NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

PCC Community Markets members just voted to elect two PCC workers to the co-op’s board

The future of Puget Con­sumers Coop­er­a­tive — the orig­i­nal name of what is today known as PCC Com­mu­ni­ty Mar­kets — got sig­nif­i­cant­ly brighter today when the co-op announced that its mem­bers had elect­ed two PCC work­ers belong­ing to UFCW Local 21 to join its board of trustees for new three-year terms.

Don­na Ras­mussen and Lau­rae McIn­tyre are long­time PCC mem­bers and employ­ees who are con­cerned about PCC’s future, just as our team at NPI is.

“PCC has been expand­ing so fast recent­ly, focus­ing on open­ing new stores and big remod­els,” Lau­rae not­ed in a state­ment explain­ing her candidacy.

“That’s great, I’m hap­py for us to grow. But we need peo­ple with direct PCC retail expe­ri­ence on the board to pro­tect the core mis­sion of the co-op and make sure PCC steps up on racial equi­ty, LGBTQ inclu­sion, and jus­tice for work­ers all along the sup­ply chain, includ­ing those in our own stores.”

“When PCC takes care of its front­line staff, we can bet­ter take care of our cus­tomers,” Don­na’s can­di­date state­ment explains. “It also means con­tin­u­ing to sup­port our small farm­ers and local ven­dors, even if they can’t pro­duce enough to get their prod­uct in every one of our expand­ing loca­tions. After all, as a co-op, our stores should be a reflec­tion of our communities.”

Don­na and Lau­rae are already list­ed on the PCC web­site as mem­bers of PCC’s board, although nei­ther has received board com­mit­tee assign­ments yet, hav­ing just been elect­ed. (The board has sev­er­al com­mit­tees, includ­ing Audit, Finance, Man­age­ment Devel­op­ment, Gov­er­nance, Mem­ber­ship, and Compensation.)

NPI is hope­ful that Don­na and Lau­rae’s pres­ence on the board will result in pos­i­tive changes at PCC. One change we’re hop­ing to see — at least after the pan­dem­ic sub­sides — is the resump­tion of reg­u­lar mem­ber dinners.

Up until a few years ago, PCC used to hold annu­al and semi-annu­al din­ners for its mem­bers, which were an oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet oth­er mem­bers from around the region along with PCC staff and co-op lead­ers. NPI cov­ered and pro­mot­ed these events, which fea­tured out­stand­ing pro­gram­ming, includ­ing appear­ances by local farm­ers work­ing on land saved by the PCC Farm­land Trust.

But then the din­ners were uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly dis­con­tin­ued. When we asked why, PCC lead­er­ship mere­ly said that they want­ed to invest resources into in-store mem­ber­ship engage­ment ini­tia­tives. We want­ed to know why PCC lead­er­ship could­n’t sim­ply do that in addi­tion to the din­ners. But we got no answer.

PCC’s recent oppo­si­tion to pro­vid­ing haz­ard pay for its work­ers was even more trou­bling. Co-op lead­er­ship did even­tu­al­ly agree to do the right thing by their work­ers, but only after com­ing under pres­sure from mem­bers and the public.

“Haz­ard pay isn’t just about help­ing out front­line ‘heroes,’ ” not­ed Joe Mizrahi, Sec­re­tary-Trea­sur­er of the Unit­ed Food and Com­mer­cial Work­ers (UFCW) Local 21, which rep­re­sents 1,800 PCC work­ers, from cooks to cashiers.

“Haz­ard pay is nec­es­sary to com­pen­sate gro­cery work­ers who spend mon­ey from their own pock­ets to find emer­gency child care when schools are closed. Those few extra dol­lars are meant to help work­ers who have found anoth­er place to stay so they don’t bring COVID back to their friends, room­mates, or fam­i­ly members.”

We agree. UFCW Local 21 mem­bers are cur­rent­ly in the midst of nego­ti­at­ing a new con­tract with PCC, and we wish them well. With Don­na and Lau­rae’s vic­to­ries, two out of nine elect­ed mem­bers of the board are now PCC work­ers, which is a win for diver­si­ty and inclu­sion. The duo won despite not hav­ing been rec­om­mend­ed for board posi­tions by the coop­er­a­tive’s cur­rent lead­er­ship, and despite hav­ing been exclud­ed from can­di­date forums and in-store sig­nage.

That did­n’t ulti­mate­ly mat­ter, because PCC mem­bers could see the board would ben­e­fit from hav­ing fresh new work­er and mem­ber ori­ent­ed representation.

Board elec­tions at non­prof­its and coop­er­a­tives are rarely live­ly or con­test­ed, usu­al­ly because not many peo­ple take an inter­est in orga­ni­za­tion­al gov­er­nance. But this time was dif­fer­ent. This time, when PCC’s future was on the line, PCC’s work­ers and mem­bers rose to the occa­sion. That’s great news.

Con­grat­u­la­tions, Don­na and Lau­rae. Best wish­es from all of us at NPI.

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