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Employees told a local union that the company hasn't been the same since it was bought by a South Korean mega-retailer.

PMG PHOTO: TROY SHINN - Workers at the New Seasons Market in Hillsboro say they want to form a union, unhappy with conditions since the chain was bought by a South Korean mega retailer chain. Employees at the New Seasons Market in Hillsboro are trying to form a union, according to a press release from the Tigard-based UFCW Local 555 organization.

On Friday, May 27, the union filed for a union election at the New Seasons Market located at Orenco Station. Workers there reached out to the union for assistance in organizing at their workplace, the press release states.

Employees indicated to the union that they are unhappy with changes following the company's 2019 buyout by South Korean company Good Food Holdings, a U.S. subsidiary of E-mart, the largest retailer in South Korea.

New Seasons Market, which focuses on locally produced goods, is headquartered in Portland and was founded in 1999. It currently operates 18 stores in the Portland metro area and one in Northern California. More stores are scheduled to open in downtown Vancouver, Washington; Lake Oswego; and Milwaukie.

"New Seasons started locally, taking their employees' voices into account," said Dan Clay, president of UFCW Local 555, in the release. "After being sold, New Seasons is no longer a locally owned neighborhood grocery store as many believe. Workers at the store are organizing for better workplace policies and safety standards, a stronger retirement, and better wages. We are excited to stand with these workers to add New Seasons into our union family."

UCFW Local 555 represents other grocery industry workers, like at some local Safeway and Fred Meyer locations.

A union spokesperson said that there is no update on the union beyond what is included in the May press release. It is still waiting on confirmation of its request from the National Labor Relations Board.

Workers say that their conditions have worsened since the company was bought, and they seek better wages and benefits. Store employee Shelby Miller is quoted in the statement, mentioning specifically a new employee attendance policy Miller alleges has made employees scared to call in sick, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"As employees, we are expected to make New Seasons Market the 'friendliest store in town,'" Miller says in the release. "This is hard to maintain with overworked and underappreciated staff. … With a union, we can look forward to a future where we have a voice in store policies, safety, wages, and benefits. Only then will New Seasons Market truly be the 'friendliest store in town,' both for its customers and its employees."

New Seasons Market said the store chain takes employee input seriously, and it has hired a labor attorney to represent the company during the union election process.

In an email from company leaders, New Seasons also said that the company has always committed to improving employee programs and advocacy.

"Throughout our company's 23-year history, we have always made our staff the heart of our business," said the email. "We have a long tradition of advocating for policies and programs that support the diverse people who live and work in our neighborhoods, including championing minimum wage increases, fair workweek regulations, affordable housing, paid family and medical leave, and marriage equality."

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Editor's Note: This story has been updated with quotes from New Seasons Market management.


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