[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The B-Town Blog, nor its staff:]

Over the last nine years I have worked at PCC and enjoy the customers and stores. For a couple years now I have been at the Burien PCC. When you work and shop at a place like PCC you have higher expectations than at one of the huge national chain stores. We are, after all, the Puget Consumer Cooperative – or PCC Community Markets. Unfortunately, things have changed and not for the better. I want to correct that – for my sake and yours.

As a union grocery store worker, I have been an essential worker for years, helping to provide for my community. More recently, since the pandemic began, more and more people are recognizing that essential role. While in many cases things are OK at our store, there are several troubling developments that make me concerned that PCC is not living up to our traditional values as a CO-OP and in some cases not even keeping up with the standards of the national chains.

Here’s an example – we have not had quarantine pay since this whole thing started back in March. So unlike the agreement our union was able to negotiate with the likes of Kroger and Safeway, PCC has never agreed to provide for quarantine pay and has told us we just need to use our regular sick days or other paid time off as if this were just some normal situation. This is not right.

Another example is that while PCC had closed our self-serve hot bar, it has recently re-opened and has kept it open even with ongoing concerns about COVID cases in the region. This is a serious safety concern as it becomes a gathering place where people are commonly touching food utensils and potentially creating a safety problem. A third example is that PCC has not been as transparent as needed about when and where a COVID positive case happens with a co-worker. We need to know more so we can protect ourselves and our families and self-quarantine immediately if we have been exposed.

As if all this was not enough, when my co-workers Donna Rasmussen from the View Ridge store and Laurae McIntyre from the Fremont store decided to run for the PCC Board of Trustees – a good idea in my view to get workers on the Board – PCC has put up road black after road block. Thankfully because we have such a strong and active union we were able to overcome those hurdles and get the required signatures to get these two workers on our ballot.

We are afraid that all these are signs of how PCC has been and is continuing to shift its culture from our local co-op to just another national grocery store company driven by profits over people and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen. That is why we are going to continue to pressure them to provide as safe a workplace as possible, why we are going to continue to pressure them to provide essential worker pay (they have not paid us more for working in the stressful and riskier environment of COVID), that is why we are going to pressure them to be more transparent, and that is why we are going to work to elect two workers to the Board of Trustees. That is part of the reason it is good to have a union – so we can take collective action and have more of a voice, and rights and protections as workers on the job.

We hope you stand with us and support the rights of workers at PCC. For the sake of us as workers, the sake of you as customers and the sake of our long-loved local co-op.

– Yasab Pfister
(Yasab works as a cashier at the Burien store and has been on the union contract bargaining team.)

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Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.