Last month I learned a new phrase, “wage compression,” and this month I learned that the Honest Weight Food Coop (HWFC) Board intends to do something about it. That’s good news for all of us at HWFC – but particularly the staff.
Wage compression is the unfortunate consequence for existing staff when new hires start at higher and higher entry level wages. Making noise about wage compression is not complaining about increasing entry level wages – pursuing a living wage for all is important. However, unless comparable wage increases are simultaneously provided for existing staff, they lose the longevity and performance recognition that their previous wage increases were intended to provide. Unless addressed, wage compression puts long-serving staff on a pay scale that is only slightly higher than that offered to those just hired. And if HWFC loses its long-term employees, it loses not only experienced workers but the institutional history that goes with them.
During the lead-up to the membership’s April budget vote, staff explained this pay-equity issue and expressed their dismay and disappointment that the 2018/2019 budget did not address it. Staff spoke during at least one budget presentation, leafleted outside the April 22 membership meeting, spoke during that meeting’s budget discussion, and tabled in the store to educate us all about this issue. Though at least one member-owner become agitated over this issue at the membership meeting, everyone I have talked to said that current staff has been calm and extremely well-spoken as they shared their story and gained support for addressing this issue.
And now the new Board has agreed to learn more about how to resolve it. I understand that staff, with the help of at least one knowledgeable member-owner, will be preparing a set of options, both describing where to find the money to fund a resolution and how to design it. More work remains to be done on this issue, and the Co-op Voice will be following staff’s efforts and the Board’s deliberations. But, for the moment, I think I can speak to the new Board for all of us who agree that wage compression needs to be addressed – thank you for your responsiveness and apparent resolve to look for a solution. We support you in seeking a viable, long-term solution.