Friday, August 14, 2015

Response To My E-mail On Pay Increases

I have received a next-to-useless reply from the Weaver Street Market Co-operative General Manager to my e-mail about unit meetings, employee inclusion in decision-making and pay increases. I am not surprised. But I will not let nonsense go unchecked. Sigh. Ruffin's e-mail:

"Hi Geoff,

Thanks for your note.

Micki is leading the SV meeting and can give you more specifics.

She has told me that the meeting will include time for employee involvement in increasing sales which in turn enables increased pay.

As we discussed at Co-op Plan, the average hourly (non-manager) pay will increase to over $14 this September and to $15 next September assuming continued sales growth.

The MM article yesterday discussed how the board allocates 50% of any profit to the worker dividend.

With these two mechanisms in place, employees are positioned to shape their future compensation through their involvement in improving service, sales and profits over the next year.

Tony is planning the FH meeting and has told me that it will include discussion of how to prepare for additional stores.


My response:

"Oh dear, Ruffin. With respect, your answer is something I would expect from the police chief in Ferguson. Side-step and obfuscation. Not straightforward replies, from the General Manager of a co-operative, which claims to exercise economic democracy. Where to start?

Well, first. Transparency and accountability, which are a part of the co-operative business model, can only be meaningful if demonstrated in front of peers. That's the whole point. So that discussion can ensue. And so that, again with respect, nonsense answers can be seen precisely for what they are.

I am grateful for your taking the time to respond to me. But the replies do not stand up to scrutiny. So, I will be looking for proper answers at the Store Meeting.

I am not prepared to be told there will not be time. This is the only time we employees are ever allowed to seek accountability in front of our peers. This meeting is our meeting, not just management's.

The primary point is the same one it has been for three years now. There is co-op policy which demands that employees be included in decisions that affect them and their workplace.

I want to know how and when we employees will be involved in the decisions which determine how the money we earn for the co-op will be allocated, once the fixed costs have been paid.

Your response is that managers make those decisions, on their own, in breach of co-op policy. Managers decide how much money the co-op will earn, what that means for sales increases, what will happen to the money earned from sales increases, and how, specifically, the money from increased sales will affect our dividend, our pay and our benefits - without employee inclusion in that decision-making. All in contravention of co-op policy.

You tell me that the only decisions in which we may participate are how we are to meet the sales goals set by management. This leaves you and management in continued breach of co-op policy.

How exactly do you and management claim the right to discipline us for breach of co-op policy, when you merrily breach it yourselves?

On a side note, you try to infer that the Board sets the dividend. No. It does not. Managers do. The Board only determines how much of the dividend, the size of which has already been set by managers (without employee inclusion), how much of that pre-set dividend will be allocated to worker-owners.

Even your own narrative does not stand up. You claim that we employees may influence our pay with our contribution to sales increase. That is demonstrable nonsense.

My department has achieved year on year sales often averaging between 10% and 20%. I have never seen a pay raise of 20%.

You then congratulate yourself by saying that, next year, average pay will rise to $15. How can you know this? Sales for next year have not yet occurred.

In other words, we receive the pay increases that you managers determine. It has nothing to do with sales increases. And even less to do with our being involved in the decisions that allocate the money we earn for our co-op.

You made great play of the fact at the Co-op Plan Event that what set WSM apart from conventional grocery stores was not what we did, but how we did it. How we are supposed to do business is the co-operative way. The inclusive way. The democratic way. Practicing economic democracy.

There is not one scintilla of evidence in your response to me of any sort of employee democracy or employee inclusion in the serious decisions taken in our co-op.

Rather you have made clear, in an e-mail which would do Wal-Mart proud, that we do business like, well, Wal-Mart.

Frankly, all of the seemingly wonderful work of the past 18 months. Last year's inclusive Store Meetings. The Communications Survey. The Co-op Plan Event. All of that work was merely expensive window-dressing.

You promised inclusion. You delivered a group hug and a discussion as to how we can meet management's pre-set sales goals.

As to the Food House, your commentary is evidence that all Food House workers will be allowed to determine is how to implement the decision already taken to build more units. Not whether they want them. Not whether they think it reasonable to try to service them. But I leave that discussion to them.

I am disappointed that the apparent journey to worker inclusion and economic democracy has led us back to where we already were. Spending our Store Meeting talking about how to meet your sales goals, and make money, the allocation of which is yet one more important decision in which we are not involved.

I am disappointed that you and management refuse to move yourselves into compliance with co-op policy on including employees in decision-making. And I expect my questions to be properly answered in front of my peers.

Yours truly,