The Work is Changing: Being a Livable Wage Employer


In 2017, your co-op began the work of transitioning to being a livable wage employer. Last fall, 82% of hourly staff received an increase in wages and entry level wages raised by 34%.

It’s a good start. We recognize that the best way to support the long term wage growth of our staff is to foster a level of professional development and skill set growth that our old staffing methods simply would not allow. 

The way that work gets done in our co-op has changed dramatically. For example, staff that you are used to seeing at a register will also be spending time stocking in the aisles. By expanding the expectations and responsibilities of employees, and providing intentional training to support those changes, our co-workers will have more opportunity for advancement.

This bold step requires us to get used to the uncertainty and discomfort that change creates. No doubt this is a work in progress. By choosing to make this leap we have decided to be comfortable with the discomfort that change brings. Knowing that something must change is not the same as knowing how it will change. We are proud of the courage our staff has shown in considering and executing these changes.

We are committed to creating more co-op careers with livable wages—without raising prices. It is this balance between values and value that will help us advance on our Ends and be the store of choice for more and more shoppers.

This work to constantly become better grocers and serve more of our community is noble work. My own grocery career started at a small, family-owned store. In that environment, very few folks had just one role in the store. Nearly everyone, from owner to new hire, had to learn everything. Stocking, cashiering, meat cutting and janitorial—we had to do it all. In retrospect, it was this precise immersion that allowed me, a college drop-out, to build a career. At your co-op, we have decided to lead our community toward recognizing the value that noble, hard-working service sector careers provide. 

We are not fooling ourselves. No one is going to become rich working at a co-op. However, just one month into this experiment we are already seeing amazing results. For the first time in at least a decade the co-op is at 100% employment. We have also begun to hear how the changes in wage are affecting our co-workers. One particularly poignant note that I received referenced an employee’s ability to purchase gifts for their extended family this holiday season—something they had not been able to do historically, even while here at the co-op.

You see, when you choose to shop with The Merc Co+op, you’re not just buying good, local food. You are supporting responsible commerce. And, you are making it possible for us to honor and respect people for a good day of hard work. 

Thank you for shopping with us.