River Valley Co-op

Increasing Wages for All vs. Paid Commuter Time for Some

Recently, we have received a variety of questions and comments from co-op owners related to how River Valley Co-op compensates its employees for commuter time. Please know, we strive to provide as many benefits as possible to our employees, and have carefully constructed a benefits package with the employees’ union to be as supportive and competitive as possible. 

We hope the following background and information will provide more context to this issue:

Foremost, River Valley Co-op strives to work in harmony with its union. In 2012, we partnered with the UFCW Local 1459 – a partnership that speaks to the co-op’s commitment to employees.

Many employees are requesting they be paid for their time on our courtesy shuttle to/from our complementary off-site employee parking lot.  We respect and appreciate their feedback.  However, we recently entered into a union contract in which employees opted to pass on this particular benefit  in favor of others.

Specifically, the union agreed the shuttle commuter time would not be compensated. During last fall’s collective bargaining agreement sessions for our current union contract, some suggested that car-driving employees be paid for time on the shuttle. After the union and management reviewed potential costs, we collectively agreed to additional increases to the wages for hourly staff for time worked instead of paying the cost of shuttle commuter time.  The union contract was ratified by a vote of the unit member employees.

Compensating for commuter time is not required by law. Massachusetts and federal law state that regular workplace commute time and costs like that spent on the shuttle are not reimbursable or compensable. A recent opinion letter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development Department of Labor Standards reinforced this.

We far exceed benefits conventional grocers provide. We employ approximately 150 employees; 90% are full-time (as compared to less than 50% at conventional corporate retail grocers), with benefits. In addition to services that include the free off-site parking and the shuttle, our benefits include: insurance options, paid holidays, paid vacation and personal/sick time, and purchase discounts. 

We wish we could provide even more benefits to our employees. However, we must balance competing needs at many levels including wages, service levels, fair prices for producers, and fair prices for our customers. We hope this information addresses your questions and concerns. Please let us know if there is any more information we can provide.