Masala Labor System
Your co-op loves you and we hope you will love your co-op as well. Caring for the house, cooking for your fellow co-opers and working with them to maintain a happy and healthy co-op can be its own reward, however, life goes on outside the house and the co-op cannot always be your top priority. In order to guarantee an equal distribution of labor among co-opers and to prevent the house from deteriorating into a neglected pile of filth and despair, Masalans have constructed a labor system to structure each co-oper’s contribution to the house. It offers both stability & flexibility.
There are three kinds of regular labor within the house:
- Food chores rotate on a bi-weekly schedule. They include grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning up after house meals, picking up food donations and our CSA share, etc. Every two weeks each member is required to sign up for four food chores.
- Household chores rotate on a monthly schedule. At the first house meeting of the month the sign-up board is passed around and everyone signs up for one chore. These are tasks that require some ongoing attention, like keeping the refrigerators clean and organized, mopping the kitchen, cleaning the first floor bathroom, etc. They should be performed at least once a week.
- Stewardships are semi-permanent responsibilities that require some specialized knowledge, skills, or continuity. Everyone has at least one stewardship, and some people have more than one, because they require varying amounts of work. Who gets what stewardships is agreed upon by consensus at house meeting.
In addition to the regular labor describe above, the house will usually schedule one or two work days each year for deep cleaning, re-organization, garden preparation, etc. There are also occasional special projects like setup before and cleanup after parties, or larger home improvements.
- 1 Accountability
- 2 Food Chores
- 3 Household Chores
- 4 Stewardships
- 4.1 House Accountant
- 4.2 BHC Board Representative
- 4.3 Bulk Food Steward
- 4.4 Computer Steward
- 4.5 Food Accountant
- 4.6 Gardener
- 4.7 Houseplant Steward
- 4.8 Labor Steward
- 4.9 Mail Steward
- 4.10 Maintenance Steward
- 4.11 Membership Coordinator
- 4.12 Membership Manual Steward
- 4.13 Recycling and Trash Steward
- 4.14 Special Projects Steward
- 4.15 Supplies Steward
- 4.16 Under the Stairs Steward
We operate under an honor system. We cannot and don't want to hound everybody about everything. If you're going to be away from the house for any period of time and thus unable to satisfy the labor requirements, it’s your responsibility to communicate with the labor steward and get out of your responsibility for that time period, or find a replacement. Our trash still needs to go out, the chickens still need food and water, even when you go out of town or have an exam coming up that you have to study extra-hard for! If you'll be absent for less than five days, you do not get out of your labor responsibility. Failure to pull your weight will result in probation with the house, and after that we could discuss eviction. That's not nice — don't make the house face that yucky situation! If you are on probation for failing to do labor in the house, you must make amends within the next two-week period. If you do not provide good cause acceptable to the house at the house meeting at the end of your probationary period, then the house will evict you from the co-op for violating your lease by failing to meet your labor obligations. You would need consensus from the house in order to stay.
The primary labor accountability mechanism within the house is our weekly report. Every week at the beginning of house meeting, each member lets the community know about the labor they have done for the house. This is also the time to make any announcements or bring up any concerns related to your chores and stewardships. If you anticipate more back-and-forth discussion, it's worth making it an agenda item for the regular portion of the meeting.
In addition to our weekly reports, the Labor Steward keeps track of who is signing up for what, to make sure that labor is shared by all co-opers in an equitable way. The Labor Steward gives a monthly report in meeting, so we can see if we’re all on track, and will approach any house members who are doing too little or too much work.
Every two weeks at meeting we pass around a small dry-erase board, and co-opers sign up for four of the available slots:
- Cooking or Cleaning House Meals (40)
- Saturday Food Shop (2)
- Wednesday Food Shop (2)
- Food Rescue/Staple Preparation (2)
- Bread/CSA Pickup (1)
- Bulk Food Pickup (1)
- Food Rescue Pickup (2)
- Food Rescue Organize/Put-Away (1, both weeks)
The board is passed around twice, in opposite directions, so that all members have roughly equal priority in choosing which slots they get. Each slot is equivalent to roughly 1.5 hours of work. Detailed descriptions of what these chores entail can be found below in the Food section. Immediately after meeting the Labor Steward copies these signups to the big chore board which hangs on the wall in the kitchen near the back door of the house.
