Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Employee Communications Survey - In Full

Well, here's a thing. I was going to link to the survey results in full, in case my fellow co-workers did not know where to find them. But I can't. Because the WSM powers-that-shouldn't-be have designated those results an 'internal document.' And they passed a policy a couple of years ago to stop folks like me (well, just me!) publishing documents which I believed (and still believe) should be seen by owners, consumers and workers. Huh. So much for whistle-blowing. In a co-op, for crying out loud.

So. For any and all fellow WSM co-workers, go onto your break-room computer, bring up the web, you will see about three tabs on the screen that comes up, one is for Weaver Street Wiki, go to that, first document at the top is the Communication Survey results. And that must qualify as the longest narrative online link in history. In a bloody co-op, for crying out loud.

In the meantime, and anecdotally only, God forbid I should share anything verbatim from an internal document (where is Edward Snowden when you need him?), I find most interesting just how many responses there are saying things like: we want to be involved in all decision-making affecting the workplace, and when we make suggestions, er, could we actually see someone paying attention?

Nice to know it's not just me saying this. And it isn't. Because I very deliberately did not take part in the survey, precisely so that the powers-that-should-not-be could not turn around and say, well, that's just Geoff speaking.

Moving along, it is also hilarious reading the obvious submissions from managers. Like, gee, I think my department and store manager do a fine job of soliciting my opinion on issues where my input would be useful. In a co-op, for crying out loud.

People, co-op policy demands that we workers decide what decisions it is that we want input on, not managers. We are a co-op. With a co-op policy that states, baldly, that workers should be involved in all decision-making that affects our workplace, our pay and our benefits. Period.

In any event, the survey results make very interesting reading. WSM management have promised to publish further summaries (LOL) of those results in upcoming employee 'Market Messengers.' We'll see. We'll also see if, on this occasion, they do actually pay any attention to our feedback ...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Sales Increase, Dividend Decrease ... ??

We Weaver Street Market Co-op workers got a little scold today from the powers-that-shouldn't-be in our bi-weekly employee 'Market Messenger' about not meeting 'our' sales targets. And the fact that this would decrease the profit available for worker-owner dividends.
First, I welcome the fact that we are getting more financial information. Secondly, I welcome the fact that we are still getting a dividend. Thirdly, I welcome the fact that the lower dividend forecast is also due to the fact that more workers are participating in the 401-k program, and to a higher number of health insurance claims. And I was just about to make a mental note to work a bit harder. When I managed to catch myself.
Who says we are not meeting the sales targets? Who set the sales targets? Who says this results in how much profit? And who says how much of that profit gets spent on dividends?
People, we need to get away from this continuing attachment to top-down, we-know-best hierarchy in our co-op. Co-operatives are the essential building block of economic democracy. Which means that consumers and workers decide, not some self-appointed tier of managers.
Moreover, as I keep pointing out 'ad nauseam,' we have in our specific co-op a Board policy which demands that we workers are involved in the decision-making which determines the nature of our workplace and our remuneration.
In other words, we should be involved in the decisions that set the budget each year, that determine what will be the required sales increase (if any), what the money will be spent on, what the profit will be, and what the dividend will be. We should be involved, because co-op policy requires our inclusion.
What on earth do you think the recent employee survey was all about, if not to include us more in decision-making, and to give us all the financial information we need to be involved in an informed way?
So, grab your little 'Market Messenger,' grab your department manager and ask him or her why our forecast dividend is going down, and how can you be involved in the decisions to set the budget, the profit, the required sales increase and the level of your dividend for next year.
Now, I do say: if any sales increase is required. This is what I do not understand. And it is why I want we workers to be involved in the decision-making. Rises in cost of goods should be met with rises in sales price. They should cancel each other out. Inflation is well below this year's sales increase demand of 10%. Well below even the achieved sales growth of 5%. So, we can't need all of this sales increase to cover inflationary increases in anything else.
So, when the powers demand that we increase sales by 10%, they are saying they actually need some $4 million extra - to spend on what?
It is not clear from the figures we are given. And I raised this at my last annual store meeting, when I wondered where the $1 million refit of the Carrboro store was in the figures. Oh, I was told, that is in the item 'unit expenses.' Well, it shouldn't be. It should be somewhere we can readily identify it (I said). So that we know why we need extra income into the co-op.
In which regard, the latest set of figures still has all sorts of sins hidden in innocuous sounding items. Which is precisely why I want a process where we workers are included in the decision-making that sets the budget. We have a right to know what is going on, and to be involved in designing what is going on.
So, also be ready for this year's annual store meetings (which will be soon), both to query what the figures mean exactly, to question why any requested sales increase for next year (and there will be one) is necessary, and to demand that we be included henceforth in all decisions that set budgets, sales increases, margin levels, profit levels, and our own dividend.
I know it takes a lot of nerve to speak up. But economic democracy does not occur simply because you put a tooth under your pillow ...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

When Is A Co-op Not A Co-op?

