Monday, December 29, 2014

Is Citizen Design of Policing 'Systemic Change'?


A lady I have been exchanging with on the concept of citizen design of policing referred to it as 'systemic change.' That is an expression which bothers me a bit. I responded as follows. I think it bears repeating:

"The expression 'systemic change' can sound scary. It hints of imposition.

The glory of citizen design of policing, as I see it, is that nothing is imposed. All the interested parties may be represented around the table. And all is consensually agreed.

Anger usually comes from fear. Very often, when we feel what we think is anger, it is not anger at what has happened, or even what is happening, it is fear about what is going to happen next.

The beauty of citizen design is that we all have equal input as to what will happen next. The only participants who need be scared are those who wish something they know their community will not accept.

People of good intent, with ideas of broad appeal and common sense, will be heard, whether police officer, citizen or elected official.

Anyone with misplaced attitude, ambition or agenda will simply be subsumed by well-meaning consensus.

It would be systemic primarily because it would be open to all in the 'system,' equally.

But there would be change only if a community willed it, and only as much as a community believed necessary.

The only people who need be scared are those who wish inequity maintained.

Now, a quick side issue. This is a process for finding solutions. Not for imposing punishment.

If you're looking for punishment in respect of what you regard as injustice, then you will be in the wrong place. Whether that injustice occurred yesterday, last week, last year or 400 years ago."

Meanwhile, as previously mentioned, I will be meeting with Carrboro Alderpeople, Damon Seils and Michelle Johnson this coming Saturday (January 3), at 10.30am, in the Looking Glass Cafe, to swap thoughts. If you're around and about, you are welcome to sit down with us. No part of this is an exclusive process. I hope to meet with Carrboro Alderperson Randee Haven-O'Donnell at a later time.

I have read much in the past few weeks, a lot of it emanating from folks in what I previously thought of as my sleepy, artsy current hometown of Carrboro, NC. I was wrong. Clearly, there are problems with policing, even in Carrboro. Which only makes the need for solution that much greater.

And again, I do not think any solution will work if it is imposed by any one group of protagonists, be it the police, elected officials, or some body of citizenry. This is an issue that involves all of us. And the process of finding a solution should be open to all of us.

That is what citizen design of policing allows. It creates the space for all who are interested to come together to design a solution together, consensually.

Hopping back to this coming Saturday, if you can't or don't wish to join in the chat at 10.30am, the NAACP are hosting a Q&A with Chief Blue (Chapel Hill PD) and Chief Horton (Carrboro PD) at noon, this coming Saturday, at the Rodgers Road Community Center.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Policing - A Balanced Approach


On this day before Christmas, much is being written, locally and nationally, about policing. As always, I write not to raise the tension, but in a continuing attempt to find resolution.

Locally, a popular progressive political forum has posted a piece by a respected local progressive activist about what she describes as the potential racial inequality in policing approach in my hometown of ten years, Carrboro, NC.

I’m not stupid. I’m not unaware. I’ve heard stories, too. Witnessed some things. But her account stands out, at least for me, for several reasons.

If what I would describe, respectfully and lovingly, as a rather sleepy little artsy backwater can generate these sorts of feelings, then it is past time to take action.

Resolution is going to require self-control, responsibility, balance and genuine engagement – by everyone.

I read reports of a song being composed for a police officer’s retirement party in Los Angeles, a song that is disgustingly racist and offensive in nature. That does not help. If the police want respect, they must act respectfully.

I read reports of a new shooting near Ferguson. As always, no-one yet knows the details. All is second-hand. But, there are reports of a handgun. And further reports of rock-throwing following the alleged incident.

I am not happy with the state of policing in our country. I am not happy for the communities which feel under siege from police. I am not happy for police, who feel under siege from their communities.

But, I am one who believes we need some form of law enforcement. And until such time as we have allowed communities to design or re-design their own policing approach, the police as we have them are what we have.

It is not respectful to draw a handgun on the police. Nor to throw rocks at them. Nor to scream at them – in the case of the incident reported in one of my local newspapers, and referred to in the local progressive political forum. It does nothing to help resolution. If we want the police to respect us, then we have to respect the police, too.

And, once again, I come back to resolution. I believe in localism. Communities know best what is right for them. Not remote bureaucracies in Washington or state capitals. Nor self-appointed moderators, who inevitably feel they always know best for us. So, I can only talk immediately about my own hometown, Carrboro, and the advocacy I am pursuing to explore the notion of citizen design of policing approach.

Which brings me to the piece posted in the local progressive political blog. It appears to offer progress. But actually, it is merely a regurgitation of points offered previously. Which I regarded as inadequate at the time, since they were a classic example of someone in authority assuming they know what is best for other people.

The people who know best are those people. It is why I am advocating citizen design of policing. Not police design. Not council staff design. Not elected official design.

It is why I think a crucial first step (and this can be reproduced across the nation) is the formation, by the local police funding agency’s elected officials, of an open citizen’s task force, comprising citizens, elected officials and police, with a remit thoroughly to canvass concerns, explore potential resolution, and make recommendations.

I am achieving some success with this notion. As previously reported, three of the seven members of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen (the funding agency for the Carrboro Police Force) have indicated that they wish to meet and compare notes with me in the New Year. It’s a start.

The goal should be a structure and process where citizens can design, consensually with elected officials and police, a policing approach which is acceptable to the community. So that all parties may feel able to co-exist in a more harmonious situation, where there is respect between all of the parties for each other’s rights, and support for the task we, as a society, ask some to perform in order to maintain law and order.

Communities, elected officials, citizens and police all deserve respect. All need respect, if society is to work.

That respect does not come from pulling hand guns on police. From throwing rocks at them. From screaming at them. It does not come from shooting twelve year olds dead. From breaking down peoples’ front doors to serve a warrant. From composing racist songs.

The answer is dialogue. The answer is to sit down, without preconception, but with respect. And talk until solutions are found. The answer, frankly, is to provide the space to allow citizens to find the solutions for themselves.

That is the best role that elected officials from funding agencies can perform. Not to come up with imposed solutions themselves. To be honest, the time for elected officials, on their own, to step in and offer programs and policies is long past. They remained quiet for way too long.

No. The best service those elected officials can provide now is all of the support possible and necessary to promote dialogue that allows citizens directly to design their community’s policing approach.

Some of you have asked me to let you know when you can do something, what and how. The when is now. The how is to offer your thoughts, right away, on what you think needs to be done to improve policing in your community (about all of your concerns, not just racial inequality), what you think about the notion of citizens designing their own policing approach, and what you think about a preliminary step of elected officials from police funding agencies setting up citizen’s task forces.

