Thursday, May 9, 2013

My 2013 Candidacy for the WSM Board

I have today formally submitted my name in nomination as a candidate in the election for one Worker-Owner Director on the Board of the Weaver Street Market/Panzanella Co-operative.

I had previously indicated my intention, with the reasons.

Most of us who joined WSM did so not just for the paycheck, but because we believed, especially in light of The Great Recession, that there was a better way to run a business.

That it was possible to be both successful and democratic. The latter indeed being a precursor of the former, if we look at social and environmental profit, as well as financial profit.

Many of us were with WSM as we suffered through the Recession. As our pay was frozen, our hours reduced, hiring halted. As each and every day we made personal sacrifice, not for some fiscal bottom line, but for a co-op we believed in.

Now better times are here. And now is the time we should all joyfully exclaim a new renewal in economic democracy, and witness dramatic improvement in all our worker benefits.

But what do we find? We find those in remote places, making important decisions on our behalf, pretending to engage in discussion, but then ignoring what we say.

We find ourselves bought off with dividends (for those who can afford the Worker-Owner Entry Fee of $500). But those who work alongside us, performing the same work, having to choose between food for the kids or the only bonus on offer, receiving no reward for working just as hard as us.

We find the Board happily considering even more expensive expansion projects, when we are still struggling to cope with the after-effects of the last expansion in 2007-2009.

We find our Board gleefully planning capital projects hither and thither, while our entry wage level is what it was ten years ago.

It is time we realized that the essence of economic democracy is happy customers served by fulfilled workers [a little more on that].

It is time we realized that a social bottom line is not drinking on the lawn on a Thursday evening; it is taking into account the social effects on our consumers and workforce of the financial decisions we make.

And it is time the Board of WSM and its corporate office management team realized they are our servants, not our masters.

I have been with WSM eight years now. Notwithstanding all the heartache, all the sacrifice, the ups and downs, the good moments, the utterly banal disasters, I have never once lost my idealistic glow.

Why? Because I believe now, as I believed yesterday, as I will believe the day you allow me to walk into that Boardroom and debate gently but firmly with Ruffin and his cohorts, that WSM can be both a successful business and a solidly democratic social statement, if only those we render responsible for its strategic direction would themselves believe in the original concept of a co-operative: as an entity whose commons needs are determined by its owners, and where the workers - all the workers, together, not just a self-selected few - then decide consensually how to address those needs.

And that is why I am standing for the Board of WSM.