Sunday, October 27, 2013

New Economic Models in the US and UK

So. A group of students at the University of Manchester in the UK want to reform their economics curriculum to address new post-crash realities. And 'The [London] Guardian/Observer' is jumping on the bandwagon. Good for them. Almost.

A quick look at the economic scene in both the UK and the US tells us that absolutely nothing has changed since before the crash. We have recovery. But for shareholders representing capital only. Not for labor. Not for communities. Not for the environment. And it's all based on new unsustainable bubbles in the housing and stock markets.

We have learned nothing. And we were all so ready to. Took part in Occupy. Wondered about how to create local economies that are independent of Wall Street and the City of London. Where the creation of 'wealth' and its enjoyment are controlled by the people who are immediately affected by it.

But. It's the same old story. Today's crisis became yesterday's news because there's a new show about dragons on the telly.

So, I welcome the desire to address a new economic model. And then I read the small print. Capitalism has failed! Markets are rubbish! Hand it all over to the state!

No. You bastards. Don't hand over my life to anyone else. Hand it back to me. You f**king clowns.

Why, oh why, can't at least one genius, in charge of someone's policy unit somewhere, come up with the simple notion that we don't have to reinvent the economic universe; we just need to tweak it, in favor of people, their communities and the environment?

I have no problem with shareholder capitalism, per se, be it institution-based, co-operative based, even state-based (although I still think 'the state' makes a lousy businessman or woman).

But why not make this small change? Insist that shareholder companies be accountable not only to capital (private, individual, institution or state), but also to employees, communities and the environment, by legislating that all public companies (plus private companies over a certain size?) allow employees/communities to elect a set number of Board Directors?

Of course, that would require that employees and communities given such an opportunity actually took advantage of it. As they are so religiously failing to do with my own co-op, Weaver Street Market
. But horse and water. Horse and water ...

In the meantime. Why does everyone have to make it so complicated? Or, am I just being too simple ... ??

Friday, October 25, 2013

Panzanella - Told You So ...

Well. One of the regular contributors on OrangePolitics, the self-styled 'progressive' multi-author blog/forum of Orange County, NC, is complaining long and hard about the announcement this week that Panzanella, Weaver Street Market Co-op's local food restaurant, will be closing at the end of the year.

Now. Don't get me wrong. I agree with almost everything that the gentlemen in question (who prefers to remain semi-anonymous, as 'Patrick M.') says. It's just that I've had dealings with 'Patrick M.' before. On the same blog.

He whines at length about how he is just so let down because he can not fathom why a supposedly progressive institution, in such a strongly progressive region, could possibly have the sort of Soviet-style decision-making process (um, my words), where a small self-appointed clique act as if they know best who and what we want.


This would be the same 'Patrick M.' who took me to task when I complained that just such a Soviet-style of 'democracy' exists in practically every primary democratic institution in Carrboro, NC. From the community radio station, to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen. And including WSM.

Anyways. Leaving all that on one side. He asked some questions. And challenged the Board of WSM. I took the time to answer his questions. And to wish him good luck in getting any response to his challenge.

Bottom line? Community-owned only works when it also means community-controlled. Progressive democracy means the people decide, not just a select few. And? The white collars only complain when they find they are not one of the select few ...

[Oh. The usual. My views. Not those of the Central Committee ... ]

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Most Embarrassing WSM Quote Ever ... ??

Taken (cross my heart) from this week's Independent commentary on candidates for the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners:

"To the town's credit, outsiders see a quaint, beautiful downtown, but there are other sides of Hillsborough where, yes, there are poor people who are not shopping at Weaver Street Market."

Ouch! This is how the region's premier progressive newspaper views the Weaver Street Market Co-operative?

Co-op's originated in Great Britain as an antidote to corporate general stores, where ordinary working folk were gouged by the prices.

Have we (I work at the Southern Village Weave), have we become the very company stores we are supposed to be replacing?

I remember asking at my original WSM Orientation (er, I didn't wait long to start causing trouble ... ) why price did not figure as an item in the WSM Mission Statement.

I was told (loudly) by the then WSM Operations Manager that he had never heard anyone complaining about the prices.

Of course he hadn't. The customers at that time (and probably now, as well) were too busy worrying about whether they'd missed the 30,000 mile maintenance check on the Land Rover.

Look. It's all very well engaging in social experiments to try to provide local, organic, natural, hemp-based, hippy-grown, fair trade, whatever.

But not if we are in contravention of our most important mission: inclusive - accessible to the community.

And clearly, The Independent thinks we aren't making ourselves accessible enough to our disadvantaged friends and neighbors. Shame on us.

[As always, I am bound by the new WSM Employee Policy to let you know that these views are not necessarily those of the WSM corporate office management team. Although, quite how you would mistake them for such is beyond me. Now. When I'm not writing this blog, I perform hi-energy, interactive Beach Pop, as Pop Vox / Geoff Gilson. My next gig is on Saturday, November 30, @ 2nd Wind, beginning at 10.00pm. Preceded @ 8.30pm by the wonderful reggae band, Broadleaf, which includes work-mate, Greg Sronce. Wow. This is one heck of a footnote ... ]

Friday, October 11, 2013

Easier Worker-Ownership ...

So. I read in this week's Weaver Street Market Co-operative employee Market Messenger that the sole candidate in the annual Worker-Owner Board Director election [Curt Brinkmeyer] was ... elected.

As I have stated elsewhere, this is no sign of a healthy democracy, or an indication of all workers being whoop-di-whoop with Curt's tenure.

Rather it is clear evidence of the fact that the WSM corporate office management team are succeeding in suppressing democracy among workers within a co-op which they boast is half-owned by its workers.

But. Let's leave all that on one side. It ain't why I'm penning this little ditty today. The Market Messenger goes on to claim that Curt was instrumental in making it easier for workers to become worker-owners.

Ouch. That's sort of like saying that Jesse Helms was 'instrumental' in getting the US Senate to approve a federal holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. (even though Jesse tried to filibuster against it), just because he happened to be in the Senate at the time.

The truth about the path to easier worker-ownership is more along the lines to be found in this blog post.

In short. I campaigned vigorously for easier worker-ownership for five years. Put it forward as a proposal while serving on the WSM Elections Task Force. Ran for the Board (for my third of four attempts) in 2009 on the single issue platform of giving the vote to ALL workers, not just worker-owners (we shouldn't have to pay to vote).

At which point the WSM corporate office management team ran Curt against me, on a wishy-washy pledge to do something about worker-ownership. Which pledge was only then eventually acted upon because I badgered the Board (and Curt) for a further three years on the subject.

Now. I'm not concerned about not being offered credit. I'm not even worried that Curt makes claims for himself. Every election candidate presents themselves in the best possible light.

But I do mind that WSM, as an institution, engages in a recreation of history. So. I post to get the story right ...