You can do that best (if you live in Orange County) by way of commentary on OrangePolitics, which is read by most of our local elected officials. Or on my Facebook Page, where I have tagged a messload of local elected officials. Or on this blog. Do it. Today. There is no more time to lose.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Citizen Oversight of Policing in Carrboro, NC - Everyone Wins


So, I made my pitch for citizen design of policing in Carrboro, NC - my home town these past 10 years - on WCHL 's "The Commentators," on Wednesday, December 17. I don't expect much progress over the holidays. But it never hurts to stoke the fire a bit.

In the meantime, some movement is evident already. Three Carrboro Alderpeople (Damon Seils, Michelle Johnson and Randee Haven-O'Donnell) have already been in touch, saying they'd like to compare notes after the Christmas break.

None of this is to say progress is going to be made behind closed doors. That is precisely what I do not want. I want the dialogue about policing in Carrboro (a dialogue I hope will become a template for communities with more pressing policing problems than Carrboro), I want that dialogue to be open, transparent and driven by citizens.

I have already told the Carrboro Alderpeople who have been in touch that I will be quite openly publishing notes of all conversations and communications we have. But these conversations do offer an opportunity to share thoughts, and see if there is common ground, so that maybe efforts can be in tandem.

Side point. Worth making again. The goal is for citizens, elected officials, police, communities to design dialogue, structure and processes, consensually, which will allow communities to have a policing approach with which they are comfortable.

But there is another side to it. And it becomes most evident when I read a recent article about the police reaction in Durham to the protests there.

The lose-lose-lose-lose situation is when we have a community that feels it is not being protected, protesters who feel they cannot express themselves safely, elected officials wringing their hands uselessly and police feeling they are being left hanging out to dry, because no-one is giving them clear guidance.

The win-win-win-win situation is where all in a community - citizens, police, protesters, whoever - are given the opportunity to be involved in designing an agreed policing approach, everyone knows exactly what is and what is not acceptable, police have clear rules of engagement, and if and when they follow them, they are fully supported by all in the community.

That is the goal of my push for citizen oversight of police. It creates an environment where everyone is clear and supported. And those who wish to make trouble know exactly what will happen when they do - and it will happen with the support of the community in which they seek to make trouble. No-one is left hanging out to dry.

I will continue with the updates, and look forward to input from the rest of the community as the opportunities finally become available. I really can't see any political objection anywhere to the notion of a community designing its own policing approach. Whether you are Tea Party or anarchist ...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jeremy Thorpe, CIA Torture and UK Child Abuse


The game of British politics, empire and the attendant gravy, used to be the domain solely of British gentlemen. Think ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ Governor Swann, Lord Beckett, Norrington and the East India Company.

By and large, the British gentlemen were second and third sons, who inherited nothing, and had to go out into the world and make their own way, their own name and their own fortune. Any way they could. With all roads leading back to the nascent City of London.

Then, in the nineteenth century, Great Britain got all democratic on itself, and offered ordinary citizens the vote (well, men first; women a good while later – no-one’s perfect).

This trend towards allowing ‘normal’ folk into the establishment, and its associated treasures, became embedded during the First and Second World Wars, when men of all class fought and died alongside each other in huge numbers, and in common cause.

Culminating in the Swinging Sixties. Think ‘Austin Powers,’ Michael Caine in ‘Alfie’ and the better ‘Italian Job.’ Groovy, working-class hippies getting stoned alongside toffs in their blazers.

But, at this time – that is, the Sixties and Seventies – although toffs no longer owned the establishment and its benefits alone, they still regarded themselves as a class apart.

They hung out in their exclusive clubs, from Parliament to the greystone manses in Pall Mall and St. James, commiserating, plotting. And there was much to plot about.

For these gentlemen were scared. Their politics were all pretty much restricted to a spectrum working its way rightwards from center-rightish to loony-tune-get-out-a-telescope-and-you-can-see-them-skimming-along-on-the-right-wing.

What they were terrified of was what they saw as the rise of trade unionism and socialism, and its natural and imminent metamorphosis into Godless communism and dictatorship of the unwashed.

At which point, back up a tad. For sure, the British gent liked to think he was still solely in charge. And, to maintain the pretense, spent much of his time, evenings especially, gathering in various, restricted gentlemen’s circles in the posher parts of London, primarily Mayfair.

Some of the circles were quite benign. Gaming clubs. Bridge, poker. My mate, Hugh Simmonds, the subject of my book, played bridge with the likes of senior Tories such as Iain Macleod, in a gaming club in Curzon Street.

Mind you, he also spent not a little time hanging out at another gentleman’s club, known as MI5 (domestic British Intelligence), which, at that time, also had its HQ in or around Curzon Street.

A well-known card player in gentlemen’s circles, one Lord Lucan, disappeared, never to be found, in 1974, after allegedly murdering his nanny. The belief is that one or other of his gentlemen’s circles helped to spirit him away.

Benign, or not so benign, in the Sixties and Seventies, the establishment in London was awash with interconnecting gentlemen’s circles, all of whom felt themselves immune to the encroachment of ordinary citizens and the rule of law.

Card-playing circles, gentlemen’s clubs, networks for homosexuality (then, still illegal) and child abuse. No-one is suggesting that Jeremy Thorpe, former Leader of the British Liberal Party, who was accused in the mid-Seventies of attempting to murder his alleged gay lover, was connected with child abuse. But all of these gentlemen’s circles interconnected. And Jeremy was every inch the gentlemen.

Lord Lucan spirited away. Jeremy Thorpe involved in a plot to save his political career. Secret parties in various parts of London, for male members of the establishment, to engage in child molestation. And most of these circles overlapping with the most secretive gentleman’s circle of all. No, not Masons. Although, those too. Nope. British Intelligence.

When gents no longer controlled the overt levers of power, they sought solace in covert. For many a year, MI5 and MI6, and all manner of other initials and numbers, were the almost exclusive preserve of gentlemen. Who felt no allegiance other than to their own concept of what the nation and empire should be.

So it was that, in the Sixties, and moving into the Seventies, when the gentlemen of the London clubs and circles felt themselves threatened by the advance of socialism, the open socialism of Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and the pinkish Toryism of Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath, they took it upon themselves to begin plotting against their government.

Intelligence officers mixed with City gents, loony-tunes, defense contractors and the like, to make arrangements in the event of left-wing takeover. Even to pre-empt takeover. Sometimes in discussion groups, like the right-wing Monday Club. Or in more sinister paramilitary organizations.

Nothing came of the plotting. But networks were established. The primary duty of the Intelligence services to protect Queen and country, had been replaced by a more subjective goal of furthering the interest of the Intelligence services themselves. One became conflated inextricably with the other.

And so it was that these networks conspired to bring Margaret Thatcher to power. And she, in her gratitude, extended to the Intelligence services carte blanche (and a big hefty budget) to do her, and their, bidding.

One of the first things that Thatcher realized upon her accession was that the medicine she believed was necessary to restore the country’s public finances to health would almost completely devastate what was left of Britain’s manufacturing industry.

