Thursday, March 3, 2011

The 2011 Weaver Street Market Employee Survey

We workers of Weaver Street Market Co-operative have a great opportunity to make this new Survey work for us and our co-op, and to use it as a springboard for a much-needed democratic conversation about and action plan for the future of our co-op.

Today's WSM employee Market Messenger announces that next week all workers of WSM will be asked to fill out a Survey from the WSM corporate office ostensibly seeking our input about our work, our departments and the whole co-op.

Those of you who know me will know that I am concerned that our co-op, which should be a democracy based on equality of all, has become a two-tier, traditional-style corporation. Where we workers occupy the ground floor, and are simply told what to do by the top floor corporate office, usually without consultation.

I welcome this Survey as something of an attempt at consultation. But it has me a little worried. Why? Well, if the Survey was a genuine attempt at involving workers in designing the future of the co-op which we half-own, then why were we not involved in designing the Survey?

The notice in the MM states that the results of the Survey will be shared with all employees. Who decides what is to be shared?

The notice states that 'action plans' will also be shared with all employees. Um. Who is constructing these action plans?

Doesn't a meaningful consultation exercise in a democratic co-op, the purpose of which consultation should be consensually to design our future, doesn't that require that we determine (consensually) what data we want; gather it (together); discuss it openly; consider alternatives; and then allow the co-op (as a whole) to discuss democratically which alternatives to choose?

Bottom line: is this Survey about satisfying the common needs of the co-op, its workers and owners, or is it about satisfying the needs of the WSM corporate office?

What can you and I do?

First, fill out the Survey as completely as you can. Include full answers about all the things that concern you - even if the questions are not asked, and even if you have to write your answers on the back of the Survey, 'cos you've run out of space.

Secondly, ask to take a copy of your completed Survey. And keep it.

Thirdly, ask you Department Manager when exactly he or she is going to hold the Department Meeting at which the results will be discussed, and the Department will be allowed consensually to determine its action plan.

Ask you Store Manager when a similar Store Meeting will be held.

Write to the General Manager, and ask him when a full Co-op Meeting (of all the co-op's employees) will be held to discuss those parts of the Survey that relate to 'the whole co-op' -

Oh, and while you're writing to him, why not ask him to ensure that the 'outside consultant' who will be compiling OUR Survey includes ALL that we have said, not just those parts that suit the WSM corporate office.

I am sending my e-mails today.

This Survey is OUR Survey. It is not just about letting the WSM corporate office know what we workers are thinking. It is about letting us workers know what we workers are thinking.

We workers are paying for this Survey. We are the ones who earn the money in our co-op - a co-op which our General Manager announces to the world we workers half-own. We have a right to determine how the Survey is conducted and how then it is used.

The goal of our co-op is to provide for the common needs of our owners and us workers. We are perfectly capable of deciding for ourselves what are those common needs, and how they should be provided.

Give us the data. Let us discuss it. And allow us to design our own action plans. Just exactly who decided that only a small group of us gets to do the designing of our collective future?

We workers should have been involved in designing this Survey. We weren't. But we can demand that we be involved in how it is published, how it is discussed and the use to which it is put. We can demand that we are democratic participants in designing the resulting action plans.

If democracy is worth dying for half a world away, it ought to be worth asking for in our own co-op.


My e-mail:

"Dear (Managers),

I link to my views on the announced 2011 WSM Employee Survey:

In consequence, I would be grateful if I could know the following:

1) Will the results that are shared with employees include all that employees have contributed? Or only an edited version? Who will edit? Who sets the guidelines for editing? And, as is usual with most consultation exercises (which, after all, we employees are paying for), will the raw data be available to those who request it?

2) What plans are there for discussing both the 'results' and the data? Will there be Department Meetings? Will there be Store Meetings? Most important, will there be a full Co-op Meeting, to discuss those parts of the Survey which are about 'the whole co-op'?

3) Are those whom the 'action plans' affect, namely we employees, going to be involved in designing the action plans? If so, how?

All the best,