About a dozen PCC Community Markets employees gathered outside the Edmonds store Wednesday afternoon to protest recent allegations that the Seattle-based food cooperative’s board is discouraging members from voting for two board candidates who are also PCC grocery workers,
The workers gathered outside the store at 9803 Edmonds Way, waving signs and handing out flyers stating that the co-op’s board is interfering with the upcoming board election.
The PCC employees running for election — Donna Rasmussen and Laurae McIntyre – are two of five candidates vying for three PCC board positions. According to Rasmussen and McIntyre, the board has been distributing one-sided election materials favoring their preferred candidates, which include Metier Brewing CEO Rodney Hines and two incumbents — Brad Brown and Catherine Walker — both of whom are retired REI executives. Walker is the PCC board chair and Brown spent time as interim PCC CEO from May to December 2020.
Rasmussen, McIntyre and the protesting workers are members of the UFCW 21, the union that represents PCC grocery workers. The union has pointed out that former and current corporate executives take up all nine PCC co-op board positions. Under PCC’s bylaws, up to two member-workers can serve on the board.
The current board also hired former Kroger executive Suzy Monford, who drew the ire of the union after publicly opposing pandemic hazard pay earlier this year – inspiring Rasmussen and McIntyre to run for election to the co-op’s board. PCC has since begun paying its workers an extra $4 an hour, but both Rasmussen and McIntyre said they are still determined to make sure they and their co-workers have a voice.
In a statement, McIntyre — a PCC member for more than 30 years and a worker there since 2014 — said that “PCC’s corporate-dominated board, and CEO Suzy Monford, are doing everything they can to put their heavy thumbs on the scales and prevent us from joining them in the co-op boardroom. We trust our fellow members, just as they trust us, to put PCC’s core mission and values first.”
UFCW 21 consultant Heather Weiner said it’s unusual that the governing board doesn’t include PCC members when many other co-ops, like Central Madison Market in Seattle, reserve board seats for workers. Weiner also said since PCC is the nation’s largest food co-op, there are two reasons the PCC board should include members.
“First, workers are on the frontlines (and) they are listening to customers and know exactly how a product or some other business decision is being viewed by customers,” she said. “The second reason is PCC makes a lot of decisions that directly impact 1,800 workers at their stores and there should be somebody at the table giving feedback and making those decisions.”
On Wednesday, demonstrators stood outside multiple locations, including Edmonds, with campaign information about Rasmussen and McIntyre. The two candidates weren’t able to attend the demonstrations since they were working, but cardboard cutouts of each woman accompanied the group while they spread their message.
In addition to union allegations that the board omitted the names of Rasmussen and McIntyre from election emails, signs and election guides, the board has been accused of using an electronic voting platform with a glitch that added incumbent candidate Walker’s name to members’ voting selections, and excluding Rasmussen and McIntyre from a PCC member candidate forum on April 7. Additionally, members said the board used police and private security to prevent PCC workers and members from gathering the nomination petition signatures required to campaign.
In response, UFCW 21 created its own online Progressive Voter Guide.
PCC spokesperson Kristen Woody said PCC does not call the police on staff members and referred to a policy that prevents solicitation or distributing materials by anyone on PCC-controlled properties. On other properties, she said it is up to the landlord to impose policies of non-solicitation and enforce them.
Woody also said that PCC is looking to diversify the predominately white board during this election cycle.
However, of the board’s three preferred candidates, two are white and one is Black.
“Donna and Laurae were nominated by their fellow workers to run for the board,” Weiner said.
Voting ends on May 3 and results will be announced on May 6 at the PCC General Membership meeting.
–By Cody Sexton