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Co-op ‘Smart Caring’ Model Should Apply to Our Workers
I watched the building and opening of our Ambler Weavers Way with a divided mind. On one hand, our third store proves the growing success of our food ops: We are a strong community of buyers who make a point of buying from local producers and purveyors and who also “give back” to the community in the form of programs for local citizens (with especially inspiring farm programs for children). The Ambler store is the most striking recent evidence of the success of our power as a community and of our development of a business model based in “smart caring” for the people behind the food.
But do we value the most important people? Many of the people who work at Weavers Way do not earn a “livable wage,” which, according to the Fight for $15 movement (fightfor15.org) is $15 an hour for a single-person household. MIT’s “Living Wage Calculator” finds that the minimum wage in Philadelphia County should be $12.17 an hour for a single person and $24.90 an hour for one adult and one child. (That should raise some single-parent eyebrows.) Many of our workers earn less than what informed calculations tell us is bare minimum in our region – and I call on all of us to be ashamed of that fact.
While we’re happy about the new store and our growing vibrancy as a collective community, we need to address the inconsistency in our “smart caring” model. We cannot continue to laud our efforts out in the community while we undervalue our workers at home. We need to pay our workers, not a calculated minimum, but, rather, a livable wage of $15/hr. And we’re late coming to that table. Already in 2015, 14 cities and states in the nation approved the $15/hr. minimum. These policies apply across the board to for-profit businesses that, at least on the surface, have less “smart caring” for workers in mind.
Like many of us, I delight in shopping in-store, and that delight is due in large part to the expertise, professionalism and advice provided by our co-op labor force, who often offer answers in the context of warm conversation. We are lucky to have our good workers. Let’s give them the wage they deserve and that we deserve as a community dedicated to smart caring – let’s give our workers $15 an hour!
— Carla Willard
Editor’s note: The Co-op’s starting pay rate is $10.50/hr. Entry level employees receive performance-based step raises that take their hourly rate to $11.50 by their one-year anniversary.
Way to Go, Norman
I always love Norman’s column. In March, when he took a different turn, it reminded me of:
- His own long history of integrity as a leader in the co-op movement and as a writer, and doing it with a great sense of humor most times, to boot.
- The importance of remembering, regularly if possible, on whose shoulders we stand, we who want to build a better world. We need to learn from the dedication, vision, sweat, courage and even the mistakes of folks who were founding things like our Co-op, organizing for social change, learning the hard way oftentimes, and fighting for universal equality, respect among humankind and for our planet.
Norman’s eloquent and informative picture of Robert Iadicicco helps us do that.
— Ellen Deacon