Willy Street Co-op Membership:
by Tamara Urich-Rintz, Board Member
The best of the season to all of you! I hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. December is my favorite month of the year for its festivities and the chance to gather with family and friends. Okay, it’s really about the fabulous food and seasonal desserts. Luckily, I’m at the Co-op five days a week and have access to many healthy options during my time of indulgence.
I am writing this article wearing two different hats: one as a staff member who explains in a nutshell the benefits of membership 40 hours a week, the other as a Board member serving as the new Chair on the Owner Relations committee. This article is both to educate you as members, whatever member type you are, as well as to encourage you to actively participate in dialogue for the future of Willy Street Co-op’s membership structure.
Two important bylaws
First of all, let me introduce you to two important bylaws about membership. These bylaws are listed on back of your membership application and can be found on our website at www.willystreet.coop/about/about.html.
• Bylaw 8.9: Each member’s “Fair Share” of equity capital shall be determined on a yearly basis by the Board of Directors. Any changes will be presented to the membership for approval by a majority vote of the members voting.
• Bylaw 8.13: The Co-op may establish special provisions for household memberships and low-income memberships, and other categories as deemed appropriate by the Board of Directors. Such a provision shall be submitted to the membership for approval by majority vote of the members voting.
The current equity/fair share amounts were adapted in the early ’80s and have not increased since. The equity can be paid all at once or over the course of seven years, each with the option of a refund minus the $2 administrative fees. The Board approved one modification to the membership in the courtesy/equity membership—that senior citizens over 60, as well as members with a low income or disability, can be vested at a reduced rate.
The Board also approved special non-equity or courtesy memberships. These do not have voting privileges and do not receive the monthly Owner Rewards (green tag) specials. They do receive a 10% discount off of their purchases to accommodate their income. Senior citizens over 60 can automatically receive this discount (even if you are a vested member of the Co-op) by showing us your date of birth. Those applying for low income and disability memberships we offer must submit with their application a written request that explains their disability, any aid that they receive, and whether or not their status is temporary or long term (unemployment vs. SSDI and Medicare). That request is filed with their application and is confidential information.
Membership task force being organized
Recently, the Finance committee reported that the cost of courtesy discounts including seniors is rising rapidly and is currently about $90,000 per year. The Board has referred this situation to the Owner Relations Committee for a review process. The committee agreed that a membership task force will be organized to review Willy Street’s current discount system and to find a way to balance courtesy discounts with the overall long-term financial needs of the Cooperative.
The task force will be led by Lynn Olson, (Cooperative Services Manager), Rachel Imsland (Member volunteer of Owner Relations Committee) and me (Board member/membership administrator). We will be researching what other co-ops do regarding courtesy discounts and will provide the membership with education about our pricing and priorities such as supporting farmers who grow our food and workers who get it to the shelves.
We need your help
This task force needs 12 additional member volunteers to serve over the next several months to offer creative ideas that will modify our current discount program. Vested members and courtesy members should apply with your name, member number, and phone number and email me, or leave your information at the Customer Service desk. Members of this task force will be given a 15% discount while on the committee for their service. After the task force is formed, there will be a comment box available in the store for those who wish to submit their written ideas, as well as an e-mail address where people can e-mail their ideas. The task force’s recommendations will come to the Owner Relations committee, and that committee will formulate a recommendation to the Board.
I encourage anyone who is reading this article to consider representing your Co-op through this task force. The Board and staff at Willy Street Co-op strive to serve the needs of its members through product, education and customer service. Regardless of membership type, it is the voice/support of the membership that will propel the Co-op into continued success.