A co-founder of the Honest Weight Food Co-op, I was saddened by the news that the current leadership has unilaterally decided to end our original mission of having members staff the store in order to keep overhead low and make organic food more affordable.
As the Times Union quoted one co-op member, “I think it destroys what the co-op is.”
Indeed, Honest Weight was an entirely cooperative effort when we started it in 1977. We members did all the renovations on the original Quail Street storefront and then managed and staffed it ourselves. No one was paid, and policy decisions were made by the membership as a whole.
But the co-op’s level of cooperativeness has been diminishing for many years. As our popularity spread during the 1980s, the membership and particularly the leadership grew increasingly suburban. Crowdedness and parking were suddenly considered major problems, resulting in moves to more and more expensive locations. There was a dramatic rise in the power of the board, which proceeded to “professionalize” operations by hiring a six-figure CEO and taking other steps to diminish the membership’s role in co-op operations.
Eliminating member-workers altogether will complete the regrettable and unnecessary slide from a not-for-profit food co-op to a bottom-line-driven food corporation.