Organic Planet Worker Co-op

The outside of Organic Planet in WinnipegOrganic Planet Worker Co-op opened in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, during May 2003 at a location that had been home to a retail food co-op for the previous 25 years. When that business was closing, the Community Economic Development Manager at a local credit union (Assiniboine) stepped in to develop a succession plan. If a core group could be formed and a viable business plan created, then the credit union would provide support for a worker co-op to purchase and run the business.

Most of the founding members were young people with some experience working in an organic store, but little or none in running one. Others had previous work experience in other Winnipeg worker co-ops. The five founding members contributed almost two months of volunteer time working towards a proposal that the credit union could support. This was quite a tense time, as people worried about paying their rents, and whether or not they would be able to make a new job for themselves.

SEED Winnipeg, an anti-poverty agency that works by helping individuals and groups start small businesses and save money for future goals, helped form the business plan. Another organisation essential to the creation of OPWC was the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation, which provided loans of start-up capital. The CWCF continues to be a valuable forum for networking with other worker co-ops, both in our hometown and across the country.

Today, Organic Planet Worker Co-op has nine staff and seven members. They operate a lively little store that sells organic produce, organic groceries, some health and beauty products; it also operates an organic/vegetarian deli.

For new staff, there is a nine month probationary period. After successful completion, they are offered the opportunity to join the co-op buy purchasing a share. Shares cost $500, which may be paid over time through paycheque deductions. As a worker co-op, our raison d’etre is to provide good jobs for our members.

Co-op worker-owners Max and Emily.Whenever possible, Organic Planet purchases from local producers and from other co-ops. Fair trade and certified organic are preferred, as are smaller, more independent suppliers. A large variety of bulk foods helps to limit wasteful packaging. We help customers connect with the sources of their food by offering store tours and by emphasizing our support for local environmental causes. We also believe it is important that the members have a good understanding of where the food we purchase and sell comes from. We have had meetings at various organic farms and tours of our suppliers’ businesses to help give them this understanding. .

Organic Planet Worker Co-op is now nearly two years old, and operates without a deficit. All founding members still work in the business, although for near minimum wages. This is possible for young people, but one day the co-op will have to provide pay that will enable members to support families. Our challenge now is to tend the business well, so that our dividends will grow, thereby making our jobs more sustainable.

Stephen Kirk is a member of Organic Planet Worker Co-operative.

Creator - Author(s) Name and Title(s): 
Stephen Kirk
Publication Information: 
Youth Reinventing Co-operatives: Young Perspectives on the International Co-operative Movement – (Eds.) Robin Puga, Julia Smith, and Ian MacPherson
Date: 
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Publisher Information: 
New Rochdale Press, British Columbia Institute for Co-operative Studies

Location

Winnipeg, MB
Canada
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