Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How To Land An Intelligence Officer ...

Once upon a time. There was a guy who turned up dead in the woods. Didn't add up. Blah, blah. Maggie's Hammer. Israeli Intelligence source. But, with a twist.

Ari Ben-Menashe (said Israeli Intelligence source - pic above) pursued the line for the longest time that my mate was a name on a list. Until. I pointed out that he (Ari) couldn't possibly know what he knew unless he'd known my mate, done business with him. And. Maybe more. If you know what I mean. Cf. turning up dead in the woods.

Well, fast forward. And I still do not have an answer to the inherent contradiction. So. I appear on radio interviews. And highlight the contradiction. As in, Ari knows more than he is saying.


Ari calls me last night.


Sigh. You gotta do what you gotta do to get to the truth. And if that includes baiting an intelligence officer, well, I've done it before. Cf. "Europe is not a safe place for you to be."

Sent out a round-robin this morning. To everyone. Ari. Our joint publisher and publicist. Oh yes. As part of this merry-go-round, I introduced Ari to my publisher, who is now reprinting his book. What is that book? Hey! Traitors!!

I know, I know, you couldn't make this stuff up.

Anyhoo's. Round-robined everyone. And said. I love you all to death. But I'm still looking for the truth. This isn't Oprah air kiss time. I will continue to underline dichotomies. In the hopes of getting folks to tell the truth. Whoever they may be. Wherever. And if that is on a radio interview, where Ari and I are appearing jointly. Then, so be it. I will ask him to cough up the whole story. On air. Live.

Um. That's the update. And now, I go make coffees at my co-op. Talk about contrast ...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Hedge, Fudge, Stats, Lies

Oh dear. Another WSM employee Market Messenger. Another installment of Grimm's Fairy Tales.

I'm not sure which is worse. Making decisions without including workers, lying when announcing the decisions, or constantly co-opting the images and language of co-operation to describe an organization which stopped being a co-op a long time ago. It is now little better than WalMart with tattoo's. A private club, run by its corporate officers, for the benefit of their friends.

Can it change? Yes. More of that later. But, more to the point, why do I bother writing about it? Because I hate our co-op? C'mon. I wouldn't still be here if I did. Then why?

To bear witness. Look the corporate boys and girls can carry on trying to shed every last vestige of economic democracy from our shared co-op. But, so long as someone is bearing witness, they won't do it without being made to break a sweat.

So. To the Market Messenger. First up, much patting on the back for the owner's Co-op Fair. Oh Geoff. Surely you're not going to complain about an event that made 200 attendees happy?

That's the point. It's all gloss and glitter. Lookee. Happy people. Eating. Drinking. Dancing on the lawn. We must be a co-op. No. We're a grocery store, where people get stuffed, get drunk and fall about on a lawn.

If we were a co-op, we wouldn't replace the Annual Meeting of Owners, where owners get publicly to hold their corporate office to account, we wouldn't replace it with a cheese 'n wine. And owners would be sober enough, democratic enough and engaged enough to know the difference.

Secondly, we employees are told that, having replaced our paychecks with payroll cards, we are now not even going to get the paystub to tell us how much we've been paid.

Once again, enter corporate deflection. Gosh, we're doing this to save the Amazon rain forest. No. You're doing it in order to save the payroll company money, so they charge you less, so you pocket the money without telling us.

But, but that increases the worker-owner dividend. No. It doesn't. Not if we workers are excluded from the decision-making that lies behind setting the worker-owner dividend. In breach of explicit co-op policy.

But then, I forgot. According to our managers (at least two of whom reminded us of the fact, at our store meeting a couple of weeks ago), we minion workers are too stupid to understand the complexity of corporate financials.

And so on. And so on.

But there is good news. I told you I would come to it. We can make a difference. The 220 of us (out of a total workforce of 250) who are worker-owners can vote in the current election for a Worker-Owner Board Director. But, you gotta do it before this Tuesday.

Now. I have my preference of the three candidates. But, guess what? Provided we all vote, it really doesn't matter who you vote for. Provided it isn't for the candidate who has his office in the corporate HQ ten feet from the WSM General Manager. If you are not immediately clear who that is, write to me.

We have enough votes to get either one of the other two elected. And if we do, we will have on the Board - finally - someone who is actually responsive to the needs of the workers, in this co-op which is half-owned by those workers.

