Who can become a member?
Membership is open to all.
What are membership requirements?
- Attendance at Orientation or Monthly General Meeting.*
- Sign membership agreement.
- $50 life-time non-refundable First Year membership fee / $15 low-income membership.
- $25 Annual Membership Payment for years 2-5.
- 4 hours of work every month.
Membership fees are paid $50 at once, and may be paid in installments of $10 every 4 weeks upon request.
Low-income membership is $15 with proof of government assistance. This can be paid in installments of $5 every 4 weeks.
If you make at or below 250% of the federal poverty level, you qualify for low-income membership. Please present proof within 30 days of joining the coop to pay the reduced fee.
Acceptable documents: Food Stamps, SSI, WIC, medicaid, Family Health Plus, Section 8, Advantage Program, Unemployment Insurance. If you do not have any of these documents, we accept: a month’s worth of paystubs, a letter from an employer stating monthly earnings.
Annual Fee Payments are due in April the year following your joining year (if you join in 2014, your first payment will be due April 2015).
What does membership mean?
- Member markup, 24% above wholesale.
- Vote. One member, one vote. Members are most welcome to come to all monthly meetings. The Coop uses a consensus based decision making process to achieve approved courses of action. Membership decisions are binding with 80% vote of voting members when a quorum of membership is present. Larger decisions may be put to an electronic vote in order to poll a larger portion of coop membership.
- Special orders and reservations. Members may place special orders for a la carte (standard 24% member markup) and bulk items (12% bulk markup), and may reserve items that we get in for general distribution to ensure that desired items are present at time of pickup. Members are financially responsible for all items special ordered and reserved that were not picked up or sold. Join the Google Group to receive early order open and reservation notifications and updates.
- Community via work. People who work together build trust and community together.
Attendance at an Orientation or General Monthly Meeting is required to become a member. Orientations are held twice per month, General Meetings once per month. See CALENDAR for schedule. Orientations are designed to orient new members to being a member of the Bushwick Food Coop. If you can not make it to upcoming orientations or General Meetings, but can meet other membership requirements, contact the Membership Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org or talk to a manager in the store.
**Members who have been INACTIVE since February 2013, when mandatory orientations were instituted, just need to attend an orientation to get back to ACTIVE status! All work hours owed will be forgiven at the time of the orientation and the membership fee that was originally paid will be carried over.**
Are there household memberships?
- ACTIVE: signed membership agreement, paid fee or up to date with installments, current with work hours, has work assignment.
- ALERT: signed membership agreement, but not up to date with fee installments, owes work hours from one work period, or does not have a work assignment. [Still considered a member in good standing: may vote and pay member prices.]
- SUSPENDED: signed membership agreement, two months behind on fee installments, or owes work from two work periods. [Not considered a member in good standing: may not vote nor pay member prices.]
Putting your membership on HOLD
Members who are going out of town or are unable to fulfill work hours for 4 or more weeks may put their membership on hold. While on hold, members do not accumulate work hours owed. However, neither may they vote nor pay member prices. To be placed on HOLD or taken off of HOLD, simply notify the Membership Committee by emailing email@example.com or by notifying a Membership Committee representative at open store hours, if present.
Members may bank hours. Hours worked accumulate, just as work debt does. The Coop encourages members to take up larger roles in the Coop, such as committee head positions. These often require 4 hours/week of work. These hours accumulate and then you are able put in less hours down the line. Banking hours is good way to remain active if you know a busy period may be coming up in your life.
Members may gift hours to one another. Buying or bartering for work hours is not allowed.
To make it easier for members who have fallen behind on hours get back to ACTIVE status, we cap the hours that a member can owe at 8. So even if you fall behind on work for 3 or more cycles, you will only have to make up 8 hours to be able to shop and vote as a member again.
Since we charge the 4 hours at the end of the month, owing 8 hours means you need to work 12 hours in one month (8 hours owed for previous months plus the 4 hour requirement for the current month), or you may work 8 hours per month for two months (8 hours to become “alert,” and 8 hours the next month to bring you current).
As members, we are all required and privileged to work. Working together build trust and community, keeps prices low and helps keep food from healthy food production and distribution systems affordable to all.
Work requirement can be fulfilled by:
- Store shifts,
- Committee work,
- Meeting attendance. General Monthly Meetings are usually the first Monday of every month, and Committees Meetings are usually the last, 7pm in the Loom space. Check the BFC calendar on the website to confirm dates and details.
Report work hours using the COMMITTEE WORK REPORT FORM found in the MEMBER AREA of the website. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about work or need help signing up for a work slot or a work role.
Disabled, elderly, maternity/paternity leave, medical reasons, etc. are all eligible for work exemption. Contact Membership@bushwickfoodcoop.org if this applies to you.
The Bushwick Food Coop seeks to partner with local businesses and community organizations. These entities, under arrangement of the Membership Committee and coordination of other relevant committees, can choose a representative of their organization to become a Coop member that may be work exempt with in kind support. Contact Membership@bushwickfoodcoop.org if this applies to you.
What does the future hold for BFC membership?
- Member Investment – If a refundable investment fee is instated in the future, current opinion is that low income members would be exempt from paying it.
The Coop may at some point decide to instate a membership investment as part of our strategy to build capital for this fledgling cooperative business. This capital would go toward investing in inventory, infrastructure, and hiring a full time employee to ensure continuity and growth. An example of what this could look like: at the Park Slope Food Coop they have a $100 refundable investment fee that can be paid off in installments of $10/4 weeks. This will not be decided without you! When the Coop is ready with its analyses and reaches about 200 founding members, this will be put to Membership to vote — one member, one vote. Not to mention, plenty of discussion, feedback opportunities, and business plan development along the way. This will likely be part of a larger investment plan to move to a larger space further in Bushwick.
- Household Memberships — in a more egalitarian system every adult member capable of work that is benefiting from the Coop gives back to the Coop by contributing work hours. The Bushwick Food Coop was initially conceived to operate by this model. The Coop has decided to reinforce/reinstate this policy to a large extent since ending the buying club and operating as a store. [See “Are there Household memberships?” above.]
For example, the Park Slope Food Coop abides by a single-tier membership model and strictly enforces it; they are a very large 17,000 members successful coop. According to one board member who has seen a number of Coops grow more and more retail and expensive or fall apart through tiered and lax membership rules, this is a much better method — where people build community through common work. On the other hand, part of a coop’s mission is to support other cooperatives. And what is more cooperative than members of a household working together to maintain an active Coop membership and to support each other in engaging larger communities? One idea on the table right now about the future of household memberships includes reduced fees while maintaining individual work requirements, hours transferable. Discussion of a possible Household Membership model is tabled until more member data is gathered. For now, members in particular circumstance can contact Membership@BushwickFoodCoop.Org to make arrangements.
- Tiered Membership / Selling to the Public — We do not have tiers within membership, but we do sell to the public at retail markups. Not selling to the public can provide an unnecessary barrier to many members of the Bushwick community who might not come with prior understanding of consumer cooperatives and the systemic food injustices we seek to heal. Keeping the store open to the public not only helps us break even every month, it provides education to interested and curious individuals about coops and food justice. We believe we encourage and diversify membership through education and accessibility. The Bushwick Food Coop was initially conceived of as a members only grocery store knowing that it is our member work equity that allows a coop to flourish. The Coop’s voting membership may decide to reinforce/reinstate this policy in the future.