Worker Owner Program Update

As you may know our Worker Owner Program was on hold, due to multiple factors involving our union contract, an evaluation of our compensation practices and trends within the national cooperative movement. A committee of board members and owners was formed to work with management to address all three issues. Also an evaluation of the program was included in a recent finance audit by the board and we have since finished up our negotiations with the union.

After months of planning, a new program will roll out in April and the signup sheet for orientations will return to the windowsill by the cash registers. Our first task will be to fit the existing worker owners into the new job schedule that we created. There are a limited amount of spaces, so we want to make sure that anyone who is currently working won’t lose shifts. Our ultimate goal is to change the nature of the program without reducing the level of involvement.

The worker owner jobs that leave the program will be turned over to staff, becoming paid positions. There is also a whole new list of jobs that worker owners will be able to do. The committee did some great work coming up with new job descriptions to replace the ones that are becoming staff positions. Meanwhile we have added more structure to the program, so it will be easier to manage and easier for owners to be involved in.

The jobs that will become paid positions are some of the old worker owner standards: dried fruit bagging, bulk herb stocking and cheese cutting. To compensate, jobs that were intermittent in the past will have more structure and more regularity. This includes product demos, working at regular Co-op events, writing Scoop articles, cleaning shopping carts, flyering for Co-op promotions, and providing election support. We will have a new focus on ownership and want worker owners directly involved with outreach and signing up new owners.

The other significant change is that the compensation worker owners receive will be one 15% off coupon for 2 hours, instead of for one. We had a multiple party review of our financials and checked with numerous co-ops nationwide to see what has worked for them. While we don’t want to undermine the savings owners can get, we need to make sure the program is not a burden on the operation. By transforming the jobs into paid positions, we feel we can make a better contribution to our community while ensuring the growth of a strong co-op.

As we move into the future, we have a firm footing in Asheville’s now very competitive grocery business. Sales are strong enough to support a living wage for staff and we own the land we stand on. The future is bright for expanding and improving our facility and we will be able to offer a wider range of services. With an engaged and growing ownership we will make Asheville stronger as we get stronger.

As a co-op, the FBFC is both an association and an enterprise. When sales grow, as an association we are able to have a greater impact on the world around us. Food security, food access and affordability are main concerns for the Co-op. And the results of this enterprise are measured on multiple bottom lines: staff environment, products, education, community and finance. You can hold this enterprise accountable on many levels. As a food-focused association of over 1600 local Asheville people, there are no limits to what we can accomplish.