Thursday, March 18, 2010

Who Moved My Opening Hours?

Blimey. I wonder if the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers (the every first co-op, founded in England in 1844) had it as difficult as we do at Weaver Street Market Co-operative?

The latest wheeze is that our corporate office have announced that they (not us, the workers in our worker-consumer co-operative), they will be evaluating whether or not to extend our opening hours to 10.00pm.

Ours by the way, not theirs. I'm pretty sure we won't be seeing the oil lamps burning in the corporate office until 10.00pm every evening.

So. I'm driven to write another letter to our General Manager (who I'm gathering is the 'we' in most of these 'we' strategic decisions...):

"Dear Ruffin,

I have read with interest your latest Financial Update. The very first thing that strikes me is your continued use of the pronoun 'we.' 'We' are evaluating, 'we' will be looking, 'we' have started. Who is exactly is 'we,' and when in this worker-consumer co-operative does it become 'us'?

Last week, I dug out all of my paperwork relating to orientation, signing up to be a worker-owner, worker decision-making process and the like. Leaving aside all the heavy discussion about what is a co-operative, and how it is supposed to work, what is clear from this paperwork is that workers and worker-owners were and are promised meaningful involvement in strategic decisions affecting the direction of our co-op.

I can think of no more 'strategic' a decision than whether or not we open until 10.00p.m. Or what shape the new design of the Carrboro store should take.

Quite aside from what was promised, it is Business 101 that, if you want more from your workforce (as you are asking), then you have to offer an incentive.

Traditional capitalism does so in the form of financial incentive. In a co-operative, the incentive is supposed to be the opportunity to be involved in collegial strategic decision-making. Where is that collegiality when the 'we' is 'you'?

Simple question. Why don't you simply submit the notion of opening until 10.00pm to a vote of the whole workforce? If your answer is that we don't understand all the issues or figures, then provide us with that information.

In a worker-consumer co-operative, strategic decisions of this magnitude should be implemented only with the active and recorded consent of those who are affected.

At the end of the day, 'co-operative' is a verb: to co-operate. And that co-operation should work both ways. You want our co-operation. Isn't it right that you should ask for it? So that 'we' truly is 'us'?

All the best,