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…
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.
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?
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.
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 @ olympiafood.coop.