UncommonGoods (UG) is an online marketplace offering creatively designed merchandise, including a large portion designed by independent artists and artisans.
Founded in August 1999, the New York City-based company is a founding B Corp, and its founder and CEO, David Bolotsky, helped advocate for state legislation allowing companies to declare themselves “benefit corporations”—companies with a mission, such as environmental or social change, that allows them to focus on things besides profit. However, good workplace issues, such as paid leave and paid sick days, are what UncommonGoods has primarily focused on in their time at ASBC.
The United States is the world’s only developed nation that doesn’t guarantee paid time off for new parents, or paid sick days for all employees. Federal law, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) — which celebrated its 23rd anniversary in February 2016—only offers unpaid leave to some employees. As businesses like UncommonGoods know full well, having paid leave is crucial — and not just for employees.
“We are nothing without our team members,” explained Bolotsky. “Our most valuable asset walks in and out of the door of UncommonGoods every day, and that is our team. Having policies that are team member-friendly is important, and for both fathers and mothers.”
The costs of things like employee turnover, or workers who come in sick but are less productive as a result, can be massive. That’s why they offer a combination of paid time off (covering vacation and sick days), paid parental leave and a company-funded short-term disability program that pays 60% of a worker's weekly salary (a maximum benefit of $1,000 per week) for up to 26 weeks.
It’s also why, during their time at ASBC, UncommonGoods has been a key supporter of paid leave policies like the national Family Medical Insurance Leave, or FAMILY Act, as well as paid leave legislation in New York State. UncommonGoods has been a particularly public advocate, writing op-eds and joining press releases on good workplace issues.
This kind of work has led to UncommonGoods being honored by groups like Family Values at Work as a prime example of forward-thinking businesses. But as Bolotsky explains, this isn’t charity: “I think it benefits us and their desire to make a career at UncommonGoods when they see that we have policies that accommodate folks as they start a family, and that’s for both women and men.”
Ironically, UncommonGoods joined ASBC after being solicited by a completely different business group. The company became a member of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, as Bolotsky put it, because “I love the idea of businesses getting together to advance issues of common interest.” While that membership was a positive one, UncommonGoods was soon approached by the US Chamber of Commerce.
From there, Bolotsky recalls, he “saw that they were very involved in supporting political candidates...and taking policy stances on issues that largely were contrary to our company values.” Some years later, UncommonGoods learned about ASBC, and found the issues more closely aligned with their values. Good workplace policies like paid leave and sick days are perhaps the pre-eminent example of that.