West Oakland is challenged by a host of economic problems stemming from income inequality and a lack of employment opportunities. With an unemployment rate of 13% and 40% of residents earning below the federal poverty level, West Oakland residents are in need of employment opportunities that truly elevate their economic standing, help them attain self-sufficiency and enhance their quality of life.
People’s Community Market is being created, in part, to capture some of the spending power in the community – about $60M in annual grocery expenditures alone – and invest it into the economic elevation of the local residents that we will employ. This begins by paying fair wages, providing generous employee benefits, and ensuring that our employees have real wage growth opportunities.
Beyond wage and benefits, we plan to make a considerable investment into the training and development of our employees. This includes training in “soft skills” such as problem-solving, communication, and time management. It also includes entrepreneurial skills in the fundamentals of business. We have formed partnerships with several local workforce agencies to provide job readiness, on-the-job training and ongoing support of our employees’ development and retention.
Our ultimate goal is for PCM to become an employee owned business, through an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP), that distributes a portion of its profits to employee owners. We believe that, in order for an ESOP to succeed, employees must first be taught to think and act like owners and that the business must first embody a culture of employee ownership. To this end, PCM has worked with the National Center for Employee Ownership to develop a preliminary three-stage plan for developing the capacities and culture that puts employees on a successful track of ownership and profit sharing.
To ensure that West Oakland residents benefit from our efforts, we have committed to the goal that at least 75% of our jobs will be filled by low-income residents in West Oakland’s McClymonds, Hoover-Foster, and Clawson neighborhoods. We have also committed to the goal that at least 40% of our jobs are entry level so that residents who do not have job skills or experience can have the opportunity for employment and economic elevation. Our workforce partners will be assisting us in conducting outreach, recruitment and hiring to meet these goals.
Although we will just be one business in a large community, we hope that we can demonstrate a model and set of values that inspires other local employers to implement similar policies and practices. And we know that we can make a big difference for our 35 employees and their families which, over time, will have a larger positive impact on all of West Oakland.