She needed something to replace it. She turned to arms manufacture. By the end of her time in office, Great Britain had become the world’s Number 2 arms exporter (it is still Number 5), and one in 5 of the British population was associated in some fashion with supporting its arms industry.

Britain’s embassies became international sales offices for British arms. And the Intelligence services were used to scout out potential buyers.

If you want to succeed in the long-term at arms sales, you can’t just deal with legitimate customers. You have to sell to the bad guys, too. And you can’t do that by the front door.

So, a whole backdoor arms sales operation was established. My mate was involved, among other tasks for British Intelligence and Margaret Thatcher, with setting up the money-laundering for this backdoor.

Another facet of the backdoor was a group (yes, another gentlemen’s circle!) called the ‘Savoy Mafia,’ so-called for its proclivity for holding meetings at the posh Savoy Hotel in London.

The ‘Savoy Mafia’ was a collection of Intelligence officers, arms dealers, senior Tory politicians, defense contractors, city gents, and civil servants, with direct lineage from the right-wing groupings of the Sixties and Seventies plotting against socialism, the primary tasks of which was secretly to arrange some of the more sensitive backdoor arms deals, and to plough illicit profits and commissions back to its members, including Margaret Thatcher’s husband and son.

It is the contention of my book that my mate was intimately involved in arranging the most secret of those deals: the one that benefited Margaret Thatcher directly.

Now, while all this was going on, Thatcher, in her feverish attempts to balance books and make money for Britain, got all chummy with the new Republican US President, Ronald Reagan.

Reagan had a problem. He wanted to do all manner of naughties around the world, kinda-sorta to bring down Soviet communism, but he couldn’t. Because of the need for congressional oversight. No problem, said Thatcher. We’ll do it for you. For a price.

And so, she hired out Britain’s military and Intelligence services to do America’s covert dirty work around the globe. Assassinations in the Lebanon. Arms deal with Iran. Killing Soviets in Afghanistan. You name it. British Intelligence or its military were there doing it.

We now know that this dirty work continued through the Blair Prime Ministership (Blair’s support for Bush’s invasion of Iraq; British complicity in CIA torture), and possibly into the Prime Ministership of David Cameron, who has made international arms sales the cornerstone of his government’s export policy, and maintains the closest relations with President Obama.

So what? Well, again, back-track a bit. In the Eighties, we have British intelligence (mostly still those pesky British gents, but as social mobility increased through the Nineties, Noughts and Teens, a few more oiks, here and there), we have British Intelligence openly involved in money-making ventures with arms sales and other activity on behalf of the US.

In other words, these gents circles. Which originally ran the empire. Then through circles in London, in the Sixties and Seventies, played games with each other, nasty sex games, harmless card games, and pointless plotting games. Morphed in the Eighties into a much more dangerous Intelligence-based activity, executing covert foreign policy, wielding influence in political circles domestically, and making obscene amounts of money to keep all the wheels greased.

They felt themselves beholden to no-one but themselves, and they would do anything to protect their power and the huge amounts of money they had made and were still making. An imperative which became even more ingrained when the whole secret power-wielding, private money-making enterprise took off tenfold as President Bush and the CIA declared their War on Terror, a War undertaken in the main by surrogate nations and private corporations, and funded by hundreds of billions of dollars.

My book sets out a scenario which suggests that Tony Blair’s Prime Ministership came to an abrupt end because he dared to impose his own man as head of MI6, against the wishes of the gents in Intelligence.

And these gents now feel threatened. Again. Allegations are coming to light about some of the uglier aspects of the games their gentlemen forebears played in the Sixties and Seventies. Allegations about parties for gents and their interest in child abuse.

There is already suggestion that British Intelligence tried to interfere with investigations into the latter. But why? What business should it have been of theirs?

Because they realize that investigation of one of those circles might lead, through interconnection, to revelation about all of them. Up to the present day and the enormous, corrupt influence they wield in the corridors of Westminster and Whitehall.

We’ll see if commercial publication next June of my book (under the title ‘Maggie’s Hammer’), which expands on all of the above, has any success in advancing revelation …

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Citizen Oversight of Policing


I am engaged elsewhere in a process of advocating for citizen oversight of policing in my current hometown of Carrboro, NC. That is not so much a reflection on the current policing in Carrboro. As it is a recognition that, in the current national US climate, I think it is time to consider more citizen oversight generally. And our small town (pop: 15,000), with a reputation for innovative governance, might be a good place to explore, consensually with the police, the various options for affording citizens the opportunity to ensure that the nature of the policing in our community has pro-active communal consent.

I accept that, notwithstanding NACOLE and the information set out in the PARC web-site, the concept of citizen oversight of police might be a tad confusing and uncomfortable to many people. It isn't to me. The land of my birth (Great Britain) has police forces which are run by civilian and elected Police and Crime Commissioners. But that is my cultural experience. I do not lose sight of the fact that it is not everyone's.

However, the justice and law enforcement traditions in the US and the UK come from the same historical source. One of the principles of which is that police are not supermen or superwomen. They are ordinary citizens. Who are tasked with upholding laws and maintaining order. With the admonition always that they do so with the consent of the community they police.

In my mind, this creates a direct link between police and each individual member of the community. Now. Let's be realistic. That does not mean that, in the middle of a police officer performing what he or she believes to be his or her duty, we get to turn around and say, er, excuse me, I do not consent, back off. Get real. But it does mean, and especially in the current national climate, should mean that we get to say to those we elect to govern our community, hey, where do I get to go to talk to my police, and help to set the rules by which our police do their policing?

I will be honest. As generous and as friendly as my own local representatives of community governance are being to my entreaties about exploring such citizen oversight of police in my community, I'm not sure they grasp this latter concept as firmly as do I.

I want the assurance of consensual policing to be pro-active, not reactive. And to be as intimate as is possible. If oversight is merely offering comment after the fact, we are always one step (elsewhere, perhaps one death) behind. No. I want personally to be able to be somewhere, facing my police and those we elect to fund them, so that I may join with others in my community to tell our police how we wish them to perform their policing of our community - before they set out to do the policing. And then, to be able to return, to ensure compliance.

It is not the right of a funding agency to deny me that intimacy. This is my relationship with my police. Unless the funding agency wants blindly to accept full responsibility for the manner in which I am policed, well or badly, then their job is to set up the arrangements which allow me to be a part of citizen oversight of my police. Period.

Now. That is where I am coming from. And just to be fair, since I have been totally open with all parties concerned about the remainder of my views in this regard, I will be letting those with whom I am engaging know about these views, too.

And to be honest, I am not sure that the various bodies interested in some concept of citizen oversight go as far as I do. The entities that have been established seem to restrict themselves to reactive review of complaints against the police. I am not looking for a complaints service, or an advisory board. I am looking for assured consensual policing by having citizens directly determine the nature of the policing approach in our community.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Including Employees In Decision-Making - Response From HR Manager


We make progress. By stages. The WSM HR Manager has replied to my Formal Complaint that WSM management are in breach of WSM Board Policy for not allowing WSM employees to participate in decision-making.