So, for the love of all things still vaguely co-operative, please vote.

[P.S, I included the graphic from the new WSM web-site, because it's like playing Waldo. Spot the co-op that isn't ... ]

Saturday, September 19, 2015

3rd Carrboro, NC Community Forum On Policing

The third Carrboro, NC Community Forum on Policing will be held on Wednesday, October 28. I am assuming it will be at the Carrboro Town Hall, beginning at 7.00pm, as were the previous two. So, get out your calendars, contact your managers to get the time to attend.

Just to remind you what the Forums are about, and what I am hoping to achieve with my advocacy of Citizen Design of Policing, here is a link.

I wrote to Carrboro Alderman Damon Seils as follows:

“Many thanks, Damon. Again, I’ll give a little nudge to you, to give a little nudge to others to get it set, say, at least a month before, so that NAACP and others can do the best/have enough time to organize the young and at risk (young families) to arrange schedules, babysitters, whatever, so as to be able to attend.

I’m thinking about attendance. I’m sure you have, but maybe again, talk with the likes of el Futuro, NAACP, to see what it is that keeps Hispanics, young, blacks from wanting to attend. Maybe not this time, maybe in the future, maybe we should be taking these meetings into neighborhoods? Rotate. The various apartment complexes have community rooms. El Futuro? Churches they attend. Places they feel safe. And this next one maybe even further down the road. Exploring the possibility that the police attend in civvies. Less them, more us? Just thoughts.”

Damon responded favorably. But it is now up to all of us to do what we can to encourage those who feel most uncomfortable with policing to feel comfortable about coming to this meeting, or to find ways in which they would be comfortable discussing their discomfort. Which is one of the most awkward-sounding sentences I’ve ever composed! But you know what I mean.

Spread the word. See you all on the 28th!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Voting In WSM Board Elections 2015

Just a reminder that voting for both the WSM Worker-Owner Board Director and the WSM Consumer-Owner Director began yesterday (Wednesday, September 16). AND. Please note. Only continues for two weeks. So. Please vote ASAP.

Please also take note of this. A heartfelt plea. Some of us worked really hard to make it easier for employees to become worker-owners. So that as many employees as possible could vote to make a difference in the co-op we all love.

The work paid off. In the year after it was finally made easier (after five years of campaigning), in 2012, worker-ownership more than doubled from 99 to 220 (out of a total workforce of about 250).

So what? Well, all those people who say voting achieves nothing are now wrong. Before 2012, the management bloc vote overrode anything ordinary employees did or anyone we voted for. Not now. If we all bother to vote.

We can elect whoever of the three candidates we want. If we elect someone who truly represents employees, and not the management line, we will have one worker-friendly Director out of seven on the Board.

If we do it again next year, we will have two. At which point, the two Consumer-Owner Directors and the two appointed Directors will take note, start to listen, and we will have the necessary majority of four on the Board.

And that is when management have to start listening to what workers want. In the co-op we are told we half-own. BUT. You have to vote!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Board Election Results

First things first. We haven't even had the voting period yet. And it's truly important that all worker-owners and consumer-owners understand that there is a dramatically shortened period for voting this year in the WSM Board Director Elections.

The voting period begins on September 16, and lasts only TWO WEEKS. So, when the ballot papers become available, pretty much you gotta vote like immediately, so as not to forget.

After the Election last year, I wrote to the WSM Elections Committee to ask them to consider providing more information about the Election results, to inform worker-owners about how many (or how few) worker-owners actually voted.

In years past, I have had too many worker-owners say something like, you don't need my vote, it won't make a difference, enough folks vote already. I wanted to prove or disprove the contentions with actual data. So, I wrote the following e-mail to the Committee:

"Hi WSM Elections Committee,

Just to remind you that I was told that you had been generally favorable to my request after the Worker-Owner Director Election last year that, henceforth, when announcing the Election results, in the Market Messenger and elsewhere, you would include the voting figures for each ballot box. Not by candidate. But in total for each ballot box.

You will remember that my reasoning, as the person who drafted most of the original Election Rules, was to continue the theme of transparency leading to greater engagement that had been set by the Elections Task Force in its findings in 2008. If folks who didn't vote knew how many (or how few) people did vote, then they might be more encouraged to vote next time. Trying to get past this feeling that there's no point in voting.

