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Why Petco Workers Are Organizing the Company’s First-Ever Union

Pets over profit

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Video produced and edited by Paula Pecorella and Meg Herschlein

Petco workers are paid just a fraction of what other dog groomers make and say that poor training and negligent management is putting pets—and workers—in danger. Now workers in Seattle are organizing to make the company listen. Below is a full transcript of the video.

[News clip]: Colby died Friday during what was supposed to be a routine grooming at Petco. Colby was accidentally left in the heated drying cage. 

[News clip]: She said she’d brought her dog to the Middletown Petco Thursday night to get his nails groomed. She returned a bit later, Ollie was on the floor, and technicians were kneeling beside him.

[News clip]: Hall says he was a healthy 3.5-year-old English bulldog when they took him in for a grooming appointment at this Venice Petco in January. But something went wrong during the appointment. Max didn’t make it.

Bella Goodell: We’re fighting for pets over profit. We want the company to care for us and the animals in our care more than the numbers that they’re trying to make us push, and the numbers that they themselves are pushing.

[Petco CEO]: Well, you look at it, seven consecutive quarters of double digit growth. We are one of only three retailers out of top 50 that have done that.

For the very first time, Petco workers are unionizing

Olivia O’Neill: We’re expected to provide 100% satisfaction and also act like a factory line. We’re supposed to get out as many dogs as we can while remaining quality. I think for the amount of jobs that one groomer does in a day, we just aren’t reaching the amount of money that we should make.

Seattle Petco workers say the multi-billion dollar company cuts corners by overworking and underpaying 

Olivia: We do so many jobs in a day. Even the cashiers are expected to provide care to sick animals. Groomers are expected to be receptionists, to notice when something is wrong with your dog and help you, to take care of all of those and we’re not paid enough, and we’re not paid appropriately. 

Bella: We’re doing a lot of work for some of the cheapest services offered in this area. Petco grooming is probably a solid $50-$100 cheaper than a lot of private salons or mobile salons that you’ll find in this area. We’re not asking for hundreds and hundreds of dollars added to our paychecks, but knowing that the work that we’re doing is compensated fairly as opposed to being, like, I need to add X number of full services this week to be able to pay rent or pay my bills. 

Workers say animal safety is also a major concern & motivator behind their union drive

Mason Cross: Training for me when I first started there is definitely different from what it is now. When I first got there I was training on a computer for like 3 full 8-hour shifts, so that’s like a 24 hour period. What I’ve been noticing at the store is that they will hire new people and then just put them out the same day, like on the floor, taking care of animals, on the register. 

I’ll walk in in the morning and do openings, and animals won’t have food or water, or the humidity will be low, temperatures will be low, sometimes lights will be left on. 

I heard about a time when an employee of the store went to take care of hermit crabs, and they ended up not doing a proper job and flooding the tank, which resulted in those hermit crabs dying. And that was discovered by another employee of the store that had the required training.

Even when workers are properly trained, many point to manager negligence as a reason behind dangerous conditions in the store

Bella: A lot of issues that we’ve experienced in the grooming salon have been things like our thermostat being absolutely wild and management doing nothing about it until recently, after we filed to unionize.

We would have days where the temperature in the salon would be over or at 80 degrees, and we’d just have to keep working ’cause management would refuse to shut us down even though it is in policy to close at 80 degrees.

Dogs tend to get more liable to heat stroke or heat exhaustion at about 75 degrees. So when they’re sitting at that higher temperature on our table and we’re working on them with hot tools, and we’re like in their space with no fans or water available to them, they tend to kind of get amped up and get a little more stressed.

It’s harder to guarantee their safety which is something we promised the pet parents when they’re dropping off and that promise of safety is what’s bringing people back.

Petco had a record year in revenue and profitability in 2021, reporting an increase of $886.9 million in net revenue from the year prior.

Bella: We’re all very animal savvy people. We’re passionate about our animals, we’re passionate about our pets. All of us have pets and all of us would want better than what the company is providing.

Olivia: Knowing that the pet industry is so large and there’s so many different Petcos, and the idea that all of the issues in our store happening across the country in all these Petcos is really disheartening, you know, when I hear from all these different employees across the board not having a voice and not being heard.

All I wanna say to other Petco workers is everything we’re doing is for the animals we take care of anyways, this is just another step in taking care of them. Anything is possible, just gotta ask the question, “Hey, you wanna start a union?”

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