Answer: When it tries to be anything other than a co-op.

Seems pretty obvious, doesn't it? Yet. Every single time, in the ten years I have been with Weaver Street Market Co-operative, as a worker and as an owner, every single time we have attempted to be anything other than a community grocery co-op, we have failed. Costing all of us (consumers, workers and owners) millions of dollars.

Chain store. Commissary. Food brand. Meat packer. Whenever we have claimed to be the experts at something for which we have no obvious expertise, and for which there is no demonstrable need being expressed by our owners (the prerequisite of all co-op activity), we have gone astray. And the dividend of our owners has suffered. Along with the pay packet and benefits of our workers. Not to mention the essentials of economic democracy.

None of this is judgment upon my hard-working, conscientious, fellow workers. It is commentary upon the powers-that-should-not-be.

What is the solution? Return to our democratic roots as a co-op, as defined in internationally-accepted principles of co-operation and in WSM's own Mission Statement. Ask our consumer-owners what are their needs. and then provide for them. No more, no less. Ask our workers how they would prefer to provide. And then pay attention. As is demanded by co-op policy.

It really is as simple as that. But, on this occasion, you don't get to say, ok Geoff, take care of it for us. I've been doing that for ten years. I now have a book to publish, and a music EP to complete. Time for another of WSM's 18,000 owners and/or its 250 workers to step up to the plate ...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Weavestock 3, Pop Voxx, EP Update, Hugh Swaso

Another nudge to all my Weaver Street Market art, performance and musician co-workers. Discussions about #‎Weavestock3‬ are underway. Please let folks know soonest if you want to take part.

Pop Voxx / Geoff Gilson will be appearing. The six-song EP is coming along in leaps and bounds. Last Friday, we laid down the first guitar tracks with Hugh Swaso (of Skinny Bag Of Sugar), on 'Road To Love.' 'Call Out My Name' this week.

We are building the sound, people. Forget Daft, Taylor, Katy, Ronson, Max and Pharrell. We are talking the heaviest drum and bass (stolen from the depths of Club Valhalla), overlain with piano and synth straight out of the Eighties, with a hint of, yes, is that Nintendo (?), matched with anthemic guitar, sax and magisterial vocals, all with a sprinkling of trademark Geoff twitch, pulse, dance, sass and humor.

All undertaken by the remarkable team at Nightsound Studios - Chris Wimberley, Adrianna Villa (it be they two, plus me, plus Hugh in the pics attached - ooh, arr!!), Meghan Puryear and Geneva Walata. Coming soon to an EP release party/showcase near you. Well, likely July/August. With a ... wait for it ... full band. Which I am just beginning to work on. Nerves. Asking people. I'm still doing the not-worthy thing. Me. Or the songs. Why do emotional issues have to plague everything?! Sigh. I will get there. Got this far! Don't you like how I share everything?

Anyways, and in the meantime, as I say, Pop Voxx will be at Weavestock 3. But for that gig, it will still be me, the Casio, you, the dances. Oh. And don't think that because PV is going uptown, it won't still be interactive. It will be. Just interactive with mega-wattage ... !!

So fellow Weaverites, don't be shy. Let Steve Carter or Linda Fullwood (Linda@weaverstreetmarket.coop) know you are interested, and let's get the party rolling ... !!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Weavestock 3

Discussions about Weavestock 3 have already begun, people. The musical highlight of the year for anyone living within 100 miles of the Carrboro, Hillsborough, Southern Village Triangle. The Weaver Street Market lawn event, which features performance acts which include WSM employees. The date is tentatively set for the last or second-last Thursday in July.
If are interested in taking part, respond here, or to Steve Carter, or to Linda Fullwood at Linda@weaverstreetmarket.coop. It doesn't have to be a musical act. It can be any creative performance art: juggling, slam poetry, whatever you want. Pop Voxx / Geoff Gilson will be there.

Pop Voxx, IRS, Good News, Bad News, Good-night, Good-bye

Good News - I have just completed my US tax return for 2014 (before 5 o'clock on April 15, for a change). And due to the wonderful folk at my recording studio and the fabulous technicians and instrumentalists who are in the process of recording with me an earth-shattering six-song EP, I have managed to set off a whole shedload of creative expenses relating to Pop Voxx / Geoff Gilson (and some for The Book, too), and have computed a refund for myself.

