Commentary: Concerns about safety and fair pay at PCC

When you work and shop at a place like PCC you have higher expectations than at a national chain store. We are the Puget Consumer Cooperative – or PCC Community Markets – as we are re-branded. I have worked at Edmonds PCC since 2008. I have felt good about it as a union co-op grocery store worker helping to provide for my community. More recently, since the pandemic began, more people are recognizing that essential role.

That PCC remains successful is extraordinary in this pandemic.

We have kept up with consumer needs and renovated stores, while expanding business into the other areas through new stores.

However as PCC workers we are concerned about this rapid move. We no longer feel part of Team PCC. Our stores are now operating like a giant corporation.

Instead of continuing to set higher standards, in some cases PCC is not even keeping up with the national chains. An example is that we have not had quarantine pay. So unlike the agreement our union negotiated with Kroger and Safeway, PCC failed to provide quarantine pay; instead we are required to use our regular sick days or other paid time off if we were to have to self-quarantine after a covid positive exposure. This is not right.

Another concern is that PCC recently re-opened our Deli self-serve bar despite rising COVID cases in the region. This is a serious safety concern! It has become a gathering place where people are touching food utensils and containers. Workers are very concerned about this.

Another issue, when my co- workers Donna Rasmussen from the View Ridge store and Laurae McIntyre from the Fremont store decided to run for the PCC Board of

Trustees – a good idea in my view to get workers on the Board – PCC has resisted. 

Thankfully we overcame those hurdles and got the required signatures with union and members help.

Finally, PCC just named a new CEO; instead of someone with a strong background in co-op business culture, they selected a Kroger corporation manager. We fear these are signs of how PCC is shifting its culture from being a local co-op to becoming another national grocery corporation. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen. That is why we are pressing to provide as safe a workplace as possible. We will continue to press for hazard pay (they have not paid us more for working in the stressful and riskier environment of COVID) and quarantine pay. We hope you stand with us and support the rights of workers at PCC.

— By Atsuko Koseki

Atsuko Koseki works in the Deli at the Edmonds PCC and is on the Executive Board and bargaining Team of UFCW 21. UFCW 21 is a statewide union with over 46,000 members in grocery stores, health care, retail and other industries.

  1. Several times, I’ve asked PCC to imple,met online ordering so I could pickup and avoid the COVID-19 risks inside the store. Most commercial grocery store do this and the coop in Mt Vernon also this. Essentially, PCC emails no can do. I’ve not been back to shop since March, 2020.

    1. You can choose to continue to not shop there but I’ve enjoyed using instacart with the PCC. Free delivery of groceries and the same price as in store (plus a small fee and a tip). It’s added maybe $6 to my shops and I don’t have to go anywhere!

  2. There is zero evidence that Covid 19 is foodborne. The easy solution to the deli problem is to wear gloves while handling utensils. Have you all stopped filling up your cars out of fear as well? I am struggling to put this delicately, but you work in a grocery store. To describe your job as “dangerous” is insulting to all the Americans who are working in actual dangerous jobs, such as Law Enforcement, Commerical Fishing, Logging, and Iron and Steal working.

    Maybe you folks out to take a trip to the factory in China that produced the device you typed this letter on, and then get back to us on what a dangerous work environment looks like.

  3. This trend is disturbing and I thank you for speaking up. I’ve been a passionate advocate and loyal customer of PCC for many years precisely because of the focus on prioritizing values (organic food, natural products, organic farmlands, people) over profit. I do not and absolutely would not support a move toward conventional corporate interests. If anything I’d like to see PCC be more bold and move in the opposite direction, toward a broader variety of natural, alternative food and packaged options like the Mt. Vernon coop. And certainly I expect PCC to place the highest value on protecting and supporting the lives and livelihoods of their employees. Please keep us posted! How I eat and where I choose to shop based on my values is a fundamental to who I am.

  4. I felt like there was a huge shift in the co-op feel when the last CEO took over. When I learned a Kroger person is taking over that position it really has made me feel like we were sold out. I love my PCC and hate to see it grow up into a Sprouts or WF in the future. It is obvious there were many changes in the past few years; a move away from some of the more gourmet items and variety of some products. For those of us with health issues we have relied on being able to get certain products at PCC that are no longer available. We are told; no they cannot get them from their distributor (maybe that is the problem right there)
    For what I pay every week in my groceries I would hope that the staff would be better taken care of. Very sad and I would love it if the corporate office would be a bit more sensitive to all of us in the future.

    1. Atsuko, thank you for alerting us to your concerns. I am saddened to hear that PCC workers were not given the same worker protections that other grocery stores enacted; I would expect a co-op to take even better care of its workers. It is disheartening to learn that this is not the case. I will write the board to express my disappointment and my hope that they will do better. I understand you put yourself at risk every day to keep us well fed and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

      1. I read the complaint 5 times. I don’t see anything about a lack of worker protections. Are you just reading into this to fit your agenda?

  5. I vote with my feet, and my dollars. If you don’t like where you work, Kroger and Safeway are hiring. Maybe you can get that hazard pay you are looking for. I’m sure PCC could find someone else to do whatever it is you do. Instead of airing your dirty laundry, do something about it. If you want to shop there, go ahead, if not, don’t. People sure are twisted. 100 million people out of work and 10’s of thousands of restaurants and businesses are closed. Maybe it’s not such a bad job after all. Maybe you should feel grateful you still have a job. Covid is smart, it doesn’t live in grocery stores or big box stores so you’re probably safer there than you think.

  6. I quit PCC in January of 2020 after it got rid of the monthly 5% and 10% member discounts without consulting members or giving us a chance to vote on it. I’d been a member since 1980 and I was very disappointed with this move. My grocery bill would have gone up by hundreds of dollars per year. Now I buy everything from Ballard Market, where the prices are lower, the employees are paid fairly and treated well. With a Kroger executive as CEO, PCC is no different than Safeway or QFC. She wrote a nasty, whining letter to Mayor Durkan earlier this year protesting the City’s requirement that grocery stores provide hazard pay to employees during the pandemic. PCC called the police on employees gathering signatures to nominate employees to PCC’s Board of Trustees. The union has voted to go on strike on June 15 in response to terrible contract terms offered by the Kroger management. I no longer shop at Puget Culinary Cartel and will walk the picket line with employees in June.

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