Want to Thank Our Co-op Employees? Here is What We are Doing and What You Can Do, Too

A Letter from the Co-op General Manager

To our Co-op community,

What We Are Doing

Raises
All employees hired prior to 1/1/2020 will receive a 2 percent raise this year in the form of a cost of living adjustment (COLA). In addition, we have put into place a compensation pool of an additional 1% of total wages that can be used this year by managers to fund promotions, new hires, and exemplary work by employees

Lunch
The Co-op began providing employees in all locations with lunch one day each week. We alternate Mondays and Thursdays. Because this is a great opportunity to support our colleagues in the local business community, we order from a wide variety of restaurants.

Employee Benefits
More than 80 percent of Co-op employees work full-time, with industry-leading benefits. This is in direct contrast to many large food retailers, which are staffed primarily by part-time employees without benefits.

Why does this make a difference? Employees without benefits come to work sick. They can’t afford to stay home. This is not an issue at the Co-op, where employees are encouraged to use their paid time off, stay home, and reduce the spread of illness. 

Employees have generous paid time off banks, which they are able to use if they become ill. During this time of increased vulnerability and concern, we have also upped our support for our employees to make it possible for many to stay home and not worry about money under Federal and our own new COVID-specific paid time off programs.

Employee Bonuses
The Co-op leadership team is glad to see that more and more people are recognizing the heroic efforts of our nation’s food-supply workers in the face of COVID-19. Many of our members and shoppers have also shared their appreciation, noting our employees’ courage and professionalism. To thank our employees for the above-and-beyond dedication, the leadership team enthusiastically decided to pay a $300 bonus to employees in March. This bonus was for all Co-op employees, excluding the leadership team. As I wrote to employees at the time, “know that this is something you have earned, and we extend it to you with our utmost appreciation, admiration and respect!”

In addition, I wrote to employees to inform them the “leadership team is actively discussing and analyzing appropriate bonus structures that will reward you for your hard work. We are in the process of designing a short-term plan that will reward you for working through this current environment. We are also working on a longer-term plan to enable you to share in the long-term growth and health of the Co-op. As an old finance person, the show is not over until the last decimal place is entered. Therefore, I hope to be able to announce the short-term plan within the next several days.”

As promised, several days later, the leadership team endorsed the payment of short-term bonuses to employees equal to $2.00 for each actual hour worked. Bonuses will be in paychecks dated April 23rd and will cover two consecutive pay periods.

I hope readers will notice I wrote all employees for actual hours worked. As I wrote to employees, “We are all different. We work different jobs. We work under different circumstances. We work in different locations. We face different pressures. However, we still depend on each other. Everyone matters. Everyone. I know people here doing heroic work in a very visible way, on the front lines dealing with customers. I know others doing heroic work behind the scenes so others can deal with customers on the front line. It is often difficult to stop, consider and fully understand the sacrifices that any individual makes to be here. Yet, here we are. Doing our jobs, all without the need for attention or fanfare. Bottom line: everyone is contributing. Let us remember we are all in this thing together. There is no ‘I’ in team!”

What You Can Do

Over the past few weeks, we have made many changes to our operations in order to protect the safety of our employees and shoppers. To say the least it has been an unprecedented undertaking, all under highly stressful circumstances. Our employees have been magnificent through it all. 

We have now entered a new phase in this crisis I believe, the “new normal” so to speak. And as we’ve become more accustomed to social distancing, my concern is that we may have become more desensitized to it, too. 

Case in point: One day recently, I visited our Hanover, Lebanon, and White River Junction stores, and was shocked at how often our social distancing protocols were ignored. It was a big change from just a week or so earlier, an experience that echoes concerns I have heard from many Co-op employees. Some employees have literally built “forts” around them with boxes and carts while they worked in the aisle, only to have zealous shoppers invade the space and put the safety of both parties at risk. 

Our stores are full of conscientious shoppers, and many of you have reached out to me and asked what you can do to show your appreciation to Co-op employees. So I’m writing today to tell you that the most important thing you can do is this: help keep employees safe.

Specifically, I am asking our members and shoppers to adhere to the same standards of safety—wearing masks and staying six feet away from others—that they expect of Co-op employees. 

This week we made masks mandatory for all employees, at every location. This decision follows the guidelines and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union. It was a also member and shopper request. Remember these measures are in place for good reason. Nationwide, a rising number of food and grocery workers are being exposed to COVID-19, and the pandemic presents a direct threat to the U.S. food supply. We can all reduce that threat with a few relatively simple measures: Wear a mask. Pay attention. Give people space. Practice social distancing from the moment you walk in to the moment you walk out. And at checkout, don’t forget the X. While an employee is bagging your groceries, please stand on the X to give that employee space. If you choose to bag your own groceries, let us know, and we will gladly ask our baggers to step away. 

At the Co-op, we understand that grocery shopping—a previously routine part of modern life—has suddenly become stressful in this day and age. With stress comes anxiety, and with anxiety comes the natural inclination to put ourselves first and forego our usual courtesies and social graces. We are all in this together. Make no mistake about that. Everyone is adjusting to this change. Everyone struggles when behaviors are being altered. Everyone wants to do what he or she believes to be correct, proper and justified. Through it all, everyone also needs to remember to demonstrate empathy, compassion and patience. Everyone.

See you in the stores. Be well. Be safe.

Onwards and upwards,

Paul

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Paul Guidone

Paul Guidone

Paul Guidone, CFA, spent the better part of four decades in the investment management business here and abroad. He held positions ranging from analyst through Deputy Chairman and Group CEO, at organizations such as Citigroup (US) and The HSBC Group (London and Hong Kong). He joined the Co-op in 2016 as the CFO and in 2018 became Strategic Advisor to the General Manager. Paul was appointed Interim General Manager by the Co-op Board effective March 8th. To contact, email PGuidone@coopfoodstore.com.
Paul Guidone

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