Spring Members’ Assembly Wrap-Up

Members gathered for the Spring Members' Assembly meeting on May 31, 2015.  Once we were called to order, Dana presented an overview of the co-op's financial statements and the challenges we faced over the last few months.  Competition is rising, our staff compensation is rising, and there were increasing issues with customer satisfaction.  The Workers Assembly answered these problems with the following solutions:

  • a new point-of-sale system
  • improvements to the patio
  • lunch service!
  • more kegs for off-site sales
  • tied wages closer to staff performance

Question from the membership: How will we lower staff remuneration costs? 
Answer: Workers have a new two-track promotion formula allowing those wishing higher wages to take on more responsibilities.

Question from the membership: Are healthcare costs up?
Answer:  Yes, significantly.

Question from the membership: How can the members help?
Answer:  Come in more often, bring more friends, and use the new member-owner cards to give us better sales data.  Also, ask other bars and pubs if they carry Black Star.

Question from the membership: How can we decrease staff remuneration without taking away wages?
Answer:  We will slow the rate of wage increases, follow the two-track system mentioned before, partner with the Democracy at Work Institute to maintain fairness.

Dana and Nicole ended by saying that the financial documents can be misleading at first glance because they are snapshots.  Overall, assets are increasing, the big loans are paid off, and member equity is up.  The co-op is financially healthy and going through a maturation phase.

Michael went over the annual report review committee's report. The committee is made up of directors and member-owners and tasked with reviewing our annual report. Member-Owners Beth and Marcus helped with this and their assistance was greatly appreciated.

Nicole then lead us through an operations update.  The Workers' Assembly restructured itself to accommodate the new two-track remuneration system, which allows employees to take on management responsibilities beyond their basic job descriptions, or not, and be compensated accordingly. A fair living wage will not be abandoned, starting wages have actually increased.  Expansion planning is in full gear with a possible south Austin focus.  Patronage tracking has is finally in order, so Member-owners should ask for their new cards when they visit.

The WA Team Leaders then provided some details from their area of the business. Chris, speaking for the kitchen, talked about a new oven for making our own pastries and bread, the new lunches, and announced menu changes for the fall.  The Kitchen Team continues to reach out to vegans and vegetarians.  Andy, speaking for the Beer Team, said new beers were coming, some recipes might be reformulated, and discussed the Pneuma West Coast pale.  A new member-owner beer will also be solicited via the Black Star newsletter. Jodi, the new Pub Team Leader, was proud to announce the addition of a diet soda to the menu, something that had been in demand at the Co-op for a while. 

We then took a break and socialized. With beer, of course!

When we returned, the board reported to the membership.  Steve gave an update on the House That Beer Built: six Austin families now have homes! This project went above and beyond our normal charitable work. I reviewed the major board actions since the last MA meeting.  Annelies provided an overview of our co-op in relation to others and talked about co-ops inspired by us, our partnership with Cooperation Texas, and RAISE.  Michael discussed the board of directors, what it does, and how to run for a seat.  Scott and Steve talked about member-owner participation, mentioning a variety of ways to stay connected to Black Star and increase community involvement.  

Question from the membership: Asking someone to spend $150 to join is hard to sell, any ideas?Answer: The cost supports a good community, a spectrum of positive values, and it advances craft brewing in Austin.

We ended with an open Q&A where we discussed: expanding to a second location, expanding the member-owner beer discount to make up for needed price increases, kicking the patronage tracking system into gear, and how the future of the 2015 fiscal year looked.