Park Slope Food Coop
|Products||Organic food, local food|
|Revenue||over $56 million (2018)|
The Park Slope Food Coop (PSFC) is a food cooperative located in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. It is one of the oldest and largest active food co-ops in the United States. As a food cooperative, one of its goals is to be a "buying agent to its members, not a selling agent to any industry." Non-members are welcome to visit the store, but may not shop.
Formed in 1973, PSFC has grown to include over 17,000 members. The PSFC business model requires each of its adult members to contribute 2 hours and 45 minutes of work every four weeks, and that no member share a household with a non-member. In exchange, active members may shop at the store. The store sells a variety of foods and household goods, some environmentally friendly products, at a 21% markup over the wholesale price  (compared to 26-100% at a supermarket). The savings are possible because labor is contributed by its members. PSFC operates as a New York state cooperative corporation.
Governance and management
PSFC, a cooperative corporation formed under the laws of the State of New York, is run by a Board of Directors consisting of five persons elected to staggered three-year terms by and from the membership. The longest-serving General Coordinator present at the meeting (usually Joe Holtz) serves as a voting member ex officio.
The Board of Directors gather monthly to hear the advice of the members at the General Meeting (GM), and generally approve all resolutions passed by the GM. The GM agenda is governed by an Agenda Committee, and the meeting itself is run by a Chair Committee, whose members rotate in service as chairperson and collectively serve as GM parliamentarian.
The day-to-day operations of the PSFC are run by paid employees called coordinators. The senior-ranking coordinators, called General Coordinators, are hired by the General Meeting and approved by the Board of Directors.
The coop has a Diversity and Equality Committee, whose members receive workslot credit and which proposes programs to enhance membership diversity at the coop.
The PSFC was founded in 1973. The organization initially sub-leased space with the Mongoose Community Center. By 1977 the Mongoose was defunct and the Coop started renting directly from the landlord.
In 1978, the Coop began renting 782 Union Street with an option to buy upon the expiration of a two-year lease. Expecting to buy, the Coop completed renovations in 1979 and purchased the building in 1980. This was followed in 1988 and 1999 with the purchase of the two buildings immediately to the west, with renovations completed in 1991 and 2001 respectively.
In December 2009, the Coop paid the remaining $707,000 on the mortgage for all three buildings. This pre-payment was made without penalty, as the mortgage holder, National Cooperative Bank, needed assistance after the banking crisis of 2008–2009.
Political and environmental action
The coop has a long history of political action. During the apartheid regime, goods from South Africa were banned; during the Pinochet regime, Chilean grapes were removed; Nestlé products were banned because of the company's campaign to promote infant formula instead of breastfeeding.
Coop policy dictates that existing boycotts are discontinued unless renewed annually. Since 2004, the PSFC has boycotted Coca-Cola products (including Minute Maid and Odwalla), citing the company's labor practices and exploitation of natural resources in third-world countries. Since 2010, the PSFC has boycotted Flaum Appetizing Products for violations of labor law. Flaum is a local kosher producer known for hummus sold under its "Mike & Joe's" label.
The Coop collects a variety of hard-to-recycle plastic packaging for upcycling. This recycling initiative started with the collecting of yogurt cups to be upcycled into toothbrushes and other personal care goods by Recycline in 2008, at a time when New York City's municipal recycling limited the types of plastic accepted. With changes in NYC's trash recycling policies, the Park Slope Food Coop put together the hard-to-recycle plastics collection currently in place with Terracycle for single serve baby food pouches, plastic cling wrap, produce bags, toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, and water filters.
In 2009, The Jewish Daily Forward incorrectly stated or implied that the coop was considering a ban on Israeli products in protest of the 2009 Israeli military offensive in Gaza. In actuality, no such proposal had been placed on the agenda of the PSFC General Meeting (GM). The stories were based on two letters-to-the-editor in the February 12, 2009 edition of the PSFC's Linewaiters' Gazette. The Gazette publishes member submissions regardless of opinion. For three years members of the coop expressed their opinions in the Gazette regarding a potential boycott of Israel, and the July 26, 2011, General Meeting discussed holding a coop-wide referendum on joining the BDS movement, with no action taken. The March 27, 2012 GM, which was held at Brooklyn Technical High School due to an unprecedented turnout of nearly 1,700 members (eleven times more than typical), after a heated discussion considered and rejected a proposal to hold such a referendum.
In 2010, in response to an announcement by the menswear retailer Barneys New York that they would be opening a location in Brooklyn called Barneys Coop, the PSFC General Meeting (GM) considered taking action in light of the company's apparent violation of New York's Cooperative Corporations Law, which restricts the use of the term "coop" to cooperative businesses. The general coordinators informed the state attorney general of the violation and presented a plan for a lawsuit to the July 2010 GM, which rejected the proposal for anticipated costs. A more limited proposal was approved by the August 2010 GM but later overturned on procedural grounds.
