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Seattle and Portland activists, joined by New Seasons employees from around the region, protested the opening of the chain’s newest store in Ballard earlier this year. (📸: Good Jobs Coalition)
A fascinating meeting happened in the Central District last month. When local activists heard a New Seasons Market was slated to open in the heart of the neighborhood at 23rd Avenue and Union Street, they weren’t thrilled.
Why? Because they don’t think the upscale, Portland-based store, which is set to open in a newer apartment building next year and employ 100 Central District residents, will be a good fit for the neighborhood.
“When you come in from out of town, people in Seattle have an expectation that [they] can have … a meaningful say in how community is built and shaped,” said Nicole Keenan-Lai, executive director for local advocacy group Puget Sound Sage.
One thing local activists are worried about? New Seasons’ labor practices. In Seattle, New Seasons already operates markets in Mercer Island and Ballard. Activists from here and Portland have been protesting their local New Seasons stores for allegedly retaliating against employees, failing to retain employees from marginalized communities, and having an “anti-union climate.”
Another red flag for activists is that the company tends to move into neighborhoods that are growing. Often, those neighborhoods are also gentrifying. The Central District was more than 70 percent black in the 1960s and early 70s. Today, with more development increasing housing costs, it’s just 20 percent black.
So what did local activists do? They wrote a letter calling for a meeting between the market and Seattle organizers. And New Seasons actually took them up on it.
“I was thrilled to hear they wanted to meet with us — that shows they care about this,” said Kathy Yasi, who’s lived in the Central District since 1987 and serves on the Squire Park Community Council.
During their meeting, organizers gave New Seasons co-president Kristi McFarland and other local reps a list of demands. If the demands are met, they said, their campaign against the company would stop. Among other things, they asked New Seasons to sign a neutrality agreement to let interested workers unionize, disclose workforce demographics, let low-income customers use Fresh Bucks to buy produce, stock affordable staple foods, and donate some of their local profits to affordable housing projects and community land trusts.
In response, New Seasons reps said in a statement to The Evergrey that they’re “proud of our established track record as an active civic partner” and they’ve worked with “business leaders, local nonprofit representatives and neighborhood council members to understand the needs of the neighborhood.”
As for how the meeting went, New Seasons reps said they wanted to hear the activists’ perspective.
“We shared our commitment to championing [wages, benefits, and inclusivity] as well as using our voice to stand up for affordable housing, hunger relief and other important social justice and workplace issues,” they said. “We also took away some valuable ideas from our conversation that we will be exploring further.”
Ultimately, Central District organizers said they want New Seasons to be a good neighbor. Nicole from Puget Sound Sage said she felt inspired by the conversation, but Kathy wondered if the company was there because they felt they had to be. She said she hopes the company’s leadership understands its new neighborhood and respects its historically black community.
“If they want to be part of the community, they have to participate,” said Jill Mangaliman, executive director of local environmental justice org Got Green. “Otherwise, who are they serving?”
After their meeting in October, Seattle activists gave New Seasons until November 16 to respond to their demands. We’ll provide an update if we hear back.
NOW HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON IN YOUR CITY
‘Seattle is now second fiddle.’ Amazon made a big announcement yesterday: They’re opening huge, 25,000-person offices in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, and in the Queens area of New York City. The news ends a year of speculation over what U.S. city would be blessed (or cursed?) with a giant tech employer that’s transformed Seattle. But the buzz about what’s in store for Arlington and New York is just getting started. Ready to dive in? Scroll through GeekWire’s special coverage of the announcement, check out why cofounder John Cook is convinced this means “Seattle is now second fiddle,” then head on over to this Reddit thread, where someone half a mile from the new Virginia hub is asking us Seattleites for intel and we don’t hold back. “Hope you already own a house,” goes the most popular comment. (GeekWire, The Seattle Times, Reddit)
‘I’m gonna need my apron.’ Seattle historian Knute Berger could have just talked about the five classic Seattle dishes he highlights in this clip. But fortunately for us, he also ate them. And we’re not sure which is more delightful: when he wipes the whipped cream off his beard from the Belgian waffle at 1:50; or when, at 0:57, the late-1800s Dutch baby (“a love child between a popover and an omelette”) makes him sputter and go, “Whoo!” Want to make a Seattle Dutch baby at home? Here’s the recipe. 😋 (Crosscut)
Seattle can’t have all the fun. 425 Magazine is taking your votes for your favorite spots, services, and people east of I-90 and the 520 bridge. Your Eastside pick could be a restaurant, a teacher, a store, or even your favorite park. Nominate someone or some place awesome, and they could get a shoutout in the mag’s upcoming “Best of 425” issue. (425 Magazine)
From Starbucks to the White House? People have been wondering for a little while now if former Starbucks CEO Schultz is going to run for president. The most recent sign that he might just do it is the PR team he’s put together around his new book. “From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America” is due out in February, and one of the people who’s helping him out is a guy named Steve Schmidt, a.k.a. the guy who managed John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. 🗳 (CNBC)
KUDOS TO THE ‘MAGIC ELVES’ 🙏
Today’s kudos comes from reader Hillary…
“One of our neighbors tripped on a sidewalk near our house recently, so we filled out the nifty form the City of Seattle has — and voila! In less than 10 days (!!!) the magic elves of the city came out and fixed our sidewalk and the neighbors! How’s that for customer service?”
Know someone local who’s made your day? Take a sec to tell us about ‘em here. Then make sure you join the hundreds of locals who’ve already RSVP’d to The Evergrey Turns Two on Nov. 29! That’s our big second birthday party, where we’ll also launch our Evergrey Giving Guide, made possible by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
HERE'S WHAT'S COMING UP
✊ Wednesday, Nov. 14: Find your purpose and let it drive you at this Impact Hub Lunch + Learn (Pioneer Square)
🎨 Tuesday, Nov. 20: Paint your own holiday ornaments while supporting kids in foster care at this Foundation workshop. (Fremont)
🎉 Thursday, Nov. 29: Celebrate The Evergrey’s second birthday with food, drinks, activities, and loads of love for the 206. (Capitol Hill) 🆕
👔 Thursday, Nov. 29: Look good and feel good at this Men’s Fashion Workshop with Foundation and Seattle Gents (Downtown) 🆕
Going to one of these? Take us with you! Email a pic to [email protected] or tag #theevergrey on Instagram. Learn what our emojis mean here, see more upcoming events on our events page, and add your own events with an Evergrey membership. Is an event sold out? Hit reply to let us know and we’ll update the listing in tomorrow’s newsletter.
THAT’S ALL FOR TODAY
We’ll see ya tomorrow. — The Evergrey