Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Labor Policies: Whole Foods vs. SEPTA

I saw this in the October issue of Fast Company and could not help contrasting it with the current labor woes at SEPTA:

Whole Foods nurtures democracy, putting their health plan to a company-wide vote. The outcome: satisfied workers and ultimately happy customers. On Whole Foods' heavy roster of employee-friendly policies--for instance, no executive atWhole Foods makes more than 14 times the average hourly employee's pay--nothing stands out as much as the company's employee-designed benefits plan. In 2003, the granola set's grocery chain of choice decided to put the entire package, from medical plans to vacation time, out for a companywide, 25,000-person vote. After three rounds of voting (and an 87% turnout) employees voted for a health plan that takes nothing from their paycheck and offers cash to cover out-of-pocket expenses. (Dependents get the same treatment after five years.)

The trade-off: Vision and dental care come with heftier charges, and perks like childcare reimbursement were voted down. Even in a time of spiraling health-care costs, Whole Foods is again handing over the purse strings to employees, putting the benefits plan out for another vote in February. "Happy team members make happy customers," says Walter Robb, Whole Foods' copresident. "Our job as management is simply to make that a reality."

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