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UPDATE: Staff Wage Task Force

One June 18th our group of 30+ voluntarily self-elected staff members met for the first of several Wage Task Force Meetings. There was  21 days to 16 years worth of tenure in the room representing staff members from all departments and job levels.

The meeting, led by Chief Executive Grocery, Dan Gillotte, included:

  • Introductions
  • Review of 5/28 Staff Wage Presentation information
  • Look at Financial Plan
  • Discussion and Q&A

On Thursday, June 25, the same group got together for a second meeting and discussed  the co-op's financial picture, sales per labor hour, and different aspects of overall compensation.

The group will meet again in July and August in order to reach consensus for staff recommendations regarding Wheatsville’s overall compensation package.


Chief Executive Grocer Compensation

As a result of recent conversations surrounding Wheatsville Food Co-op’s Staff Wage & Compensation issue, there has been a lot of speculation and interest regarding the compensation that the Board of Directors authorizes for their Chief Executive Grocer (CEG), Dan Gillotte.  The Board has decided to release details on Dan’s compensation for FYE 2014 and will provide details about the process in setting the CEG’s compensation each year.

Salary and Benefits

In FYE 2014, Dan Gillotte earned $128,131 in salary and benefits.

Compensation Process

The CEG is the sole employee of the Wheatsville Food Co-op Board of Directors.  Each year, the Board conducts a CEG evaluation in collaboration with the CEG to set the CEG compensation for the upcoming year. The Board takes many factors into consideration including CEG performance, financial position of the cooperative, inflation, cost of living, alignment with Wheatsville’s policies, and replacement cost.

In the course of expanding from a single store to multi-store operation, Dan’s responsibilities have grown exponentially over the past 2 years, but his salary increases have been modest.  This is largely due to Dan’s reluctance to allow his salary to be an excessive drain on the organization.  In addition, Dan chooses to participate in the same bonus pool offered to all Wheatsville employees; thus Dan only receives a bonus during quarters where bonus is paid out to all employees.


Although it is difficult to make an equal comparison of Wheatsville’s CEG salary to like businesses in the Austin area market, there is some data to put the current CEG salary level in context.  One way to do this is to compare the ratio of lowest paid employee to highest paid employee.  This ratio for Wheatsville is currently around 1:6.  In comparison, Whole Foods Market has a ratio of 1:19 and many other businesses have ratios much higher than this (see this Huffington post article: Available data suggests that Wheatsville’s CEG compensation is just at or below the national median for cooperatives with sales over $16 million.

In Dan Gillotte’s tenure, Wheatsville has become a nationally recognized top tier retail grocery co-op and has taken a leadership role in the development and growth of other co-ops.  If the Board were to be in the position of having to replace Dan, the compensation requirements for a candidate qualified to effectively run an organization the size of Wheatsville would likely be much higher than Dan’s current compensation package.

Moving Forward

The Board is committed to our cooperative values that include honesty and openness and takes the responsibility to the cooperative very seriously. The Board will continue to exercise due diligence in the decision making on behalf of Wheatsville’s owners, staff and customers. They vow to keep Wheatsville’s best interest in mind; part of that procedure will include development of a clear process that owners, staff and customers can follow for future requests for financial information, including CEG compensation.

Wheatsville Food Co-op’s Board of Directors would like to thank all of the owners, staff members and customers who have engaged with them on this issue.

In cooperation,
Wheatsville Food Co-op Board of Directors


Board of Directors Meeting Recap

UPDATE: May 27, 2015
Board of Directors Meeting

On Tuesday, May 26th the Board of Directors extended open time in order to accommodate comments from co-op members in attendance, wanting Wheatsville’s management to raise wages to meet the rising cost of living in Austin.

Chief Executive Grocer, Dan Gillotte, spent 30 minutes going over the wage presentation that would be shown to staff on Thursday, May 28th. The presentation included information about current wages and how they were determined, overall labor costs, an overview of co-op finances and possible areas that could be used to raise the wage scale. The CEG then took questions from attendees. Caution centered around long term sustainability for future growth regarding both price increases and labor costs, wage compression if only some wages were to be raised, and decisions regarding other compensation such as benefits and sick/vacation pay that would affect all staff members.

