Ferries has made the wrong choice on food | Reporter’s notebook

A quiet, early morning ferry ride with a fresh blueberry muffin and a hot cup of coffee turns the trip from a necessary commute into an enjoyable, peaceful boat ride. So the ferry’s attempt to make food service on the boats more consistent is a welcome plan. But their choice to go with Connecticut-based food vendor Centerplate, Inc. is a bad one.

Not only will this out-of-state corporation replace four locally-owned businesses, including the Anacortes ferry terminal’s Cheesecake cafe and espresso stand currently run by Washingtonian Margie Iapopo, but the new contract with Centerplate does not require them to use union employees, which means well over a hundred people are likely to lose their jobs.

On top of that, Centerplate has had multiple lawsuits, ongoing and settled, filed against them in recent years, including 3,000 employees who claim the company violated California state labor laws during the 2015-2016 NFL season at the San Francisco Giant’s Levi Stadium.

Olympic Cascade Services, which has provided onboard concessions for the past 11 years, lost its bid to continue and expand food service to all Washington State Ferries to Centerplate. They have since filed an official petition against WSF stating that the ferry system violated their mission in making the decision to go with the multi-national company. Iapopo hosted a rally at the Anacortes terminal on Saturday, April 9 to protest the decision.

In this election year, we’ve been hearing a lot about how big business is “ruining our country.” Whether you believe that or not, as locals we see face-to-face the importance of locally-owned businesses in providing jobs and services that allow us to live here.

We also understand the seasonality of island life and while I missed my ham and cheese croissant from Cafe Demeter while they were closed for a few weeks this winter, I get it. It’s disappointing – and sometimes downright frightening, when there’s no fresh coffee available on the red eye because it’s January and the galley is closed; but is my breakfast worth the potential loss of over 100 Washington jobs and multiple family-owned small businesses? Yes, I will need to leave a few minutes early so I can drive-through Friday Harbor espresso and get my coffee from Mark or Autumn but, frankly, it’s better coffee anyway and it’s one small thing I’m able do to support our local economy.

I urge you to voice your concern over this poor choice by Washington State Ferries by contacting wsfplanning@wsdot.wa.gov or our local ferry advisory committee at FAC@sanjuanco.com.