Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Weaver Street Workers' Committee

Win or lose the Election for WSM Worker-Owner Board Director November 2, what have I learned in this Election, and what’s next?

More workers have opened up to me in the past few months than has been true in any previous Election.

I have learned that there are too many unhappy workers in our co-op. That the reasons for their unhappiness are multiple and different.

That I do not know everything. And that those who make the major decisions in our co-op at the moment know even less.

That those who make the important decisions on their own truly do not realize that they should not be making those decisions on their own.

And that the 260 employees who still work for Weaver Street, those who have not jumped ship, are still here because we still believe in our co-op, and we still believe we can make the co-op promise work.

There is a huge fund of goodwill and energy and ideas among our workers, just waiting to serve our co-op and its stakeholders, if only someone would recognize that, and find a way to release it – with dignity and respect.

So. I have an idea. A Weaver Street Co-op Workers’ Committee.

Such a Committee would enable all workers immediately to see that they have visible input.

It would create a permanent body for channeling all of the different worker concerns and suggestions to Admin and the Board, without the channel having to be informal, while guaranteeing a lack of retaliation.

It would create a vehicle for improved multi-directional communication between workers and their different units, and with the Corporate Office and its Board. By which I mean, there would be more information flow between the units, and more information flowing from workers TO the Corporate Office and its Board - and not just FROM the latter.

It would allow workers to discuss among themselves how they want to see their co-op develop.

And it would provide workers with a platform for intitiating projects of their own, arising from those discussions. There is absolutely no reason why activity in our co-op should be initiated only by the Corporate Office or its Board. It is our co-op, too!

We have all of the processes, machinery and personnel needed to establish the Committee. Once a year, each unit could hold an election to choose a unit representative to the Co-op Workers' Committee.

I would suggest the representative be a worker-owner (immediately creating a renewed interest in worker-ownership). But it could be any level of worker-owner (from entry-level clerk to long-time manager). AND all workers in the unit would get to vote.

The Workers' Committee could be overseen by the two Worker-Owner Directors, with the Owner Services Co-ordinator acting as staff support.

There would be no budget per se. But the OSC could interact with the General Manager to obtain funds for specific and worthy projects. I know it sounds silly, but a starting suggestion has been an inter-unit Dodgeball Competition. Go figure!

The Workers' Committee would have guaranteed access to any information it required, and could ask managers and Admin personnel to attend to give explanations.

The Workers' Committee would set its own agenda. And it would have the right to submit findings, thoughts, support and criticism to Admin and the Board, and expect responses. This might require adjustment to the Employee Handbook or Board Policy.

The suggestion in my Election Address for a worker-run Market Messenger might be seen by some as a step too far. But what about guaranteeing the Workers' Committee at least one page of every Market Messenger to include what it sees fit - without interference? Fun stuff. Serious stuff. Letters. Etc.

Yes, there might be open criticism. But that is far better than simmering resentment.

The best part of the idea for a Workers' Committee is that, even if the WSM Corporate Office or its Board decide they do not want to give such a Workers' Committee official sanction, it would still be open to workers to organize the Committee on their own. There is no reason why we should be stopped. Again, it is our co-op, too!

A group of interested workers could set up a preliminary Committee tomorrow. And then hold their own elections for representatives, unit by unit.

AND this Committee could be formed irrespective of the outcome of the 2010 Election for a WSM Worker-Owner Board Director.

Whatever the result of that Election, the workers in Weaver Street Market Co-operative deserve a proper voice in their co-op.

That is a right that should not be dependent on peoples' personal view of me, and whether or not they voted for me. It is a right inherent in the fact that workers own half of this co-op. And that right continues to exist whatever the outcome of the Election.

If you'd be interested in helping to get this Workers' Committee going, drop me a line on Facebook or at my e-mail address: Better still, why not go right ahead and form this Committee without any prodding from me at all ... ??