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.
“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.