Dear Co-op Member,
In light of concerns raised at our annual meeting, last week’s Times Argus story and elsewhere, I feel it is important to share with you our management team’s beliefs and goals regarding co-op employees.
We see all employees- in every position, every department, full and part-time, union, management, new and veteran- as valued members of our Co-op community and critical to our collective success. Every employee provides valuable contributions to serving our customers and our Mission. In turn, we are committed to safe working conditions, engaged, respected and empowered employees, and excellent wages and benefits for all employees and to meeting the Co-op’s obligations in these areas.
A few examples of how these values are expressed in our workplace:
Our employee compensation program stands out in the food co-op sector and the grocery industry. All 160+ employees earn at least the Vermont Livable Wage with the average non-manager earning $16.38 per hour. For benefits, we offer between 4 and 7 weeks of paid time off each year, 7 paid holidays, up to one hour of paid break time per shift, a 12% Co-op discount, and up to a 4% match to our 401k retirement plan after a year’s service. The Co-op offers excellent medical, dental and vision insurance including paying 100% of the premium paid for full-timers and 50% of spouse and dependent coverage.
All new employees receive a minimum of 24 hours of initial job training and we provide ongoing training, including two mandatory trainings annually focused on safety and customer service.
The Co-op invests heavily in employee communication and planning. Most employees may join in regular department meetings and weekly all-staff meetings where we use principles from a program called Open Book Management to share information about our business and take in new ideas.
We have an established formal process for raising and addressing disputes as part of our Union contract. Additionally, we conduct an employee satisfaction survey annually and solicit staff feedback for annual manager performance evaluations.
Perhaps there is no better evidence of the quality of our workplace than our retention rates. Our annual employee turnover has remained below 20% for the past 4 years and is currently below 16%, well below that of our peers and our industry. The average tenure of our full-time employees is 9 years, especially noteworthy given the current labor market.
This is not meant to diminish any of the concerns raised by employees. We are committed to providing a safe and supportive workplace and we view all employees including the employee’s labor union as partners in this effort. We will continue to listen when issues are raised and address them in the most fair and responsible ways possible.
I thank all Co-op employees for their good work and contributions. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with my coworkers and I am proud of what we have accomplished together.
Thank you for supporting this Co-op that you own and valuing employees as essential contributors to our community. As always, I welcome your questions and ideas.
The Co-op wishes you and your loved ones a healthy and happy holiday season.
All my best,