Most of the household chores must be thoroughly completed each week before house meeting. Friday and Saturday Kitchen Clean must be completed on their respective days. Detailed descriptions of the chores are listed below, and are posted on the Left Fridge for easy reference. Members are responsible for household chores for one month at a time, with signups taking place at the first house meeting of each month.
- Left Fridge and Right Fridge Clean
- Dispose of rotten and outdated food from the fridge and freezer.
- Wash emptied containers.
- Clean fridge and freezer shelves and drawers.
- Organize fridge contents.
- Kitchen Organize
- Remove items from food pantry, clean shelves, re-shelve and organize bulk items.
- Refill food items in food pantry from bulk in basement.
- Find a problem area and work to fix it up, e.g. the tops of the fridges, shelves, cabinets, under the sink, or dining room area.
- Living Room
- Put anything that does not belong in the living room in its appropriate place (including the Lost and Found or Under the Stairs).
- Clean the windowsills and dust the bookshelves and fireplace.
- Clean and organize computer and projector areas.
- Change dead light bulbs.
- Tidy the pillows and blankets, including the front closet for blankets.
- Sweep floor, then spray with the special floor cleaner and wipe with a towel or dry mop.
- Consider deep cleaning project with furniture, a book purge, walls, etc
- Friday and Saturday Kitchen Clean
- Clean counter tops, stove, sink, table and any other surface that is messy or dirty.
- Wash any stray dishes. You may recruit the culprits to help!
- Clean and organize the bread and fruit corner and the windowsill.
- Put anything that does not belong in the kitchen/dining room in its appropriate place.
- Empty the dish rack -- avoid dish jenga!
- Sweep the floor.
- Appliance, Spices and Laundry Room
- Clean the inside and outside of the microwave.
- Clean and organize the coffee/tea area.
- Clean all appliances on the counter, especially the toaster oven.
- Refill silver spice jars on the hood of the stove.
- Organize the spice cabinet. Tell the Bulk Food Steward if we need to order any spices.
- Make sure the laundry room stays tidy with no major backups. Clean all surfaces.
- Wash house towels, including kitchen rags and bathroom hand towels, with a pre-soak to get rid of the nastiest bits.
- Restock the toilet paper and paper towels stored in the laundry room from the bulk storage area in the basement.
- Kitchen Mop
- Mop the kitchen floor at least once time per week.
- Properly care for the mop and bucket. Make sure both are clean and dry before you put them away in the hall closet.
- Empty the mop water into the utility sink in the laundry room, not the bathtub or kitchen sink.
- Yard and Carport
- This chore ensures that the house does not resemble a hippie tent city.
- Clear off furniture and shake out couch cushions.
- Put anything that does not belong in the carport in its appropriate place.
- Shake out the welcome mat. Sweep the entire patio area.
- Pick up the wind-blown litter that has collected in the back, side, and front yards. We can be ticketed by the city if we have trash in our yard.
- If it snows, shovel the driveway, sidewalks and the walkway to the front door so our mail carrier can deliver our mail. When this is a lot of work, recruit help from the rest of the house.
- Make sure that the bike racks are under control—no stray, abandoned, or overcrowded bikes
- Hallways, Stairs and Phone Cubby
- Put anything that does not belong in the phone cubby in its appropriate place
- Sweep the laminate floor, then lightly spray with the special floor cleaner and wipe it clean with a cloth or dry mop
- Sweep the stairs going down to the basement.
- Vacuum the stairs going up to the second floor and the second floor hallway.
