Statement from Boise Co-op Board of Directors and CEO
September 12, 2019
First, thank you to everyone who attended the Boise Co-op Board of Directors meeting on September 9. We appreciate your time and candor as you shared your concerns, support, and questions. We would also like to thank our crew, Co-Owners and shoppers that were unable to attend and took the time to reach out to us. As the Board of Directors and CEO we want you to know that we appreciate your feedback and your input.
The intent of this letter is to provide clarity, facts and insight where needed. This is not only in reply to the attendees of the Board meeting on September 9, but also the various people that have reached out to us. There are a number of questions circulating due to either a lack of information or deliberate misinformation. We recognize that this is a result of unclear and inconsistent communication. Honest and transparent communication is key to everyone understanding the “why” behind the decisions that are made and the direction we are going. We all need to work on this and it starts at the top. Our goal is to encourage a culture of accountability, and to more clearly outline the relationship between employees and managers.
Part of this narrative is intended to clarify the different roles that make up our Co-op. Each and every one of us choose to show up and most of us are here because we believe in the Co-op’s vision, mission and role in the community. To those who are here to help move us forward with purpose and integrity, we are grateful for your contributions. We have a long way to go and we hope you’re in for the long haul. Thank you.
Our purpose is to Stand Up for Honest Food. Our core values are: collective harmony, positive spirit of action, and respectful honesty. Every Boise Co-op employee should be familiar with these concepts because we built them together. And together we intend to live and to work by these principles.
The Cooperative Model
A number of references have been made as to what the co-op model is and how it is designed for the benefit of employees. We want to provide some clarity and information on this. Cooperatives are owned and driven by the members—at the Boise Co-op we use the term “Co-Owner.”
The Boise Co-op exists to serve our Co-Owners through the purchasing of goods and services. We were organized for that reason—to provide access to good food at a reasonable price as a buying club. In addition to getting the products and services they want, Co-Owners also get a share in the profit of the Co-op. We return this in the form of a patronage dividend. Each household is allowed one membership and one vote. Through this democratic process we elect a Board of Directors. The Board serves as representation of our 33,000+ Co-Owners.
Employees can be Co-Owners, but they do not get preferential treatment for being employed by the Co-op. They are allowed one vote per household along with other benefits under the Co-Ownership allotment. The decisions we make are first and foremost for the benefit of our Co-Owners.
First, and because questions were raised at our forum, retaliation is not the cost for those who speak up to management or the Board. This policy is explained on page 20 of the Employee Handbook. Staff ideas and insight are always welcome and encouraged. This being said, in an attempt to foster a shared sense of mutual respect and professionalism, we will not condone mean-spirited, spiteful, or bullying behavior. The expectation for all involved parties is to maintain considerate etiquette.
Nor do we allow for insubordination; by this we mean refusal to obey direction from a supervisor and disrespect shown to management in the form of vulgar or mocking language—or making threats, spreading rumors and engaging in toxic gossip. This is destructive behavior that creates tension, loss of progress, and decreased morale. This is the very antithesis of who we are as a cooperative; it negates and undermines our values and will not be tolerated.
We as a Board of Directors and leadership team are committed to the creation and nurturing of a positive, empowering, and collaborative work culture. We all play a role in keeping this going. Our hope is that with honest and open discussion and mutual understanding of problems we can grow our collective confidence and trust, and improve our working relationships.
Deli Leadership Positions
The senior leadership team decided to invest in our largest department. The positions of Culinary Director and Executive Chef are strategic investments in the Co-op. In an industry where a grocery’s deli is typically a profit center, driving innovation and profits to the store, the Boise Co-op deli operations are an unfortunate exception; they have been losing money for several years. To help us reinvent and re-invigorate our deli operations, we turned to industry leaders who are excited to help us; Jin Yang and Chris Paquette together bring more than 45 years of culinary talent and leadership. Jin is regularly listed as one of the food industry’s leaders in sustainability and environmental innovation. We tasked them with nothing short of transformation of this important function, and to also train and develop our future culinary leaders. We realize we should have been more clear about these positions and why Jin and Chris were selected right from the get go, and apologize for the confusion and frustration this caused. We’ll do better moving forward.
The ECHO Program
Both representatives of the previous ECHO resigned from their roles, subsequently leaving the positions vacant and dormant. We received feedback that the program needs revising because it isn’t effective. We also learned that the ECHO program created unintended consequences in communication breakdowns and gaps between department managers and their staff. We are taking this feedback seriously and exploring viable and sustaining alternatives which address the future of the program.
At this time we are not bringing the program back. True to our shared values that we stated above, we prefer to build a culture of open, honest and productive conversations between managers and their team. We have a system for employees to share concerns with their managers, not with a middleman who might not accurately translate the employee’s issues. To that end we have made changes to the managerial roster. One of our top priorities is to establish and grow that trust between managers and employees who are working together to rebuild these relationships. The graphic below outlines the best way to voice concerns.
*the employee forums are a new addition that will take place quarterly, beginning on October 9 (at the Village) and 10 (at the North End). Employees should look for more info by the time-clocks and in meeting minutes in the next couple of weeks.
Employee Wage Increases
We want to clarify that wage increases are not capped at 3 percent. We set an organizational budget of 3 percent — as we have done for the last five years. We asked managers to provide reasoning, documentation and request for approval for any increase above this amount. This ensures accountability to budget and fairness in evaluation practices.
One of the most urgent priorities on our “Go Forward” business plan is to implement a Total Pay package with a clear methodology and consistent application. Work is now underway and we will be providing progress updates along the way, with the goal to implement as soon as possible.
A critical outcome of the across-the-board review described above will be clarity for employees about their compensation. Part of that review will be a clarification about salary caps, so that employees can see how to increase their wage either through performance or through a change in position. These discussions will take place between managers and their employees.
Personnel Decisions and Salary Information
Personnel decisions and salary information are private and closely held between the employee and the Co-op. The Board does not get involved in these conversations. As stated before, our sole employee is the CEO. Personnel changes, and the reasons for them, are private, to protect the privacy and integrity of all Boise Co-op employees.
We set salaries and pay scales commensurate with an employee’s position and experience. Historically, we have brought on many entry level employees at the minimum starting wage (currently $10.76). Pay ranges exist for all jobs within our organization; hiring managers are being encouraged to bring new hires on at a pay within the job’s pay range that is commensurate with the new employees’ experience and skills.
Long-term and Legacy Employees
As part of our pay evaluation process, we are reviewing our overall compensation terms. This process will include a focus on our long-term employees.
Boise Co-op in the News
It’s likely that you’re aware of the various articles and social media posts being made about our organization. There are several accusations and personal attacks being circulated and we will not engage in tit for tat exchanges. That’s not who we are.
Uncertainty creates a mixture of emotions—most of which lean toward the negative. Again, our intention is to provide clarity, insight and open and honest dialogue around these issues. We know the Co-op plays an important role in many people’s lives in our community, and our main goal is to ensure the Boise Co-op survives and thrives for another 46+ years.