The Continuing Impact of the $15 Minimum Wage

The Lempert Report
January 25, 2016

Will the co-op model have to change?

Two weeks ago we were surprised to hear how Walmart would be closing almost 150 stores here in the U.S. especially as they point to the rising minimum wage as one of the culprits. We have long pointed out that while no one wants our nation to struggle to feed their families and have adequate housing, that there would be repercussions from the rising costs.

The next food casualty seems to be at the food co-ops where typically members worked in the co-op to earn discounts on the groceries they buy. Not for long, as violating labor laws including paying the minimum wage are changing the co-op model quickly.

I remember working at the Powelton Village Co-op in Philadelphia during college not only to pay less but also to become a part of the community and make friends and have fun while working!

My question is whether this unique group of retailers will become dinosaurs, not from their own mismanagement, poor product selection or loss of shoppers, but from regulations that may seem to be put in place for the greater good; but rather destroy much for many.

We’ve seen Uber come under pressure as governments around the world questioned whether their drivers are independent contractors or in-fact employees where not only minimum wage regulations are violated, but also benefits, social security and unemployment benefits.

No doubt the debate will rage on if a co-op member can be a volunteer or if the entire industry is in violation of labor laws. We can only hope the outcome does not destroy what has become a strong pillar for many communities and families.