Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Proposed Board Agenda for Jan. 17, 2013

Members are welcome to attend  Olympia Food Cooperative Board meetings. Board meetings take place the third Thursday of each month, from 6:30-9:30 PM, at the Co-op's downtown office (610 Columbia St SE).

Proposed Board Agenda for January 17, 2012 6:30-9:30 pm

Agenda Item

2 min
Mission Statement & Commitments Review

3 min
Member Comment

10 min
Staff report

5 min
Committee Reports

20 min
Appoint officers & gather contact information

15 min
Review Strategic Priorities & plan 2013 work

30 min
Bylaws Review
Should we create a committee to plan for a possible 2013 ballot on changing some of the bylaws?

20 min
Committees Review Cont’d
Continue discussing the future of Outreach, Newsletter, and Eco-planning committees

30 min
Strike Update
Share any news, plus results of member survey
20 min

                                                               Total Meeting Time:        2 hours 35 min

What did members say in our strike survey?

949  members, shoppers, staff and volunteers took the Co-op’s survey about how we should support the Teamsters’ strike! The survey results helped (and continue to help) us make decisions about how the Co-op should navigate this clash between our social justice values and the needs of our shoppers and our stores.

The survey was advisory, and the results in many ways reflect the same concerns that the staff and Board feel. Although many members felt it was important to support the striking union members, members also wanted us to protect the financial viability of the store. Read on for the results…

Question 1:

When asked “which of the following is most true for you”, the answers, in order of percentage, were:

41% said that we should support the union in ways that minimize financial impact to the Co-op.

25% said that we should support the union regardless of financial impact to the Co-op
18% said that we should educate members and allow them to decide how they want to support the union.

9% said that the Co-op should only support the union in ways that do not affect members (e.g. prices remain the same and products remain in stock)

And 8% said that the Co-op should not support the union.

Question 2:

When we asked survey respondents “At what cost should we support the union?” the results were heavily weighted toward “medium cost” ("few lost sales, no budget adjustments"). Almost the same amount of people chose “Regardless of financial cost” and “at significant cost” as chose “low cost” and “no cost”. 

At what cost should the Co-op support the union?

Question 3:

To get specifically to the question of price increases, we asked respondents whether they would agree that the Co-op should support the union with the following price increases. For each option, the respondent could choose yes or no. A majority of respondents chose yes up until the 25% option, at which point the majority said no. (After we put the survey out, we realized that moving to an alternate distributor would result in price increases of 20-30%)

If prices did not change, 89% would agree that the Co-op should support the union and 11% would not.

If prices were raised 5%, 83% would agree that the Co-op should support the union and 17% would not.

If prices were raised 10%, 66% would agree that the Co-op should support the union and 34% would not. (Note the sharp drop between 5% to 10%.)

If prices were raised 25%, only 34% would agree that the Co-op should support the union, and 66% would not.

Question 4:

We then asked respondents “In this situation, what should the Co-op’s top priorities be?” Each respondent could choose a first, second, and third-highest priority.

Overall, the two most frequently chosen statements (for either first, second, or third priority) were “The Co-op supports union members by not purchasing food shipped by replacement workers (517 chose this as one of their priorities) and “The Co-op focuses primarily on the financial health of the business” (chosen by 466 respondents for one of their priorities.)

Furthermore, many people who chose “not purchasing food” for their first priority chose “focus primarily on the financial health of the business” for their second priority.

However, this only gives a partial picture of the full scope of responses, which are better shared as a stacked bar chart, below.

In this situation, what should the Co-op’s top priorities be?

When looking at the whole picture, you can see that while not ordering from UNFI was the single most chosen option, the majority of respondents for any single priority chose something else (i.e. 41% of respondents choose “not ordering from UNFI” as the first priority, but 59% chose one of the other five options.)

How we interpreted this:

What we took from all of these answers was that members –much like staff and Board members – prefer to strike a balance between supporting the striking union members and protecting the financial health of the business. We decided not to take any course of action that would have significant or severe financial implications for the business. (In the survey, examples of “significant” cost were price increases, loss of sales, cutting some classes and events, fewer improvements at stores, etc.) That is part of why we decided to refuse to order from UNFI for a defined period of time (one week) rather than indefinitely. 

We continue to look for ways to support the union that will also keep the Co-op operational. If you have suggestions, please send them to outreach @  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Message from a "replaced" worker at UNFI

"It has been three weeks since UNFI unlawfully permanently replaced me and 71 of my co-workers, forcing over 160 union members at UNFI’s distribution center in Auburn back on the picket line. 