Could you also please confirm your formal agreement to my second request, namely that any worker-owner, upon request, be furnished with the overall votes cast for each candidate? For the same reasons. Transparency can only help to inform the electorate. I give you notice now that I will be making such a request.

All the best,

I have now been told that half of my requests were approved. And so the new Elections Manual reads as follows:

"In addition, the details of the Worker Owner election results will be posted in the break rooms the morning after the ballots have been counted. In addition, a link to a web page with details will be provided. Details will include the number and the percentage of valid ballots received by each candidate."

When reading those figures, bear in mind we now have about 220 worker-owners, out of a total of some 250 WSM employees. My thanks to the WSM Elections Committee.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Worker-Owner Director Election Hustings - The Redux

I have really agonized over my interaction at the Southern Village Weave election hustings yesterday. I feel frustrated and annoyed. Am trying to work out why. Am trying to move on. Am trying to be positive.

Frankly, I'm sick and tired of managers listening to me and telling me I'm being confrontational. That I hate our co-op. That I have nothing positive to offer.

I love our co-op. I want it to be a better co-op and a stronger business. The people who are being confrontational and negative are the same managers who ignore the co-op policy they don't like. Who ignore workers they don't like. And all the while co-opt the language of co-operation to pretend they support and are implementing its precepts, when in fact they are reading from the Wal-Mart corporation handbook.

Co-operation is not an ownership model. It is a business model. The notion is that we avoid catastrophic cock-ups by ensuring that decision-making made by the few is always accountable to the many.

What has happened, and continues to happen in this co-op, is that a self-appointed few in the WSM corporate office deliberately and methodically set out to denigrate and minimize all possibility of genuine accountability. And the truly clever part is that they regularly employ tactics that look democratic, but aren't.

So, for example, this year, they have completely abandoned the Annual Meeting of Owners. And have replaced it with a Co-op Fair. They have produced truly pretty and enticing literature and rationale, which dances the merry co-op dance. Offers tasty treats and the Food House equivalent of dancing on the lawn. But doesn't permit rigorous questioning of the corporate office as to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that will be spent in the next year on capital projects that owners have had no hand in approving.

And so it was that, at the hustings yesterday, I suffered the worker-owner equivalent of this dishonest sleight of hand. I listened to a senior manager expounding upon Policy Governance, as if it was supposed to reduce the Board of Directors to nothing more than an advisory group.

There is nothing written about the Policy Governance model which suggests other than that the Board of Directors should be the body producing strategic design for our co-op, and that its design should be implemented by the General Manager, not be subject to his veto.

Of course, the latter suits management, because, notwithstanding their protestations to the contrary, they have absolutely no interest in the co-operative democratic model. That would mean diluting their authority. Which is, of course, the whole point of co-operation and accountability and consensual decision-making. I don't mind management holding that point of view. I just mind their pretending it is the co-operative model. And I mind the fact that, when I call them out on it, they call me confrontational and a hater.

I mind incumbent Worker-Owner Directors wringing their hands and bemoaning their lack of progress on behalf of workers, when we do not see them from one end of their term in office to the other, and when the reason they have achieved nothing is that they do not have the courage to stand up to the General Manager, and to insist that he comply with co-op policy.

I can handle Worker-Owner Directors who think I talk a crock. I have a real problem with Directors who pretend they support worker inclusion in decision-making, but lobby against it the minute no-one but Ruffin Slater is watching. In other words, I can't handle bullshit. I was being served a truck load of it at the hustings yesterday, and I couldn't take it any more.

I wanted to ask the candidates what they would do to ensure that the Board insist that the General Manager begin to comply with co-op policy on including employees in operational decision-making. I wanted to ask the candidates what they would do to comply with the Policy Governance model, and remove the General Manager from the Board. I wanted to ask the candidates what they would do to ensure the reinstatement of the Annual Meeting of Owners. To provide more regular interaction with their worker-owners. Truly to represent their interests. And not merely be a rubber-stamp for WSM management.

But anger and frustration got the better of me. I was about to lose my temper. In the face of bullshit. So, I got up and left. And that has left me even more frustrated.

I hear managers justify their stance on the basis that, whatever may be the democratic precepts of co-operation, they think the WSM corporate office make good decisions, and that they, the managers,  don't want democracy interfering with that.

