Costco offers job interviews to displaced state liquor-store workers
Costco offers job interviews to state liquor-store workers, but they are currently union members and Costco is nonunion.
Seattle Times business reporter
Costco Wholesale said it will offer any displaced state liquor-store worker the opportunity to apply for a job at the chain, and, "We will make sure that they get an interview," chief legal officer Joel Benoliel said Thursday.
"There is obviously no guarantee of a job, but anyone who would like to work at Costco will have the advantage of being interviewed. We will be working on a procedure to make that happen between now and June when the transition will happen," he said.
Benoliel also noted that workers who want to keep their affiliation with their union, which also represents grocery-store workers, might be better off seeking work elsewhere; Costco is nonunion.
Because of the passage Tuesday of Costco-backed Initiative 1183, more than 900 workers at state-run liquor stores and a Seattle liquor-distribution center will be laid off by June 1.
The union that represents more than 700 of those workers was not impressed by Costco's offer.
"It seems a little insensitive to spend $22 million to kick someone out of their job and then offer them an interview," said Tom Geiger, communication director for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21.
Costco donated $22.5 million to the I-1183 campaign, making it the largest single donor to a voter initiative in state history. The campaign plans to return about $4 million of the money.
Under I-1183, the state will auction the rights to state-run liquor stores, and the new owners could rehire current liquor-store workers. Some people question how successful those stores will be competing against large grocery chains that will sell spirits in Washington beginning June 1.
Retailers who contract with the state to sell liquor can stay in business under I-1183 as well. They have similar concerns about competition, and wonder if they can afford to buy their spirits inventory from the state.
Benoliel said Costco hires hundreds of permanent full-time workers each year for its 27 Washington warehouses, and adds seasonal part-time workers during the holidays.
The chain plans to stock liquor in its Washington locations beginning June 1 and hopes to have Kirkland Signature liquor available then, too, said John McKay, executive vice president for Costco's northern division.
Those private-label products are vodka and ready-to-drink margarita mix in 1.75-liter bottles, bourbon in 1-liter bottles and anejo tequila and scotch co-branded with Macallan in 750-milliliter bottles.
Costco sells spirits now in roughly 220 stores in 23 states.
Its worldwide sales for wine, beer and spirits reached $2.6 billion for the fiscal year that ended in August, and about a quarter of it — or roughly $650 million — was liquor.
Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @AllisonSeattle.
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