- Check at least once daily to ensure that the chickens have food and fresh water. Refill the food and water buckets as needed.
- Report to the Chicken Steward when we are down to one bag of feed or if the coop is in need of any repairs or if there are any concerns with the well-being of the chickens.
- Collect eggs daily.
- Keep the nesting boxes filled with hay.
- Turn on the water heater when the temperature is below freezing. Turn on the coop heat lamp when the temperature is expected to drop below -10°C (10°F)
- Love the chickens! Pay attention to them. Get to know them!
- Public Bathroom
- Clean all surfaces including sink, tub, floor and toilet in the first floor bathroom at least once a week.
- Restock toilet paper supply as needed throughout the week.
- Empty the trash and recycling, and put a fresh hand towel out.
Stewardships are ongoing responsibilities to the house which each member takes on. They generally require some specialized knowledge, or benefit from continuity. Assignment of stewardships must be agreed to by consensus in house meeting. Some stewardships are a lot of work, others less so. Some, like the Gardener and Membership Coordinator are generally only a lot of work for part of the year.
- Collect rent checks and deposit them by 5th of every month.
- Collect deposits as people move in and return them as people move out
- Prepare and present quarterly and annual Budget to Actual reports.
- Prepare and present a house budget for the upcoming year in the fourth quarter.
- Write checks to reimburse people for house purchases. Keep the house operating account register up to date in Quickbooks Online, as well as in the actual checkbook.
food shopping. Keep the check book register updated, both in the actual checkbook and in our account on . Make sure that for every check written there is: date , payee , for (usually food fiver, bulk food, wed food shop, or Sat food shop) , check amount
At the end of each quarter, do a budget-to-actual for the food account. A budget-to-actual is a comparison of what we planned to spend, to what we actually spent. We go through this process in order to see where our money is going. The budget-to-actual gives us the ability to make decisions such as whether the amount we pay each month for household items needs to be raised or lowered, what scale of renovation projects we have money to support, etc.
You can get the actuals by running a report in Quickbooks; then put these numbers next to the corresponding numbers in the budget. Determine the discrepancy between the budgeted amount and the actual amount; then calculate the percent discrepancy to determine the significance of the discrepancies. Look at past budget-to-actuals to see how this is done.
Make a deposit a couple of times a month: List the checks on the deposit slip, making sure to put the person’s name next to their check amount. Get the yellow part of the deposit slip back from the teller along with the receipt. Back at home, enter the deposit in Quickbooks. Print out a deposit detail. Staple the yellow deposit slip and the white receipt to the deposit detail and file the whole bunch in its proper place.
Reconcile Operating Account
The Quickbooks register needs to be reconciled with the bank statement each month. When you have the bank statement in hand, go into Quickbooks and choose reconcile from the banking menu. Follow the instructions. When you have successfully reconciled the information in Quickbooks with the statement, print out a reconciliation report and staple it to the bank statement. File this in its place.
Work with residents to create and implement Payment Plans if necessary.
BHC Board Representative
Attend monthly BHC meetings. Represent Masala by sharing about issues and unfoldings happening over here. Support BHC staff and other board members in the proliferation of co-ops in Colorado and help ensure the health and well-being of our affordable housing system.
Share meeting notes with Masalans, and take their issues/concerns and ideas to the BHC meetings.
Bulk Food Steward
Survey new house members about their food preferences.
Conduct a food inventory by looking in pantry, cabinets, fridges, freezers and basement to see what we have already. Also look in laundry room and bathrooms to see how much paper towel, laundry and dish soap and toilet paper we have.
Coordinate with TSK to make sure we have the most up to date catalog information. Coordinate with other BoCHA houses on obtaining bulk food from other suppliers.
It is house policy that all bulk items will be organic; exceptions must be approved by consensus.
Using the food inventory and taking into consideration the budget for bulk food, decide what to order. You can do an estimate of the cost of the order by summing the case price column.
- Take care of people’s internet needs, wireless access, etc.