Bottom line. She concedes that the Policy and its application (or non-application) needs reviewing. After that, her response is a bit of a mixed bag.

I can't copy her response, because the WSM corporate office no longer send me digital information. For reasons which ought to be self-evident! I can, however, copy my reply to her. The campaign continues!:

"Board Policy – Treatment of Staff states: “The General Manager may not … for paid staff, cause or allow a decision-making standard that is not transparent or does not allow for opportunity [for paid WSM employees] to participate in decisions or shape the guidelines for decisions.” 

In 2007, a consultation exercise was undertaken which defined those areas where WSM management are duty bound to conduct a process that includes employees in the making of decisions. Those areas are: Personnel Policy, Workplace Environment, Pay and Benefits, and Department Strategy/Focus.

********************

I refer to the response from the WSM Human Resources Manager to my original Formal Complaint. I reply following her progression.

Date for Pay Raises:

I repeat the above Board Policy for clarity. The HR Manager first refers to my request for the 2014 employee pay raise to be backdated to the first pay day in September, stating that this was the norm for the previous three years (with which she agrees), and that WSM management are in breach of WSM Board Policy for not including WSM employees in the decision not to follow the protocol of the previous three years (with which she disagrees).

The HR Manager offers reasons why the decision to backdate only to the second pay date in September was made by WSM management. The reasons are immaterial. The point is that, in contravention of the above WSM Board Policy, employees were not allowed the opportunity to participate in this decision. Therefore, the decision was made in breach of WSM Board Policy.

The HR Manager states that there are ample opportunities for employees to engage in feedback on other decisions. Feedback is not participation in decisions, unless the final decision demonstrably includes the feedback. Moreover, on this occasion there was not even the opportunity for feedback. And the above Board Policy does not say you get a Get Out Of Jail Free card if you allow participation in some decisions, but not others.

The HR Manager continues by saying, “… it is neither reasonable nor practical to go through a lengthy process for each [financial adjustment].” Which is precisely why the consultation exercise mentioned above occurred in 2007. Fully to define when the “lengthy process” should occur. One of the areas was Pay and Benefits. This was a decision about Pay and Benefits. It may be annoying to consult employees. But that does not detract from the fact that it is WSM Board Policy so to do.

I continue to maintain that the decision on back pay was made in breach of the above WSM Board Policy. However, I am a realist. I do not expect WSM management to change its mind. I am much more concerned with the other two, substantially more important, issues that I raised in my Formal Complaint.

Budget Process:

I referred in my Formal Complaint to the requirement to allow WSM employees the opportunity to participate in the decisions that will set the next WSM Budget. The HR Manager refers to her and the General Manager reviewing my request for more clarity on decision-making. She says that will likely start within the next three months.

My concern is that (1) she makes no reference to the Budget Process in her response to my Complaint, and (2) the WSM Budget Process may have concluded within the next three months.

I, therefore, wish confirmation from the HR Manager, as I requested in my original Complaint, that the General Manager will immediately communicate with WSM employees how he will be allowing WSM employees to shape the process by which those employees will be allowed to participate in the decisions setting the next WSM Budget, so that he and WSM management are in compliance with the above WSM Board Policy.

Participation in Decision-Making:

I am grateful that the HR Manager concedes that there is need for more clarity on WSM decision-making.

However, she says that the answer is for her and the General Manager to review such decision-making in their annual review of WSM Employee Policy.

The Policy in question is not WSM Employee Policy. It is WSM Board Policy. Only the Board may review the Policy.

That Board Policy was produced as a consequence of consultation with the co-op at large. I do not expect the Board to review it without the widest possible consultation with the co-op, not least its employees.

The consultation exercise of 2007 was overseen by WSM management, not the Board. It produced clarity on the what of the Board Policy, rather than the how.

I have now suggested a similar consultation exercise to clarify that how. In other words, how the Board Policy can be implemented on a regular basis, so as to meet the requirements of Board Policy, in a manner which interferes with the day-to-day operations of WSM as little as possible.

What such an exercise would amount to is WSM employees shaping the guidelines for implementing the Board Policy allowing them to participate in decision-making. And this is correct. For it is what that Board Policy demands. That WSM employees shape the guidelines; not just management.

So. The HR Manager and the General Manager may not review Board Policy. But they can begin the process of reviewing the results of the 2007 consultation exercise. However. They may not conduct that review on their own. In order to be in compliance with WSM Board Policy, they must craft a process of review that allows WSM employees to shape the guidelines for inclusion in decision-making. That is a huge difference, and I believe it goes to the heart of WSM management’s misunderstanding of this Board Policy.

It is not enough that WSM management make best efforts to include employees in providing some feedback on the occasional decision.

It is the requirement of WSM Board Policy that WSM management allow WSM employees the opportunity to participate in decision-making. Period.

An exercise was held in 2007 in compliance with Board Policy, namely to allow WSM employees to shape the guidelines for decision-making.

If WSM management wish to review the results of that exercise, they must ask WSM employees for their permission to review and change the results of that 2007 consultation exercise. WSM management may not review unilaterally.

If WSM management do craft a process to allow WSM employees to shape new or clarified guidelines for their inclusion in decision-making, then such a process, to be in compliance with Board Policy, must allow WSM employees to shape those guidelines. Not to offer feedback. Not to comment. But actually themselves to shape those guidelines. WSM management present the process, get input, implement the input. Period. Otherwise, WSM management is in breach of this Board Policy.

We all appear to agree that there should be clarity on decision-making. So, in accordance with all the above-stated, and with what the HR Manager said in her response to my Formal Complaint, I look forward to the General Manager announcing, “within the next three months,” the process for allowing WSM employees to shape the guidelines to implement the WSM Board Policy demanding that WSM employees be allowed to participate in decision-making."

[As usual, these are my opinions, no-one else's, not Charlie Chaplin's, not Santa's, I do believe in Santa, I don't care what your ten year old kid says, he lives at the North Pole, Santa, not your ten year old kid, I also believe in co-op's, I believe in WSM, I don't believe we should build more stores though, because then we're a chain store, not a community co-op, but that is only my view, unless we build one at the North Pole, in which case, first dibs on Hot Bar cook.]

Friday, November 14, 2014

Is WSM Already A Worker-Consumer Collective?


I link to an article by Co-op Cathy of the Co-operative Development Institute, not because it mentions Weaver Street Market Co-operative, but because what it says about WSM's management structure is, in my opinion, fundamentally wrong.

Which, in some measure, is understandable, since not even WSM's management understand what structural guidelines they are supposed to be following. Hence, my current campaign in that regard.

But, before I turn to what WSM's management structure ought to be, under existing but little known existing WSM co-op policy, let's have a quick gander at what this article says about other co-ops which include an element of worker-ownership (remember, WSM is a hybrid consumer-worker co-op), and whether they have a management structure which is preferable even to what WSM's ought to be.

