Saturday, March 2, 2013

More Weave Stores - Trust, But Verify

I trust the motives of the Board of Directors of Weaver Street Market Co-operative and their corporate office management team, when they assure us that building three more stores is necessary, as they did today in the employee 'Market Messenger,' and as they have done in the reported Highlights of the recent owners' discussion [scroll down to Goal 3].

But in any democracy, including a democratic co-operative, trust requires verification also.

The fact is that we were given exactly the same assurances before the last expansion of our co-op, back in 2007/2008. That operations could cope, and that all funding would come from the community.

Yet, we in operations are still having trouble coping with the last expansion. And far from that expansion being funded by the community, we had to borrow some $10 million. $6 million of which is yet to be paid off. Which $6 million is costing us $500,000 a year in bank interest - on a turnover of some $27 million.

Before we proceed with any new stores, I would like us to consider three stages of 'verification':

1) Verifying that we all understand each other -- there needs to be much more discussion among owners and workers than the two-hour discussion we had a couple of weeks ago.

2) Verifying that we are all on the same page -- we only proceed with building more stores once a vote has been taken of all consumer-owners and all workers.

3) Verifying that we will definitely avoid the mistakes of the last expansion -- I have already written to the Board with some suggested safeguards and an idea for having a community fundraising web-site based on the Kickstarter model.

If the Board are unwilling to indicate that some sort of verification along these lines is going to be followed, to allay what even they have described as the concerns expressed to date, then I will consider standing again for the Board of Directors as a Worker-Owner Candidate this coming Fall, to ensure that the Board does heed those concerns.

[As always, and as required by the new Employee Policy, I state that these are my own views, and are as likely to be mistaken for the official policy of the Board or corporate office management team of WSM as the latter are likely to turn up to one of my POP VOX gigs.

More suggestions as to how WSM could be a stronger business and a better co-op can be found elsewhere on this blog.]