Write-In Candidate Saul Rigberg

Submitted by Rebecca Tell

I want to make sure everyone knows about a candidate who will not be on the prepared ballots tomorrow.  The Nominating Committee did not accept Saul Rigberg’s application because his member hours were not up to date on October 31, if my understanding is correct, but they are now.  And he has been told that it is legitimate for him to run as a write-in candidate.

I think Saul would be a real asset to the Board.  He was one of the authors of HWFC’s 2003 bylaws revision.  He is an attorney and has professional experience with financial management.  He is recently retired and has time and attention to offer to the coop.  You can read his application here:

Rigberg Board Application (11-21-15)

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11 thoughts on “Write-In Candidate Saul Rigberg

  1. Ron

    Thanks for putting my write in candidate information up here power wanna bes. Opps you didn’t. Looks to me like the power wanna bes aren’t that different from the powers that be. Beware of independent thought.

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  2. Ron

    Jules, I did. Two emails acknowledged that, first, I would have to run as a write in candidate like Saul, and that no further material was needed from me. This makes the differential treatment of the two write in candidates and the fact that members of the orange shirt brigade have been urging me not to run because of vote splits interesting and perhaps revealing. I actually intended to pull out yesterday but now after all this I have no intention of doing so. The Who comes to mind, meet the new boss, same as the old boss, again.

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  3. Ron

    Before I begin my remarks let me say that I didn’t need media specialists, pr firms, or advisors from the National Cooperative Business Association, the National Cooperative Grocers Association, CDS Consulting, or UNFI to help me write my remarks. I wrote them. I fully approve them.

    A little about me: I am a member of Honest Weight again, am fully paid up in terms of my dues, and am fully up to date on my member hours. I became a member once more in the hope that I would be able to vote in this special election. I am, however, being disenfranchised because I wasn’t a member on a particular date though I have worked 15 to 27 hours per week, more than enough for a weekly worker, at HWFC since 2012. In bureaucracies one size fits all. Before Honest Weight I was also a member of Bloomingfoods in Bloomington, Indiana—I went to college at IU—back in the 1970s when to be a member you had to work and to buy at the coop you had to be a member. Yes Santa Claus, once upon a time there were worker coops.

    Why did I drop my membership in 2015? I saw the bullying of dissident Board members by other Board members at HWFC. I saw increasing corporatisation. I saw violations of the by-laws every Thanksgiving. I was given contradictory information about running for the Board in March and denied the ability to run for the Board and the fact that I was given incorrect information by Board members was simply ignored. As a result I found it morally difficult to remain a member of an organisation in which this was going on. Ironically my current application hasn’t been handled any better by the power wanna bes raising the question of whether the new bosses, should they replace the old ones, will be any better than the old. The orange shirt brigade with their almost any ends to achieve the desired ends seems as morally problematic to me as the actions of the corporatists.

    Speaking of quandaries: Today, I fully believe that Honest Weight is at a cross roads and the decision tonight will either restore democracy and cooperative structure to the HWFC or lead to the Honest Weight’s further corporatisation. The fundamental question we need to address tonight, in my opinion, is the same question we have needed to address for years now: whether to corporatise or not to corporatise.

    With further corporatisation Honest Weight will become even more a “virtual branch” store of the National Cooperative Grocers (Association). With further corporatisation we will continue to see CDS Consulting “advise” Honest Weight to ditch the member worker programme quickly and will see Honest Weight continue to hire CDS consultants like Thayne Joyall who fail to mention that in addition to being members of the Syracuse Coop they are CDS Consultants who have for years been arguing that member labour programmes are illegal when they are, legally speaking, not. With further corporatisation we will continue to see a veil of secrecy fall further over Honest Weight like a fog of war and thicken around things like management salaries. With further corporatisation we will continue to see Board members like Deb Dennis not take responsibility for sending a draft letter to the New York State Department of Labour and not resigning as a result of this major mistake and John Serio accept appointment to the Board even though he didn’t run in the election of the Board member he replaced and even though he finished second nearest the post not first. With further corporatisation we will continue to see what little transparency that remains at Honest Weight decline. With further corporatisation we will continue to see a rise in the number of goods in the store made in China and a decline in local product. With further corporatisation we will continue to see a diminishment in the democratic foundations on which Honest Weight was originally built. With further corporatisation will continue to see banality increase more and more in the bureaucratic and hierarchical structures of Honest Weight. With further corporatisation we will continue to see the sense of community diminish at Honest Weight as cooperative culture is replaced by corporate culture. With further corporatisation we will see Taylorism increasingly come to dominate discussions about staff. Whether further corporatisation will improve Honest Weight’s financial condition is a question worth asking particularly given the increasingly saturated marketplace.

