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From our General Manager:
January 16, 2018

I am your current general manager and in the spirit of sharing the distinction of co-operatives I will periodically write in response to questions and comments I hear in the store. To begin I decided to start at the beginning, our bylaws.

Since TPSS Co-op doesn’t act like a corporation many assume we’re a non-profit, but in fact, we are legally organized as a corporation. We pay federal and state income taxes! TPSS is a cooperative incorporated under Maryland law and governed by specific cooperative corporate state statutes. The difference of being a cooperative corporation is significant because unlike a typical one our members own us, have one share, and one vote. It’s a powerful distinction because it speaks to the reason why we exist. We exist for the purpose of serving member needs, not for the financial gain of an owner or other investors. TPSS doesn’t exist for the benefit of a few; our purpose, as stated in our bylaws is:

“to serve members’ and community needs by providing an affordable alternative source of wholesome food, high quality products, and community resources in an atmosphere of fairness and mutual respect among members, staff and customers, for the primary and mutual benefit of its members.”

With that purpose it’s not surprising some consider us a non-profit, but part of the Co-op’s beauty is how it serves the members by being a business, being its own economic engine to fund our purpose. This is why along with the privileges of membership there is the responsibility patronizing the Co-op. The cooperative model works if the members support it with the pooling of equity shares and by shopping at the Co-op.

Another unique aspect of a co-op is the way in which it’s governed. Typically in corporations the business is owned by an individual(s), another business entity, or is publicly traded and owned by a group of investors. In consumer food co-ops it’s all the members who own it, equally. While it doesn’t mean a member can come in and tell an employee what to do, it does means members organized its existence and through their bylaws they control the co-op. The TPSS bylaws state:

“The business and affairs of TPSS Co-op shall be managed under the direction of a Board of Representatives. The Board of Representatives is an elected group representing the membership. It is responsible for ensuring the well-being, perpetuity and financial success of TPSS Co-op in accordance with the bylaws and philosophy of the organization.”

This unique aspect of governance sets the direction and tone of TPSS and is what many call The Cooperative Advantage. To make the board’s duty manageable and successful the membership recognized the need and value of hiring a general manager. This too is address in the bylaws:

“The daily operations of TPSS Co-op are entrusted to, and are the responsibility of, the general manager. The board will hold the general manager accountable for the successful operation of the business and implementation of TPSS Co-op policy. The board maintains the right to directly intervene in operations if the viability, continued success or mission of TPSS Co-op is threatened, as determined by a consensus of the board.”

To learn more about our bylaws you will find them on our website, We post other governance documents as well as board meeting minutes and the TPSS Policy Register. (More to come on that topic!) If you have questions about the TPSS bylaws please email me at We depend on members for the continuing success of the Co-op and all of us here at TPSS extend our thanks for your patronage.

Union Update from TPSS’s Interim General Manager, Martha Whitman
January 23, 2018

It’s been five months since employees voted to form a union at TPSS and several Co-op members have asked about the status of contract negotiations, specifically around wages. On August 21, 2017, the IWW was voted in as the representative of the staff of TPSS. Employees who aren't supervisors were eligible to vote. Thirty-three (33) employees out of a total of forty-two (42) made up the bargaining unit. Twelve (12) voted in favor of the Union, eleven (11) against, and ten (10) did not vote.

In December 2017, about four months after the election, the IWW requested to begin bargaining, and Management readily agreed to negotiating sessions once a week throughout the month of January (four sessions). On January 4, 2018, we met for the first time and the Union presented Co-op Management with its opening contract proposal. Our second bargaining session was held on January 11, 2018, and Co-op Management presented the Union with our responses and counterproposals to several of the Union’s proposals. We intend to present more responses and counterproposals, but after our second session, the Union representatives cancelled our third and fourth scheduled meetings (set for January 18 and January 25). We are now scheduled to meet again on January 30 and February 28.

The components of a Union contract are extensive and complex, covering much more than wages and benefits. The contract will also potentially cover working conditions, grievances, and employment issues such as hiring, discipline, discharge, layoffs, management rights, and seniority. Reaching a first contract is usually very time-consuming as Management and the Union are starting from scratch to build a document that will be a framework for a working relationship.

Once the Union was certified in August 2017, Co-op Management was required by law to maintain its current wages, benefits and working conditions and to bargain with the Union over any changes. At the end of 2017, Management proposed a year-end bonus for the employees, as well as a payout for paidtime- off (PTO) hours that were in jeopardy of being lost due to the rollover cap of hours into the new year. These two items were an important priority for Co-op Management and I am proud to say we were able to successfully negotiate with the Union to make these changes. We also agreed to the Union’s proposal to limit some of our holiday hours and close the Co-op on Thanksgiving Day.

Because we are a cooperative that is committed to doing the best we can for all employees, we are not in the typical position of a corporation resisting unionization. I do ask for your patience and understanding during the time it takes to negotiate a contract; at the end of the day we will be a stronger co-op for the efforts we all are undertaking now.