Thursday, March 14, 2013

2013: My Candidacy for the WSM Board of Directors

After eight years of working with the co-op I love, Weaver Street Market/Panzanella Co-operative, and trying to make its governance structure more responsive to the workers and consumers who are supposed to own and run it, I have discovered that there is an immense gulf between the promise and the implementation. Especially when it comes to meaningful communication, interaction and empowerment.

It is for this reason that I have decided to put on the ruby red slippers, dust off this co-op blog and stand again for the WSM Board of Directors this coming Fall, as a Worker-Owner Candidate.

For example, last evening, some workers and owners had a quite useful discussion with the WSM Board, before its regularly scheduled monthly Board Meeting, about Goal 4 of the corporate office-proposed WSM Vision 2020 – zero waste and zero net energy consumption.

All fine and dandy. Up to a point. Because, as always, the proof will be if any of our ideas and suggestions ever see the light of day. Amy Lorang, Kristina Janson and others have made a wonderful start in our Food House with their Sustainability Committee. But the sadness is that this is a terribly isolated instance of genuine empowerment.

Especially when it comes to really expensive and far-reaching proposals like 2020 Goal 2 – the suggestion from the corporate office management team that we build three more stores, at a time when we are struggling to cope with the last expansion from 2007/2008, and when we are still paying off $6 million in debt from that expansion (on which we have to pay $500,000 in bank interest each and every year).

Year after year, I hear that those in ‘authority’ within our co-op fully intend to devolve, empower, include, interact and communicate. And year after year, the center accrues more power to itself, as it hides away behind a combination lock in the carpet-lined corporate offices in Hillsborough.

I have written at length on my co-op blog about how WSM could be more efficient, profitable and successful, not to mention happy, joyous and a place we would merrily skip down the Yellow Brick Road to every day, if only we behaved more like a co-op, and lived up to the admonishment of the International Co-operative Alliance, that, like all other authentic co-ops, we be democratically controlled by our owners and workers, and to our own WSM Mission Statement that we be Inclusive, Interactive and Empowering.

But, at the end of the day, you don’t need lectures from me, any more than you need presentations from Ruffin. You all know. We all know. Deep in our hearts. That we do not behave like a real co-op. We are not empowered. And we want to be. On both counts. Because that’s why we work and shop here. And not at Wal-Mart or Whole Foods. It’s as simple as that.

So. I am standing for the Board of Directors. First, to explain, on all of our behalves, why we want more democracy within our co-op, and how we can introduce it, in a way that does not diminish our profitability. And secondly, and more immediately, to request that we hold a vote of all workers and owners before we move any further forward with plans for new stores.

Um. It’s as simple as that. More to follow …