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 Baker
- 4.3 BHC Board Representative
- 4.4 Boarder Steward
- 4.5 Bulk Food Steward
- 4.6 Chicken Steward
- 4.7 Compost Steward
- 4.8 Computer Steward
- 4.9 Food Accountant
- 4.10 Gardener
- 4.11 Houseplant Steward
- 4.12 Labor Steward
- 4.13 Mail Steward
- 4.14 Maintenance Steward
- 4.15 Membership Coordinator
- 4.16 Membership Manual Steward
- 4.17 Recycling and Trash Steward
- 4.18 Special Projects Steward
- 4.19 Supplies Steward
- 4.20 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 48 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)
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 and Right Fridge Clean must be completed before Saturday Food Shop. 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.
- Kitchen Organize
- Remove items from food pantry, clean shelves, re-shelve, organize and label bulk items. Refill food items in the food pantry from bulk bags in basement. Find a problem area and work to fix it up! Think about the tops of the fridges, shelves, cabinets, under the sink, or the 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 the computer and projector areas. Tidy the pillows and blankets, including the front closet for blankets. Sweep the floor, spray it with the special floor cleaner solution and then wipe it down with a towel or dry mop.
- Friday and Saturday Kitchen Clean
- Clean counter tops, stove, sink, table and any other surface that is messy or dirty. Wash any stray dishes. If the mess is horrendous, recruit the culprits to help clean. 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!
- 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. Neatly put away all appliances that do not belong on the counter. 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 kitchen towels if necessary. Follow special instructions posted in laundry rook. 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
- 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. Generally ensure that the back of the house does not resemble a hippie tent city.
- Left Fridge and Right Fridge Clean
- Dispose of spoiled and outdated food from the fridge and freezer. Wash emptied containers. Clean fridge and freezer shelves. Organize and label fridge contents. Right fridge should leave a clean and spacious fridge for the food shopper, and so it has a Saturday morning deadline.
- Hallways, Stairs and Phone Cubby
- Clean and organize the phone cubby. Sweep the laminate floor and the stairs to the basement, then lightly spray them with the special floor cleaner and wipe it with a cloth or dry mop. 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 once per day. Keep the roosting 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!
- Public Bathroom
- Clean all surfaces including sink, tub, floor and toilet in the first floor bathroom. Restock toilet paper supply as needed throughout the week.
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.
The house Baker keeps track of what baking items - pans and supplies - are available or needed, creates one baked item weekly, makes something all in the house can eat periodically, bakes for birthdays and very special events, attempts to utilize overstocked goods, takes into account what the house needs/wants and helps fill that need/want. Some kitchen organization and tracking of necessary supplies involved.
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.
Teach new boarders how the boarder payment and labor systems work. Keep track of boarder payments. Post a monthly chart with records of recent payments and money owed by each boarder. If boarders have not paid at the beginning of the month, make sure they know how much they need to pay, that they need to pay as soon as possible, and check to ensure that their records agree with ours.
Call boarders to fill empty slots on the cooking/cleaning chalkboard.
Stay in contact with the bulk steward about how much food is needed for non-residents.
Recruit new boarders as a way to earn income for Masala.
There are boarder documents on the house computer at D:\Masala\Food Stuff\Boarder Stuff.
Bulk Food Steward
Learn from the out-going Bulk Food Steward how things go.
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.
We order most of our bulk food from UNFI through the nursery school. This is a cooperative food warehouse.
To place an order for any item, UNFI needs certain information about the item. They need:
Name of the item; The UNFI catalog order number; Quantity; Description (This is similar to the name, but it is UFI’s official name for the item. It is often a nearly indecipherable string of characters, such as “AMH Unbl White OG”); Brand name; Size, in ounces or whatever; Case price; Unit price.
All of this information is in the UNFI Catalog. Make sure you're using the latest version of the catalog.
It is house policy that all bulk items will be organic; exceptions must be approved by consensus. The only exceptions to this policy would be items that are only available in their conventional (as opposed to organic) forms. Exceptions will not be made simply because the non-organic version is cheaper.
We use a shared Google Spreadsheet as our ordering template. Check with the outgoing Bulk Food Steward or the Food Accountant to get access.
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.
Email this to the bulk manager at the school. S/he should send you a confirmation email within the next couple of hours. If s/he doesn’t, then you need to follow up & make sure they got our order.
Make sure people are using Google Docs to keep our inventory of people’s food preferences CURRENT.
- Buy chicken food before we need it. Once we're down to one bag of food, go out to Niwot Feed and Supply and get six bags of food with house money. The Food Accountant can write you a check ahead of time[
- Coordinate with the folks doing the daily chicken chore to make sure the chickens are clean, fed, happy and (in winter) warm.
- Suggest and oversee any maintenance projects related to the chicken coop.
- Make any necessary seasonal adjustments to the coop.
- These are living beings! Make sure their coop is clean and happy!
Transfer the kitchen waste to the two-bin compost system in the yard, or to the chicken coop, or to the alley compost bin. Keep these different compost bins separate & distinct.
Make sure people don’t put things that don’t belong in compost bins, in the compost bins.
Once it is there, periodically turn the waste and let it transform itself into soil.
Things that can go wrong: it can stink.
Helpful materials: pitchfork, a book about compost, Zac Smith.
- 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 how many points.
- Look at points earned, listed on the food chore board every two weeks, the day of or the day before meeting, and calculate each person’s totals.
- Report in meeting, every month-ish, 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 those people 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?
- Currently we are divided into four mail units. Mail may or may not be delivered more efficiently if people write "Unit 1, 2, 3 or 4" on their parcel. (This depends on the idiosyncrasies of our particular mail carrier at the time – they have a hard time understanding why so many of us live in one house.)
- Please take people’s mail out of their unit box 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.
- Return calls from potential co-opers on house phone voice mail; arrange dinner, interview, etc.
- Keep the Masala application up-to-date – both in the phone nook & online.
- Distribute blank membership application to co-op applicants and completed application to house members prior to interview.
- Read fair housing statement and member selection process checklist to all applicants.
- Carry out move-in procedures: lease signing, room walkthrough, 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 income qualify with Lincoln, the BHC
- Have the new person read the membership manual, take a quiz, and then 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
After notes are taken by various note-takers during weekly house meetings, post them in house bathrooms by Friday of same week. Help house remember to go back to action items we didn’t have time for at last week’s meeting if necessary. Keep a running list of approved proposals that require a change to house membership manual. See front of old minutes binder and also the E drive, file named “changes to the manual.” Make changes to the house manual as needed, and change the format.
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.