A New Dawn

  | Food For Thought, GM Report

On July 15, the BFC staff represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1459, voted to ratify a new three-year contract. This is the second contract for our staff, and this one was arrived at by a group of folks from both management and the bargaining unit who met nearly every week since March 30 to work through an understanding, using the principles of “interest-based problem-solving.” This methodology first identifies the interests of each side, then all participants brainstorm solutions, and finally, through a series of processes, consensus is achieved. Beginning in late January, an open series of three training sessions were held with Annie Rutsky, a regional trainer from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Albany. All staff members were invited to attend any or all of the sessions, but the ten members of the bargaining teams were required to attend.

In the end, both sides conceded some things and gained others, as is the case in negotiations. These discussions are quite difficult, because not all the stakeholders are at the table, although the staff is a primary one. We also must acknowledge the ever-so-patient shareholder-lenders, as well as customers and shareholders who demand good value on the shelves. All of the people around the table have to do their best to grasp a complex financial situation moving forward, making sure that none of the stakeholders get left behind, while ensuring that staff is well-supported.

I want to do the best we can for our staff, and will continue to work hard to improve our business results as much as possible so that we can do even better down the road. As I have said before, we must continue to balance all the needs from our business in such a way as to advance our staff’s compensation without harming our sales through adverse price image or without harming our relationships with producers and other partners. It’s a difficult path to navigate, and I very much appreciate the hard work of everyone involved in this labor contract.

Meanwhile, no doubt you have noticed things happening around the store. We moved some outlets and moved the bulk nut cooler and the kombucha taps to make room for the new configuration of the bin shelving. Hopefully, bulk bin moves will have begun before the end of August. We are also planning a reset in the Wellness department for late August/September. The goals are to comb through the offerings and discontinue slow movers, as well as move some shelf gondolas over to reduce the number of pinch points around both the grab-and-go egress and the front-end registers. We are more or less flipping the body care with the vitamins, so there may be some confusion for a bit while all of us get reoriented to the new setup. Hang in there—I know you have weathered lots of changes this past year, but it’s time! We have been in our new space for five years now (hard to believe!), and all of these moves are steps on the way to a more user-friendly and logical store, despite the short-term frustration.

Finally, we continue to make significant improvements in our waste-stream numbers. Last fiscal year, we sent roughly 71 tons to the landfill, and this year, we are on track for only about 49 tons, despite increased sales volume. This means that our landfill diversion rate has gone from 60% up to 72%. We have embarked on a new program to recycle pallet shrink wrap, and continue to examine our food storage supplies to see what gains we can make there. 
We are considering taking our five-cent bag policy into the Bulk and Produce departments for the new plastic bags in those departments, to encourage use and re-use of pantry containers. We may switch to compostable produce bags simultaneously, a move we have not been able to make due to the high cost of those bags. We’ll be tabling in the store about this over the next month or two to take feedback and prepare shoppers for the possibilities.

So, come often into your Co-op to see all the new activity and grab all those summer essentials; we’ve got new and fun stuff coming in all the time! Enjoy, and thank you for supporting this business you own with all of your neighbors!

by Sabine Rhyne,
General Manager