Since 1973, the Park Slope Food Coop has been providing Brooklyn and beyond with high-quality food and products while serving as a community center and meeting place for its member-owners: people who believe in the value, rewards, and responsibility of collective labor, action, and ownership. We practice a once popular but now nearly unique model of cooperation in which all members of the Coop work together for the benefit of all. By putting the ownership and management into the hands of our working membership, the Coop has been able to make healthy, affordable food available to its members.
Unlike most food coops in the United States, the Park Slope Food Coop requires members to work as a condition of membership. At the time of this writing, we have more than 15,000 members who work in exchange for significant savings on groceries. Only members may shop at the PSFC, but our membership is open to all. Our members rely on one another to share the work of running our Coop and contributing to its success.
The benefit of our shared responsibility is two-fold: regularly scheduled, reliable member labor helps to keep down our payroll costs—the single largest expense for a grocery store—which contributes toward lower prices. But the second equally important reward comes from the satisfaction members receive from working together as a community to build something upon which all can rely. In cooperation with the paid staff, members run the store and play a vital role in the day-to-day operations of the Coop, giving all the opportunity to feel the value of cooperation firsthand. Not only do members contribute approximately 75% of the labor to operate the Coop, they can take an active role in the decision-making process through the monthly General Meeting, and participate in planning and discussions of the organization’s future.
The Coop carries a wide variety of products including local, organic and conventionally grown produce; pasture-raised and grass-fed meat; free-range, organic and kosher poultry; fair-trade chocolate and coffee; wild and sustainably farmed fresh and frozen fish; supplements and vitamins; imported and artisanal cheese; freshly baked bread, muffins, scones and croissants; beer; bulk grains and spices; CBD products; environmentally safe cleaning supplies; and much more. All of this, plus a large selection of standard supermarket items, makes the Coop a one-stop shopping destination. Sales are brisk at the PSFC and our inventory is replenished more than once every week, ensuring that the products we sell are as fresh as possible.
As a member, you share ownership of the Coop with your fellow member-owners. Work, shop, learn, participate—be a part of a unique and rewarding community here in Brooklyn. When you walk into a traditional supermarket, you are walking into someone else’s store. When you walk into the Park Slope Food Coop, you are walking into your own store. As members and owners, we hope that your involvement means taking pride in the Coop.
We look forward to having you join us and experiencing for yourself what a unique organization we are.
BECOMING A COOP MEMBER
A. What is a “member-owner” of the Park Slope Food Coop?
When you join the Coop you become a member-owner and join the complex body that functions day in and day out for the collective benefit of all who participate. Membership is defined in two ways: by your participation in the workslot system and by your financial contribution. This contribution is officially called a member-owner equity investment, but we refer to it simply as investment. As a participating member-owner, you will never be only a member or only an owner, but always both. The term “member-owner” is legally defined in our bylaws as a “holder of a membership in a cooperative” where “the terms ‘member’ and ‘owner’ and ‘member/owner’ … all mean the same thing.”
You may feel your ownership more strongly at times, and your membership at others. However, the Coop functions best when we all hold both roles in mind at once: Approach your membership (and workslot) like an owner, and approach your ownership with an eye to creating the best experience and the greatest benefit for all the Coop’s members.
B. New Member Orientation and Enrollment
The first step for prospective members interested in joining is to view the online orientation materials on foodcoop.com. Once you’ve completed this step you can make an in-person enrollment appointment at the Coop to finalize the joining process.
Prospective members without internet access may contact the Membership Office.
C. Proof of Identity and Address
To join the Coop, prospective members must provide two forms of ID: a photo ID verifying identity and a statement verifying current address (see below for details). Without the appropriate ID and proof of address, you will not be able to join the Coop.
Acceptable forms of photo ID:
• Driver’s License or Non-Driver State or City ID
• Employee ID
• Student ID
• Military ID
Acceptable forms of proof of address that are dated within the last three months are:
• Utility Bill (electric, gas, cable, water, phone)
• Mortgage Bill / Statement
• Renter’s or Homeowner’s Insurance Bill / Statement
• Student Loan Bill / Statement
• Any Official Federal or State Document
• Paychecks/stubs from your employer, that show your mailing address
D. The Household Rule
The Coop defines a household as two or more adults (over the age of 18) who share all or some domestic responsibility. The Coop sells much more than food, so if you and your roommate/housemate(s) share any household items, we consider you to be a household. This rule upholds the Coop’s guiding principle: To regularly benefit from our low prices one must contribute labor.
All household members in familial relationships (for example, parents, siblings, partners, adult children, elderly relatives, “significant others,” etc.) who live together and are over the age of 18 are required to join the Coop. There are no exceptions to this rule.
Members of the same household are linked in our membership system. This means that one person’s “status” affects the status of everyone in the household. (More on your status later.) The two most common areas that might impact your household’s ability to shop are work and member payments. If you are suspended because of work or money owed, this will impact your housemate’s ability to shop. The good news is that every member is entitled to a 14-day “grace period” due to a suspension, whether the suspension is the result of something you owe or something one of your housemates owes. This grace period allows the suspended member 14 days to continue to shop while they clear up the problem.
E. Member Payments: Joining Fee and Member-Owner Equity Investment (MOEI)
All members must pay a one-time, non-refundable joining fee and contribute an investment to the Coop. Each adult member of your household is required to make these payments.
The non-refundable joining fee is $25. The refundable investment is $100. Reduced payments for fee and investment are offered in certain cases, and members may request an extended payment plan for the investment.
If you decide to end your membership at any time for any reason, your investment (not your fee) will be returned at your request.
1. Extended Payment Plan & Reduced Fee / Investment
If you need more than 8 weeks from your join date to make your fee and investment payments, please speak to the Membership Office about an extended payment plan for the investment to spread those payments over as many as 10 months. We do not offer extended payment plans for the fee.
