2006


Folks;
Here is the essay that was distributed at the coop's big
emergency
membership meeting two years ago. It was in response to an
editorial
distributed by the manager and his accomplices. Some of you
received
both papers at that time. I think this may help put the current
crisis
in to perspective.
The union organizer working with the staffpeople has
welcomed
efforts to stir up community support, according to Bruce
Bostick, who is
also working with Jobs With Justice.
My recommendation is that we focus our criticisms on the
coop's
board rather than on its manager - hold the board accountable
for
allowing the present conditions to evolve and persist. The
board has
generally been allowed to function with a minimum of input
from the
members or the community, which means that the most
consistent influence
acting upon it is the manager and his allies. The community
must now
take its turn. If the board won't be motivated ( collectively) by
compassion, wisdom, and reason, then perhaps fear and
anger and surprise
will get heir attention. They are used to everyone's complaints
being
about the manager, but seldom has the manager been blamed
on the board,
which is ultimately responsible.
Evan

P.S.
I need a paragraph describing any up-coming labor-related
event or
meeting to which the public may be invited so that I can
produce it as a
Public Service Announcement to run on WCRS.





My response to the "Green" paper management communique;
Dear Fellow Coop Members;

By now you will have received a communique from the
manager of the
cooperative, signed by supporters, calling for the removal of
two of our
board members. For the last week some former board
members, as well as
current and former staff people and concerned members, have
been
distributing literature in front of the store and speaking politely
with
anyone who cares to stop and hear "the other side". Unless
you have
encountered those folks at the store you may be inclined to
take the
manager's recent communique at face value. I would like to
offer the
following rebuttal to what I believe are a few
misrepresentations in the
most recent communique.
* " Disgruntled Employees"*
First, and in general: the present dispute is being portrayed as
a
conflict between the hard-working management and a minority
of
"disgruntled" employees who want better-than-average
working conditions
and who don't like to follow direction. This is simply not the
case.
Those of us who are seeking changes at the cooperative
include former
board members and members at large who have never been
employed there,
but who are concerned with the high employee turn-over rate,
and who
take seriously the litany of employee complaints - some of
which date
back for years and which, taken together, indicate a pattern
that no
dutiful board or director could fail to address.
"* Micro-management "*
Charges have been made that the board members in question
are seeking to
"micro-manage" the cooperative. Again this is far from
accurate. The
board of any cooperative employs the manager(s) to handle
operations and
draft a business plan, etc. while the board maintains oversight
and
defines the manager's authority and goals in accordance with
the
manager's job description and the organization's mission and
principles.
Employee welfare, especially when threatened, is a legitimate
area of
concern for the board - as is the cooperative's financial stability
(currently the cooperative is operating with a $20,000+ deficit).
Asserting basic oversight by drafting and enforcing
appropriate policies
is not "micromanagement". It is, in fact, what a board is
SUPPOSED to do.
"*Board Interference"*
Much has been made of the board's decision at its December
meeting to
temporarily limit the manager's authority to take disciplinary
action
against employees without pre-clearance from a committee of
the board. I
am glad the board saw fit to adopt this measure. Here's why:
Our bylaws require that any employee grievance be brought
first to the
employee's "supervisor" and then to the General Manager
before taking
the extraordinary step of bringing the grievance to the board. A
number
of employees with various grievances had at some point gone
through the
proper channels - and had suffered disciplinary actions as a
consequence. They felt that the "normal channels" as outlined
in the
bylaws were therefore not available to them, and petitioned the
board
for an audience. Many of us feared that the employees who
spoke out at
that meeting were risking their jobs, and that if they returned to
work
with that threat hanging over them the work environment
would be
intolerable, and would have a negative effect on the store. I
proposed
the temporary "pre-clearance" solution as a means of staving
off that
crisis. Since that temporary provision has expired, however,
there have
been additional firings, demotions, and resignations, so the
pattern has
apparently continued.

Subsequently I had proposed the creation of a special
"grievance
committee" of the board to hear employee concerns and to
recommend
appropriate policies for the board to consider. That proposal
was
rejected by the authors (not the signatories) of the manager's
communique you have recently received.

