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 ...