Saturday, September 25, 2010

Proud To Be A 'Low-Skilled' Weaver Street Worker ...

Today, I had my 'non-disciplinary' disciplinary meeting about my alleged 'emotional harassment' of the WSM corporate office...I mean, a WSM corporate office staffer.

I'm guessing this is a first for a Worker-Owner Candidate for the WSM Board of Directors, whose campaign platform calls, not co-incidentally, for tough questions to be asked of the WSM corporate office. Who said, 'politically motivated' ... ??

Quick background check: A short while ago (while I was at the beach in fact), a member of the Weaver Street Market corporate office made a statement to the local press, which, although not specifically about WSM workers, made references to manual workers in grocery stores that some of us manual workers found quite offensive. Hence, 'Low-Skilled' Weaver Street Worker (LSWSW).

I linked to it on my Facebook Page, and wrote to the WSM Board of Directors, wondering if the statement was official Weaver Street policy. The doo-doo hit the fan, and smack bang in the middle of my campaign for election to that same Board, the WSM corporate office entertained a formal charge by said corporate office staffer of emotional harassment against me. I kid you not.

Had a preliminary meeting with the Human Resources Department. Said it was none of their business. It wasn't a workplace issue. The staffer made comments in public, not in the workplace. I was within my rights to answer in public. And besides, this was a governance/policy issue, not an operations/employee issue. Otherwise, how could worker-owners advocate?

Well. The Human Resources Department 'investigated.' Called me in for another meeting. I told them not unless it was quite clear the meeting was non-disciplinary, since I did not recognize their jurisdiction. They lied. Said ok. And then made it a disciplinary meeting.

We had what in England we call a 'frank and open exchange.' And the upshot is: (1) Worker-Owners do not have any special privileges to engage in public discussion about co-op policy; and (2) If you set up your own communications vehicle (blog, Facebook, banner in the sky) to advocate about co-op policy, it will be monitored, and you may be disciplined for content, if the WSM corporate office don't like what you say.


We went round the houses about the specific allegation of 'emotional harassment.' I got confused. I've got lurgy. Give me a break.

I was told I was criticising someone's workplace performance. I wasn't. I was responding to comments made in a newspaper.

Mind you, if the comments were made as a consequence of workplace performance (i.e. were co-op policy), wasn't I right to be concerned? If not, then why were employee disciplinary proceedings being brought against me?

Ahhhh, came the reply. Because of the WAY you expressed concern. Huh? I expressed concern as a Worker-Owner on my Facebook Page, and in a letter to the policy-making body in our co-op, the Board of Directors.

Ahhhh, we continued. You should only have complained to a supervisor. Why? If someone complained about my blog to my Department Manager, he would say, none of his business.

Plus, simply reporting to a supervisor would have left the original offensive comments unanswered in public.

Besides which, you still seem to be missing the essential point: Worker-Owners have a responsibility to monitor all the affairs of the co-op, including the corporate office, comment on and discuss them, and then report concerns to the Board of Directors.

This activity does not fall within the jurisdiction of the employee disciplinary process. Complaints are to be addressed to the only body having authority over Owners, namely the Board.

Nope. Not having any of it. I was warned never to do it again. What exactly? No more humiliating. Who? Well, what it came down to was, no more embarrassing the corporate office.

I explained that I speak up and speak out, on my behalf and others, using my own forms of communication, because: (A) Worker-Owners are admonished to be interested in every aspect of their co-op; and (B) Every WSM-provided opportunity for Worker-Owner communication and conversation has been shut down in the past few years.

To no avail.

So. Either I shut up. Or I continue with my campaign to ask tough questions and create space for all workers to be heard in our co-op. Whatever the consequences.

And believe you me, there will be consequences. Beginning, I am sure, with this post. Ho hum ...

[I wrote this in the heat of the moment. I thought about taking it down later. But it represents a very real and very justifiable anger at the WSM corporate office abusing the employee disciplinary process for political purposes.

And whatever may be seen as negative content is more than offset by the very positive approach of my subsequent post a few items higher up.

Besides which, I can't help but ask: who is actually being negative -- the ones who create the negative conditions; the ones who pretend they aren't negative; or the one who points out the negativity, and then sets out positive alternatives?

Sigh. Why oh why is the WSM corporate office so scared of simple democratic dialogue?]