2. Reduced MOEI & Markup
If you receive one of the forms of income-based assistance listed below the joining fee will be reduced to $5, and the investment will be reduced to $10 for as long as you continue to receive that assistance. To receive the lowered joining fee and investment, please present proof of the income-based benefit (listed below) to the Membership Office. Proof to qualify for the reduced MOEI will need to be renewed annually.
Requests for reduced joining fees will ideally be made within four weeks of joining. If the request is made after four weeks, joining fee payments in excess of the required $5 will not be refunded nor transferred to the investment.
Requests for reduced investment can be made at any point during membership. Once a member provides documentation of the income-based assistance, investment payments made in excess of the required $10 will be refunded at the member’s request.
Members who qualify for the reduced MOEI will receive a base markup of 21%.
The following types of income-based assistance are accepted for reduced MOEI:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Fair Fare (MTA)
- NY State Health — Essential Plan
- NY Epic Fee Plan
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher
*The Coop does not accept WIC as a form of payment, only as proof of reduced-payment eligibility.
3. How and Where to Make Member Payments
Member payments are made on the shopping floor at a checkout or cashier station. To make these payments you must present your membership card or a printed entrance slip to the checkout worker or cashier and tell them that you are making a “member payment.” You may pay by cash or debit card, and you must specify the amount you wish to pay and whether you want it to go toward your joining fee or investment. If you are paying for another member, you must know their member number. Save your paid-in-full receipt every time you make a member payment.
4. What to Do About a Member Payment Discrepancy
If a discrepancy occurs, your paid-in-full receipt is essential in helping us to straighten out errors. To avoid problems down the line, check your “paid in full” receipt immediately upon paying to make sure the money was credited to the correct member number. If there is a mistake, bring your paid-in-full receipt to the Membership Office as soon as possible.
G. Membership Cards
Every Coop member has their photo taken for their membership card. Photos are taken in the Membership Office and will be available to pick up in the Office the following day. Your photo will appear on the entrance desk computer every time you scan your card at the entrance.
If you come to the Coop without your card, you must know your membership number. However, we encourage you to bring your membership card with you. Having your card ready and scanning your card at the entrance desk improves accuracy and speeds up the entry process for you and everyone behind you. Your membership card is also required for attendance at in-person General Meetings.
1. Lost Membership Card
If you lose your membership card, please come to the Membership Office for a replacement. There is a $3.50 card replacement fee to be paid at the cashier or checkout within four weeks.
2. Damaged Card
If your card becomes damaged or unusable, bring it to the Membership Office and it will be replaced for free.
What Do We Mean By Cooperation?
A. Thoughts About Our Work Requirement
By Joe Holtz, General Manager and Founding Member
A handful of times over the years, a few members have stated during the General Meeting’s open forum that the Coop “should consider having members who would not want to work but who would pay higher prices.” Although the members who raised this issue have usually been invited to submit their idea as an agenda item for the GM, I can’t recall their ever having done so. With the exception of one “store format” coop that requires members to work about six hours a year and requires all shoppers to be members, I know of no other “store format” coop other than ours that requires work from all members capable of working.
Years ago I met with two people from the organization “We the People” who wanted to start a coop in Oakland, California. Although the two with whom I met were enthusiastic about modeling their member work system after ours, not everyone working on starting the new coop was comfortable with that idea. Some were saying that perhaps membership should be open to all people, regardless of whether or not they were willing to work. Most coops offer their members a variety of membership levels to choose from, with the greatest discount on groceries going to those who do the most work and the smallest discount for members who choose not to work at all. Each of these levels represents a different economic “deal” between the coop and its member-owner.
I thought about this for a few days. One thing I believe is that on average our members feel more connected to our Coop and care more about our Coop and feel more like owners than members of other coops. Requiring every member to pick one or another economic deal with the Coop or giving members the ability to switch from one deal to another would cause the members to be constantly rethinking which deal was best for them, and that process forms a barrier to making the ownership connection. You are always making a deal with an “other.” The more that a coop membership is different from a video store membership or health club membership, the more members will realize that they actually own their coop. If you feel like you own it, then you care about it. If you care about it, then the coop has to improve.
At the Park Slope Food Coop, by offering only one “deal,” which is simply called membership, I think we clear the way for a higher level of involvement and commitment. Also, I believe that some sort of class system would emerge if members could choose a membership level, because the members with more money would tend not to work, and the members with less money would tend to work. There is also something about the very nature of work—when performed in a decent environment, work can enhance the possibility of a sense of caring, of pride and of ownership.
Keep in mind that all this talk about caring and the feeling of ownership is in terms of an average. To get that average we have dedicated members and we have alienated members and a wide range in between. I believe that our average member’s commitment is greater because of our work requirement than it would be without it. One of my greatest pleasures is when I see a member who initially cares very little about the Coop come to care a great deal about the Coop. I believe this transformation occurs more often than not because of the participatory nature of our Coop.
B. The International Cooperative Alliance Statement of Cooperative Identity
The Statement of Cooperative Identity has its origins in a published set of “practices” of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in 1844, and later became known as the Rochdale Principles. It was eventually renamed and has been periodically updated by the International Cooperative Alliance, most recently in 1995.
A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.
Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
The cooperative principles are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice.
First Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibility of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
Second Principle: Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.
Third Principle: Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually common property of the cooperative. They usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible, benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative, and supporting other activities as approved by the membership.
Fourth Principle: Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
Fifth Principle: Education, Training and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public—particularly young people and opinion leaders—about the nature of benefits of cooperation.
Sixth Principle: Cooperation Among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
Seventh Principle: Concern for the Community
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.
The Workslot System at the Coop
A. Workslot Basics
1. How the Member Labor System Works
The uniquely fundamental principle of the Coop’s participatory cooperative model is the requirement of all members to work a shift helping to operate the Coop. All members are required to work shifts except those who qualify for a work exemption status. This principle is called the workslot system or member labor system.