On January 26, 2016, the Park Slope Food Coop voted in a change to The Rules For The General Meeting. It stipulated that in order to pass any boycott, a super-majority of at least 75% of the General Meeting must agree to the boycott.
In the summer of 2018 a group of paid staff at the Park Slope Food Coop started unionizing efforts with the help of RWDSU, an union representing grocery store employees and other food chain workers. Among the issues raised are job security (an end to "at-will employment"), unequal treatment in the work place (racism and other forms of discrimination) and a desire to better align the Coop with international cooperative principles and values of democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity.
On April 23, 2019 several employees filed charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board. The complaint includes allegations of harassment, coercive statements and interrogation. Given the alleged unlawful interference in the unionization process by management, the General Coordinators of the Coop have agreed to guarantee non-interference in the unionization efforts, this has been disputed by union organizers and has been one of the issues that led to the NLRB complaint. The Park Slope Food Coop's Labor Committee, a group founded to provide "leadership and information on the labor issues that impact the coop’s food system," voiced their support of a neutrality agreement.
The NLRB settled with the Coop regarding the Unfair Labor Practice charges, as a result the Park Slope Food Coop was required to post a notice to employees stating that going forward specified labor rights will not be violated.
PSFC's work shift requirement has inspired criticism over the years. In 2011, The New York Times also reported allegations that some members were asking their nannies to cover their work shifts.
In order to join the co-op, new members must attend an orientation and sign up for a monthly 2h 45min volunteer shift. The volunteer positions fall into the following categories: food processing, inventory, maintenance, office, receiving & stocking, second floor service desk, shopping, soup kitchen prep, and soup kitchen at CHiPS (a local charity organization). All slots other than the last two directly relate to the daily operation of the co-op.
After shift assignment, new members have a month to pay their one-time membership fee (regular: $25 or low-income reduced rate: $5) and eight weeks to pay their membership investment deposit (regular: $100 or low-income reduced rate: $10) which will be returned if they decide leave the co-op.
Members must show up and work their volunteer shifts once a month, but if they cannot make their usual shift they have the option to swap shifts with another member. If a member misses their shift, they must complete two make-up shifts before their next shift. The strictness of this policy has been criticized as unfair to single mothers, members with multiple outside jobs, and students, since an excess of required make-up shifts requires significant working hours that may be unmanageable without external support.
Unpaid membership fees or unmet shifts lead to a status of "Alert," and then ultimately "Suspended," which prevent a member from entering and shopping at the co-op.
Senior members older than 70 are eligible 'retire' from their volunteer duties. Chronically ill members and anyone under 18 is also not required to work. Temporary injuries and sickness can be taken into account to excuse volunteer duties.
On Monday, March 23 2020, for the first time in their history, the co-op suspended their member work requirement in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection to paid staff. Until further notice, the co-op would be operated purely by existing and temporary paid workers.
- "PSFC Certificate of Incorporation - May, 1977". Retrieved June 18, 2019.
- Falkowitz, Max (April 19, 2018). "History of the Park Slope Food Coop". New York Magazine.
- "PSFC Mission Statement". Park Slope Food Coop. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
- Crowe, Aaron (February 18, 2011). "Biggest Grocery Store Markups: The Worst Deals in the Aisles". DailyFinance.
- PSFC Bylaws, as amended March 27, 2001, Article III, Sections 1 and 2.
- PSFC Bylaws, as amended March 27, 2001, Article VI, Section 2.
- PSFC Bylaws, as amended March 27, 2001, Article V, Section 1.
- Welch, Liz (October 7, 2010). "Cultural Diversity Issues – At the Coop?" (PDF). Linewaiter's Gazette. EE (20): 1.
- Younge, Gary (March 16, 2006). "Are you feeling cooperative?". The Guardian.
- "Union Street Memories," Archived 2017-09-08 at the Wayback Machine Linewaiters' Gazette, November 3, 2011
- Kaplan, Eva (December 31, 2009). "Diversity and Equality Get the Last Word at December GM" (PDF). Linewaiter's Gazette. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 8, 2017. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
- Gersten, Lana (February 18, 2009). "Food Fight: Brooklyn Co-op Mulls Israel Ban". The Jewish Daily Forward.
- "Resolution to Remove Coca-Cola Products From the Shelves of the Park Slope Food Coop". April 27, 2004.
- Dwyer, Jim (May 14, 2008). "Bottled Water Paradox: Banned, and Required". The New York Times.
