Our Reporter Was There: Board Meeting 5/15/18

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The special Board Meeting to approve the June Membership Meeting Notice and Meeting Agenda in accordance with the Bylaws timeline took place on May 15. Also of interest to attendees was the new Equal Opportunity and Policy Against Harassment document that had been approved at the Board’s April 17th meeting and made available to the membership through the May 8th Inside Scoop. Early in the meeting, President Presser stated the Board would discuss questions which had arisen since that approval. This reporter understands that mechanisms embedded in the policy would apply to both Employees and Member-Owners and questions the appropriateness of applying a single policy to both non-employee Member-Owners and Employees. The Co-op Voice will continue to report on this matter as developments ensue.

Co-op Voice Denied a Place on the Membership Meeting Agenda

Appearing for the Co-op Voice, Mollie Lampi requested 15 minutes at the June Membership Meeting to report on the Co-op Voice policies, the issues it is covering, how to subscribe to the Voice, and then to answer questions about it. Board member Janet Sorell told the audience she was “personally troubled” by the request – and that the Co-op Voice was really just a blog. After more discussion including Carolynn Presser, David Vigoda, and Russell Ziemba regarding whether the Co-op Voice was still an affiliated organization, the significance of the January Membership Meeting, and the Co-op Voice’s accountability and editorial structure, the three Board members concluded that the Co-op Voice was now unaffiliated with HWFC.

After some discussion with Ms. Lampi, Ms. Sorrell recited from Section I.E., “Keeping Informed,” in the Member-Owner Manual. This Section describes the Co-op Voice as the Member-Owner monthly newsletter. Notwithstanding this positive assertion in the Member-Owner Manual, the Board approved a motion to deny the Co-op Voice a place on the Membership agenda after President Presser declared that the Co-op does not allow unaffiliated groups to speak at Membership Meetings.

Staff Requested Data to Address Wage Compression

Staff member Martha Moskowitz, the representative for the newly formed staff working group to address wage compression, spoke about allocating money for Employee wage adjustments. At the Board’s April 17 meeting, Staff was asked to prepare a proposal for an equitable method of distributing additional personnel expenses for presentation at the June 18 Membership Meeting. (See the April 17, 2018 meeting Board Minutes.) According to the minutes of that meeting, Member-Owners would have until June 29 to provide comments to the Board prior to the Staff’s updated proposal presentation at the July 11 meeting.

Board President Presser explained that the monies discussed last month also cover temporary workers and the floor crew. Sarah Hafensteiner has offered her services as a semi-retired finance professional to help the staff manage the creation of relevant, meaningful proposals. Staff is looking for a collaborative approach with management and an opportunity to work directly with Erin Martin (Co-op Chief Financial Officer) using Sarah as an intermediary.

Sarah wants the Co-op to stay focused on the People portion of our triple bottom line. She would like to propose three acceptable options to distribute the available money equitably for wage adjustments and to let the Board decide upon one of those options. Her challenge is that she needs information to draft those options. There are many possible options to help remain ahead of the state’s plans for minimum wage increases, including a salary freeze. Sarah suggested focusing on staff making less than $15 an hour, and retaining deli and housekeeping staff. She shared her wish that the Co-op work for the benefit of all hourly staff with wages that are acceptable and equitable for all. To create proposals for distribution of wage-adjustment funds, Sarah needs information on wages (not including names of employees) and the number of people making the various wages.

Board President Presser thanked Sarah and expressed a willingness to share information, stating that Erin would meet with her. President Presser explained that the plan is to use bonuses to address the wage compression issue. President Presser requested that Sarah ask for whatever she needed in writing.

President Presser expressed that the Board was fully committed to supporting the Staff in this effort and that the staff working group should talk with Rick Mausert, Co-op Chief Cooperative Officer and Erin Martin, Chief Financial Officer and come back to the Board if there’s a problem. She added that Rick and Erin know to expect communication from Employees regarding this matter.