The workslot system is organized by two features: the type of work you do at the Coop and the time you do that work. The types of work represent “Committees” and pertain to particular areas of the Coop’s operations: receiving, stocking, office, front-end (checkout, cashier, entrance), food processing and maintenance. The time you do your work is called a “shift” and would be defined by a day of the week and a start time. All shifts at the Coop are 2 hours and 45 minutes in length.
The Coop’s current version of its member labor system, a product of efforts to streamline and make it more efficient, is designed to give members more direct management of their Coop membership and provide more flexible options for meeting the member-labor requirement.
2. Member Services
Member Services is the online portal where members manage their memberships. Every member has a Member Services account accessible through FoodCoop.com. In Member Services you can sign up for (and cancel) work shifts, see your status, initiate a leave of absence, apply for a work exemption and make product suggestions, among other things.
3. How to Schedule Shifts
Before you can use the Shift Calendar in your Member Services account, there are two agreements that you must sign off on: Health & Safety Policies Agreement and Workslot Policy Agreement. Both can be found in your Member Services account in the “Virtual Office” tab. Once you have taken these steps you can start scheduling shifts. You have the option to sign up for “freelance” shifts or a “recurring” shift. Either way you need to work at least one shift per cycle. Currently, the work cycle is six weeks long.
The shift calendar allows you to view up to six weeks’ worth of shifts at a time. In the shift calendar click on “See all job descriptions” for a comprehensive list of all jobs and their detailed descriptions. You can also filter the calendar by types of work (“committees”) or date and time.
4. Recurring Shifts
Members may choose to work a shift that meets at regular intervals in the cycle. These types of shifts are called “recurring” shifts. Recurring shifts meet one time per cycle on the same day, time and week in the cycle. The weeks in the cycle will be identified with a letter (A, B, C, D, E, or F) corresponding to the six weeks.
5. Freelance Shifts
Or members may choose to schedule a different shift each time they want to work. These shifts are called “freelance.” Members who normally work a recurring shift may also schedule and work any available freelance shift.
6. Canceling Your Freelance Shift
If you need to cancel a shift you can do so up until 8pm the night before without penalty. All shifts must be canceled in your Member Services account. If you do not show up for a shift that you have not cancelled, you will owe one extra shift.
7. Canceling Your Recurring Shift
You may cancel a recurring shift up until 8 p.m. the night before the shift meets. However, you are allowed only 4 cancellations within a rolling 12-month period per a team shift. At the fourth cancellation, you will be automatically removed from the team.
8. Work Guidelines at a Glance
• All working members are required to either: 1) schedule each shift they work (freelance) or 2) choose a regularly scheduled shift that meets on a predictable schedule (recurring). Walk-ins (or unscheduled work) are not permitted.
• You need to work at least one shift per cycle but you are welcome to work extra shifts. Those additional shifts will add credits to your bank. There is no limit to the number of credits you can have in your bank.
• You may have up to two scheduled shifts at one time, with no more than 2 shifts on the same date.
• You can cancel a shift (freelance or recurring) up until 8pm the night before without penalty.
• If you do not cancel a scheduled shift and fail to work it, one shift credit will be debited from your bank. This is called a “no show.”
• You may schedule a freelance shift up to 30 minutes before the shift start time.
• All shifts are 2 hours and 45 minutes.
9. On the Day of Your Shift
First of all, please arrive on time for your shift. If you are more than 15 minutes late for your shift, the Coop reserves the right to turn you away and mark you a “no show.” Scan your membership card at the entrance desk and report to the area where your shift meets. If you don’t know where to report for your shift, ask the entrance worker for assistance. You must check in with the person responsible for check-in to receive credit. Look for a staff member holding an iPad or a laptop.
B. YOUR WORK STATUS
1. Active, Alert, Suspended
Members with zero or more shifts in their bank have an “active” work status. This means you are up to date on the work requirement. If you fall behind by one work cycle, you become “alert” for work. You are still able to shop while you’re on alert. If you fall behind by two work cycles, your status changes to “suspended.” If you are suspended and try to scan your card at a checkout station, you will be unable to shop.
2. Grace Periods at the Entrance Desk
The first time you swipe at the entrance desk after being suspended, you will automatically activate a 14-day “grace period” that allows you to shop despite your suspension. Within those 14 days you should either contact the Membership Office to straighten out the problem, schedule and complete any shifts that you owe or pay any outstanding membership fees. You cannot get two grace periods for the same suspension, nor can you extend a grace period.
3. Day Pass or Suspension Override (SO)
If your grace period has expired and you are still suspended, you may request a day pass or suspension override (SO) from the Membership Office. An SO pass allows you to shop for the day even though your household is suspended. Each member is entitled to five SO passes per suspension.
C. TEAM LEADERS
Some shifts have team leaders. A team leader is an unpaid working member who takes on the extra responsibility of helping to facilitate the smooth running of a shift in cooperation with the paid staff. Team leaders receive training from staff and provide member leadership to support and direct the other working members on the team.
D. OTHER WORKSLOT OPPORTUNITIES
The Coop uses member labor in a variety of ways beyond the main committees of checkout, food processing, stocking, office and maintenance. Approximately 125 members do their workslot on the Linewaiters’ Gazette as editors, writers, illustrators, art directors and graphic designers. Members of the Soup Kitchen Committee prepare and serve food at a local soup kitchen for workslot credit. Some other examples include the Chair Committee, the Fun Committee, the Compost Committee, the Agenda Committee, the Environmental Committee and the Personnel Committee.
Most of these special workslots require you to be a member for at least six months, and some have waiting lists and/or require specific skills or experience. Openings for special workslots are listed on FoodCoop.com.
E. NO WORKSLOTS FOR PAY
The Coop prohibits members from paying members outside of their household to do their Coop work. This rule was decided upon by members at a General Meeting to prevent members (who could afford to) from paying their way out of a shift and losing the connection to the Coop as working members.
EXEMPTIONS FROM THE WORK REQUIREMENT
The Coop offers several work exemptions for qualifying members. All work exemptions can be requested through your Member Services account.