- Burke, Daniel (June 5, 2008). "Bottles and Bags, Bans and Boycotts" (PDF). Linewaiters' Gazette. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 7, 2016. Retrieved August 17, 2011.
- "Recycling? Fuhgeddaboudit". www.motherjones.com.
- Newman, Andy (April 24, 2013). "City Expands Recycling Program to Include Hard Plastics".
- "TerraCycle Recycling Collections : Park Slope Food Coop". www.foodcoop.com.
- Gersten, Lana. Food Fight: Brooklyn Co-op Mulls Israel Ban. The Jewish Daily Forward. 18 Feb. 2009.
- Kuntzman, Gersh. The Food Co-op is not — repeat not — considering a ban on Israeli products. The Brooklyn Paper.
-  Archived 2017-11-25 at the Wayback Machine (see page 11).
- "The Linewaiters' Gazette: Letters". Park Slope Food Coop. Archived from the original on September 8, 2017. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- "The July GM: Debating a Boycott" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 7, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- Chi'en, Arthur (March 27, 2012). "Park Slope Food Co-op Votes Against Boycott Of Israeli Products". WPIX. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- "Slope Food Coop Votes — in Fort Greene! — Against Israel Ban". The Local – Fort-Greene Blog. March 27, 2012. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- Semple, Kirk; Kuntzman, Kersh (March 27, 2012). "Food Co-op Rejects Effort to Boycott Israeli-Made Products". The New York Times.
- Feldman, Kiera (March 29, 2012). "BDS and the Park Slope Food Coop: Why the Vote Against Was a Win for the Boycott". The Nation.
- Brown, Stephen (April 15, 2010). "Is the Barneys Co-op breaking the law — with its name?". The Brooklyn Paper.
- Forman, Gayle (September 23, 2010). "Coop Fashion Police Cite Barney's Violation" (PDF). Linewaiter's Gazette. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 2, 2017. Retrieved February 21, 2011.
- Quinn, Anna (May 13, 2019). "Park Slope Food Coop Employees Move To Unionize". Patch Media. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
- "Park Slope Food Coop Union". RWDSU. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
- "Our Members". Food Chain Workers Alliance. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
- "RWDSU - Our Industries". RWDSU. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
- "FAQ on the PSFC Union". PSFC Union. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
- Quinn, Anna (June 3, 2019). "Park Slope Food Coop Threatened Union-Backing Staff: Complaint". Patch Media. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
- Smith, Taigi (June 6, 2019). "Some Staffers Organize for Possible Labor Union Membership" (PDF). Linewaiter's Gazette. NN (11): 1.
- "Park Slope Food Coop Case Number: 29-CA-240076". NLRB. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
- "Employer/Union Rights and Obligations". NLRB. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
- "General Coordinator Statement on Union Organizing". Park Slope Food Coop. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
- "PSFC Labor Committee - home". PSFC Labor Committee. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
- "Coop Staff Union Effort". PSFC Labor Committee. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
- Quinn, Anna (August 23, 2019). "Park Slope Food Coop Violated Federal Labor Laws, Board Finds". Patch Media. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
- Graham, Aidan (August 27, 2019). "Park Slope Food Coop employees accuse management of meddling in union efforts". The Brooklyn Paper. Retrieved August 28, 2019.
- Ain, Alana Joblin (October 23, 2009). "Flunking Out at the Food Co-op". The New York Times.
- Barry, Dan (December 11, 2004). "At the Food Co-op, Accused of a Little Too Much Cooperation". The New York Times.
- Hartocollois, Anemona; Linderman, Juliet (February 17, 2011). "At a Food Co-op, a Discordant Thought: Nannies Covering Shifts". The New York Times.
- "Committee & Squad Times". Park Slope Food Coop. 2019-06-25. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
- "Make Your Member Payments". Park Slope Food Coop. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
- Ain, Alana Joblin (2009-10-23). "Flunking Out at the Food Co-op". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
- "Member FAQs". Park Slope Food Coop. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
- "August General Meeting Extends Retirement Age, Rejects Theater Project Funding Bid" (PDF). Linewaiter's Gazette. NN: 16. September 12, 2019.
- Park Slope Food Coop Membership Manual (PDF). 2020-01-13. p. 16.
- "Member-labor Work Requirement Temporarily Suspended". Park Slope Food Coop. 2020-03-22. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
- Crewdson, Michael (March 7, 2011). "Praise From Afar for the Park Slope Food Co-op". The New York Times.
- Chaban, Matt. "Soy Vey! Could a Hummus Fight Kill the Co-op?". The New York Observer.
- Official website
- Food Coop - 2018 documentary about the Park Slope Food Coop
- Park Slope Food Coop Union