Co-op Volunteer Program Update
By now, you may have already heard that the Co-op has ended our Volunteer Program. It was with deep regret that we came to this decision, and we will miss having non-staff members involved so directly in the business operations. We truly appreciate every moment of time, skills, ideas, and energy that each of our volunteers contributed.
One of the best things about the Volunteer Program is that it allowed members to have direct participation in our Co-op. We have held several public dialogues about this topic and a number of the impacted volunteers were able to join us to share their thoughts and concerns. Below you will find the notes from our most recent November 6th meeting, along with an audio recording.
In the coming months, both operations and board representatives will consider what next steps may be available. Whether it’s more gatherings to discuss member engagement and participation, or announcing more updates about the volunteer program, we will keep everyone posted via our website, The Co-operator, social media, and our recurring E-News. (If you have not joined our email list and would like to receive future communications, you can sign up here.)
Additional Information and Resources:
For those members who did not participate in the Volunteer Program, here is the letter that we sent to all of our existing, eligible volunteers: Letter to Volunteers
For more information about this decision, you can read our Frequently Asked Questions.
A number of articles that we have found helpful for reference and background include:
- Unites States Department of Labor information about Eligible Terms for Volunteering
- United States Department of Labor Opinion Letter regarding Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and use of volunteers in co-ops
- “Will work for food? Co-op programs end amid labor law fears” (Associated Press)
- “Who’s Watching Member Labor in Food Cooperatives?” (article from Cooperative Grocer)
- “Member Labor, Member Loans Threatened” (article from Cooperative Grocer)
- “Why Some Co-ops Are Killing Off Their Member-Labor Programs” article from Seven Days in Vermont.
- City Market’s GM’s Response to Seven Days article
- Laddie Lushin, Esq., Memorandum
- Member-submitted list of co-ops with current, active member-worker programs
- Monadnock Food Co-op’s take on why they never established a member-worker program at their start-up co-op
We will continue to post more information and resources as they are made available.
Volunteer Program Discussion Meeting Materials and Resources:
An audio recording of the November 6th meeting is available on Soundcloud. Click here to hear what board, staff, and members had to say. (Thanks to the Art Institute students who made this recording possible!) You can also read the Volunteer Program Discussion Notes. Center For Victims, who provided facilitation services at this meeting, have also shared member comments that were submitted by way of feedback forms distributed at the event.
At the meeting, General Manager Justin Pizzella referenced an interactive exercise we had considered working through with attendees during the discussion. Ultimately, we opted not to present this exercise during the meeting, but we are including it here for further consideration by our members. This Volunteer Decision Matrix represents some of the various Volunteer Program structures that are available, and some of the many factors evaluated by board and management in regards to this decision. There is room left open on this matrix for new information or ideas from members, so your input is welcome if you think there’s something else we can explore or add to this!
Former Marketing & Member Services Manager Heather Hackett would also like to share with members her Open Letter to Members Regarding the Decision to End Our Volunteer Program. This letter is adapted from her speaking notes prepared for the November 6th meeting, but because time was short she was unable to share the entirety of her presentation.
On behalf of the board of directors and EEFC management, we greatly appreciate everyone’s openness throughout this dialogue. We look forward to moving forward cooperatively, and finding new, innovative ways to address member engagement and participation!