A. Health exemption and Caring For a Person With a Chronic Illness Or Disability
You can be exempted from working at the Coop if you are permanently or temporarily unable to work because of a serious health condition, or if you are caring for someone with a serious health condition. In order to be exempted from the work requirement, you must provide proof of “health exemption” or “caregiver” status from a licensed health care practitioner. Once you have requested “health exemption” or “caregiver” status through your Member Services account, you will be placed on “alert for notice” and emailed a form to be completed by your healthcare provider and returned to the Membership Office within four weeks. Once your form has been received and accepted, you will be “active” for the duration of your health exemption, even if you are behind on your work.
B. New Parents
New parents get 12 months of parental leave from the work requirement after the birth or adoption of a child. The leave is 12 months per child, not per parent, and begins on the birth or adoption date. If twins come into your life, your household will get 24 months of parental leave. The parents/guardians can decide to split the leave as they see fit.
For current members, parental leave is normally calculated from the baby’s birth/arrival date, or the due date. For new members joining with a child who is less than one year old, parental leave will be calculated from the new member’s join date to the baby’s first birth/arrival date and may result in less than 12 months leave.
The Coop offers an exemption from the work requirement to members who have suffered the loss of an immediate family member and have responsibilities pertaining to the deceased or simply need some time to absorb the loss. Bereavement work exemptions can be requested for up to three months, but additional time can be requested after that if needed.
The Coop’s General Meeting approved the workslot retirement program as an optional benefit for Coop members who meet the age and years of service requirements. The program allows members who qualify to enjoy all the benefits of Coop membership without having to contribute their labor. All members, including those who qualify for this program, are of course welcome to work at the Coop.
To be eligible to retire you must be “active” for work, provide proof of age and fit into one of the following categories:
• 70+ years of age and 10 years of membership
• 69 years of age and 12 years of membership
• 68 years of age and 14 years of membership
• 67 years of age and 16 years of membership
• 66 years of age and 18 years of membership
• 65 years of age and 20 years of membership
• 64 years of age and 22 years of membership
• 63 years of age and 24 years of membership
• 62 years of age and 26 years of membership
• 61 years of age and 28 years of membership
• 60 years of age and 30 years of membership
The following will not count toward years of membership: time spent on a leave of absence (either temporary or permanent), on unassigned or “dormant” and/or any time during which a member was temporarily barred from the Coop as the result of a disciplinary proceeding. The following will count toward Coop membership: parental leave, health exemption and bereavement.
2. What If I Want To Keep Working?
As explained above, no member is required to retire. If you qualify for retirement but wish to continue working, you are welcome to do so. Retirees are also welcome to work for housemate(s), family or friends. You will use the shift calendar in your member services account to choose available freelance shifts.
E. AUTHORIZED SHOPPERS FOR MEMBERS WITH A HEALTH OR PARENTAL WORK EXEMPTION
If you are not working at the Coop due to a health exemption or have just begun a parental leave and are unable to shop on your own, we suggest that you first try to ask another Coop member to shop for you. Any Coop member in good standing can shop for another Coop member in good standing; nothing special needs to be done by the office. If a member does not know another Coop member who can shop for them, the Coop can authorize a temporary surrogate non-member shopper. To authorize a non-member shopper, request an “Authorized Shopper” form in your Member Services account or contact the Membership Office. A shopper can be authorized for the length of the health exemption or for a specified period of time up to six months, whichever is shorter. New parents can have an authorized shopper for up to two months from the start of the parental leave.
Once an authorized shopper has been approved by the Membership Office, they will be allowed to access the Coop shopping floor with or without you. Note that authorized shoppers may never shop for themselves.
GOING ON LEAVE FROM THE COOP
A. Leaving Temporarily
If you need to leave the Coop for a 6-week period (or longer), you may take a temporary leave of absence from the Coop using your Member Services account. During this time your membership will be put on hold, and you will not be allowed to shop, work or enter the Coop, even as a visitor. Leaves of absence cannot be applied retroactively to missed work cycles. Your leave of absence may be extended in 6-week increments up to 48 weeks.
If you are part of a Coop household, you must physically be leaving the house to request a leave of absence. If you are staying home and want to take a leave because you cannot meet the work requirement, all members of your household have to go on leave as well.
B. Ending Your Coop Membership
If you are leaving the Coop for more than a year, you may request a permanent leave using your Member Services account. The Coop will process the return of your member investment (this takes approximately two weeks), or you may donate it to the Coop. If one member of a household is leaving the Coop permanently, we will need a new address and phone number for this person. If we do not have a new address, we cannot process the leave. Please note that permanent leaves will not be processed because one member of a household does not want to be a Coop member anymore. The member going on permanent leave has to move away from the household or the whole household will be required to take a leave.
C. Rejoining The Coop
Former members may rejoin the Coop by coming to the Membership Office during office hours. When rejoining you must provide proof of identity and address. If there are other adults in your household they will have to provide ID and address as well.
You will not have to complete another orientation or pay the joining fee a second time. However, if you were refunded the $100 investment when you left the Coop, you will have to reinvest. You can request a payment plan and/or reduced payments.
If you still have your membership card, you can use it. If not, please request a replacement when you rejoin. A replacement card costs $3.50.
CHILDREN AT THE COOP
The childcare room is currently closed due to the Coop’s evolving space needs to accommodate our operations. The information below will apply if the Coop reopens its childcare room.
The Coop offers a free, supervised childcare space—with childminding services (we are not a licensed daycare center) provided by Coop members—for use by members while they are shopping or working. Space is limited, so we cannot guarantee every child a space. Preference goes to children of members who are working their shifts over those who are shopping. Childcare is open every day from 8:00 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. However, because members are sometimes absent from their shifts, there can be no guarantee that childcare will be open during these hours. We need a minimum of one childcare worker to keep the childcare room open and provide slots for up to 5 children. However, if you require guaranteed childcare while shopping or working, we suggest making other arrangements.
Parents/guardians must show their membership card or a slip from the entrance desk with a photo ID in order to leave children in childcare. Likewise, they must show their membership card or their photo ID to retrieve their children.
