Saturday, October 9, 2010

Too Much Anger, Not Enough Conversation In Weaver Street Market ... ??

It will probably not surprise any of you to hear that the corporate office at Weaver Street Market Co-operative is angry with me. This was made clear to me at a couple of election meetings this past weekend and today. I wrote a letter in response to one of the corporate office staff members, and I share it below (names excluded):

"I just wanted to write, primarily to thank you for talking with me today. It is never easy to have to confront someone, even in the nicest of ways! I want you to know that I appreciate that, and that I understood what you were saying.

I don't want to take up too much more of your time. And I am not trying to convert you! But you deserve to know where I am coming from. We have known each other for about four years now. I do not like your being angry with me. And you should know that it takes quite a lot for me to get angry.

I do understand that you are angry with me. The thing is, there are a lot of my fellow workers - my friends - who are angry in the outlets.

When I say something like this, some people say it's just me; there is no-one else. All I can say is this. You read the article on my blog about the Southern Village Store Meeting. And the things I said, and the questions that I asked.

In the two weeks after that meeting, 15 workers came up to me and thanked me for what I had said and asked. Of those, two apologized for not speaking up in support. I (gently) asked them why they had not. They told me the same thing that other workers tell me, when they do not speak up or speak out about their unhappiness - they are scared about retaliation; about losing their jobs; about not getting a pay raise; about not getting a reference when they leave.

There was even one senior manager, who, in a private conversation with me, said the he felt it was wrong that no-one from admin had answered my question about why the need for the 15% sales increase. Yet, even he did not speak up, and say that at the meeting.

So. It is not just me. There are a lot of workers who are very unhappy. Why? They tell me it is because they feel there are too many decisions being made in the admin offices that have huge impact on them, and they feel those decisions are not properly explained, and that they are not included in the making of those decisions.

I have been trying (and so have others) these past few years to find the place in our co-op where we are able to be a part of the discussion leading to those decisions. I have had no luck finding that conversation.

It is one of the reasons I stand for the Board, so that I can have some sort of conversation. Like we did this morning. But it is not enough. We were promised more when we became worker-owners. We should be able to expect more in a co-op we half-own. And it is no longer good enough to say, well, nothing is perfect.

Things have not changed in the four years that I and others have been begging for communication and conversation to improve. So, I have taken to having a one-sided conversation on my blog. And yes, it is angry. When you and your friends are constantly tuned out, you start to get angry.

And to be honest, when things do not change over the years, when people become more and more unhappy, and no-one seems to be paying any attention, after a while, yes, people begin to think it is deliberate. They begin to think that, yes, maybe there is a deliberate reason why they are not having things properly explained; why they are not included in the decision-making.

I don't mean to go on. But I hope you understand that I do not write my blog for sport. Just to get a rise. I write it because there is no other way to communicate. And because I do not like to see my friends hurting - not in a co-op.

I do not like to see you hurt either. I would like to suggest that, perhaps, the answer is not to get angry at me or my blog, but it is, maybe, to ask those who have the power to make changes - the folks sitting in the same offices as you - to ask them what they are doing to allow you and I and others to have the conversations that would allow us to discuss these matters, explain things to each other, and then make the decisions, rather than having those decisions being made by just a small handful of people in our supposedly democratic co-op. Maybe? That is all I have ever been about. It is all I am about now.

All the best,