Submitted by Mary Rogers
Like most working member-owners and others who love the Honest Weight, I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to the current troubles. I’ve been wondering, “Why did the Board act as it has?” and “Why are working-members and others so angry and upset?” “How did we get to this place?”
I think that a key to unlocking these complex questions lies in the carefully chosen language used by the Board’s attorneys in their letter to the state Department of Labor (yes, I know that theoretically they are the Co-op’s attorneys, but that’s another essay).
In my ponderings, I keep coming back to one word that appears in that DOL letter: modernize. They wrote, “Honest Weight has been modernizing many aspects of its business, many of which have been in place since Honest Weight was formed.”
“Modernizing?” What do they mean by that? I think it’s become all too apparent. That’s code for intentionally subverting the principles that HW was founded on, values that were nurtured and carried forward through the decades, until being dashed to pieces by the current Board and the present Leadership Team. It means undermining our values in order to pursue “More.”
With the Board’s blessing (and at the expense of working member-owner work slots), the present LT expanded the number of employees to over 200, and pushed spending (outside of the cost of goods) to well over $10 million/year. Apparently, the LT and Board view practices such as having working member-owners as antiquated obstacles to ever-greater business growth. Removing that obstacle and others, “modernizing,” has been paramount to their quest for “More.” I have to ask: how much is enough? And what is the true cost of pursuing “More”?
The very things that the current Board and present LT have characterized as needing to be “modernized” are practices, customs and qualities that serve as defining characteristics of the Co-op, in the words of the Board’s attorneys, “since Honest Weight was formed.” When did these values shift, and who was given approval to make that shift? When did our values of “People, Planet, Profit” get re-ordered?
What caused these Board members, seemingly good people, to act beyond their legal capacity and in ways that undermine the very nature of the Co-op? How did the Board members get so turned-around in their thinking? I don’t recall even one of them indicating in their pre-election remarks or application materials that it was their goal to “modernize” the Co-op.
Perhaps one or more of the present Leadership Team persuaded them to embark on this course. Maybe it was the consultants that the LT recommended to them, or the attorneys they hired. Most likely, it was some combination of the LT, their consultants, the attorneys, and their own misguided, fear-based thinking that caused them to betray the trust of the very people who elected them.
Betrayal of trust – no wonder working member-owners and others who love the Co-op are angry and upset; that’s a natural response to betrayal. The lack of transparency while proclaiming to be transparent, the acting beyond the scope of their authority and in flagrant disregard for the known will of working member-owners, the downright sneakiness of sending a letter to DOL to beg government scrutiny, and so on- all of this has only made matters worse.
I’ve come to the unavoidable conclusion that unseating Board members and electing new ones is the only hope for restoring trust in the Board of Directors to correct the direction of the Co-op. Electing Directors who will restore the order of ”People, Planet, Profit” is essential. Electing Directors who will rein in an out-of-control LT is critical.
Without a doubt, the current Board members have devoted a great many hours to their work. I’ve worked alongside several at the Co-op and greatly enjoyed their company. At one time, they all were worthy of our having given them a chance to act on our behalf. But with one or two possible exceptions, they must be replaced.
Look at their voting records. Look at the people they have hired. Look at the actions they sanctioned, and look at their own conduct. They have betrayed our trust.
In their wisdom, our Co-op founders and others over the years made unseating a Board member a difficult thing to achieve, but we do have this mechanism in place to use when necessary. It is necessary now. I urge all eligible voters to recall Board members and replace them. Vote to restore our values. Vote to restore trust.
Shopper’s Helper, Sunday afternoons