Following the staff wage presentation on 5/28 a committee of staff members will be assembled in order to decide next steps and recommendations for changes to the staff compensation package. The committee is expected to meet several times over the coming weeks and report back to the Board of Directors and CEG.

The Board of Directors then discussed overall monitoring of the co-op’s internal management, looking back at the staff survey results from March, 2015. The Board identified areas of concern regarding the grievance procedure, wages, and staff participation. The Board voted to form a committee regarding D6 - Staff Treatment and Compensation policy monitoring. The Board questioned whether the transparency issues that have recently been raised would also fall under the purview of the D6 committee or whether another committee should be formed. They will revisit the topic of a potential transparency at their next board meeting. 


Statement from the Board of Directors

On May 13, 2015, the Wheatsville Board of Directors received an open letter from the Wheatsville Staff Solidarity Collective.  In the letter, the Collective expressed frustration over Wheatsville’s current wage structure.  The Board is deeply concerned about the well-being of employees and conducts yearly monitoring of staff treatment. We were alerted to staff dissatisfaction around pay by Dan Gillotte in March and received a plan in April for addressing the challenging issue of paying better and maintaining  Wheatsville’s financial stability. 

We will continue to explore the concerns raised in the spirit of cooperation and in line with Policy Governance.  As stewards of this great cooperative, the Board's role is to define policies and monitor operational outcomes that are consistent with cooperative values and principles.  We take very seriously Wheatsville’s Mission of creating a self-reliant, self-empowering community of people that will grow and promote a transformation of society toward cooperation, justice, and non-exploitation.

In cooperation,
Wheatsville Food Co-op Board of Directors


Texas Berry Season

With Spring rapidly approaching, I am getting really excited about my favorite season of the year, baseball season! But since that would make for a most peculiar produce article, I’ll go with the next best season of the year, Texas berry season of course! After struggling through our Texas winter, sweet fresh Texas berries help erase the memory of all those recent cold nights. I most often just rinse and eat them right out of the package. But berries lend themselves to a wide array of quick recipes and are always welcome as a sweet salad compliment to a tangy vinaigrette.

Texas strawberries arrive first and are always much anticipated. The season runs from late February into early May. We’ll be getting our strawberries from Poteet, Texas, the strawberry capital of the Texas. If you’ve never been to The Poteet Strawberry Festival, make this the year to do it. It will be held April 10 -12 and is a great time for the family and a great place to soak up some Texas history as well as enjoy some amazing strawberry delights. Poteet is just south of San Antonio about 2 hours from Austin.

Blackberries and blueberries then round out the Texas berry season. Blackberries generally arrive first in May followed by blueberries in June. The blackberries we most often have for y’all are also from Poteet and are always delicate and delicious. They are my personal favorite berry and also have the shortest season here in Texas of just over a month. So snap them up when you see them because they don’t stay around for long. Blueberries hail from East Texas and bring with them another fun Texas festival, The Texas Blueberry Festival on June 13 in downtown Nacogdoches. This year marks the festival’s 25th anniversary celebrating the annual blueberry harvest. Stop by for a fun-filled day if your travels take you near Nacogdoches in June.

Though berry season doesn’t last long, jams or preserves are a fabulous way to make it last much longer, or at least as long as your willpower will allow you to resist that fresh jar of homemade preserves. I love to turn Texas blueberries into a Blueberry and Basil Jam. All you need are blueberries, sugar, basil, pectin, lemon juice and water. Try a quick internet search and you’ll find many quick and easy recipe variations. And if you are not into canning, just refrigerate your blueberry basil jam and use it within three weeks. It is fabulous! Happy Texas Berry Season!


Not the Same Old Grind!

There’s no doubt about it, Texan’s love their beef including ground beef.  Here at Wheatsville, we feel it’s important to know that all ground beef is not created equal.  We take great pride in offering a variety of high-quality, Niman Ranch All-Natural, Certified Humanely Raised, Antibiotic and Hormone free grinds that consistently exceeds the flavor and quality of what is offered in other markets.

To begin, all of our ground beef is freshly produced on-site in small batches throughout the day and NEVER pre-ground somewhere at a processing plant.  In addition, our ground beef is USDA Choice or higher whole muscle Angus Beef!  What this means to you is quality and flavor guaranteed.