"*Business versus Democracy"
*Underlying the present conflict is a fundamental struggle
between two
distinctly different business models. One, the "capitalist"
model,
limits employee input and offers only a limited role to patrons
as
"shoppers" whose business must be courted through
"marketing"
strategies. Cooperatives differ from that model in that the
"shoppers"
are actually member-owners, and as such they have unique
rights and
obligations with regard to the governance and development of
the
business. Employees in a cooperative are a special class of
members
whose input and participation at all levels of the organization is
highly valued. It would seem that a portion of our members are
under the
assumption that the cooperative model is not practical, and
would favor
a capitalist structure with a few creature comforts added on to
make the
"market" appealing to them as "shoppers". To this end the
frequent
social functions at the coop suffice in lieu of the member
education
programs mandated by the cooperative principles that define
our
organization. There are many highly successful cooperatives
around the
country, however, with much larger memberships and
facilities, which
manage to meld successful business management with
functional democratic
participation of member-owners. The cooperative model CAN
work but it
requires greater participation from members and sound
leadership from
the members' elected board of directors.

*Specifics*
*The recent communique charges that board member Gary
Cox has "ignored
personnel policies", yet no specific evidence is offered. This
charge
stems from Mr. Cox's invitation to any coop employee to
consult with him
personally if they feel unwarranted disciplinary actions have
been taken
against them by the management during the temporary
pre-clearance rule.
Cox was one of two members of the special oversight
committee
established by the board to regulate the manager's authority
with regard
to terminations and disciplinary measures - so it was perfectly
appropriate for him to invite employees to approach him if they
felt
that rule had been violated.
Mr. Cox did NOT, as the communique alleges, order that a letter
in
support of the manager and calling for Cox and Genter's
removal be
censored from the Communicator - a fact that both Cox and the
newsletter's editor have both affirmed. Cox (and the editor and
others)
expressed concern that the Communicator should not become
a partisan
platform, and that if a letter expressing a partisan view were to
be
published equal space should be offered for a countervailing
opinion. At
no time was the editor instructed by Mr. Cox not to publish any
letter.

Board member Lynne Genter is accused of failing to give
adequate
notification to the board of the agenda for the December
meeting. This
is simply not true. The agenda was posted publicly one week
in advance
in accordance with our by-laws. Ms. Genter also did not "lose
control"
of the meeting. Rather, the board VOTED to add more time on
the agenda
to accommodate input from from the unprecedented number
of concerned
members who attended the meeting (it was a standing
room-only crowd).
The meeting also BEGAN late as Genter allowed extra time for
board
member John Maurer to arrive (Maurer was absent at that
meeting).
If Lynne Genter's actions have "served to legitimize the
conflict", it
is merely a testament to the conflict's legitimacy and to Genter's
diligence in guiding the board to address it.

*New candidates:*
*The communique states that a new slate of candidates
supportive of the
manager will be presented at the March 11 meeting, and that
the members
in attendance will be allowed to vote them in. Our bylaws
stipulate that
candidates for the board gather a requisite number of
signatures of
current members, and present candidates' statements to the
membership in
advance. This allows each member adequate time to make an
informed
decision. That's how it works in a democracy - and in non-profit
organizations with elected boards in the state of Ohio. By
proposing to
seat new board members at the March 11 meeting the manager
and the
signers of the communique are contradicting the spirit of our
bylaws -
and the organization's very nature as a cooperative - and may
be
exposing the organization to the possibility of litigation. One
would
also have to question the credibility or judgment of any
candidate who
would present themselves for election under such
circumstances.

*Final note:*
*The communique refers to "Board Governance". This is
probably a
reference to "Policy Governance", a highly successful
governance
strategy favored by many cooperatives, including the People's
Coop in
Ann Arbor, Michigan whose governance manual is quoted.
Policy Governance
is also favored by Genter and Cox, and the staff-people and
members at
large who the manager is opposing - so it would seem we all
agree on
that point. It is ironic, however that no cooperative using the
Policy
Governance model allows their general manager to be a voting
member of
their board. That includes People's Coop. I called People's just
to
confirm this and the store manager I spoke with said that to
have the
general manager on the board would represent a clear conflict
of
interest, and would be prohibited under the conflict of interest
clause
in their bylaws. John Carver, the creator of Policy Governance,
whom I
also consulted on this matter some years ago, agrees in
principle - and
there are no provisions under Policy Governance that
anticipate such a
contradiction.
Our cooperative has a similar conflict of interest clause, but the
bylaws of any organization are only meaningful when the
members and
directors are diligent about upholding them.

Please plan on attending the meeting on March 11. Your
participation
WILL decide whether the Calumet Natural Foods Cooperative
will be a
private enterprise or a member-owned and democratically
governed
embodiment of the cooperative dream.
Call the coop for time and location of the meeting.
Evan