Bottom line, the examples mentioned revel in the glorious financial and social success of non-hierarchical, collective decision-making by workers within the workplace itself. Could this work in WSM? Absolutely.

Following the pattern referred to in the article, there would be a Board of Consumer-Owner and Worker-Owner Directors, which would set strategic goals and then monitor them. Pretty much as we have now. Except the Directors would actually do this, as opposed to merely rubber-stamping General Manager decisions. Heck hem.

A meeting of senior management (which we have at the moment, once a week) would then apply the strategy to all units of the co-op, and set budgets for unit contributions. That would, of course, be subject to each of the participants at the senior meeting properly representing the views of the units which they manage, views gathered at unit meetings at which the employees of the units would study and comment upon the senior management's intended application of strategy (still with me?).

Each senior manager would then take the consensually-agreed plans back to their respective units, and, in conjunction with the relevant departments, determine each department's contribution. Departments would then determine how to meet their departmental contribution goal.

The process would then reverse upwards. As departments decided how to meet their goals, managers would then be responsible for implementation. Ditto unit managers, senior managers, up to the General Manager, who would report back to the Board of Directors.

Could this work? Yes. Would it be time-consuming? Well, it would involve more than the one unit meeting a year we have at the moment. But it would save an awful lot of time already spent in explaining hierarchical decisions made non-collegially. Swings and roundabouts.

Is it likely to happen? Not a chance. It would require a revolution. That would only be triggered by the ordinary workers among the 192 current worker-owners (out of a workforce of about 250) choosing to vote for a Worker-Owner Director Candidate who espoused belief in a democratic workplace. We had such a Candidate in the Election just held in October. That democratic Candidate commanded merely 19 votes. The management-backed Candidate drew 55 votes. Go figure.

Which brings us back to my point, we don't need a revolution; we already have a co-op policy which affords all employees (not just worker-owners) the right to be involved in the decisions that affect their workplace.

It's all in the blog post to which I linked above. I link to it again. As you can see, I am now engaged in a process which will (hopefully without too much argument) result in a structure that permits employee participation in such decision-making on a regular and more formal basis.

In the meantime, I have written to Co-op Cathy to let her know that, again in my opinion, she missed this important part of our co-op policy.

[And I make clear to Co-op Cathy, and anyone else reading this post, in compliance with WSM Employee Policy, that I am a worker-owner with WSM, these are my views, and I speak for no-one but me.]

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Remembrance, Hugh Simmonds CBE and the Book


Twenty-six years ago, my best mate died after being rendered deniable by a Prime Minister for whom he was engaged in a clandestine operation. I remember, even if they choose not to.

The picture is of the Chapel of the Order of the British Empire, located in London's St. Paul's Cathedral. My mate had previously been recommended to appointment as both civilian (services to politics and public service) and military (services to intelligence) Commander of the Most Noble Order of the British Empire (CBE) by the same people who later denied him.

Next June, I will find myself fortunate enough to have the book published commercially. My hope is that this time next year his family may finally be able to attend a Remembrance service without having to hide their shame, a shame their government should never have abandoned them to feel alone.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pay Raises and Budget - Formal Complaint and Proposals


Right. No reply to my last e-mail to the Weaver Street Market Co-operative powers, asking for the annual pay raise to be back-dated to the beginning of September, and no response to my suggestions for creating a structure to allow employees regular inclusion in important decision-making, in accordance with WSM Board Policy. So. Formal Complaint, under WSM Employee Policy Section 5.J, with proposals for redress:

"WSM Board Policy – Treatment of Staff states: “The WSM General Manager may not … for [WSM] paid staff, cause or allow a decision-making standard that is not transparent or does not allow for opportunity [for paid WSM employees] to participate in decisions or shape the guidelines for decisions.”

In 2007, a consultation exercise was undertaken which defined those areas where WSM management are duty bound to conduct a process that includes employees in the making of decisions. Those areas are: Personnel Policy, Workplace Environment, Pay and Benefits, and Department Strategy/Focus.

Section 5.J of WSM Employee Policy sets out how any employee can complain that management have made a decision without including them in the decision-making process.

I am making a complaint under that Section, namely that the General Manager is in breach of Board Policy – Treatment of Staff, in that he is allowing decisions to be made that fall within the parameters of the decisions agreed in 2007 without allowing employees the opportunity to participate in those decisions or shape the guidelines for those decisions.

I first raised this issue some 18 months ago. I have written regularly to the General Manager and met with him once. His response was that this Board Policy related only to ‘egregious’ decisions. The world egregious does not appear in the policy wording. The policy relates to all those decisions referred to in the 2007 document.

While it is true that employees have been allowed some undefined feedback on some decisions in the past 18 months, there has been no regularity nor structure, important decisions which fall within the parameters of the 2007 document have been made without the opportunity for employees to participate, and employees have still not been allowed to shape the guidelines for decisions in which they should be allowed to participate.

It is the purpose of this complaint/proposal specifically to seek redress on a couple of issues where employees should have been or should be allowed to participate, and to request that a process be commenced no later than 2015 to allow employees to shape the guidelines for their future participation in decision-making in line with Board Policy and the 2007 document.

The specific issues:

1) In each of the past three years, pay raises for employees were back-dated to the first pay day in September. That has not been the case this year. That decision was made without reference to employees, in breach of co-op policy. I wish that situation to be redressed by having the next available Market Messenger accompanied by a ballot, permitting employees to vote on whether pay should remain back-dated to September 21, or should now be back-dated to the first pay day in September, votes to be collected in an envelope in each unit, to be returned by the unit manager to the Human Resources Manager, the vote to be binding.

2) I engaged in a specific exchange with the General Manager on the issue of allowing employees to participate in the decision to set the size of the annual worker-owner dividend, a matter specifically referred to in the 2007 document. A rather restricted opportunity was offered to employees to provide feedback on the worker-owner dividend for 2014. The reason for the restriction was that the size of the worker-owner dividend is, ultimately, pre-determined by the size of the profit, which, in turn, is pre-determined by all of the decisions taken during the setting of the budget. The only way properly to allow employees to participate in the decision to set the size of the worker-owner dividend, and therefore for the General Manager to be in compliance with Board Policy when setting the budget, is to allow employees the opportunity to participate in the making of the decisions which underpin the setting of the budget. I therefore request that, in order to be in compliance with Board Policy, at the earliest opportunity, the General Manager set out for employees his proposal to allow employees to shape the guidelines for permitting employees to participate in the setting of all budgets going forward.

As for bringing the General Manager into compliance with that part of Board Policy which requires that he allow employees to participate in shaping the guidelines for including employees in decision-making, so that such inclusion is regularized, not haphazard, and is in compliance with Board Policy, I request that the General Manager, before the end of 2015, commence a process to allow employees to shape such guidelines.