Any member who drops off a child in childcare must remain in the building at all times. This means not even brief forays outside to feed the meter and walk your groceries to your car are allowed.
Four hours is the maximum time any child may be in childcare on any given day. This gives a member time to work a shift, then shop.
A complete list of the Coop’s childcare rules is available in the childcare room, in the Membership Office and on foodcoop.com. Please read all the rules before leaving your child in childcare.
B. Children Under 18 Working/Shopping At the Coop
In accordance with the laws of New York State, children between the ages of 14 and 18 may work in the Coop only when their working papers are filed in the Membership Office. Children with the required documentation may come to work in the place of members of their household only. Children may not work for Coop members who are not members of their household. Once we have a copy of your child’s working papers, they will be issued a “Child of…” Membership Card.
There are several restrictions to children 18 and younger working and shopping at the Coop, even if they have working papers on file. No child 18 or younger, with or without working papers, may work checkout or cashier. This rule stems from the New York State Liquor Law and from our concern for accuracy and speed in these crucial jobs. For reasons of safety, Coop kids under the age of 16 are prohibited from entering the Receiving areas on the shopping floor and the basement.
C. Membership Card For Your Child
The “Child of” membership card is needed if you want to allow your child to work or shop without an adult member of the household. To have such a card made for your child, please come to the Membership Office with your child, or send your child alone with a letter of request from you that includes your name and member number. Coop children must always have their cards with them to enter the Coop alone, since your photo, not theirs, will appear at the entrance desk.
If the child’s working papers are on file, their “Child of” card will display that information.
D. When Your Child Turns 18
When your child turns 18 and is out of high school, they will be required to join the Coop as a working member. Children of members are exempt from paying the joining fee, but they are required to pay the investment. Coop “children” who have turned 18 should contact the Membership Office about initiating their own membership, which will include selecting a workslot. If your child is leaving for college, or traveling, contact the Membership Office to discuss or initiate a leave of absence in your Member Services account.
THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
A. General Meetings
The monthly General Meeting (GM) has been the decision-making body of the Coop since the Coop began in 1973. When the Coop was incorporated in 1977, the Board of Directors was established, and the Board Meeting was combined with the monthly GM. However, the Board’s role doesn’t replace the member initiative, discussion and participation in decision-making that is the purpose of the GM. Members who attend the GM have a voice in advising the Board on matters that come before the meeting.
The GMs are generally held on the last Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. Currently the GM is held via Zoom and registration is required to receive the Zoom link. When the meeting is in-person, the date and location will be publicized in advance around the Coop and on foodcoop.com.
Meetings are presided over by members of the Chair Committee. Board members are elected once a year at the Coop’s Annual Meeting in June, and serve for terms of three years on a rotating basis. Members can vote for the Board of Directors by submitting an electronic ballot that all eligible members receive by email.
1. How To Submit An Agenda Item
Any eligible member can submit an agenda item for consideration at a GM by completing an Agenda Item submission form on foodcoop.com. The Agenda Committee (AC), a group of elected members, was created to improve the GM as a forum for discussion and decision-making. The committee reviews agenda submissions and sets the monthly GM agenda. The Agenda Committee is available to assist members in preparing discussion items or proposals for presentation at the GM. Members may email their submissions to email@example.com before 5 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month. The AC will attempt to place your item on the agenda of the meeting you requested whenever possible, but in general items are scheduled in the order in which they’re received. You are expected to present your own item at the GM for which you are scheduled.
In order for your proposal to receive the consideration it deserves, we strongly recommend following these guidelines:
• Do your homework: This can save a substantial amount of time at a meeting and allow more time for discussion of the merits of your item.
• Find out if a similar proposal has already come before the GM.
• The General Coordinators welcome your questions and can direct you to appropriate sources and resources. Talk to the Coordinator(s) responsible for the area of Coop operation that your proposal addresses.
• Find out if the subject of your proposal has already been, or is being, addressed by the paid staff.
• Research the ramifications of your proposal and be prepared to explain and discuss them.
• Check the language of your proposal or discussion item for clarity.
• Try to anticipate questions people will ask and prepare answers.
While most decisions are made at General Meetings, from time to time the General Meeting determines that a decision should be made by referendum, or Coop-wide ballot.
Two prior examples of how referenda were used in the decision-making process are the decisions to sell beer and meat. For those votes, members used paper ballots distributed at the Coop and dropped off in a ballot box. A majority of Coop members voted to approve the sale of beer and meat in the Coop, and this decision was then accepted and voted on by the Board at the next General Meeting. This is also an example of how the Board acted in accordance with the wishes of the majority vote of our membership.
C. The Role of the Board of Directors
By John Sandercock, Attorney for the Park Slope Food Coop Revised and updated by Michael Salgo, Attorney for the Park Slope Food Coop, January 2016
The Coop is a non-stock membership cooperative governed by the NYS Cooperative Cooperation Law (CCL) and the NYS Business Corporations Law (BCL). The procedures that it must follow are set out by its bylaws, the CCL and the BCL. Like all membership cooperatives, the Coop has members, officers and a Board of Directors. The term “member” in a non-stock cooperative means the same thing as the term “shareholder” in a corporation that issues stock.
The BCL essentially requires that a corporation be managed by a board of directors. Before the Coop was incorporated, it had been governed by an assembly called the General Meeting (GM), and that tradition was continued following incorporation in 1977. The Coop’s bylaws provided a continuing role for the GM by requiring the directors to “receive advice of the members” on all matters coming before the directors. Specifically, the Coop’s bylaws require the Board of Directors to meet at least ten times a year and to give notice to (i.e. invite) the members prior to each meeting. The bylaws also require the Board of Directors to “inform those members who shall be present of the nature of the business to come before the directors and receive the advice of the members on such matters.” (Article VI)
The directors are persons who were elected to the Board by the members at an annual meeting of the membership. Historically, the directors’ decisions have always been based on the advice received from the members of the GM. Directors are not required to ratify decisions made by the GM, however; they are legally bound to use their business judgment and act in the best interests of the corporation, and if they believe that a decision of the GM is illegal or irresponsible or is not in the best interests of the Coop, they should not ratify it.
