The change will increase all existing union employee's wages by an average of 70 cents per hour, and new starting wages will increase $1 per hour for all classifications over the previous wage structure.
The changes come at a cost to the Co-op of approximately $300,000 annually. Plans are also in process to evaluate competitive rates of pay for all hourly at-will positions working in Outpost's administrative offices. Additional objectives of the Co-op's multi-year plan include increasing the number of full-time positions to 50 percent of all union jobs and increasing the number of opportunities for promotion through the Outpost Mentor Program.
The vision of an "amazing place to work" is one of the five strategic directions the Co-op aims to achieve over the next nine years. The increased wage structure provides the co-op the opportunity to add increased value to an already high satisfactory rating among Outpost employees.
Since 1979, Outpost has been a union shop, with the majority of all employees represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) local #1473. Since 1997, the co-op and its union have successfully negotiated contracts using the Interested Based Problem Solving (IBPS) process, a method that ensures the common interests of the employees and co-op are considered in all bargaining matters.
"IBPS has been one of the most important relationship-building programs we've implemented over the past 15 years" according to Pam Mehnert, Outpost's general manager. "The negotiation table is a place of trust and transparency using IBPS, and the entire team benefits from the collaboration and cooperative spirit that ensues."
Management and the Union plan to continue to use this method of negotiation for the April 2014 contract renewal. The Co-op expects to pay for the increased union wages from money currently allocated to profit sharing, and does not expect the overall increase to negatively impact its bottom line or store pricing.
Serving the greater Milwaukee area since 1970, Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative operates three store locations at 100 E. Capitol Drive,, Milwaukee; 7000 W. State St., Wauwatosa; and 2826 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Milwaukee; and two Market Café locations at 945 N. 12th St. in Aurora Sinai Medical Center and at the Rite-Hite Family YMCA complex in Brown Deer. A fourth store location in Mequon is planned for 2014.
Co-owned by more than 18,000 people from southeastern Wisconsin, Outpost employs nearly 380 people. Outpost is the fourth-largest cooperatively owned natural foods grocer in the country by sales volume.