I have previously suggested that the latter could be achieved either by engaging in a similar process to the one in 2007, with the consultation exercise this time addressing how rather than what, or by a task force to consider the same, or by some combination of the two.

If the General Manager does not respond in the terms of this complaint/proposal, I will wish the matter to be addressed by the WSM Board of Directors, as is my right under Employee Policy 5.J, and I will wish notice of this, together with the opportunity to address the Board personally.

If the Board do not comply with their own Board Policy, I will address this matter to the NC Secretary of State, and ask the same to review WSM’s accreditation under NC General Statute 54 as a co-operative.

Geoffrey Gilson
November 5, 2014"

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Myth -v- Fact (2): Guy Fawkes


So. Guy Fawkes Day. Another wonderful opportunity to debunk a popular urban myth. I don't know which bright spark, writing what exciting comic book or screenplay, and then inspiring who knows who, in who knows what radical political movement, decided that Guy Fawkes was a good role model for political anarchy, freedom, whatever, but people, you need to do your homework.

Guy Fawkes was a member of a Catholic gang, seeking to blow up a Protestant Parliament, in order to bring about the restoration of a Catholic monarch, who would be able to rule absolutely, without reference to the people.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Myth -v- Fact (1): Magna Carta


I love the fact that our belief in myths so often overwhelms our accurate analysis of history.

Magna Carta did not give rights to 'the people.' It established rights for knights and the clergy, the corporate robber barons of their day, and protected their right to hold in feudal servitude the vast majority of the people, without interference from a king, seeking to steal 'the knight's fee' for his own taxes.

Imagine a nation of strict hierarchical layers. Where there are a few, genuinely 'freemen.' But the vast majority of the people exist only by paying 'a knight's fee,' and being in the unpaid service of their local lord of the manor or bishop.

After years of their king, the top-ranking feudal warlord, taking the cream of 'the knights fee,' the lords and bishops rebelled, and demanded the Magna Carta to protect their right to hold the people in servitude, without having to lose the primary benefit through tax to an arbitrary king.

In fact, since we are talking about the equivalent of corporate robber barons and the church of its day winning rights from an arbitrary central government against the interests of the people, why so difficult to imagine? Just look at the United States today.

Would we really be celebrating the Magna Carta quite so joyously if we realized it would be like our celebrating a Proclamation from Abraham Lincoln, not to emancipate the slaves, but instead to confirm their fealty to white Southern overlords?

Meanwhile, dispelling the Guy Fawkes myth this coming Wednesday ...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nightsound Recording Studios - Best In The Triangle


I never do things the way people want me to. They way society expects me to. So, sue me. I ought just to post a nice review of Nightsound Studios, the amazing studio helping me (Pop Voxx / Geoff Gilson) to get the tunes out of my head, and into something approaching a commercial form. But, in light of some bits and pieces, that doesn't sit well with me.

I do have a review. And I have posted it on Yelp. Please go read it. 'Like' it. Or 'Compliment' it. Whatever it is that Yelp does. Then rate Nightsound five stars. Then, if you have had dealings with Nightsound, tell the world how wonderful they are.

Why? Well, first, 'cos they are - as my review makes clear. But most importantly, because they have suffered what every artistic endeavor is vulnerable to on this wonderful anarchic device we call the open internet - a vengeful troll.

I know about this. I was performing a difficult set on New Year's Eve, when a drunken a-hole came up, mid-song, leaned in, and loudly told me I sounded like shit. People. Fellow artists and arts-lovers don't do this to each other. Not mid-performance.

I don't know who the dickhead reviewer of Nightsound on Yelp is. All I know is that art is not precise. It is a creative process. If something doesn't gel, that's life. Move on, and find something that does gel.

That's what grown-ups do. Children take advantage of Yelp's open reviewing opportunities, and have a scream and a whine. Which is where we come to my not behaving as society expects me to.

I should quietly do my review and move on, myself. But the amazing team at Nightsound are more than engineers and producers. Chris Wimberley, Taylor Herbert, Aubrey Adcock Herbert, Meghan Puryear, Adrianna Villa, Geneva Walata, they have become family. They have given five years of their time, often for no pay, to help me get a sound out of my head, that has sat there, lodged, for thirty years.

But I'm not just talking about what Nightsound have done for me. Last year, Nightsound spent about a hundred hours with Morning Brigade. I have spoken with band members, Peter Vance, Gabriel Reynolds and Nathan Spain. They all love Nightsound.

So too do Henbrain, who recorded with them recently. I partied with Zack Hargett and Erika Libero last Halloween at the Nightsound Studios. BTW, Chris? Are you guys doing a Halloween Party this year?

Skinny Bag Of Sugar regularly provide session musicians to Nightsound. I know. Rob J. DiMauro just laid down brilliant drumming tracks for my six songs. If you don't know them, Skinny Bag are a local 'cover band' (which as descriptions go is like describing Mark Zuckerburg as someone who has a bit of money). Anyways. The musicians in SB are some of the best session musicians you will find outside of LA or New York. I wouldn't be asking them to perform if they weren't. And they wouldn't be making themselves available to Nightsound, if Nightsound wasn't the best.

Does this sound like I'm tagging folks to spread the word? Damn tootey. I'm mad. These are my mates. They are good people. Professional people. Kind people. Creative people. Making a difficult living. Supporting local artists. Help out.

Share this post. Compliment my review. Give Nightsound five stars on Yelp. Write a short review. Support Nightsound. Support local artists and musicians.

Oh. In addition to linking to my review, here it is in full:

"SHORT VERSION: Nightsound Studios provide a range of recording and production services to suit your budget and particular needs. They will tailor their amazing creativity to ensure that you get what you want. If you have an off-the-peg sound, which needs a simple recording package, you will leave happy and with change in your pocket. But their forte is combining the singular talent at their disposal to help nurture local musicians, and develop sounds and styles which may still be nascent in the mind of the creative artist. I know. At times, I have been both of these clients.

LONG VERSION: In 2009, after allowing some tunes to bubble in my head for thirty years, I finally worked up the nerve to attempt to download them onto a demo CD. I approached Nightsound Studios and Chris Wimberley, having met Chris while he was supporting local musicians on our community radio, WCOM.

He and his engineering team were professional, to-the-point, cost-effective, charming, helpful and attentive. They did precisely what I asked. Produced an eight song demo, to my precise specifications. I'm a prima donna. I get like that.

Then Chris and his senior recording engineer sat me down, at their expense, not mine. And told me, bluntly but kindly, that they genuinely saw more potential in my music. And would like to help me discover the sounds they felt I continued to hide within me.

For the next five years, they worked with me. 90% of the time they gave, the advice they shared, the nudging they engaged in, they gave pro bono. They very genuinely wanted me to discover myself. To get myself ready, before committing to the potential they saw in me.

