Saturday, March 29, 2014

'Garden & Gun' For Sale In WSM

Really? I mean. Really?

This was my first, middle and last thought before writing this post, as Dayton struggle with Florida in their NCAA Men's Basketball match-up, this quiet Saturday evening.

We, the premier grocery co-op in the southeastern United States, who pride ourselves (I hope) on putting principle ahead of penny, morality ahead of money, we who were one of the first to place on the front door of all of our units the 'no guns allowed' sign, after the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature this past year permitted folks to wear hidden weapons on their person ...

... we are now selling the magazine 'Garden & Gun'? Really?!?

But it sells well. So what? Why don't we see how well it does? Why? It's not really a gun magazine. Then why does it have the word 'gun' in the title? It's more of a southern culture magazine. When it features ads and articles on hunting? Killing?

If we are this desperate for money, then someone needs to be fired. If we are this unconcerned about principle, then we need to strike the word 'co-operative' from our title. If we have become so reduced that we no longer lead, we merely follow, then something needs to change. Fast.

Unbelievable. I mean. Bloody unbelievable.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

WSM Board of Directors Election 2014 - My Candidacy

I have decided after a hiatus of three years to stand as a Worker-Owner Candidate in the elections for Board Director of Weaver Street Market Co-operative this coming Fall.

Some of you may have noticed that I had once again become quite active recently with my advocacy for employee and owner rights within our co-op.

The reason has been simple. For one reason or another, maybe our 20/20 Goals, maybe a new expansion, senior management within WSM have been making a lot of decisions in the past year. And they have been less than assiduous in including workers and owners in the decision-making process - as co-op policy demands.

Now, I know I don’t really need to remind you that the mission of any co-op is to meet the needs of its owners, and that it does this through democratic control of the co-op by its owners. The primary purpose of the Board of Directors, in my opinion, is to safeguard the right of owners (be they consumer-owners or worker-owners) to be included in strategic decision-making.

Bottom line. If you, as an owner or a worker, feel that you are not being included properly in the making of important strategic decisions, then the Board are not doing their job. And it is time for new Board members. That is why I will be standing.

As I say, some of you may have noticed that I have been using WSM Employee Policy to raise formal complaints about the exclusion of we regular employees from strategic decision-making.

I had a private discussion in the past week where these matters were raised. I promised to keep the substance of that meeting confidential. I am a man of my word. We may see changes. We may not. But as a consequence of that meeting, I became convinced of two things.

First, we need more Board Directors who understand what it means to be a co-op democratically controlled by its owners.

And secondly, that requires Board Directors who are prepared to stand toe-to-toe with senior management, look them straight in the eye, and demand that they abide by co-op policy, and allow owners democratically to control the co-op they own.

Again, that is why I am going to stand again for the Board this year. I can give you some sort of preview of what my Election Statement might look like right here.

The one point that is most important for me is that I will not be standing to pursue my own agenda. I will be standing to create the space to allow other workers and owners to have their voice heard.

Some Board Directors take the view that, once elected, they never need to ask workers or owners anything. More than once, I have heard the refrain, 'But we were elected to make those sorts of decisions.'

I don't agree. I believe the purpose of any election is to choose folks who will then take the time to lead the fullest discussion on the decisions that need to be made.

So. Please do not be the innocent bystander. Now, tomorrow, up to the election, through it and beyond, if you have an issue you want discussed, acted on, advanced, please do not hesitate to stop me and have a chat, or write to me at

This is not my co-op. It is not the Board's co-op. It is not the property of the WSM corporate office management team. It is a co-op which is owned by all of us. Equally. It is our co-op.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Financial Picture at The Weave

Look. I just want, as an employee and a worker-owner, a straight answer to a straight question. Is Weaver Street Market Co-operative currently the picture of perfect financial health. Or not?

But neither my General Manager nor my Board Chairman want to tell me. Why not?

I wrote some weeks ago asking for a copy of the Audited Accounts for 2013, to which I am entitled as an owner. And not the Reader's Digest/Ronald Reagan version with the pretty pictures that was in the Annual Report.

No. The one we owners hire an outside Accountant to produce FOR US each year. To make sure the WSM corporate office management team are telling us the truth.

Oh yeah. THOSE Audited Accounts are not produced for the corporate office. They are produced ABOUT the corporate office, and are supposed to be available to employees and owners.

Bet you didn't know that, did you?

Anyway, I asked for a copy of them, and also a copy of the financial statement for the end of the Second Quarter.

Funny thing. End of Quarter statements are normally published in the employee Market Messenger. Not this Quarter. Hmm. I wonder why not?

So, I asked. Nothing. Then I chased. Nothing. Now, I've written the nasty red 'your-electricity-will-be-cut-off-tomorrow' version.

Why the interest? Well, at our annual employee store meetings and at the Owners' Annual Meeting, all in the middle of last Fall, we were told the financial picture at The Weave was glowy glossy glittery wonderful.

Since then, Panzanella has been shut, my department margin went up by 50% and there may now be a hiring freeze in operation in my store. I sort of saw signs at Christmas. But they are now unavoidable.

