Friday, July 11, 2014

A WSM Employee's Right To Choose

I really, really, really, REALLY wanted to post a note supporting a decision taken this week by the Weaver Street Market Co-operative General Manager. But, once again, he has shown himself opposed to an employee's right to choose. Read on:

"Dear Ruffin,

I read the copy of the e-mail to a customer you posted in the Southern Village store breakroom in reference to the decision you took no longer to stock Eden Foods in our WSM stores.

From the wording of the e-mail, I assumed that the decision was related to some long-standing agreed co-op policy about food content, fair trade farming, sustainable production, whatever. And I was ready to post a blog applauding and offering support. Not least for your language about our co-op responding to owners' needs.

And then I asked my store manager why the decision was made. And I was told it was because Eden Foods are pursuing a lawsuit on grounds similar to the Hobby Lobby appeal to the Supreme Court.

For the record, I am totally opposed to any form of discrimination, and fully support the right to choose. Including the right of an employee to choose. Especially in WSM. And that is my point, with this e-mail, and the point I've been making these past eight months or so.

WSM has no agreed policy on Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court, Eden Foods' lawsuit, or any of the issues raised in that litigation.

I could talk about the desirability of consulting owners and consumers about consensually agreeing such a policy on such contentious matters. But that is for another place and time.

What I will object to strenuously is your continued refusal to comply with mandated co-op policy that demands that you involve employees in all major decision-making. What one might describe, ironically, as our right as employees to choose.

The policy, as I have made clear, time and time again, is very straightforward. On this occasion, seeing as it relates directly to products we sell, it could not possibly be more relevant to store employees.

It matters not whether I agree with the outcome of this decision. We are not merely a socially-conscious corporation with a socially-conscious General Manager. We are a democratic co-operative, with very strict policies not just on what decisions are made, but how they are made. And this decision was made in breach of co-op policy on including employees. It would be inconsistent of me not to object, regardless of my political views.

I simply do not understand why you, senior management and the Board seem singularly unable or unwilling to grasp what is the co-op policy on involving employees in decision-making. I trust that you will do so when it comes to the next likely big decision to be made, namely the setting of the size of the profit for 2014, and the setting of the size of the worker-owner dividend.

All the best,