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    PCC Touts High Sales, Labor Contract at Annual Meeting

    SEATTLE -- At its annual meeting this week, PCC Natural Markets said it amassed record sales of $89 million in 2004.

    SEATTLE -- At its annual meeting this week, PCC Natural Markets said it amassed record sales of $89 million in 2004.

    "PCC's success in 2004 came from our dedication to the three elements of the triple bottom line of sustainability -- encompassing economics, social mission, and environmental stewardship," commented the cooperative's c.e.o., Tracy Wolpert. "We continued to offer great natural foods from a talented staff who enjoy providing great customer service in our community-based stores. We look forward to continuing this balanced approach on behalf of our member-owners in the future."

    PCC also expressed satisfaction with a new 3.5-year labor contract between it and Local UFCW 1105. Referred to by Wolpert as "arguably the best grocery labor contract on the West Coast," the contract offers, in contrast to recent health care cutbacks in the grocery industry, full family medical coverage for staff working 24 hours a week or more, at no cost to staff, and includes alternative therapies, domestic partner coverage, and lower out-of-pocket costs.

    Community relations manager Diana Crane told PG that negotiations the the union were largely harmonious because of PCC's c.e.o. "had a sort of brainstorm to not play the game" other retailers have engaged in with unions on the vexed subject of health care. Wolpert, whom Crane explained came from a union background, was careful to ensure that PCC employees got a "stellar" health plan. "People don't come here because of a paycheck, but because they enjoy working here," said Crane, adding that PCC nevertheless pays the same as or better than any other West Coast grocery store.

    Among its other achievements spotlighted at the annual meeting were:

    --PCC's community support through its Cash for the Hungry program, in which shopper donations bought nearly 32 tons of food for local food banks, and PCC's Scrip program, which garnered over $56,000 for 98 local schools and nonprofits.

    --PCC's special achievement award from Sustainable Seattle for the cooperative's support of local sustainable agriculture, commitment to consumer education, and pro-sustainability positions. At the annual meeting, PCC received an award from Bastyr University honoring the company's support for the issues of natural health, community involvement, and the environment.

    --The PCC Farmland Trust, a separate nonprofit entity began by PCC in 1999, which works to secure and preserve Washington state farmland and convert it to organic production.

    --The popular member benefit of 10 percent off a shopping trip of the member's choice each month, which has now been made a permanent feature.

    Crane said that other noteworthy programs were a letter-writing campaign in favor of labeling genetically modified foods, which prompted over 7,000 letters sent to the Washington state legislature; and the PCC Kid Picks program, in effect for a year, in which kids take blind taste tests at PCC stores, schools, and other venues -- "anywhere there's kids." To pass muster, a product must be liked by two-thirds of the kids, noted Crane, and all of those items that make the cut are listed on PCC's Web site. The program so far has a 57 percent pass rate, she added.

    Additionally, PCC has just completed an extensive renovation of most of its stores and has received much positive attention for its environmentally friendly flagship Fremont store in Seattle, which has been doing "wonderfully well," according to Crane. As for new units in the coming year, "We're always looking for store locations," although the cooperative hasn't yet found any.

    PCC Natural Markets is a certified organic retailer and the largest consumer-owned natural foods retailer in the United States, with an active membership of over 36,000. Membership is not required for shopping at PCC.

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