And I don't want to know out of idle curiosity. Five years ago, the WSM corporate office management team got WSM into a financial mess with its 2008 expansion. It was only when The Co-operative Grocer ran an article in 2010 that we minions discovered that our General Manager had applied to the National Co-operative Grocers' Association in the summer of 2008 for a $1.5 million bail-out, because we needed rescuing from that mishandled expansion.

I do not want us to go there again. If something has gone wrong, tell us. So that we can rally around, and so that we, all of us, we can take the decisions necessary to put matters right - not just a few, secretively, behind a combination lock in Hillsborough.

Oh. And if you are an employee or owner of WSM, why don't you try to find out what's going on? Don't just leave it to me ...

[General Manager - Ruffin Slater -
Board Chair - Curt Brinkmeyer -]

Friday, March 7, 2014

Weavestock 2 ??

I have just written to the higher-ups within Weaver Street Market Co-operative - whose beneficence is exceeded only by their good looks (yes, I'm in suck up mode) - to see if it is too early to start thinking about Weavestock 2.

You remember Weavestock. Last July. An evening of musical acts, on the Carrboro Weave Lawn, in response to the suggestion that a co-op which places such premium on 'local' really should be giving a platform to its own 'local' musical talent, i.e. musical acts with at least one member hailing from WSM.

Huge fun had by all. Musical acts. Audience. Everyone. So. Let's do it again.

If you want it to happen - whether as an act, a member of the audience, or just someone who thinks it's a bloody good idea, and ought to happen again - please write to Linda Fullwood, Events Co-ordinator with WSM (, and let her know.

One idea we were tossing around was having performance art beyond merely music. If you think that is a good idea, again, write to Linda and let her know.

I know I spend a lot of time advocating to encourage our community co-op to be a more responsive commercial entity. This is one respect in which they did respond. Handsomely. Let's let 'em know how grateful we are, and that we would love to see them respond just as generously all over again.

Er. That's code for: everyone write please - Linda can't get too many e-mails.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ukraine: Coming Of Age For Baby-Boomers?

Well. In our arrogance, we truly believed we had defeated The Bear in 1991. But we hadn't. We'd merely defeated Communism. And just set The Bear back a few decades.

I'm sure I could find a generation of mankind more arrogant, less informed and less inclusive than the Baby Boom generation and its various alphabetic offshoots (X, Y, whatever). But I suspect it would be difficult.

In the Eighties, we thought we had invented a new economy. Socialism was a thing of the past. Communism about to be. All was growth, and wealth, and ownership, and pretty baubles - to be shared by everyone, if you could use your Oxford/Harvard education to catch the trickle on its way down.

No need to ask, to double-check, to reference history. We were breaking down barriers, weren't we? Social mobility was the key. Say it often enough, and poverty would disappear. Democracy? Sure. But isn't that just telling other folks what's best for them?

And how could this be nirvana unless the rest of the world shared it too? At the end of a gun if necessary. No, no, don't call it invasion. It's nation building.

How can we be wrong? We're connected. No-one's going to do anything bad if we can see them.

Besides. Who's going to be upset? All the bad people are gone. We're all righteous now.

All that talk of national character and nationalistic fear, ptooey. Gone. We're one global family now.

Same thing with co-op's (yes, I'm going to make this local as well as global). We re-invented co-operation in the Eighties. Did away with hippies and pallets. Brought in 'professionals.'

All is now bigger and better. Today, over yesterday. This year, over last. Who needs to ask co-op owners what are their needs? We know best. 'Cos we're professionals.

And so we, the West, we stroll into Ukraine. To set things right. 'Cos we know best. We stroll into Russia's backyard, without asking. Without checking to see if that fear of being surrounded by enemies, a nationalistic trait of The Bear going back hundreds of years, without checking to see if it still lay simmering, an inch below the surface -

And look. There it is. We can hardly complain when Russia says it's protecting its national interests. The West has been stomping around the globe the past twenty years, merrily 'nation-building' so as to protect its interests and its citizens. Now that Russia is back in the economic game, staging Olympics, wearing big-boy trousers and all, why shouldn't it get to 'nation-build,' too?

And so. This generation isn't so different after all. We didn't re-invent economy. We didn't bring about the end of history. We didn't improve co-operation. We just made the same mistakes, without admitting it.

We aren't better informed, just because we have smartphones. You have to access history to be educated.

We aren't different as human beings, just because the world grew smaller. Same old instincts. Same old fears. You have actually to do something to end poverty. Not just post a meme about it.

Maybe this will be our wake-up call? Our coming of age. Locally, nationally, internationally. Maybe we'll realize it isn't about being bigger, better, richer, more connected? It's about doing the decent thing, and asking first.

Most folks blame Thatcher and Reagan. I don't. I blame John Cusack.

Beginning in the Eighties, Baby-Boomers, X, Y, Millennials, et al, we all thought we were inventing perfection. That all was forward progress. No backtracking.

For me though, I just thought that nothing could go wrong after John Cusack in Say Anything ...