Friday, April 24, 2015

Sales Increase, Dividend Decrease ... ??

We Weaver Street Market Co-op workers got a little scold today from the powers-that-shouldn't-be in our bi-weekly employee 'Market Messenger' about not meeting 'our' sales targets. And the fact that this would decrease the profit available for worker-owner dividends.
First, I welcome the fact that we are getting more financial information. Secondly, I welcome the fact that we are still getting a dividend. Thirdly, I welcome the fact that the lower dividend forecast is also due to the fact that more workers are participating in the 401-k program, and to a higher number of health insurance claims. And I was just about to make a mental note to work a bit harder. When I managed to catch myself.
Who says we are not meeting the sales targets? Who set the sales targets? Who says this results in how much profit? And who says how much of that profit gets spent on dividends?
People, we need to get away from this continuing attachment to top-down, we-know-best hierarchy in our co-op. Co-operatives are the essential building block of economic democracy. Which means that consumers and workers decide, not some self-appointed tier of managers.
Moreover, as I keep pointing out 'ad nauseam,' we have in our specific co-op a Board policy which demands that we workers are involved in the decision-making which determines the nature of our workplace and our remuneration.
In other words, we should be involved in the decisions that set the budget each year, that determine what will be the required sales increase (if any), what the money will be spent on, what the profit will be, and what the dividend will be. We should be involved, because co-op policy requires our inclusion.
What on earth do you think the recent employee survey was all about, if not to include us more in decision-making, and to give us all the financial information we need to be involved in an informed way?
So, grab your little 'Market Messenger,' grab your department manager and ask him or her why our forecast dividend is going down, and how can you be involved in the decisions to set the budget, the profit, the required sales increase and the level of your dividend for next year.
Now, I do say: if any sales increase is required. This is what I do not understand. And it is why I want we workers to be involved in the decision-making. Rises in cost of goods should be met with rises in sales price. They should cancel each other out. Inflation is well below this year's sales increase demand of 10%. Well below even the achieved sales growth of 5%. So, we can't need all of this sales increase to cover inflationary increases in anything else.
So, when the powers demand that we increase sales by 10%, they are saying they actually need some $4 million extra - to spend on what?
It is not clear from the figures we are given. And I raised this at my last annual store meeting, when I wondered where the $1 million refit of the Carrboro store was in the figures. Oh, I was told, that is in the item 'unit expenses.' Well, it shouldn't be. It should be somewhere we can readily identify it (I said). So that we know why we need extra income into the co-op.
In which regard, the latest set of figures still has all sorts of sins hidden in innocuous sounding items. Which is precisely why I want a process where we workers are included in the decision-making that sets the budget. We have a right to know what is going on, and to be involved in designing what is going on.
So, also be ready for this year's annual store meetings (which will be soon), both to query what the figures mean exactly, to question why any requested sales increase for next year (and there will be one) is necessary, and to demand that we be included henceforth in all decisions that set budgets, sales increases, margin levels, profit levels, and our own dividend.
I know it takes a lot of nerve to speak up. But economic democracy does not occur simply because you put a tooth under your pillow ...