Sunday, June 21, 2015

Worker Co-op Plan Events - Ours, Not Theirs

We workers in the Weaver Street Market Co-operative finally received notice in our bi-weekly Market Messenger of the series of meetings (called 'Co-op Plan Event') at which we WSM employees are told we will be able to engage meaningfully in decision-making concerning goals, plans and the budget in our co-op for 2016.

I am perfectly prepared to believe that pigs will fly. But I like to check with the WSM General Manager on the details first. And so ...

"Hey Ruffin,

Many thanks for the post in the 'Market Messenger,' and the far-reaching efforts to get employees to attend Co-op Plan Event.

I don't think it is any secret that I am concerned that, in accordance with co-op policy which requires that employees be included in decision-making which affects them and their workplace, these rather short meetings are not given over primarily to meet 'n greet, with a bit of show 'n tell.

If this is a genuine platform to allow employees to help fashion plans, goals and budget for 2016, then there must be clear opportunity for employees to have impact upon the same, and be seen to have impact.

That is not going to be the case if most of the get-togethers are given over to presentation of matters that have already been set, and employees feel they are merely giving feedback on decisions that have already been finalized.

I, for one, and in addition to one other more general matter, want to invite discussion about the amount of the funds (I don't want to get bogged down in technical terms) that remain after all of the set costs are paid (cost of goods, rent, utilities, etc.), where options are discussed, and we determine the amount of funds to be set aside for employee remuneration and benefits. That's a pretty pointless discussion if you have already decided that amount for 2016.

I know you keep saying that at a 6% average pay raise per year, we do better than Wal-Mart at 3%. Well, I would hope so. But, I think it is fair to invite employees, in line with the afore-stated co-op policy, to be involved in the decision that says, something like, huh, I look at sales in my department, they are up, year-on-year, by 20%, so where is the money going, and could we have more in the pay packet please?

The point is not providing me with a specific answer to my question. The point is, in accordance with co-op policy, giving employees all the information they need to be able to engage in such a conversation meaningfully, and then permitting them to make the decision consensually with management and administration.

If we cannot be involved in such a basic exercise as this, then what is the Co-op Plan Event for, actually?

Now, I understand that including employees in a conversation such as this, leave aside all the other conversations that we should be or should have been included in, like whether we wanted the Hot Bar doubled in size, like how much should be spent on what capital plans, like what wines to discontinue in the specialty department, and so on, being involved in all of these conversations is not going to happen in one series of 1 1/4 hour Co-op Plan Event meetings.

It is why at the meeting I attend, I will specifically be raising that general matter I referred to. Namely, is this a one-off; will it be repeated; and very specifically, how, on an ongoing, organized basis, are employees going to be regularly included in decision-making that affects them and their workplace?

In other words, nice as this Co-op Plan Event is, if it is not too taken up with food and raffle, what plans are there fully and meaningfully to implement the co-op policy which says that we employees must be included in the decision-making determined in the consultation exercise in 2007 - not just the occasional look-good chit-chat?

One final issue about logistics, and to encourage attendance. Gas is expensive. Time is money. You are saying that the meetings themselves will be on-the-clock. But for those living in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and further afield, there is the not inconsiderable cost of traveling to these 1 1/4 hour meetings in Hillsborough. Has some, will some consideration be given to allowing travel to be on-the-clock? And announced in the next 'Market Messenger'?

Looking forward to the Event I attend, and to other folks having good experiences with their meetings.

All the best,