Even though that is a million miles removed from co-operation, they are entitled to their point of view. And I honor it, because we are a co-op, where democracy is supposed to prevail, and all are equal.

But, on that same basis, we are all equal, we are a democracy. And I say that the decisions being made hurt workers (literally), hurt the co-op, and I am entitled to say that publicly, in any forum, including the workplace (as managers are), without being denigrated, minimized or threatened.

Ah well. I write this rant. I get it off my chest. I enjoy my two days off. I go back to work on Saturday. I re-enter the fray. Continue the advocacy. And suffer the slings and arrows of management saying I'm confrontational and a hater ...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Worker-Owner Director Election Hustings

I may have slightly disgraced myself at the election hustings at the SV Weave today.

I was asking short, well-mannered, low intensity questions about what the candidates intended to do about representing worker interests on the Board of our co-op, which we are regularly reminded is half-owned by its workers.

I got as far as asking the incumbent Worker-Owner Director, who has been on the Board for five years now, is running for re-election and is Chair of the Board (which, um, should carry some weight, somewhere), I got as far as asking him what he had actually done about setting up a Board Task Force to examine worker's issues, a Task Force he was merrily propounding, and the answers became double-speak.

Well, we've discussed it. Did you set it up? Well, no-one suggested it. I did. On several occasions [Manager stands up and leaves, with 'here we go again' expression on his face]. Well, suggest it again.

You've been on the Board for five years. You've done nothing to set up anything like a Task Force. And the best you can offer is, try suggesting it again?

I stood up and said it was time to go. I can take only so much bs from Board Worker-Owner Directors, whom we never see, and who seem to believe that telling us what they haven't done every two years is representing us.

I told the incumbent that. Wished his opponent well. Told the incumbent I would not be voting for someone who has done nothing for workers in five years. And left.

I will be voting for Caitlin Moira Williams. And I'm cluttering up her FB Wall again, to let her and her friends know this. We need genuine conversation in our co-op. And someone on the Board who will not let the General Manager prevent such meaningful conversation.

Now, I'm going to go have a nap and calm down.

Monday, September 7, 2015

US Labor Day 2015

Today is US Labor Day. And I'm working. And I'm not being paid time-and-a-half. And I work in a co-op. Anyone else think those four sentences shouldn't be in the same post ... ?? 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Maggie's Hammer - My Tuppence Worth

Ok. So I've done a whole bunch of radio interviews in support of the book release. More on offer this week.

But one question keeps bugging me: "So, if this 'adventure,' this 'quest' has been so dangerous (which it has, on and off), why did you keep going?"

Well, I've responded with all the cute, buy my book please, answers that I can. But none have sat very well.

So, the universe sent me a nudge. In the form of a seven year old girl, chanting 'chim, chimney, chim, chimney.'

My mind was suddenly a-flood with Mary Poppins. And then Peter Pan. Scenes of Old London Town. Mixing with the picture I paint in my book of a City now corrupted by worse pollution than the soot of old.

And through it all, I remember the scene of the Father walking his lonely walk to the authorities of his Bank. To face the music on his own.

For why? Well, after he did his dithering stupid man thing. Of trying to get his son to part with his money. When his son wanted only to give it to the lady feeding the pigeons. In one of the most powerful cinema moments I can recall. Basically, after Dad had been the Dick (sorry about the pun). He stood by his son. Because that is what Fathers do. They protect.

Not sure why this conflates with Peter Pan. But somehow, it does. I mean, c'mon, this is the same mind that gives you Pop Voxx. Give me a break. Anyway. Suddenly, I got it.

The day my friend Hugh died, I had to hold the hands of his eleven year old daughter, and tell her that everything would be alright, when all she wanted to know was why her Father was dead.

Why on earth would I ever stop? Time? Danger? A baseball game? What? A father protects. Her father was dead. The father of her sister and brother was dead. Who else was going to protect them? Find out the truth? No-one else stepped forward. They all ran away.

So. No more cute answers. Just a rather boring one. I didn't stop because we haven't yet reached the end. We don't yet have a full answer. So, why on earth would I stop?

The book isn't an end. It isn't closure. It is merely the next step in finding the truth.

As for future radio interviews, I'll keep the cute answers for the question: "Who do you want to have play you in the movie version ... ??"