Originally published September 4 2013
Worker-owned WinCo grocery chain pays high wages, provides generous benefits and sells food for less than Wal-Mart
by Jonathan Benson, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Unless you live in Idaho or a select few nearby states, you more than likely have never even heard of it. But the growing success of employee-owned WinCo Foods, a Western U.S.-based grocery chain that is currently in the process of expanding to a number of other states, serves as solid proof that living frugally and shopping affordably do not have to come at the expense of inadvertently supporting low worker wages and near-slave labor treatment of employees.
Since 1967, WinCo, which used to be known as Waremart Food Centers, has been selling food and other grocery items at a discount, thanks to an innovative business model that cuts out the middleman and deals directly with suppliers and growers, in turn creating lower prices for customers. When the company became employee-owned in 1985, its success became even more pronounced, as workers would now have a legitimate and viable stake in seeing their company succeed.
It's nearly 30 years later, and WinCo continues to sell grocery products at prices that meet, and often beat, those of rival Walmart, the infamous big-box retailer known for short-changing its employees and importing a growing bulk of its products from places like China. Unlike Walmart, WinCo is able to sell its goods for less while still paying its employees handsomely and treating them with the dignity they deserve as human beings.
"Similar to warehouse membership stores like Sam's Club and Costco, and also to successful discount grocers with small stores like Trader Joe's and Aldi, WinCo stores are organized and minimalist, without many frills, and without the tremendous variety of merchandise that's become standard at most supermarkets," writes Brad Tuttle for TIME.com. "WinCo also trims costs by not accepting credit cards and by asking customers to bag their own groceries."
This unique business model, according to expert analysis, allows WinCo to offer its employees generous, "livable" wages -- that is, wages that are enough to live well above the poverty line and actually raise a family. Beyond this, WinCo also offers health benefits to all of its employees who work at least 24 hours per week, and even reserves an amount equal to 20 percent of their annual salary for a special pension fund.
Many ordinary WinCo employees already on track for million-dollar pensions How does this translate into real-life earnings and financial security for WinCo employees? Well, according to information recently shared by a company spokesman with the Idaho Statesman, there are currently more than 400 non-executive WinCo employees -- that is, everyday store workers like produce stockers and bagging clerks -- that hold company pensions worth more than $1 million individually.
Though WinCo's food selection is not necessarily ideal -- the company's offerings do not exactly appear to be on par with those of your local health food store in terms of being organic and free of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) -- its business model is a template for the future of sustainable retail in America. And if Walmart and the other greedy big-box retailers do not change their own business models to reflect this future, they will eventually be left in the dust.
"WinCo arguably may be the best retailer in the Western U.S.," says Burt Flickinger II, a New York-based retail analyst who regularly tours grocery stores and other retail establishments and evaluates them based on employee pay, customer satisfaction, product availability and pricing, and various other factors, as quoted by the Idaho Statesman. "WinCo is really unstoppable at this point. They're Walmart's worst nightmare."
You can learn more about WinCo, including information about where its stores are located, by visiting:
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