    Like those who called this special meeting according to the by-laws of Honest Weight—they are not the coup plotters those who voted to end the member labour programme without a vote are the coup plotters— I am concerned that corporatisation has gone too far, a corporatisation too far that is reflected in microcosm in the Board’s decision to unilaterally and undemocratically eliminate the member worker programme. According to the letter the Board had couriered to the New York State Department of Labour HWFC’s “new leadership “has directed Honest Weight’s management team to commence the transition [to a non-member labour programme] with all deliberate speed”. This is the reason we are having this special meeting tonight and are voting democratically on whether or not to recall the Board. Let me note the game, as always, is rigged in favour of the status quo and the powers that be, since it requires a 75% no vote to recall the Board.

    One final word and that word is fear. We have known for a long time that fear is an effective manipulator of human emotions. Tell the masses that the enemy is near and they will declare themselves ready for war. Tell Honest Weight members that our loan holders are concerned with instability and they will vote, not necessarily knowingly, for further corporatisatiom. Or will they? I guess we will see tonight. By the way, are our loan holders in the audience this evening and if they are are they ready to go on the empirical record expressing their discontent with this democratic action tonight?

    You have a clear choice before you today. If you want corporatisation to continue as it has for several years vote to retain the current members of the Board. If you want corporatisation to slow down and transparency, democracy, and checks and balances to be restored at Honest Weight vote for those Board members opposed to corporatisation as it has been put in place by the powers that be and their “advisors” over the last several years.

    In closing let me note that I am running at a double disadvantage. 75% of the vote is required to remove a sitting Board member, a difficult threshold to meet, and I have not been allowed on the ballot by the powers that be because of bureaucratic technicalities. I urge you to remove all sitting Board members. As to who to elect you could do worse than me. At least I am someone who is independent of the old bosses and the new boss wanna bes. Isn’t it time for someone who is independent of both factions who are jockeying for control of the Corpop? Thank you.

    Ronald Helfrich, member-worker-owner, at least for the moment.

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  4. Ron

    Here is my application which appeared, disappeared, appeared, and disappeared never to be seen again…

    Honest Weight Food Coop
    Board of Directors Candidate Application

    Date: 22 November 2015
    Name: Ronald Helfrich, Jnr.
    Phone Number: 518.763.4855
    Email:ronhelf@gmail.com

    Questions and Answers
    Are you a member?
    I have been a member of HWFC since 2012 with absences in 2015 because of the corporatisation I saw at HWFC and the bullying of dissident Board members I saw going on by other Board members. I found it morally difficult to remain a member of an organisation in which this was going on and in which I too was being bullied simply because I received inconsistent information when I decided to run for the Board in March

    I am a member again and am fully paid up in terms of my dues though I still have my 4005 number—it makes it easy and quick to sign in on the registers. I hoped to vote, but I am being disenfranchised though I have worked 15 to 27 hours per week, more than enough for a weekly worker, at HWFC since 2012. I was also a member of Bloomingfoods in Blooomington, Indiana—I went to college at IU—back in the 1970s when to be a member you had to work and to buy in the coop you had to be a member. I will not be a member if Honest Weight continues down the road of corporatisation.

    1: What are some of the “Co-op”activities you have been involved in (cashiering, stocking, committees, etc.)?
    Since starting working at Honest Weight I have been involved in membership work (with Nate), stocking, and cashiering. As a working member—the only type of member you could be at Bloomingfoods Coop in the late 1970s and early 1980s–I worked stocking teas and herbs.

    2. Have you ever served on the board of directors before? If yes, please describe your experience(s). If not, what experience do you have with other organisations that will be useful in your work as a “Co-op” Board member?
    First part, no. Second part: I have been involved in a variety of activist groups, including the Mormon Peace Gathering in which I, the only “gentile” on the planning group, helped teach cooperative governance to a group of Mormons. Additionally, I have been involved in academia since the 1990s, an involvement that requires me to partake of a variety of bureaucratic procedures now and again.

