Local labor organization Portland Jobs With Justice has criticized New Seasons' sale Good Food Holdings, the U.S. subsidiary of a South Korean company.
In a statement following the announcement of the sale, Portland JwJ said it is "calling on the Portland-based grocery chain New Seasons Market to commit to respecting workers' rights and listening to workers' voices."
The group said that after the company's founders sold a majority stake to local private equity firm Endeavor Capital in 2012, workers complained about "deteriorated" working conditions. It also criticized the company for appearing to renege on claims it made a decade prior about working toward employee ownership.
In a 2009 blog post on New Seasons' website, announcing that Endeavor Capital was coming on as an investor, then-CEO Brian Rohter wrote: "One of the primary goals of the founders of New Seasons Market has been to figure out a way to have the ownership of the company more broadly-based."
He continued: "This could happen through an employee stock ownership program or some type of community stock offering or a combination. We've been working to achieve those goals for the last five years, but it has been a complicated and challenging process and over the last year or so we realized we could use some help."
Portland JwJ's executive director Will Layng said the group is "disappointed that Endeavour Capital decided to sell New Seasons without giving workers an opportunity to consider employee ownership."
"Our community is fed up with business executives touting their progressive credentials while excluding workers and opposing worker organizations," Layng said. "We will continue to support New Seasons workers who want to have a meaningful voice in their workplace and we hope New Seasons will take the opportunity provided by this transition period to do the right thing and respect workers' rights."
A spokesperson for New Seasons declined to comment on the company's current stance on employee ownership.
In response to Portland JwJ's critique, it offered the following statement: "We're proud of our direct relationship with our staff and strong track record supporting them. Our commitment to progressive employer values are core tenants written into our agreement with Good Food Holdings and are central to who we are as a business."