Saturday, March 5, 2011

Letter to Editors: Weaver Workers' Woes Continue ...

Just in case you guys thought I was going soft on you, I've written to the local press here in Orange County, NC, to let them know of the travails we workers continue to suffer in our democratic co-op.

If the WSM corporate office shuts down the 'normal' channels of communication within our co-op, I'll find ones of my own. First Amendment. Keep your eyes peeled on The Chapel Hill News and The Carrboro Citizen:

"Dear Editor,

Readers may remember my comments last fall about the sacrifices being made by the workers at Weaver Street Market Co-operative to keep our community co-op open.

We had gone for two years without earned pay raises. We received paltry increases at the end of last year.

Workers and consumers have been without a dividend for three years. And we have just been informed by the corporate office that we most likely will not see a dividend in 2011 either. Indeed, WSM could make a loss for the year.

In each of the last three years, we workers have had to work harder for less. Our shift hours were cut. Opening hours of the stores were extended. And so it continues.

Without any meaningful discussion, as is required by co-op policy, it was demanded of us workers that we increase sales by 15% in 2011.

We have managed in the first two Quarters, against the prevailing economic malaise, to increase sales by 9%. But that, we are told, is not enough.

We need to increase sales by at least 10%, just to break even. Less than 10%, and WSM makes a loss on the year. Less than 15%, no dividend.

Why? Because of the millions of dollars WSM needs to pay each year on its crippling long-term debt of $8 million. Debt incurred by our corporate office and Board of Directors, again without consultation, in order to finance what can only now be described as the failed expansion plan of 2007/2008.

It is time now to begin an immediate, open and community-wide conversation about the sustainability of Weaver Street’s finances and the future direction of our community co-op – before the banks impose that future on us.

It is not enough to leave it to the Board of WSM and its corporate office. A co-op is a democracy. It is a community organization. When all conversation within the co-op has been stifled – which it has – then it is fitting to demand that the conversation take place in the community.

Supporters of our co-op can write to the Board at Put notes in the store suggestion boxes. Write to this paper. Start a discussion on their favorite local forum. And request a conversation about the future direction of our co-op. Now.

Yours faithfully,
Geoff Gilson
Weaver Street Worker-Owner"


The Chapel Hill News published my letter to them.

OrangePolitics published my post too.