Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Weaver Street Worker-Owner Director Election Results 2010

The count is over, and democracy has spoken. My congratulations to Steve Bos. My gratitude to the WSM Elections Committee for a fabulous job well done. And my sincerest thanks to all of you who voted for me. Do not give up hope!

I got two more votes than last year. By my calculation, I will be on the Board shortly before I reach retirement age. Yay for Depends and Viagra!

Steve Bos : 35

Geoff Gilson : 19

But seriously. The vote for me ... correction, the vote cast by those protesting the direction of our co-op (this is not about me) has increased as a percentage of the overall vote every year for the past four years:

2007 - 32%

2008 - 33%

2009 - 33%

2010 - 35%

It may not seem like much of an increase. But bear this in mind. Over the past couple of years, the number of ordinary shopfloor worker-owners has decreased as hard times have forced them to cash in their ownership. Put like that, the protest percentage should have been shrinking each year.

Those who belittle the impact of this protest vote are the same people who consistently say that the only protester is me. That much is clearly now nonsense.

The turnout of worker-owner voters this year was 60%. In any other election (think Congressional), 35% of a turnout of 60% would be considered a major statement of protest. [Especially as it does not take into account the 160 (out of 260) workers who are not worker-owners, because they can't afford the $500 needed to buy a vote ... I'm sorry, I meant to buy worker-ownership.]

Yet, in our co-op, which workers half-own, a protest vote of this magnitude has no voice whatsoever. It is effectively disenfranchised. That MUST change.

If those who voted for Steve feel they have a mandate for a voice on the Board, then those who voted in protest have earned a mandate for some sort of voice in our co-op.

Maybe my suggestion of a Workers' Committee could be one way of allowing ALL the workers in our co-op to have a voice ...


Without taking anything away from Steve, it occurs to me that some of you who do not know Weaver Street, or are new to it, may not understand the vagaries of the Worker-Owner Elections system, and may, therefore, not understand why I feel able to regard 35% as a magnificent protest statement that should not be ignored.

We have 260 workers, including management and Corporate Office staff. You have to be a Worker-Owner to vote for the Worker Directors on our Board (we have two, out of total of seven Directors). It costs $500 to become a Worker-Owner (it costs $100 to become a Consumer-Owner; huge point of contention; allegations the $500 is a fix to stop shopfloor workers getting to vote - I have advocated for a reduction to a much more reasonable $100).

All workers vote in the same Election. That means management and shopfloor workers vote in the same Election. Another huge point of contention. There are those who say we should have separate representation.

We have about 100 Worker-Owners. There is pretty much a 50:50 split between those who become Worker-Owners just for the annual dividend (and generally do not vote), and those who join both for the dividend and to vote. So, the turnout in Worker-Owner Director Elections is usually about 50-60%.

Thing is, not least because of the $500 price tag, there is an inbuilt management/Corporate Office bias in the voting. Of the 50 or so Worker-Owners who vote, some 30-35 of them are managers or Corporate Office staff, and they generally vote for the status quo.

Of course, they vote for the status quo - they created it.

Now again, not taking anything away from Steve, he is one of the most popular people in Weaver Street. He should have sucked up the totality of that management/Corporate Office bloc vote, and then got another 20 personal votes on top.

The truth is the management/Corporate Office bloc vote most likely shrunk to about 25-30. And then Steve got maybe 5 to 8 personal votes on top of that.

This is not a personal reflection on Steve. But is a massive indictment by our co-op's workers on the direction of our co-op.

Set that against the fact that the protest vote - thinned by the $500 price tag, and further thinned by hardship this past year - actually increased, and it is a further indictment of the direction in which management and the Corporate Office are taking our co-op.

I know it's numbers. I know it means shopfloor workers still do not have representation on their Board (I do not regard a manager and a Corporate Office staff member as shopfloor representation). But it does explain why I say this vote represents a valid protest. And why I say that protest deserves a voice.