No Member Worker Program at the Co-op — Why Not?

Q: Why don’t we have a member worker program like other co-ops?

A:  Some food co-op’s offer a “working member” program, where individuals volunteer to receive discounts on their co-op purchases.  While there are pluses and minuses to this type of program, generally the national trend and recommendation is to avoid this program.  Our co-op chose not to implement a discount program for the following reasons:

  • Our Co-op is committed to providing fair wages and good benefits to our employees.  Member worker programs often do not pay a minimum wage (in the form of a discount) for the work provided.  Not only does this not fit within our values, it’s against the law and some Co-ops have been fined for violations by the Department of Labor.
  • Many stores have found it very difficult to keep volunteers up-to-date on the co-op’s current rules,  regulations and policies, as well as sufficiently trained on giving great customer service, when they only work 1 or 2 hours a week or month.
  • We would have to cover volunteers under our workers compensation insurance, which can be very difficult if not impossible to do.


Who’s Watching Member Labor in Retail Food Cooperatives?