The Olympia Food Co-op Adopts a $15 Starting Wage

Submitted by The Olympia Food Co-op

The collectively managed and member owned Olympia Food Co-op has adopted a gradated policy to bring the starting wage to $15 per hour by 2018. This decision follows the national movement of low wage workers mobilizing to demand a living wage.

The Olympia Food Co-op stands out as a values based, community run and collectively managed grocer and for the last forty years has been a leader in the community, working to make good food accessible to more people and encourage economic and social justice. The decision to move to $15/hr starting wage supports the efforts by the Olympia Food Co-op to foster a socially and economically egalitarian society.

The movement for a $15 minimum wage began in 2012 with New York City fast food workers walking off the job for day long strikes. Workers have argued that full time workers should not have to work second jobs or rely on public assistance, which many low wage workers must for basic subsistence. While the movement was initially criticized as unfeasible, the $15 minimum wage has gained considerable traction and has steadily become reality as many cities have passed or are considering raises to their minimum wage. In addition to the fast food industry, other employment sectors such as home care workers, childcare providers and big box retail workers have also joined the movement for higher wages, as well as sick leave and union organizing rights. Locally, Sea-Tac became the first city in the US to institute a $15 minimum wage, followed by a long term plan by Seattle. Now cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and many others are following suit in an attempt to reduce poverty.

Long time Olympia Food Co-op staff member and Finance Committee member Grace Cox says, “The Co-op already offers a solid wage and benefits package. As a Co-op employee I hope that all employers will embrace the need to raise wages for the lowest paid workers.” Emily Van Kley of the Co-op’s Labor Systems Committee adds that, “By committing to $15 an hour, I hope the Co-op is lending its support to a movement that values the contributions of all workers.”

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