- Help folks set up printing on their personal computers.
- Keep the house printer and computer up and running.
- Keep tangle of wires in the living room under control.
- Make sure that nobody is abusing our network resources.
- Help people keep their computers secure.
- Collect food checks from each co-oper every month, and keep track of receipts for food bought by grocery shoppers, as well as vacation refunds.
- Calculate how much people are owed for food fivers.
- Write food reimbursement checks.
- Write checks to people for food shopping -- bi-weekly, bulk, chicken feed, CSA, etc.
- Keep check book register updated, both in the actual checkbook and in Quickbooks.
Every three months, do a budget-to-actual for the food account.
A budget-to-actual is a comparison of what we planned to spend, to what we actually spent. We go through this process in order to see where our money is going.
The budget-to-actual gives us the ability to make decisions such as whether the amount we pay each month for food should be raised or lowered, whether we can get more luxurious food, whether we can spend more on each food shop, etc.
You can get the actuals by running a report in Quickbooks; then put these numbers next to the corresponding numbers in the budget.
Determine the discrepancy between the budgeted amount and the actual amount; then calculate the percent discrepancy to determine the significance of the discrepancies. Look at past budget-to-actuals to see how this is done.
- Make a deposit each month after residents submit their food payments.
- List the checks on the deposit slip, making sure to put the person’s name next to their check amount.
- Get the yellow part of the deposit slip back from the teller along with the receipt.
- Back at home, enter the deposit in Quickbooks.
- Print out a deposit detail.
- Staple the yellow deposit slip and the white receipt to the deposit detail and file the whole bunch in
its proper place.
Reconcile Food Account
- The Quickbooks register needs to be reconciled with the bank statement each month.
- When you have the bank statement in hand, go into Quickbooks and choose reconcile from the banking menu.
- When you have successfully reconciled the information in Quickbooks with the statement, save a reconciliation report and file it with the other reconciliation reports.
Plan and plant a garden for us in the spring and maintain it throughout the summer.
- Water our garden regularly, or set up watering schedule and make sure it gets done.
- Bring in the produce when it's ready.
- Communicate with weekly shoppers so that they don’t buy what we've grown ourselves.
- Water houseplants as soon as soil is completely dry to the touch – usually about once a week, although the cactus plants can be watered less.
- Soak all the way through with water.
- It takes about 15 minutes a week to do all the watering.
- Keep the plants looking decent, which often requires removing dead leaves, trimming back unhealthy-looking foliage, and re-potting plants as they outgrow their existing pots or as new and better pots become available.
- If a plant is big, strong, and healthy, try to take a cutting of it.
- The Better Homes and Gardens New Houseplants Book is a good reference if you aren’t familiar with taking cuttings; it is usually available at the public library.
- Good future projects would be to cultivate more edible indoor herbs and plants and to find more attractive pots at thrift stores. Better yet would be to reuse objects that aren’t technically plant pots to put plants in. Just remember water needs to be able to drain out the bottom of whatever it is you put the plant in, i.e. must have holes in bottom.
- Use a spreadsheet to keep track of who has been doing their 4 food chores every 2 weeks, their meeting attendance, and whether or not they are doing their monthly chores weekly.
- Report to the house at the first meeting of every month, on how many points each person has. Point out (pardon the pun) those who have way too many and those who have way too few.
- Check in with folks who are doing too much or too little to see if you can recommend a way that they could level off. Perhaps someone has too many stewardships? Perhaps someone else is not cooking or cleaning the kitchen frequently enough?
- Take people’s mail out of the bike mailbox and sort it into the inside mailboxes, in the living room. Keep that area neat and tidy.
- Sort through the mail sent to people who don’t live here: some of it can be distributed to boarders or people still living in the area.
- If it’s mail that belongs to someone who lives far away and it looks important, decide whether it should be sent to them, if they should be notified about it, etc.
- Often people who live far away will tell you it’s okay to open their junk mail, rip up their credit card offers and recycle anything that looks like junk.