The Coordinators have a dual role at the GM; they are required as officers of the corporation to report to the directors and they have a duty to present accurate information. They are also members and have the right to make their personal views known to the GM.
The Coop’s bylaws, in accordance with the CCL, also require it to have an annual meeting of the membership. This is the same thing as the annual meeting of the shareholders of a corporation. The bylaws provide that a quorum for such “meetings of the membership” shall be 100 members. The GM is not, and was never intended to be, a formal “meeting of the membership”; the only “meeting of the membership” regularly held by the Coop is the Annual Meeting in June. The bylaws do not provide for any other meetings of the membership. It is possible to hold an additional (“special”) meeting of the membership, but the procedure under the law is cumbersome.
D. Amended Bylaws
The Park Slope Food Coop Amended Bylaws, which outline the Coop’s governing structure, are available for all members to read. They are available online at foodcoop.com in the “About the Coop” section.
E. Financial Statements
The Park Slope Food Coop’s Annual Audited Financial Statement is distributed from the main literature rack in the ground floor elevator lobby. In addition, the Coop’s Treasurer or another General Coordinator staff presents an interim financial statement at almost every General Meeting and also takes questions from meeting attendees.
The Coop has a two-tiered staff structure: a management team known as the General Coordinators and Area Coordinators supervising specific areas like Receiving, Membership, Bookkeeping and Information Technology (IT). General Coordinators are responsible for the overall, day-to-day management and administration of the Coop, the coordination of member labor, long-term planning and oversight, and supervision of the rest of the paid staff. All the work of the paid staff requires a broad overview of the Coop, work that would be difficult to divide into workslots or work that requires day-to-day responsibility. All paid staff responsibilities include supervising and coordinating the labor of our members. Paid job openings, when they occur, are publicized inside the store and on foodcoop.com.
The Membership Office, located on the second floor of the Coop, is there to answer questions and generally assist with membership-related problems and concerns in person and over the phone. The Office is managed by Membership Coordinators and staffed by members doing their workslots.
You may be able, however, to avoid the need to call or visit the Membership Office by referring to this manual and using the virtual office in your Member Services account.
Membership Office Hours (subject to change):
Fri & Sat: 8am–6pm
Parking at the Coop
A. “TRUCK Loading Only” Zone In Front of the Coop
The area in front of the Coop is a “Truck Loading Only” zone between the hours of 6am and 10pm. No standing rules apply except for commercial vehicles or trucks. When this regulation is in place, you may only stop to expeditiously drop off or pick up passengers. You may not park or idle in the Coop’s Truck Loading Only Zone. If you do, there is a good chance you will be ticketed and/or towed.
The area in front of the firehouse is a No Standing Zone. At no time should you park, idle or drop off/pick up passengers in front of the firehouse. The Fire Department needs clear access to their driveway in order to respond promptly to any emergencies. We have received complaints from neighbors and the Fire Department about members blocking the street and the firehouse driveway. We ask your cooperation to observe the No Standing rules.
The Coop receives deliveries at all times of the day, and these trucks must have complete access to the store. At times when we are not receiving a large delivery, the Coop’s curb must be kept clear for smaller deliveries and for members loading up their groceries. Your only legal use of the curb in front of the Coop is loading your groceries. Please help the Coop in being a good community citizen by obeying the parking rules, the Coop staff and the “outside” workers wearing neon vests.
B. Where You Can Park
Parking is challenging in Park Slope. Metered parking is available on Seventh Avenue and on Union and President streets below Seventh Avenue, and along Carroll Street above and below Seventh Avenue. If you park in the neighborhood within a designated area, a member called an “outside” worker in a neon vest will walk with you and your groceries to your car (or home) and return the Coop shopping cart for you. A map of the designated area is posted in the entryway vestibule.
Shopping at the Coop
A. Shopping Hours (subject to change):
Every day 8am–8pm
B. Do’s & Dont’s of Shopping at the Coop
All members contribute to a civil and cooperative environment in the Coop. Please respect one another by observing our Coop’s shopping rules.
• SHOP AT THE COOP ONLY IF YOU ARE A MEMBER. Coop members are the only people who may shop at the Coop.
• CHECK IN WITH THE ENTRANCE WORKER BEFORE SHOPPING AND WORKING. Avoid the appearance of “sneaking in” by scanning your card at the entrance desk before you go to shop and work.
• COMPLETE YOUR SHOPPING BEFORE YOU GET ON THE CHECKOUT LINE. Shopping while waiting on line is uncooperative. However, it is okay to shop for items you pass while you are on line. And it is okay to pop out of the line for one or two items that you may have forgotten.
• UNLOAD YOUR CART ONTO THE NOSE/FRONT END OF THE CHECKOUT. It is the shopper’s responsibility to ensure that all items are unpacked and then added to the bill. Pack up your items after they have been scanned.
• PAY IMMEDIATELY FOR CHECKED-OUT GROCERIES. Groceries that have been checked out must be paid for immediately. If you need an exception to this rule (to go the ATM, for example) speak to a member of the paid staff.
• EAT ONLY PAID-FOR FOOD. Don’t nibble away at the Coop’s financial health by eating food before you pay for it! This includes snacking in the produce and bulk aisles. New York City sanitary rules prohibit eating in the Food Processing area.
• WEAR SHOES AT THE COOP. The Coop does not allow people into the building who are barefoot.
• DON’T SHOP AT THE COOP FOR NON-COOP MEMBERS. As a member, you may not purchase groceries for non-members. One member may purchase groceries for another member as long as both members’ shopping privileges are current.
• DON’T GO TO THE BASEMENT WHEN YOU ARE SHOPPING. Only working members have free access to the basement. All members should avoid the appearance of impropriety by not shopping from, or storing items in, the basement. If you need an item from the basement, page out for that item. If you get no response, or have a special order in the basement, get permission from a member of the paid staff before going to the basement yourself.
