The Cooperative Livable Wage Model

Copyright CGN July 2013. CGN members may reprint or reproduce this item for internal use only as long as the copyright is credited. All rights reserved.

The Cooperative Livable Wage Model has been updated for 2013. The cost of living continues to gradually trend upward, with increases in food, rent, transportation and out-of-pocket medical costs.

This year the Cooperative Livable Wage Model is 10 years old. In response to user feedback, the model went through a major upgrade in 2006 and a minor one in 2011. Carolee Colter, the main creator and updater of the model (with the vital contributions of other cooperators), has suggested that it's time for a fresh look at how we calculate a livable wage for food co-ops.  Over the course of the next year, CGN will be working with Melanie Reid of CDS Consulting Co-op on this project. Stay tuned for more details.

Thanks to task force members:

  • Michele Buchanan, Human Resources and Finance Manager, New Leaf Market
  • Crystal Halvorson, General Manager, Menomonie Market Food Co-op
  • Kari Mitchell, Director of Human Relations, Outpost Natural Foods Co-op
  • Sharret Rose, Human Resources Coordinator, La Montanita Co-operative, Inc.
  • Carolee Colter, CDS Consulting Co-op

This project began as a result of calls from co-op managers and leaders for the need to share resources and ideas to meet their desire to be responsible employers and provide livable wages to co-op employees. In some areas, there are organized advocacy groups working and bringing pressure to co-ops to pay a “livable” wage (also called “living wage”). Even in the absence of such groups, many co-op managers and directors want their co-ops to be responsible employers and were interested in a tool that they could use to measure how their wages meet the basic living needs of employees.

This model is made up of two sections, one which is available to all members, and the other at an additional charge:

A. Background and What’s New – free
The background provides the following:

  • Description of the project and why it’s important to co-ops
  • How the co-op livable wage model differs from other models
  • Background on why we set up our model the way we did and about the different sources we used in putting it together
  • Suggestions for implementing a livable wage.
  • List of resources for further information, as well as sources consulted in preparing this model.

B. Worksheets, instructions, case studies, and support materials – $50 ($35 upgrade for those who previously purchased the model)

The worksheet for calculating the livable wage for your co-op and step-by-step instructions for completing the worksheet. In addition, the model also includes in-depth case studies from three co-ops, as well as shorter descriptions of how five other co-ops have adapted the model to fit their needs and situations. Finally, the model also includes a “frequently asked questions” page that can be edited for your co-op to use in explaining the model and your calculations to board or staff members.

This complete package is available to CGN members for a charge of $50, and $35 to those who purchased earlier versions of the model and are interested in “upgrading” their calculations or gaining access to these updated materials. In the future, co-ops that purchase the livable wage model materials will continue to be eligible for upgrades of these materials at a discounted rate when they are released.

We welcome your feedback on this model and will seriously consider all suggestions. Feel free to send suggestions and comments about the model to Carolee Colter or about CGN’s presentation of the model to CGN.

CGN is committed to revising these materials to take advantage of the suggestions for improvement made by users, and to update links and data sources to reflect the latest cost of living information available.

Finally, please note that these materials are copyrighted to CGN. CGN members are welcome to copy and use these materials for internal purposes. Please do not copy or forward these documents to others.

See also livable wage implementation materials from the Brattleboro Food Co-op.