At one point, I was convinced I was ready. Chris was happy to take my money, but still he was not convinced. He suggested I form a band, to test my music with the public. Didn't want to. Play with a solo guitarist. Didn't want to. I can be stubborn. Cf. prima donna. Chris persisted. What about just dragging out the Casio workstation I used to compose, and letting rip with that? Hmm. Ok.

For eighteen months, I performed. Loved it. Found out what the public liked. Developed a finished sound - still only in my head. It's a Casio. Not Taylor Swift's stadium band. And was ready to get back into the studio, to create a more commercial-sounding EP of six of my songs.

Nightsound and I have been working on that these past seven months. We are halfway through. It has been an intense, but focused journey. It continues to be. There is no cookie-cutter approach. This is about coaxing a brand new sound out of a reluctant brain. Mine.

But Nightsound and their wonderful team are up to the task. Dedicated. Professional. Patient. Quick-witted. Creative.

Have there been moments of tension? Of course there have. I would expect nothing less. I didn't hire a building. I hired a team to challenge me. Have they been up to the challenge? Every day.

If you want a team of professional producers and engineers to record a sound you have already clear through performance and recording elsewhere, Nightsound will provide you with the most attentive, cost-effective package in the Triangle area.

If you are someone still growing, still developing, you will not find a better team on the East Coast to challenge, to nurture, to develop your talents. Always with you. Always supporting. Always conscious of the size of your pocket.

Every professional endeavor seeking to support fellow creative artists is going to have the odd relationship that doesn't go quite the way the creative artist would like. That has not been the case with me. But grown-up creative artists (even the prima donna's among us, like me) recognize that creativity is a flavor. It is not like matching paint.

If it don't work out, you move on. Then again, there are some who would not be satisfied if the Archangel Gabriel opened up a recording studio with Pharrell Williams and Paul McCartney. For them, I feel only sadness.

Now, I return to finishing off the second part of my active project with the wonderful Nightsound team ..."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Time To End The UNC Student-Athlete Hypocrisy?


We - I've lived in or near Chapel Hill, NC now for almost ten years, I can say 'We.' We are not some two-bit hokey college, out in the sticks. We are the oldest public university in the United States, and one of its largest. We have made great play of our focus on student-athletes. If our esteemed coaches did not know, they should have done. Period. But that, for me, is not the real issue.

Young people come to our university to train to be doctors. To train to be engineers. To train to be stockbrokers. Take a trip through the hallways of our business departments. Our medical facilities. There is no attempt to pretend that students are being made to study other than their chosen vocation. There is no attempt to hide the fact that the best are being recruited, even while at college, for professional berths after college.

So, why do we feel the need to pretend with our athletes? What is wrong with coming to university to train to be a professional athlete? No-one demands of our medical students that they run the 100 meters once a week. So, why do we demand of our athletes that they engage in activities which have nothing to do with the profession for which they are training, and for which they simply may not have the gifts?

What we end up doing is stigmatizing our athletes. We say to them that sports is not a real career. That they are not as good as the rest of the student body. Pretty much we teach them to cheat at this early age.

Is it not time simply and honestly to recognize that much of our athletic program is a training ground for professional sports? Openly to encourage our athletes to think in this way? To encourage them to be the very best, the very most open and the very most honest athletes and students they can be? Taking pride in their accomplishments, not least their being chosen before graduation to perform with recognized professional sports teams? Allowing them, as we take pride in them, allowing them to take pride in the institution which recognized their gifts on a par with every other student?

Isn't it time just to end the hypocrisy?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Good News


You see. It ain't all one long whine. First, in this week's WSM employee 'Market Messenger,' the folks at corporate have gone to some lengths to produce quite detailed financial figures for the last quarter. Thank you. Well done. An informed workforce is a first step to an engaged workforce, which can meaningfully involve itself in the decision-making which affects the workplace, involvement which is our right under WSM co-op policy.

Secondly, two long-serving members of that workforce, courtesy of the court ruling a week or so ago, which overturned the NC ban on same-sex marriage, got married last week. Wow! It really means something when it becomes that personal. Thank you life. Thank you all those who made this possible. And congratulations, Julie and Catherine.

Pay Raises (Whichever Number It Is) ...


Heard back. Still not Ruffin. The reply included the following:

"Your raises have been:

2007 -- Sept 2.

2008 -- Nov 3. [Great Recession -my observation]

2009 -- No raises for anyone. [GR]

2010 -- Nov 21. [GR]

2011 -- Sept 11.

2012 -- Sept 9.

2013 -- Sept 8.

In determining the date for this year, it was lined up with the beginning of the second quarter. And as Ruffin discussed with everyone in the meetings, WSM keeps working to give raises that are better than the national average (which has been around 2% for the last several years), increase our new hire rate and move up our overall average."


I responded:

"Kind of a mixed bag of tricks. I know we were subject to backwash from the Recession in 2008, 2009, possibly even 2010. What is clear is that before that, and for the three years after, pay raises kicked in at the beginning of September.

While I understand what you say, it is the very premise of what you say with which I disagree. When it comes to Pay and Benefits (and not only these issues), according to co-op policy, it should not merely be Ruffin making those decisions. Those decisions should involve us also.

All employees should be privy to the same financial information, so that, again, in accordance with co-op policy, we may all meaningfully be involved in choosing the priorities and making the decisions that affect us in our workplace.

Where to from here?

Sooner or later, there has to be a discussion about this co-op policy. To me, it is clear. But senior management seems to think it can simply ignore it.

I can either go heavy and specific, and begin with filing a formal complaint that management from my immediate manager, through the chain to Ruffin, are in contravention of co-op policy in making a decision about when pay raises kick in that did not include employees. This will almost certainly end up before the Board.

You can decide to back-date pay to the pay date previous to September 21, that is closest to the beginning of September.

Or you can take a wider view, and decide to engage in the process I suggested at the SV store meeting, and which I have canvassed before. That we now finish the process of 2007, and either hold a full consultation process on setting guidelines for how employees are involved in decision-making, or form a Task Force to the same end.

I think I would like these three points to be specifically addressed to begin with. And thank you for taking the time to research my previous question.

All the best,
Geoff"

[I am pursuing the Chaplin theme with pics. But more up-to-date and seasonal ... ]

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pay Reviews (Raises) - Part 3


Well, I've heard back. Not from Ruffin. Yet. I am told employee pay reviews will be taking place real soon. Apparently, managers had their reviews this past week. Clearly, pay reviews are taking place later than usual. No reason given.

I am also informed that pay raises will be back-dated to September 21. Maybe this was always going to happen? If so, wouldn't it have been nice for there to have been a little more communication? Say, at the store meetings? I'm not the only one who has been wondering what was going on. This is our livelihood, people. Of course, it could be that this is actually a victory for employees speaking out.

In any event, I have been with WSM some nine years now. I recall pay raises always kicking in at the beginning of September. I mean, think about it. What is so significant or easy to remember about September 21? Other than the fact that it is the day before I first wrote to Ruffin, asking him where were our pay reviews and raises ... oh.