Bad News - I may have been a bad boy in previous years. And so the IRS will be partayyyying with my refund, not me.

I think it sensible not to mention any names. Don't want to flag anyone. You know who you are. And if you don't, or you can't remember, you were probably hung over ... !!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Democratic Take On The Communications Survey Results

So, the WSM employee Market Messenger this week (you know that document; it's the one you throw away when opening your pay check), anyway, it has some more results of the Employee Survey all we workers recently completed.

Well. It has the interpretation of management of those results. Let's take a step back, go through them, and add a little bit of democracy to the interpretation.

And remember, we workers should now be given the opportunity to see ALL of the results (which MM tells us can be found on the WSM wiki home page), discuss them, and ensure that we are actively involved in designing the new communications and decision-making processes that follow. We didn't take part in this survey just so that management could make all the decisions.

Right. Democratic take on the management interpretation:

SLACK/COMMUNICATION GENERALLY - Management recognize we need more Department Meetings. But they seem to think those meetings are just to allow managers to lay down the law. They are not. They are the sharp end of economic democracy within our co-op. Employees should help set the agendas. Votes should be taken. Departments should decide consensually. Managers then oversee implementation. But, you have to push for that. My writing about it won't make it happen.

We are told the new web-site is on the way. I know one of the things that has been holding it up. Just how interactive it will be. It seems to me (and to certain other advocates, whom I can't name, but I know are fighting hard for interactivity) that we've all (workers, consumers and owners), we've all had quite enough of one-way communication in this democratic co-op. We want to be able to provide feedback, in real time, where other people can see it, and we can all see management responding. In the past few years, for example, I have regularly suggested the web-site include an open forum.

- Loads of guff from management. All of which misses the primary points. This survey took place because I hammered management for two years about explicit co-op policy, which clearly states that employees are to be included in decision-making which affects them and their workplace. One of the issues specifically mentioned is the employee dividend.

These decisions about our dividend are not supposed to be taken by management or the Board alone. We workers are supposed to be involved in setting the size of the dividend each year.

Now, it is not enough to have a quick discussion at the end of the year about the dividend. Because the decisions are taken at the beginning of the year, when setting the budget, about how much profit there will be. The size of the dividend is determined by the size of the profit. Employees need to be engaged in both the setting of the budget and then in the setting of the dividend. The MM doesn't say that. We need to. To our department managers. Now.

MARGINS - You're going to start seeing a pattern here. We workers, in our department meetings, should be consensually agreeing margins. We should all be presented with the same data. We then all make the decisions, together. What's that called? Democracy. What's that called? Complying with co-op policy.

One of the things that management have begun in recent years is to talk about certain financial objectives as if they are a c'mon-everyone-knows-that, standard-practice given. You know who I'm talking about.

In a democratic co-op, nothing is a given. We get 'given' the information, and then we decide what is 'given.' Don't stand for this overbearing, superior, patronizing crap.

What is the point of more communication if all it is is telling us what someone else has already decided is too difficult for us to comprehend or be involved in? In contravention of co-op policy.

EMPLOYEE PAY/BENEFITS - What interests me, and it should interest you, is all workers being involved in the decisions that set the size of the pot from which raises are drawn.

We earn this money. Who says managers alone should decide how much of it should be used for pay raises?

And so, onto more feedback in the next Market Messenger ...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Durham Co-op

Congratulations to the Durham Co-op! It's been a long time coming. Just remember. You're not a grocery store with a conscience and tattoo's. You're a co-op. Economic democracy in action. Don't forget the democracy.

There has been some discussion in my own co-op, Weaver Street Market Co-op, about our building more stores. I have all sorts of operational problems with creating such an empire. But mostly I'm opposed in principle because a co-op is supposed to be a community organization.

I define community as pretty much sticking my head out the front door, having a good look around, screaming 'grubs up,' and whoever turns up is 'community.' Durham is not 'community' to Carrboro or Hillsborough or Southern Village. In fact, those three conurbations aren't even 'community' to each other. But that's a discussion for another time.

Co-op's work best when there is an intimate relationship between a co-op and its community. Durham's community is Durham. So, I am delighted they formed their own co-op. And did not settle for a branch office of WSM.

That said, WSM has provided a measure of assistance to the Durham Co-op. And will likely be continuing to provide foodstuffs from our Food House. I am proud of that co-operative support - provided it is not putting too much strain on my fellow co-workers in the WSM Food House.

Best of luck, Durham. Sorry you have to support the Blue Devils, and not the Tar Heels ...