• DON’T ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE CHECKED OUT BY HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS OR FAMILY MEMBERS. This will avoid the appearance of impropriety. Also, do not wait for a particular checkout worker, unless you are doing so to avoid the station of a household member or family member.
• DON’T PARK IN FRONT OF THE COOP. Nor can you park on the Coop’s sidewalk. The driveway of the firehouse next door must be kept clear at all times. Do not leave someone in a car outside the Coop while you shop. That space is for deliveries and for members to load their cars. Park nearby and bring your car to the front after paying, or even better use a “walker” to walk you and your groceries to your car.
• DON’T BRING YOUR PETS INTO THE COOP. We welcome only service animals, specifically trained to aid a person with a disability.
C. FORMS OF PAYMENT ACCEPTED AT THE COOP
We accept PIN-based debit and bank cards, cash, EBT (Snap) and manufacturers’ coupons. We also accept Apple and Google Pay as long as it’s linked to your debit card, not your credit card. The Coop DOES NOT accept credit cards.
D. Security / Theft
It is hard to believe that Coop members would steal from a store they co-own. Sadly, it does happen. We ask that all members take responsibility for the well-being of the Coop by reporting suspicions of theft immediately to a member of the paid staff. However, we actively discourage members from confronting one another with suspicions of theft. All reports are investigated. When making a report of suspected theft, a written report with details such as date/time/location are appreciated. Your own name and member number would also be helpful.
When you’re in the Coop it’s always a good idea to keep valuables on your person, and never leave your bag or purse in an unattended shopping cart. To many members the Coop feels like a safe space, but it’s important to remember that we are still in New York City and theft does occur.
E. Merchandise Returns
If you need to return an item and the item is eligible to be returned, bring the item and your “PAID IN FULL” receipt within 30 days of purchase to the Second Floor Service Desk, located outside of the Membership Office. Refunds cannot be processed without your Paid in Full receipt or beyond 30 days. You will be issued a store credit that can either be used toward another purchase at the checkout or exchanged for cash at the cashier. Credit slips expire 30 days after the date of issuance. (The expiration date is not printed on the credit slip so please be aware that the 30 days includes the day the slip was issued.) The Coop does not offer exchanges.
For the complete return policy, click here.
F. Item Overcharge on Your Receipt
If you were accidentally overcharged for an item(s) and catch the mistake before paying for your groceries, a checkout worker or cashier can remove the item from your itemized receipt.
If you don’t see the error until after you have paid, bring your “PAID IN FULL” receipt to the Second Floor Service Desk within 30 days to receive credit. You will be issued a store credit that can either be used toward another purchase at the checkout or exchanged for cash at the cashier. Credit slips expire 30 days after the date of issuance. The expiration date is not printed on the credit slip so please be aware that the 30 days includes the day the slip was issued.
G. Product Suggestions
If you would like to suggest that the Coop carry a certain item, please write it in the Product Suggestion section under the Contact Us button in your Member Services account. The more detail you provide, the easier it will be for us to consider your request.
H. “How Much Is…?” “Do We Have…?”
We request that members do not call the Coop to check the availability or prices of the items on their shopping lists. We simply cannot respond to these queries for all of our thousands of members. Our staff resources are limited and we must focus on serving members who are in the building. Also, there would be no way to guarantee that once you arrived at the Coop the product would still be on the shelves.
A current “Produce List” is available on foodcoop.com. This list is updated daily and shows which produce items we are carrying that day and at what prices.
I. Cart Return Service
The Coop offers a Cart Return Service to shoppers. Cart Return workers, a.k.a. “outside workers,” walk shoppers to their cars, homes or subway/bus stops within a designated area, and then return the shopping carts to the Coop. The Coop offers this service to assist members, but also to reduce parking congestion in front of the Coop, and to prevent cars from blocking the firehouse driveway. Member workers who provide this service wear neon vests so that shopping members can easily identify them. A map of the designated area is posted in the entryway vestibule.
Procedure for Complaints
A. Complaints Against Another Coop Member
If you feel that you have been mistreated by another Coop member and would like to register a complaint, there are a few options available to you. Depending on the severity of the incident and the course of action you’d like taken, you may give your report to a paid staff member, the Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) or the Equity, Access and Community Committee (EACC). To make a report, please come to the Membership Office to speak to a staff member, or fill out the appropriate form. Reports can be mailed to the Coop or dropped off in the appropriate mailbox in the Membership Office, and should include as much information as possible. They must include your name, member number and phone number. The Coop will not respond to anonymous complaints.
Reporting the incident to a paid staff member might be a good place to start. They can give you guidance, advice and information on Coop policy, and may be able to intervene to alleviate the situation.
1. Equity, Access and Community Committee (EACC)
The EACC was created by a group of members who seek to improve relations and communication among Coop members. To that end, complaints of inappropriate conduct might prompt a review of the circumstances, which could result in mediation and discussion but no disciplinary action. Members can reach the EACC by emailing EquityAccess@psfc.coop.
2. Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC)
The DRC, an elected member committee, has authority to take action after a thorough investigation. Depending on the outcome of their investigation, the DRC’s action could take the form of a warning, arbitration, or hearing and may lead to expulsion or suspension of membership. Correspondence to the DRC can be left in the DRC mailbox in the copy room on the second floor of the Coop.
B. Complaints Against a Member of the Paid Staff
Complaints received regarding a Receiving, Membership or Bookkeeping Coordinator will be referred to the General Coordinators. Complaints received regarding a General Coordinator will be referred to the Personnel Committee.
What We Do to Reduce/Reuse/Recycle
Protecting the environment, especially through the reduction and responsible disposal of waste, is a priority in the Coop. There are a number of ways in which the Coop does its share to recycle, reuse and reduce.