Well. Further e-mail to Ruffin and the WSM Human Resources Manager:

"Ruffin and Deborah, I would be grateful if you would now please let me have the information I requested about when my pay raises kicked in for the past eight years.

I have already got something of a sense that not everyone feels that the clearly defined co-op policy on including employees in decision-making (defined in Board and Employee Policy, and then detailed in the consultation document of 2007) is a policy that needs to be adhered to. But co-op policy is co-op policy. Frankly, I don't get to choose which one applies to me. Neither should anyone else.

If the back-date for 2014 is not commensurate with previous years, then a decision was made. And employees were not included in that decision about their Pay and Benefits. And that would be in contravention of co-op policy.

Best,
Geoff"


[Two caveats. These are my views. I wanted a funny graph. I suspect this exchange about pay raises has some more funny in it yet. So, you got a funny graph.]

Monday, October 20, 2014

Where Are Our Pay Reviews (Raises)? - Part 2


So. No response from the WSM General Manager, Ruffin Slater, to my e-mail to him of September 22. And still no pay reviews, or raises - which normally kick-in beginning of September. Yup. Another lunch break e-mail. And please bear in mind, one more time, all of this chasing is done on my time, not WSM's:

"Hey Ruffin,

It may be that you are about to write to me. But I do not yet have a response to my e-mail of September 22.

I do not think it fair for me to have to confront my pay review manager about this as and when. After all, he is not the person who made the relevant decisions. So, I would be grateful if you would respond to this e-mail yourself.

Same question, with a supplement, to avoid drag-out. When will our pay reviews be taking place? And will our pay raises be back-dated to what I believe is the normal date each year fro our pay raises to kick in, namely the beginning of September?

In respect of the latter, if there is some disagreement over the latter claim, I wonder if you would be so good as to ask Deborah to produce for your response the date for the past eight years of my employment on which my pay raise kicked in.

As I am sure you will already understand, if there is no back payment, or it is to a date that is not commensurate with those previous eight years, I am going to claim that a decision was made to change the nature of our pay raises, and since it was made in contravention of the co-op policy demanding that we be included in such decisions, it has no standing, and our pay raises should back-date to the usual kick-in date.

All the best,
Geoff"

POP VOXX Recording Update


Right. Well, as most of you know, I spent this past week having the drumming tracks laid down for my CD of songs. This is actually a bigger deal than at first it appears.

It's not just about having some bloke come in and tap out beats for a couple of hours, and then pop off home. Oh no.

This process began several months ago, when the songs, in the sound I wished them performed, existed only in my head.

First thing we had to do was get them out of my head, and create digital production sequences, where you could hear the drum beat required, in the context of something approximating my sound. Which by the way, I have now decided will be called either DubBeat or EDR (Electronic Dance Rock).

So, I sits down with my two Nightsound Studios producers, Chris Wimberley and Adrianna Villa, and they very, very patiently spend many sessions listening to me change my mind week on week. After which, Adrianna created magic out of Logic.

Once we had the sequences, my recording engineers, Meghan Puryear and Geneva Walata, helped to produce drum guides, so that the poor drummer could wade through my sequences, with some idea of where he was going. Meghan and Geneva also spent a lot of time helping me to experiment with the layered vocal effect I'm going for.

My chosen drummer, Rob J. DiMauro, of Skinny Bag Of Sugar fame, popped in and listened to all of the tracks, asked some sensible questions (can I leave now?), and we were all set for the week of drumming.

Tuesday - set up. Seven hours of carefully arranging two sets of drums (one disco-tuned, the other rock-tuned), a fistful of microphones, and all manner of wires.

Wednesday and Thursday - the actual recording. When the Nightsound team and Rob were stars. And I disgraced myself by being the nanny prima donna.

And. We now have six tracks of the most incredible drumming. For six dance songs that will blow your socks off.

Many thanks to all. For your skill. Your dedication. And your patience. Onto the next step. I think Rob has decided to take a cruise through Hurricane Gonzalo, for peace and quiet. Compared to the little English dictator ...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Invested Employees Make For Good Customer Service‏


Bloody hell. I pick up today's WSM employee 'Market Messenger,' and it's like the last few weeks, with their seeming improvement in employee-inclusion, never even happened. Letter to WSM's General Manager. Sigh:

"Ruffin,

We made such a good start with our Unit Meetings. Attempting to get employees involved in designing the way forward in our co-op. As is our right under co-op policy. But I see from the latest employee 'Market Messenger' that we just seem to be slipping back to the old ways: advancing management goals, and using our own words against us.

First, the post about customer service. I can't speak for other Unit Meetings. But I got no sense at all from our Unit Meeting in Southern Village that all we wanted to do was offer great customer service slavishly. The very definite message I got was that we would be more likely to offer better customer service if we were more involved in the making of decisions and policy.

It's the Zingerman's point you keep quoting out of context. Happy employees make for happy customer service. True. Now. Make us happy. You partially allude to it in your post. You say: "extraordinary customer service ... is the normal way of relating to customers and each other."

It's a twist, Ruffin, and you know it. We are saying, treat us well, involve us, allow us to be invested (the way we treat each other - which includes the way management treats and involves us), and we will relate to customers in the same way - pro-actively.

You gently lose the point about management involving us in decisions and policy-making (as co-op policy requires), and just hark on about all of us demanding that we work harder. It's disingenuous, Ruffin.

As is the other post about the worker-owner election. For sure, there were more worker-owners voting. There ought to be. We just increased worker-ownership from 100 to 192 in two years. Not least because I campaigned for six years to get you lot to make it easier for workers to become worker-owners. But, you did not mention that turnout dropped dramatically.

I have already written to the Elections Committee to ask them publicly to present figures like turnout. It is not negative; it is educative. But again, if it doesn't fit your narrative of all-is-well control over democratic inclusion (or not), you leave it out.

The message of the two candidates was not 'owner participation.' It was worker inclusion. Byron was more blunt. Demanding a suggestions box in each Unit, and promising to be a forceful advocate for worker rights on the Board of Directors. But even Jon spoke of his pride in a co-op which allowed him and other workers the opportunity to be involved in decision-making.

I may not be able to change the manner in which you use words to present a record of events, a description of goals, and the like, in a slant towards management bias. But what I can do I will continue to do: I will continue to hold you and management in this co-op to the policy which requires that you include all employees in decision-making that affects them.

I know you rarely, if ever, choose to respond to my e-mails. But I can ask. Would you please let me know what are your plans in 2015 for offering employees the opportunity to design the process by which they may be more regularly involved in the decision-making that affects them? I asked for it at our Unit Meeting. You wrote it down. As you know, it is co-op policy both to involve employees in decision-making and to include them in laying down the guidelines for such inclusion.


All the best,
Geoff"