In this month’s Onion Skin video, we’ll hear from General Manager, John Tashiro, with reflections on the various challenges that Covid-19 has presented this past month as well as conversations with our employee union. You’ll also hear from two of our Rally for Change Partners, The Flynn Center and the Burlington School Food Project, about their work in the community.
A Letter from Our General Manager:
As we enter the first few days of March, it’s hard not to be reminded of this time last year and the many challenges that we have faced together in the past 12 months. But we have also seen how the community has stepped up and come together in ways we never thought possible. From community food distribution events in the South End and Member Workers making masks through Pop Up Mutual Aid (PUMA) to Age Well supporting older Vermonters with the Covid-19 vaccine appointment process, it is amazing to see the strength in community.
While we know we will come through this chapter with more resilience, there have certainly been moments that have tested us. This past month was no exception. February brought its fair share of challenges at the Co-op including navigating a positive case first at our Downtown Store and then at the South End. This situation offered an opportunity for us to clarify our communication protocols and ensure our staff and broader community had access to accurate and up to date information. We shared our Positive Case Protocol and committed to sharing updates in a consistent format moving forward. This situation also raised questions around employee access to paid time off with Covid-19 related circumstances. We answered FAQs around employee access to FFCRA, PTO, and Compassionate PTO here.
Later in the month, on February 13th, we made a decision to close our Downtown Store in light of a staffing issue associated with a positive case. This closure understandably raised concerns, but we were pleased that all close contacts subsequently tested negative and we were able to reopen the store safely the following Monday. You can learn more about the DOH guidelines that we follow to identify close contacts here.
Lastly, over the past month we have heard from community members expressing support for our employees seeking to reinstate an appreciation bonus and we wanted to take a moment to share some information about our process as well as our decision making with all of you.
We understand that our employee Union is advocating to reinstate a form of appreciation bonus, and we’ve shared with them that this is not a sustainable option for the Co-op at this time. We take our role as a community resource and as a cooperative seriously, and we hear the concerns of our community who want to ensure our staff and their fellow community members are being compensated fairly for the work they are doing to provide for their neighbors during this time.
We are also charged with balancing our future as a community resource, and we’re proud of the compensation and benefits package that were negotiated with our employee union in our existing contract as well as the investment of over $690,000 of appreciation bonus that was offered over a 10-month period (from March, 2020 through January 2, 2021). Ultimately, we hope you will understand that we have not made a single decision lightly in the past twelve months and remain grateful for the ongoing community support.
As we continue to engage with our employee Union around these discussions and implement on-going changes in response to Covid-19, we will continue to keep our community updated at the links below.