Staff attendees expressed some skepticism with the Board’s fiduciary priorities, specifically the lack of prioritizing wage increases, and the absence of an assignment for Erin and Rick to develop a planned solution. President Presser made it clear that no wage increases could occur until July 1, but there would be some flexibility in backdating any agreed upon pay-raise solutions.

Board member Russel Ziemba commented on Sarah’s suggestion to focus on those making less than $15, adding that increases should benefit all staff, including those making over $15 an hour. Sarah replied that staff would need to discuss that, but may want, instead, to focus on resolving the issue of instant compression, for example those making $12.20 when starting pay becomes $12.10 (on January 1, 2019).

The June 18, 2018 Membership Meeting Notice

The Board members discussed the Membership Meeting Notice included in the packet. The Governance Review Council (GRC) representative discussed the Notice with the Board and explained that the Council would more broadly report at the next meeting.

In response to a question, President Presser responded that Rick is planning several informational sessions regarding café renovations before the June 18 meeting. Several participants, including one Board member, relayed their understanding of Rick’s suggested information sessions.

Rita Nolan, Election and Nominations Committee member, asked if there would be a vote for café renovations and reminded the Board that Rick previously shared with the Membership that he would provide three proposals for café renovations with one proposal being “do nothing.” With Rick away at a National Co-op Grocers (NCG) meeting, the Board could not verify his plans.

Regarding the wage compression issue, Janet suggested a presentation to the Membership, noting that the Board gets feedback from member-owners about this through email. When asked by staff for the reason to take the issue to membership, President Presser explained her interest in member-owner input. After discussion between staff, member-owners, and the Board, they decided upon distributing a survey at the Membership Meeting with a provision for feedback.

After President Presser initially decided to delay the café vote until fall, she proposed 30 minutes for the café presentation and vote and another 30 minutes for the staff presentation about wages [at the June 18th meeting]. She agreed to a suggestion that the staff issue precede the café presentation. President Presser suggested creating three versions of the Membership Meeting Notice to cover three different presentation possibilities for the Board to make final notice approval from through email.

Member-Owner Requested HWFC Statement of Support for NY Single-Payer Healthcare Legislation

Susan Dubois asked to postpone the Membership Meeting agenda item on this issue. The Board would not require a new petition to postpone the presentation to the September Membership Meeting agenda. President Presser asked Rick to come up with an estimated cost for HWFC if such legislation were to pass.

David Vigoda Proposed HWFC Customer Expansion to Address Staff Wage Compression

New Board Member David Vigoda asked for an opportunity on the Board agenda to present his ideas for resolving the wage compression issue. His conclusion was that there is not enough money in the budget to pay a living wage and that we needed to find more money to make that possible. He asked for Board approval of a motion to engage the efforts of owners and member-owners to grow the Co-op community. Several Board members indicated the HWFC community was already engaged in these efforts and asked whether Mr. Vigoda had any specific suggestions. President Presser asked him to return with details of the proposal. Yevette suggested “think tank” get-togethers, community circles, and potlucks to generate ideas. She added that people would attend an event without earning hours and that community relations would be a place to allocate hours.

Member-Owner Requested a Treasurer’s Quarterly Report

Rita Nolan, Chair of the Nominations and Election Committee, requested that a Treasurer’s quarterly report to the Membership resume. President Presser responded that the Finance Committee reports are in the meeting packets. Sarah Hafensteiner agreed with Rita’s request and asked for comparative report (prior years’ results compared with current year’s results).

The GRC Lost a Member

The GRC representative announced that Chris Gockley has resigned citing other obligations. The GRC is now down to four members.

The meeting adjourned at 8:44 pm.

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Jessica Rae, Member-Owner since 2008, attended this Board meeting and provided notes for this report. Her focus is on completing her English degree in Brockport. Jessica maintains connections to the Co-op because she loves the food, community, and believes that a Co-op like ours is essential local infrastructure needed for the community to thrive well into the future.