A. Food We Can’t Sell
The Compost Committee hauls all inedible produce to the Garden of Union and other community gardens. The Coop donates unsellable but still edible food to Christian Help in Park Slope (CHIPS) for their soup kitchen and to several community fridges as well. The Coop provides member-workers to CHIPS to increase their capacity to accept food and their ability to feed the hungry in our community.
B. Crates & Boxes
Wooden crates and waxed poultry boxes are picked up from the Coop to be reused by farmers and suppliers.
D. Reducing Plastic Usage
To reduce the use of plastic bags, every new member receives a complimentary reusable shopping bag upon joining, and the Coop sells string and cloth shopping bags. Cardboard boxes for carrying groceries are available at the end of checkout lines. At the May 2008 General Meeting the membership voted to ban the use of plastic shopping bags.
E. Wind Power
The Coop uses a wind power supplier for all of its electricity.
F. Heating & Cooling/Refrigerator System
The Coop uses a cooling and heating system that recovers heat from the freezers, heating our hot water year-round and helping to keep the Coop warm in the winter. We also recycle some of the cold air that spills out of our refrigerated cases for air conditioning. In addition, our air-conditioning system is an ammonia-absorption system that uses no CFC’s and no HCFC’s (known greenhouse gas and ozone-damaging substances).
Our air-conditioning system uses gas-fired chillers to conserve electricity during the summer months when electricity is most in demand.
Our medium-temperature refrigeration system uses glycol as a transfer medium, greatly reducing our use of HCFC’s.
G. Recycled Paper
The Coop uses recycled paper in the Membership Office for many functions. We also collect and recycle paper waste generated by the Coop’s operations.
H. Bottled Water Ban
At the April 2008 General Meeting the membership voted to ban the sale of bottled water at the Coop. (This ban does not apply to carbonated water.)
The Linewaiters’ Gazette
The Linewaiters’ Gazette, founded along with the Coop in 1973, is our biweekly newsletter produced by members. In 2021, the Gazette went digital and can be found at LinewaitersGazette.com. The Gazette is a great place to read about interesting Coop- and community-related stories; to stay up to date on Coop events; to get a recap of each monthly General Meeting; to learn about special workslot openings, and much more. It’s also a useful way for members to communicate with one another through letters-to-the-editor, voluntary articles and Committee reports. Any member can make a submission to the Gazette by following the guidelines that are published in every issue.
Glossary of Important Coop Terms
“Active” for work: up to date on your work and allowed to shop. Note that members on work-exemptions like health and new parent may be active even when they are behind in their work.
“Alert” for work: behind by one work cycle but still allowed to shop
Authorized Shopper: a non-member temporarily designated to shop for a Coop member who is unable to shop due to a disability or illness
Bereavement Leave: time off from one’s workslot due to the death of an immediate family member or close friend
Bookkeeping Coordinator: a paid staff member who supervises the Coop’s bookkeeping processes—accounts payable, receivable, cashier accounting—and supervises the members who do their workslots in that area
“Child of” Membership Card: Coop-issued photo ID that enables your child (under the age of 18) to enter the Coop alone. They must have this card with them if they wish to enter the Coop to shop or work.
Committee: A descriptive term for the types of workslots at the Coop. Some examples include stocking, checkout and office.
Cooperative: an organization collectively owned by and operated specifically for the benefit of its members
Entrance Desk: the front desk where members are responsible for checking in every time they enter the shopping floor to work or to shop
General Coordinator: a member of the upper level of paid management who is responsible for the overall management of the Coop
General Manager: a General Coordinator who acts as the General Manager of the Coop; currently the General Manager is Joe Holtz.
General Meeting: monthly meetings in which members discuss and vote on Coop policy. These votes constitute member advice to the Board of Directors, whose votes during the Board of Directors portion of every GM constitute our legal decisions
Grace Period: a 14-day period, activated at the entrance desk, in which shopping privileges are granted even though a member is “suspended”
Health Exemption: an exemption from working at the Coop for a temporary period of time or permanently due to a health condition
Household: a group of adults 18 and over and out of high school who live together and share food or other items sold at the Coop
Joining Fee: a one-time, nonrefundable fee required of all members
Linewaiters’ Gazette: the Coop’s online newsletter, which is written, edited and published primarily by members, at LinewaitersGazette.com
Member Investment: a member-owner equity investment required of each member. When members take a Permanent Leave from the Coop the equity investment can be refunded or donated to the Coop.
Membership Card: Coop-issued photo ID needed for entrance to the Coop
Membership Coordinator: one of a number of hourly paid staff who manages the Membership Office and performs other administrative tasks related to the coordination of member labor, as well as “Tech Support” on the shopping floor
Membership Office: the Coop’s second-floor office where members are assisted with questions and concerns regarding membership
New Member Enrollment: where membership is finalized after prospective members have self-certified that they have read the online orientation materials
New Parent Exemption: a work-exempt designation for a specific period of time after the birth or adoption of a child
Permanent Leave: when a member quits the Coop. The member will arrange to have their investment refunded or donated to the Coop.
Receiving Coordinator: one of a number of hourly paid staff who orders, receives and facilitates the stocking of products we sell at the Coop
Recurring or regular workslot: a workslot that meets on the same day and time once per cycle
Retirement: the privilege of being exempt from working for members who meet the specified eligibility of age and length of membership
Second Floor Service Desk: located outside the Membership Office, where members can receive credits for returned items or overcharges, and return bottles and SodaStream canisters for deposit
Shift: the day and time your workslot meets. For example, Wednesday 8am.
Shift Calendar: online calendar within your Member Services account where shifts can be scheduled
“Suspended” for work: happens any time a member falls two cycles behind on their work. Being suspended means you will be unable to shop, unless you have a Grace Period.
Team Leader: an unpaid member of a shift who works in coordination with paid staff to help run a shift
Technical Support: members of the paid staff who support the management of the shopping floor, including procedural, logistic and moral support and assistance with computer hardware malfunctions
Temporary Leave of Absence: when a member requests to put their membership on hold for a temporary period of time, with a minimum of eight weeks