022

Election Information 

Q: Where can staff receive information from the company about the election for each store?

Staff can visit the “latest updates” tab of our information site where we will publish details about each election as set forth by the NLRB’s process: www.newseasonsmarket.com/staff-resources/latest-updates.

Additionally, all staff fliers distributed in stores are published on our website. These fliers can be seen here: www.newseasonsmarket.com/staff-resources/know-the-facts.

*answer updated September 30, 2022

Q: When will the Slabtown and Woodstock vote be held?  

– Slabtown: Ballots will be mailed to staff on September 29 and the ballot count is scheduled for October 20. Ballots must be received by the NLRB on or before October 20 at 3 p.m. We recommend returning the ballots no later than October 11.

– Woodstock: The voting dates have not yet been determined by the NLRB.

More information can be found here: www.newseasonsmarket.com/staff-resources/latest-updates.

*answer updated September 30, 2022

Q: Who will be eligible to vote in the union election? 

Under federal NLRB law, non-managers or non-supervisors are eligible for union representation only. New Seasons and both respective unions have agreed that for our business this generally means Assistant Department Managers and below are eligible.

Q: Do newly hired staff members get to vote in the election? What is the hiring (or payroll) cutoff date for voter eligibility?

Eligible voters are staff members who are employed in a “unit position” (generally, Assistant Department Managers and below) at the particular store, as of the last payroll period ending date before the NLRB officially approves the election and communicates that out. In the case of the Slabtown election, this means staff members eligible to vote are those in a unit position who were on the New Seasons payroll as of September 6.

Also, within 2 business days of the scheduling of an election, New Seasons is legally required to send a voter list to the NLRB and union, listing staff to eligible vote, as well as contact information for those staff members (including home addresses, available personal email addresses, and available home and personal cellular telephone numbers).

*answer updated September 30, 2022

Q: How do staff vote in the election? Why did New Seasons call for an in-person (manual) vote? What is the benefit of this to staff? 

When and how staff vote is determined by the National Labor Relations Board. Both New Seasons and the unions are required to file position statements with their preferences on how – meaning in-person or mail-in – the election is conducted. New Seasons has asked for in-person votes because we believe they will be more accessible to staff who are already working in stores. NSLU requested a mail-in ballot election.

There are several reasons we believe an in-person election is better for our staff: 

  1. An in-person election is supervised by a federal agent for the NLRB as well as non-management employee observers for both the union and the company. This both ensures the integrity of the voting process itself, but also protects our staff’s right to a private and secret vote free of pressure tactics, intimidation, or campaigning.
  2. Because of the ease of access with in-person voting, such as being able to coordinate voting windows in conjunction with shift changes, data reported by the NLRB and Bloomberg Law* shows more staff are likely to participate – which is one of our primary objectives. All staff eligible to participate in a vote work in-stores, making in-store voting an accessible option.

The NLRB’s longstanding policy strongly favors an in-person vote. Pre-pandemic, the use of mail-in ballots was the exception. The NLRB’s in-person safety COVID-related protocols in conjunction with New Season’s continued vigilance on COVID-19 protocols (ex. staff vaccination rate, PTO leave policy) will ensure a safe, in-person voting option.

Further, to best protect staff in the case of an in-person vote, we’ve outlined to the NLRB methods and safeguards to help prevent the risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19 (e.g., social distancing, ventilation of voting locations by opening windows, having staff enter through one door and exit through another, regular cleaning measures and having hand sanitizer readily available in the voting locations or, proposing setting up outdoor voting tents as alternate voting locations, as appropriate or applicable). Ultimately, it is up to the NLRB to determine the vote dates and method of voting, and New Seasons honors and abides by those decisions.

*answer updated September 30, 2022

Q: If a staff member signs a union authorization card, does it mean that they have to vote for the union in the election?

No. Signing a union authorization card is voluntary and does not require you to vote for the union in the election.

Staff can vote for or against the union in the election regardless of whether they did or did not sign a union card or petition. Signing a card only indicates that at the time the card was completed, you were interested in having a vote about union representation or having the union represent you. It doesn’t require you to vote for the union in the election, however. And remember, you have the legal right not to sign a card and revoke any card you have signed.

*Q&A added July 29, 2022

Q: If a staff member does not vote for the union, will they be fired?