Our Ground Beef is a combination of whole muscles and trim, including the brisket, making it a perfect pick for most recipes and burgers.

For those wanting a leaner but flavorful ground beef to fit their dietary expectations and needs, our Ground Sirloin and Ground Round are produced from only selected cuts of sirloin and round. 

Our Ground Chuck is produced from the chuck portion, which is full of flavor and not as lean as the Round or Sirloin. 

If you are looking for the ultimate ground beef experience, try our Premium Ground Beef which is made from selected loin cuts including the tenderloin that equates to steak-like flavor and texture in every bite.

 - Howard Miller


Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil! Oh, my!

There's great news in the the Produce Department. Organic fresh bunched basil from Buena Tierra Farm has arrived and it is amazingly incredibly wonderfully awesome! To keep it as fresh and fragrant as possible we keep the basil in enclosed room temperature containers for better basil hydration. Look for it near the tomato displays in Produce.

Even if basil isn't on your current shopping list, the next time you're in the Co-op, lift the lid on the Buena Tierra basil container and unleash an avalanche of deep rich basil aroma. It is the best. And I haven't even gotten to the actual eating of it yet. That's even better.

Wheatsville Produce Coordinator, Ralf Hernandez, takes a tour of Buena Tierra's battery powered tractor.

I am a huge fan of basil in general, but the Buena Tierra Basil is really extraordinary. Fresh, local and organic, it is lovingly hand bunched and ready to make you and your favorite basil recipe extremely happy. The classic combo of basil, tomato and fresh mozzarella is a personal favorite of mine. I love to make cute little appetizer stacks of tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella drizzled with a flavorful cold-pressed olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. If I'm wanting something more substantial, I'll go with a grilled caprese sandwich on a fabulous Wheatsville Bakehouse Baguette. I lightly chop the basil and add some fresh garlic, olive oil and sea salt then just layer in with tomato and mozzarella slices and into the grilling pan. Both of these quick recipes are super easy, super delicious and super snazzy.

Be sure to check out the Buena Tierra Basil next time you stop by for a visit. You and your stomach will be glad you did.

Buena Tierra Farms is owned and operated by Steve Kramer and Carey Burkett in Fredonia, TX.


Citrus Sunshine in Winter

Growing up in Michigan in the 70s was, among other things, ridiculously cold. I’ve definitely seen enough snow and ice to last a lifetime. But one thing I did always love was fresh citrus in the wintertime. It always felt like I was unwrapping a sunny gift from summer in the middle of cold dark winter. Thankfully, now that I’m living in Texas, my winters have gotten much warmer, and better yet, the citrus has gotten much better. My two favorites are the Cara Cara orange and the Texas Rio Red grapefruit.

The Cara Cara orange is hands down the best orange I’ve ever had. It was discovered at Hacienda Cara Cara in Venezuela in 1976. It was a natural mutation the occurred on a Washington navel orange tree. It quickly made its way to Florida and then found a growing home in California. It is sweeter than the average orange and the flesh has a beautiful almost red color. Sweet, juicy and low acid make this the perfect orange for a quick snack. If you’ve never tried one, I highly recommend you find out what you’ve been missing. You’ll be glad you did.

My other favorite is the Texas Rio Red Grapefruit. Local and organic are two of my favorite qualities in a produce item and this grapefruit has both of those things going for it. It was developed in the Rio Grande Valley at the Texas A&M Citrus Center and is grown at G & S Groves in McAllen, Texas. Most importantly, it is absolutely delicious. It is a bit larger than a standard commercial grapefruit, is super juicy, has a deep red flesh, and has just enough sweetness to balance out the underlying tartness. As a grapefruit eating kiddo in Michigan, I’d always scoop a little sugar on my grapefruit. With the Rio Red however, sugar is not needed at all. I section them and eat them like an over-sized orange. They are, like all things from Texas, awesome.

So swing on by your friendly neighborhood Wheatsville Produce department and try one of these wonderful winter citrus selections. They’ll brighten up your day and unleash a little summer sun into our chilly winter air. Stay warm out there!

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