About Us | Our history
Co-op Members for Fairness is a grassroots, self-organized, self-funded, progressive organization and movement of members and workers of the Saskatoon Co-op, the 10th largest cooperative in Canada (ranked by sales in 2015). We are the active part of Co-op’s membership that is concerned about the ‘corporatization’ of our cooperative, and its drift away from universally agreed-upon cooperative values and practices. This shift has been occurring for some time under Co-op’s management agreement with FCL (Federated Co-operatives Ltd). As Co-op workers and members, we are taking action to take back our Co-op.
Why we care
Corporatization of cooperatives negatively affects its workers and members. Workers’ wages and benefits are slashed, profit is privatized, and local economies suffer. Members, who consciously choose to shop at and get involved with the cooperative because of its social values and practices, and who object to these changes, find their objections ignored by the cooperative’s leadership. The cooperative leadership sidelines
This is all happening at Saskatoon Co-op. In late 2018, Saskatoon Co-op’s contracted management, FCL (Federated Co-operatives Limited), triggered a lengthy workers strike by insisting on a “two-tier wage grid,” in which new hires at Co-op would be paid significantly less. The wage cut would not only create a situation of inequality on the shop floors of Co-op, but also creating an incentive for Co-op to retire older, higher-paid workers.
At the same time, members who tried to express concerns by contacting the Board found themselves stonewalled.
Moreover, as a large employer, Co-op’s move would have a significant dent on employment compensation in Saskatchewan in a province that already has the lowest minimum wage in Canada. This was again contrary to cooperative principles in which co-ops should be undertaking initatives to benefit surrounding communities and be a leader in setting good standards of employment. Everyone in Saskatchewan benefits from Co-op jobs in our province that feature good pay and working conditions.
What we do and how we organize
From the beginning of these tensions, Saskatoon Co-op made it clear to members and workers that scattered attempts to lobby and reason with the board would not get our concerns addressed. Thus, we formed as a large grassroots group with a focus on organizing and mobilizing.
Co-op Members for Fairness undertakes several “prongs” in our attempts to reform Saskatoon Co-op.
- supporting worker job action to bring pressure on Co-op when management is acting “out of line,” and empowering workers to do so.
- locating Co-op’s progressive/involved membership, and uniting our group in real-life assemblies at Town Halls, developing policy and direction for Co-op and reaching consensus (or near-consensus) on it. One example of this is our resolutions which we presented to the Board in early 2019.
- locating and cultivating member candidates for the Board, who will effectively champion cooperative values, including bringing Co-op’s management (FCL) under greater scrutiny and control by a member-controlled Saskatoon Co-op Board.
- undertaking member education about cooperatives, and other traditional cooperative functions that Saskatoon Co-op has drifted away from doing.
In short, we all have skin in the game in keeping Co-op a progressive employer in Saskatchewan that pays wages its workers can live on. We all see benefits from good employment in our communities. We all benefit from a thriving, democratic, active membership that has
Our organizing principles
We are centered in Saskatoon/Treaty 6, and independent of Saskatoon Co-op’s Board, Management, and leadership of unions representing Saskatoon Co-op Workers (UFCW & RWDSU).
We organize as members and workers of Co-op because we win when we work together. We organize in a way that is consistent with the standards we expect of the Co-op Board and management: transparent, accountable, democratic, well-communicated, respectful, inclusive, and empowering.
We welcome you to join our Facebook page and also definitely encourage you to get on the mailing list to be informed about all of the events we are undertaking in our campaign, and ways you can participate in taking back Co-op.