Absolutely not. Federal law prohibits staff members from being fired for how they vote. How a staff member does or does not vote in the election will not change their employment status at New Seasons Market. The union has no authority to cause you to be fired based on the way you vote. And, New Seasons would never allow that to happen. Union elections are also “secret-ballot elections,” meaning no one would know how you vote unless you tell them.

However, we believe it’s critically important for each and every staff member to vote and have a voice in this very important matter. The outcome of this election is based on how many people actually vote. Even if a staff member does not vote, if the union is voted in, they become the exclusive representative for each and every eligible staff member in the store – even if that staff member did not vote or does not wish to be represented. To win the election, the union must get 50%+ 1 of the votes cast. For example, if 100 people are eligible to vote but only 50 people vote, and of those 26 vote in favor of union representation, the union wins and represents all 100 people.

We think this information is important for our staff to know so that they can make an educated decision on their representation. And we respect the secret ballot process and their right to choose or decline representation.

*Q&A added July 19, 2022

Q: Is New Seasons providing my personal information to the NLRB and the union? Can I opt out of this?

By law, as part of the election process, we are required to provide personal information (e.g., home address, emails, and phone numbers) of staff members eligible to vote in the election to the NLRB and to the union. Unfortunately, staff cannot opt out of that disclosure. Whether staff let a union organizer/supporter into their home or answer their phone calls or emails is, of course, up to them – there is no obligation to do so simply because of the upcoming vote. Again, the only reason we provided the NLRB and the union your personal information is because we were required to do so. We would not otherwise share your personal and private information with any third party without your permission. 

*Q&A added July 29, 2022

New Seasons Company, Policies & Benefits   

Q: Staff continue to raise concerns over wages as one of the primary reasons for organizing. What benefits will a union bring to wages?

Should staff at any store choose to vote in union representation, wages would be one of many subjects a union could choose to negotiate with the company. For staff this means wages could increase, decrease, or stay the same. This is why we encourage our staff to ask critical questions and investigate the respective unions’ histories on contract negotiations relative to New Season’s own history on wage increases. Read more on our recent investments here.   

Q: Scheduling is another frequent concern staff at these stores are raising. Specifically, staff are saying that the move to task-based scheduling is taxing on staff, stores are understaffed and staff believe the understaffing is intentional for the company to maximize profitability. Is this true?

First, and most importantly, it’s completely untrue to say that the company is intentionally understaffing stores. In fact, our year-over-year labor budget was increased 1.5 percent versus the prior year. Staffing in our stores is being significantly impacted by the low unemployment rate, which has made it difficult to hire at all businesses. These challenges aren’t unique to our company or even our industry – businesses across the country (whether unionized or not) are struggling to find enough workers. Absences related to COVID-19 are also contributing to being short-staffed.

We understand that many departments are feeling strained right now due to a lack of staffing. Store leaders, our recruiting team and the rest of the Human Resources department are doing everything we can to fill all open jobs as quickly as possible. Store leaders are doing what they can to ensure departments have the best schedules with available staff. These staffing challenges are one of the reasons why we recently increased our starting wage and introduced new benefits such as our childcare tuition offering (read more here). Even more recently, we began testing a hiring bonus to fill key roles at certain stores and departments where additional staff is most needed. We have also held multiple career fairs across the region; we have added resources to ensure the application and interview processes work quickly; and we are using different online and social media strategies to generate greater visibility of our job openings. When our stores are well-staffed our business runs smoother – and that is what is best for our staff, customers, and our business. Despite what you may hear, there is no “intentional understaffing” of our stores going on whatsoever.

Task-based scheduling has been a collaboration between Product Category Merchandising leadership, operations leadership, finance, HR and store department leadership, with input from staff members. The goal at the outset was getting the right people, in the right place, at the right time doing the right work, and that remains the goal today. The belief is that finding greater balance in the way we all work will put our teams in the best position to support the customer experience and the whole store team. 

*Q&A added July 19, 2022

Q: Staff have been told bringing in a union will give them a “seat at the table” on all things policy and wages in stores. Is this true?

Having a union in place does not mean that staff members or even the union will have the final say on, or can unilaterally set, wages, benefits or other important company policies.

