Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Better Than What?

Something tells me that, in the coming months, we @ The Weave are going to be told by senior management that we should be happy with what is happening (or not happening) in our co-op because "we're doing better than..."

Better than what?

Better than other grocery stores? Better than other co-ops? Better than other businesses in Orange County? Better than conventional capitalist big-box stores?

Better than what?

What is the measure by which we should be measuring the sanity of the decisions being made in our co-op? And what standard should we apply to the manner in which those decisions are being made?

Since we are told, over and over again, that we are better than conventional capitalist enterprises, I think it fair to make the comparison between strict capitalism and the sort of social entrepreneurship I believe we espouse.

And frankly, I'm troubled that we are not seeing a lot of difference between the way our senior management is responding to the troubles facing us, and the manner in which conventional grocery stores are reacting:

1) We're seeing a lot of decisions being driven by fear. When instead we should be spreading the responsibility for decision-making, and enrolling our owners and workers. So that the burden does not rest on just a few shoulders.

2) As a consequence of the fear, we're seeing a lot of knee-jerk, short-sighted reactions. Instead of calmer, more long-term planning. Which can only be engaged in if you have on board with you all those upon whom the long-term planning will depend. Namely, our workers, our owners and our customers.

3) Too many decisions are being made incommunicado. The support that we seek for the long-term answers can only be forthcoming from people who are fully informed of the real situation.

4) The biggest asset we have over conventional capitalist corporations is the loyalty of our workers, owners and customers. You can only retain that loyalty with communication. You will lose it if you poison it with measures that upset your owners (such as removing the Consumer-Owner Discount) and your workers (being made to work harder and more days, for less money - with no incentive at the end of the year).

So. At the moment, and in my opinion, we are acting like any other conventional capitalist chain store. We may be acting a bit better than Wal-Mart. But is that what we want to be the measure of our success in dealing with these challenging times?

Or should the measure be that we are acting as the best co-op we can be? And in that regard, could we @ The Weave - as a co-op - be making better decisions, in a better way?

More co-operative decisions, in a more co-operative fashion?

Thursday, December 4, 2008


A little bird tells me that senior management are thinking of making more efficient use of staff in this recession by introducing reduced shifts and a seven-day work week.

Of course, I could be wrong. I hope I am. I was enjoying my little moment of retirement after this past year of contribution to the governance of our co-op for free.

If, however, I'm right, then respectfully it is time for all workers and their department managers to join as one and say to senior management: Enough is Enough!

Enough of this nickel-and-diming. Enough of squeezing the workers, without asking them what they think. Enough of asking us to work harder for less money - when I see no evidence that one senior manager has taken a similar pay-cut.

Enough of trying to make minute savings at our expense, when not one sensible thing is being done to reduce the two enormous costs that are sinking our co-op - the operational costs of the Food House, and its attendant debt.

It is time to wake up and smell the roses. Expansion was a mistake. It is time to stop, take breath, and then devise a plan to split up what we have created, and spread the cost around more manageable chunks.

Frankly, if we do not decide to do this right now, then before the end of this year, our creditors will be forcing it upon us.

In any event, if my information about this latest nonsensical move is correct, then I will be demanding that we have a full meeting of the co-op, where all of the financial information is put before us, and we can quiz the people who are making these idiot decisions.

I would remind senior management one more time of the decision-making process that exists for employees. Important decisions that affect our workplace are supposed to involve us. So. Involve us. Re-institute the full co-op meeting you canceled earlier this year.