Since then, UNFI has shown absolutely no willingness to end the strike.  Instead, UNFI has:
  • Refused in federal mediation to reinstate me and my co-workers
  • Sought a court injunction to restrict our right to picket at the Auburn facility
  • Prematurely cancelled my health insurance
  • Continued to violate federal law by committing additional unfair labor practices
On January 8 and 9, my Union will be meeting with UNFI again in federal mediation.  It is incredibly important that UNFI understands that it cannot continue to violate workers’ rights, violate the law, and subvert the bargaining process.   

SUPPORT WORKERS!  Please email UNFI Senior Vice President Joseph Traficanti at with the following message:

Dear Mr. Traficanti:
I am deeply troubled by UNFI’s unfair treatment of its workers at its distribution center in Auburn, WA .  I urge you to return to the bargaining table immediately and bargain a fair contract in good faith that respects your workers.    
You can also send Mr. Traficanti a fax at 860-779-5678 or leave him a voice mail message at 860-779-2800 ext 32301. Thank you for your support!

Dante Cobb
Replaced Warehouse Worker, UNFI

PS:  For ongoing information about the strike, please visit"

Co-op Resumes Ordering from UNFI - Teamsters Strike Continues

After seven days of refusing to order from UNFI (the Co-op's main distributor) due to an ongoing strike by Teamsters Local #117, we regret to inform members that we are once again placing orders with UNFI.

This is a situation in which our financial bottom line is at great odds with our social justice values, and we are saddened to make this choice. The Teamsters know of and support our decision to ensure our business remains financially feasible, and we are looking for as many other ways to help as we can.

Here's why we must make this regrettable decision:

  •  60% (roughly) of our packaged groceries are ordered through UNFI. If we refuse to order with UNFI, we will quickly run out of food on the shelves. (We receive deliveries from other distributors for produce, meat and cheese, as well as working directly with hundreds of small vendors.) There's a reason that we order so much with UNFI: as a member of the National Cooperative Grocer's Association (basically, a cooperative of co-ops) we are part of a distribution contract between all of the NCGA co-ops and UNFI. By bargaining together, we can get better deals on groceries for our members. Plus, all of our regular specials (the "Co-op Deals" sales and coupons) are part of this contract. 
  • If we order those grocery items through an alternate distributor, wholesale prices are 20-30% higher than they are with UNFI. Customers don't want prices to rise and the Co-op can't afford to "eat" the difference. In our recent Co-op survey, 66% of respondents said that they would not support price increases of 25% in order to support the union. Furthermore, if we ordered and did not raise prices, we wouldn't have enough money left to run the stores. The Co-op runs on a tight margin of about 35%. That means that for every dollar you spend at the Co-op, about 65 cents pays for the product and 35 cents pays for staffing costs, low-income and senior discounts, mortgages, electricity, insurance, repairs, other programs, etc. If cost of the product was suddenly 85 cents per dollar, we won't be able to pay our bills with the remaining 15 cents. 
  • This is a particularly difficult time for the Co-op to lose sales, since lower sales and higher staffing costs in late 2012 have left us with lowered cash reserves. Before we even incurred the costs of not ordering from UNFI for a week, Co-op staff were voluntarily cutting hours (and receiving lower paychecks) to help build our cash reserves back up. 

Here's what the Co-op is doing to assist the Teamsters:

  • Postcards from customers: by next week, we'll have postcards available in store so that you can send your thoughts to UNFI. Just leave it with us and we'll mail it for you. 
  • We'll post handbills in the store letting customers know how to tell which products are from UNFI, so customers can decide whether or not to buy products that have crossed the picket line. 
  • At the next Board meeting, the Board will consider a proposal to collect money for the union's strike fund at the registers. Shoppers would be able to "round up" for striking workers, if the Board approves the proposal. If you don't want to wait to do it at the store, you can donate right now at the Teamster's website
  • In December, our deli workers brought hot food and coffee to the picket line - we plan to do this again!
  • We will continue to publicize updates to the Teamsters' struggle and urge our members to pressure UNFI to create a fair contract for its workers. Keep an eye out in the stores, on Facebook, and right here on the blog. You can also read the Teamsters' own updates at their website
  • We will continue talking with other co-ops and with the NCGA to pressure UNFI from the "inside". 
  • And of course, we'll keep asking the Teamsters themselves what we can do to help.

Because of the disconnect between our values and UNFI's actions, we are also looking into long term changes to our distributor relationships. We plan to research whether (and how) we might permanently source our food from other distributors. If we decide to stay with UNFI, we will strongly advocate for social justice to be made part of the next NCGA-UNFI contract. (Our current contract technically does not allow us to refuse to order from UNFI due to this labor dispute.)

If you have questions or comments, please contact us at outreach @