If a union was to be voted in, the union would gain: 1) the right and legal duty to speak for all staff in the bargaining unit, and 2) the right to negotiate through the process of “collective bargaining.” If the union was to win an election, we would bargain in good faith with the union, but we will not make any concessions to the union that are contrary to the best interests of our organization, staff, or customers.

During collective bargaining, an employer must bargain – negotiate – but is not required to agree to the union’s proposals on all things related to our staff’s employment. This is generally: wages, bonuses, benefits, hours, and other miscellaneous working conditions. And this only applies to staff in the bargaining unit – not assistant store managers, store managers, or store support. Anything outside of this scope is considered a “permissive subject” in which an employer can refuse a union’s request to bargain.  We encourage staff members to get the facts for themselves by reading the “What a union can – and can’t – achieve through bargaining” flier available in stores or on our website here. 

We’ve heard that some union representatives are promising to negotiate on things like what products we sell, merchandising/assortment, salary of store support staff, new store openings and other similar conditions. These are “permissive” subjects that New Seasons is not required to bargain over under federal law. Again, we encourage staff members to get the facts for themselves by reading the “What a union can – and can’t – achieve through bargaining” flier available in stores or on our website here

 *Q&A added July 19, 2022

Q: Staff remain concerned over the company’s “lack of” adequate investments and protections for in-store workers through the COVID-19 pandemic. What is New Season’s response?

We understand the concern. Over the last two years, our top priority has been the health and safety of our staff. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have taken great care to comply with the evolving guidance shared by the federal government as well as state and local health officials. And in many cases, the measures we’ve put in place have exceeded both federal and local guidelines. 

  • Examples of some just some of our efforts includes: 
    • – We enhanced store safety measures such as register barriers, increased cleaning standards and social distancing. 
    • – We expanded our paid time off policies to ensure no staff member had to choose between their health and coming to work. This included temporarily suspending our attendance policy and creating our COVID-19 PTO benefit so that any staff member with symptoms – even in absence of a positive test – or any staff member with family members experiencing symptoms could stay at home and isolate/quarantine with pay, to focus on their health and/or the health of their family members. New Seasons’ COVID-19 PTO benefit resulted in a cost of $5.8 million.
    • – We increased our staff discount from 20% to 30% during peak supply chain shortages initially caused by COVID-19, and recently made this change permanent for all employees.   
    • – We hosted 11 onsite vaccine clinics for staff and their families as soon as workers became eligible for the vaccine. 

While great progress has been made through vaccines other measures to reduce risks, the pandemic is not over. We remain committed to adapting how we operate and our safety procedures based on any new developments and guidance. 

*answer updated September 30, 2022.

Q: We’ve heard concerns over New Seasons acquisition by Good Food Holdings. How can the company still claim to be “independent” or “local? 

For the very reason we are local and have independent leadership.   

In 2019, New Seasons Market was acquired by Good Food Holdings. Since then, the company has continued to operate independently, under our own leadership team that sets the direction for the company and makes day-to-day operational decisions, including those related to pay and benefits and other staff policies – such as our most recent wage and benefits investment announced in September 2021.   

Beyond our staff, an objective of Good Food Holdings is growing community-minded businesses like ours. New Seasons remains a Certified B Corporation – which means our commitment to putting investment in our people, planet, the community and regional food economy remains central to all business decisions.   

We always have and always will be a mission-oriented company. Our roots run deep in the communities in which we operate. Our staff live in and volunteer in these communities, we source from and support the regional food economy, our taxes go back into the community, and our mission driven giving helps fund local community programs and charities. In total through our community development and staff volunteer programs, in 2021 we invested $552,000 back into our local communities. Read more here. 

*answer updated September 30, 2022.

Q: Does New Seasons claim that PTO is the same as sick time?

New Seasons has a comprehensive paid time off (PTO) policy that does not distinguish between paid sick time and vacation time. Instead, we bundle them together to create a generous, total leave package available for any use, including vacations, sick, leaves of absence or mental health time.

