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New Seasons workers rally to stop the Murdock Charitable Trust, which funds hate groups, from investing in and profiting off of New Seasons success.

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CATHY CHENEY | PORTLAND BUSINESS JOURNAL

By Jon Bell  – Staff Reporter, Portland Business Journal

Mar 1, 2018, 6:16am PST Updated 8 hours ago

The workers behind an effort to unionize New Seasons employees are now casting the spotlight on other companies in the portfolio of Endeavour Capital, the grocer’s majority owner.

New Seasons Workers United, the group of dissatisfied employees who have pushed a unionization effort since last fall, has teamed up with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 to launch a website looking at some of the “questionable business practices” of other companies Endeavour has invested in over the years. Endeavour took a majority stake in New Seasons in 2009.

A release from the workers claims that staffing levels have been cut at New Seasons since Endeavour, led by managing director Stephen Babson, bought its stake and that the grocery’s halted expansion plans and recent leadership shakeup have created turmoil at the company. That, the release noted, has led to “increased attention on the firm that owns the grocery chain.”

“The private equity firm Endeavour Capital portrays itself as socially responsible and attracts investors based on that approach,” Will Layng, executive director of Portland Jobs With Justice, said in the release.

“Unfortunately, its investments paint a different picture. It’s important that all stakeholders understand that Endeavour has a track record (of) investing in companies that have been charged with serious labor violations, profited from the discriminatory cash bail system, and contributed to air pollution and oil extraction from sensitive areas.”

Among the Endeavour-backed companies called out in the release and on the new website are:

  • ESCO Corp., a Portland-based manufacturer of mining eqiupment that was dinged for air pollution issues several years ago

  • Aladdin Bail Bonding

  • Genesis Financial Solutions, which originated students loans for the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges

  • Zoom+Care, the Portland health clinic chain that came to legal fisticuffs with Endeavour last year after the private equity firm went to court seeking a receiver for Zoom Management Inc.

In addition to launching the new website, the backers of the unionization effort plan to stage a protest outside of the Multnomah Athletic Club today at 3 p.m.during the Association for Corporate Growth Competition. Babson is scheduled to give the keynote address at the ACG’s event.

In a written response to the Business Journal, Babson said the firm has been investing in Pacific Northwest companies for 25 years and defended those singled out by the union backers.

His statement reads:

“Endeavour Capital began a quarter century ago as a patient partner with Pacific Northwest companies with a long-term vision, growth potential and sustainable business values.

“Endeavour has made investments in around 70 companies and its current portfolio includes 26 companies. Its major investors include the public employee pension funds of Oregon, Washington and Idaho, as well as union pension funds and college endowment funds.

“ESCO has a 100-year history in Portland as a manufacturing leader paying family-wage jobs. Aladdin is a respected bail bond provider headquartered in California. Genesis Financial Solutions works with retail partners to provide financing for customer purchases. These are just three of Endeavour’s investment partners and reflect Endeavour’s commitment to a diversified investment portfolio, which includes companies with unionized workforces.”

 

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