- You, in turn, should encourage them to fill out a change of address slip and change their credit card address/medical address/bank address as soon as possible.
- Gather newspapers from the front yard if we happen to be receiving unwanted newspapers; also collect new phonebooks from the front porch.
- When someone new comes to live at the house, make them a name label and put it on one of the mailbox slots in the living room.
- Try to keep that area clean: it is important that people are able to get their mail.
- When someone’s box becomes overloaded, notify them in a weekly meeting or deliver their mail to their bedroom.
- Take out the unwanted mail recycling box as needed.
- Coordinate work days with volunteers who have talents & skills we can use – i.e. plumbing, construction/contracting, painting, wood-working.
- Keep a running prioritized list of what in the house needs to be fixed. Communicate with Lincoln, who can arrange for community service workers, about the list.
- Fix what you can fix on your own. Get help with things that you can’t manage. Notify the house in advance if supplies need to be purchased and they total more than $25. Get permission in a weekly meeting.
The Membership Coordinator (MC) is responsible for candidates who may move in, and for all coopers at move-in and move-out. The MC takes charge of the new-member recruitment process and performs the following duties:
- Verify that vacated rooms have been cleaned and checked for damage, re-painted as necessary, & that a person who has moved out has been thru all necessary steps and had each steward check her or him off.
- Place ad on Craigslist advertising co-op room openings.
- Work with community-oriented groups to get the word out about room openings, keeping in mind our affordability and our commitments to diversity and inclusiveness by advertising in places where people who need affordable housing are likely to see our ads.
- Create flyers and post them.
- Maintain list of potential co-opers’ names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, first dates of contact, and desired move-in dates.
- Respond to email contacts from potential housemates; arrange dinner, interview dates, etc.
- Read fair housing statement and member selection process checklist to all applicants.
- Carry out move-in procedures: lease signing, room walkthrough, membership manual distribution, income qualification, etc. Note that a person is not a member of Masala until a deposit & signed lease are in-hand, and note that everyone must complete the income qualification process with the BHC Executive Director.
- Assign the new person a buddy who is charged with getting her or him settled in & up to speed on house do’s & don’t’s and processes.
- Within the first month or so, make sure the new person gets a stewardship (or 2, or 3).
Membership Manual Steward
- Ensure that new members get a link to (or hard copy of) the Masala Membership Manual wiki pages.
- Quiz them on the manual if necessary.
- Work on first drafts of language for changes to the membership manual, to be approved by the house.
- When changes to the membership manual are approved, edit the Wiki to reflect those changes.
Recycling and Trash Steward
- The recycling steward is responsible for general, regular waste removal. Her/his duties include:
- Emptying kitchen recycling bins into proper receptacles in alley every other day, or as needed.
- Emptying kitchen trash into proper receptacle in alley as needed.
- Emptying alley compost & making sure people remember which compost bins are for what types of compost.
- Transporting non-curbside recyclable materials to proper drop-off site (Eco-Cycle or CHaRM) as needed.
- Maintaining clean, orderly, and clearly-labeled recycling bins in kitchen.
- Educating fellow co-opers about recycling guidelines and general environmental conservation awareness.
Special Projects Steward
Do special projects when the budget permits, when we have enough helpers on-hand and when you have sought approval in advance from Masalans whose space may be disrupted by the construction, maintenance or other project. Thanks for improving our home!
Buy non-food supplies that Masalans request, house budget permitting. Check with House Accountant to see how much money we have for these. Never buy things that cost more than $25 without first getting house approval. List of supply needs is kept on the mast chore board near the back door.
Under the Stairs Steward
Regularly clean out Under The Stairs; Give away items to ARC or take to the Naropa Free Bin; Encourage Masalans not to just dump things that are trash, or large & unmanageable piles of off- cast, under the stairs; Remind Masalans that we have a Lost-And-Found, and that Under The Stairs serves a different purpose.