The result is more paid time away from work than most other area grocers. One big benefit of combining vacation and sick pay is that we protect all PTO hours. So, that means more sick time than is required by Oregon law. Under Oregon law, employees need to accrue at least 1 hour of protected sick time for every 30 hours they work, up to 40 hours per year. Under our PTO policy, for instance, staff working 37.5 hours per week can accrue between 75 and 225 hours per year of PTO, depending on their years of service. Also, combining paid sick and vacation time into one bucket is legal, and many employers in our region and around the country have adopted similar policies because it gives staff more flexibility to use the paid time away from work for what is most important to them.

*Q&A added July 29, 2022

Q: What is your response to the claim that your Portland Mercury article correction is “union busting”?

Typically, “union busting” refers to efforts of an employer to prevent employees from exercising their right to unionize or otherwise engage in union activity. What we’ve in fact done is encourage all eligible staff to participate in this process by exercising their right to vote after informing themselves about the issues at stake.

As we shared with the Portland Mercury reporter in a statement, “The decision to join a union is one for staff to make, just as it always has been.”  We also indicated to her that, “Regardless of any representation decision taken, we will continue to prioritize the wellbeing of our staff as we have always done.”  These statements remain true today.

Importantly, seeking corrections or clarifications for verifiably false and misleading claims in the media is not an attempt to dissuade participation or discourage union activity. To us, it’s important that both staff and the public have access to more complete and accurate information about our company, what company policies mean and how they actually work, and the union organizing process.

*Q&A added July 29, 2022

Additional Staff Questions 

Q: If the union is voted in, does the law require the employer and union to reach a labor contract?

No. The law requires the employer and union to negotiate in good faith about wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement after good-faith bargaining and reach a deadlock or “impasse,” then an employer may implement its final offer, which could include changes to wages, hours and working conditions.  

*Q&A added July 1, 2022

Q: Does New Seasons believe a union is unnecessary?

The question of whether a union is necessary is ultimately one for each staff member to make. We encourage our staff to ask: What would being represented by a union mean for me, and potentially my family? What is missing in my work life here at New Seasons that a union can provide that can’t be achieved without a union?  

What union representation looks like is hard to predict, but it would change relationships between staff and their managers and store leaders. The National Labor Relations Act requires employers to only deal with the union as staff’s exclusive representative on virtually everything that touches working terms and conditions. In fact, under the law it would be illegal for us to “bypass” the union and engage in any “direct dealing” with any union represented employee on any matter that affects their working terms and conditions. (29 U.S. Code Sec. 158, Sec 8a(5) NLRA). 

So, union representation at New Seasons would mean Speak Ups most likely could not be used to address most job-related issues, and company leaders would have much less autonomy to make decisions quickly, even ones beneficial to staff. Instead, everything relating to terms and conditions of employment would have to be discussed through the union. This is inconsistent with our company culture and one reason we do not favor union representation. 

We hope that through the research you conduct, and by our demonstrated commitment to listen, respond to, and care for staff and provide top-of-market wages and benefits for staff and their families, that you come to the conclusion that a union is unnecessary. But again, that is your choice and one we will respect. 

*Q&A added July 1, 2022

Q: I’ve read about New Seasons’ decision to hire law firm Ogletree Deakins. Did it do this to avoid unionization?

No. New Seasons has engaged an attorney, who previously worked for the National Labor Relations Board under both Democrat and Republican administrations, as counsel to represent the company in the NLRB’s legal proceedings. Legal counsel is necessary to help us navigate the nuances of federal labor law, as employers are limited in what they can do and say once an organizing process has begun. Obtaining counsel is standard in cases like this.

*answer updated September 30, 2022

Q: Some staff disagree with the decision to add self-checkout to stores because it will both displace or cut jobs and also decrease accessibility. Some say having a self-checkout removes the human element of the grocery experience.

To be clear and as we’ve already said: self-checkout won’t result in the elimination of jobs or take away from our customers who need accessible options. We are not removing regular belted, cashier-managed checkout stations.

Technology doesn’t take away from being the friendliest grocer in town, rather investment in technology and transformation is critical to remaining competitive in the market. Nearly every other grocer in the Pacific Northwest region – PCC Community Markets, Metropolitan Market, Whole Foods, and the larger players like Safeway and Fred Meyer – have self-checkout technology. That’s simply what some customers prefer. In fact, in a recent survey, over 60% of New Seasons customers indicated that they would use self-checkout if it was available to them.

*Q&A added July 19, 2022