    3. Please describe your experience with and approach to group decision making processes? What do you think makes for good group processes and what are some of the challenges to group decision making process?
    I have, as I mentioned earlier, been involved in social activism, Quaker and peace activism, which involved consensus forms of decision making. I also served on the coordinating committee of the Mormon Peace Gathering, a group that was planning to and did go to the Nevada Test Site outside of Las Vegas to protest American nuclear weapons testing in the desert. This involved a good deal of consensus practise and dealing with those who had opposing views. Finally, let me note again that I was a member of a real Co-op in the 1970s, Bloomingfoods, which engaged in consensus governance until it, like Honest Weight, evolved or devolved from a workers cooperative that was for members only to a consumer “cooperative”. I learned a lot in my earlier coop involvements in “cooperative governance”.

    As to the second part of the question, as with acting, listening and respect makes all the difference when involved in decision making. I have not, by the way, found this at Honest Weight during my years here. When I attended a Board meeting I saw members of the Board and members of the LT, as a dissident Board member spoke, play with their ipads and their smart phones while that member spoke. This is hardly active or respectful listening.

    4. Please discuss the skills you could bring to the HWFC Board.
    I think I can bring intellectual, analytical, and problem solving skills to the Board. After all I have degrees in Religious Studies (a BA), Cultural Anthropology (MA), and History (a Ph.D.). My academic background means that I have a healthy understanding of statistical analysis and an ability to critically think about and analyse whatever is before me. I thus could bring a set of “professional” skills to the Board. I also, since I have studied the history of coops, know something about coops and their evolution or devolution.

    5. Please describe your understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the board of directors.
    As I understand it the Board’s first responsibility is to the membership. The Board, again as I understand it, is supposed to act in the name of the membership and assure that what it has voted for is followed in the “Co-op”. At present, on the basis of my observations over the last several years, the Board is not living up to these promises. Instead it, because certain members of the Board are too close to management (a real and perceived conflict of interest) and as a result are largely acting as a rubber stamp for management decisions some of which have violated the reality and spirit of the “by-laws”, are not acting in the name of the membership but are acting in the name of the management.

    6. What do you think the major issues that the “coop’s” board needs to address over the next five years?
    a. What Honest Weight is or should be is an important issue. Honest Weight, at present, is a hybrid. On the one hand, it is, thanks to its history as a worker cooperative, a coop. On the other hand, thanks to changes since the 1980s and the fact that Honest Weight has ties to organisations like the National “Cooperative” Business Association and UNFI that have routinised, professionalised, and rationalised the once workers coop, the “Co-op” is also a corporation. I think members need to decide which one of these Honest Weight’s Honest Weight wants to be.
    b. Given our problems with Whole Foods (in reality Whole Food isn’t doing as well as their bureaucrats prophesied) and the current downturn in finances perhaps we can talk to Wheatsville, the “coop” in Austin, Texas, home of Whole Foods, about how it survived the Whole Foods onslaught, if we already haven’t.
    c. Process. A biggee. Currently, process is broken at the “Coop”. There have been several instances where the management group has acted unilaterially and been backed up by rubber stamps on the Board, and that needs to change.
    d. Democracy? Another biggee. If you think that elites using and abusing their power to keep members off the ballot is “democratic”, then Honest Weight has a “democracy” for you. If you think Board members dissembling about the real reasons someone was kept off the ballot is “democratic”, then Honest Weight has a “democracy” for you. If you think that the vetting or censoring of member questions is “democratic”, then Honest Weight has a “democracy” for you. If you think that printing ballots so small as to not allow for write in candidates (something New York State does not even do) is “democratic”, then Honest Weight has a “democracy” for you. If you think that not accepting nominations from the floor is “democratic”, then Honest Weight has a “democracy” for you. If you think that providing no written information on an issue to be voted upon is “democratic”, then Honest Weight has a “democracy” for you. If you think that “successful” is all you need to know about something before you vote on it, then Honest Weight has a “democracy” for you. If you think that excluding an elected member of the Board from a secret meeting that an unelected member of the Board attended is “democratic”, then Honest Weight has a “democracy for you. If you think that a concern about perceived conflicts of interest in certain instances but not in others is “democratic”, then Honest Weight has a “democracy” for you.

    7. How will you use your skills to contribute to addressing the above issues?
    As an ethnographer, as someone who almost took a Ph.D. in sociology, and as a historian, I am fully aware of the evolution or devolution of “coops” from charismatic worker ones to bureaucratic consumer ones guided by boards and management teams. I hope to work with Board members who are more cooperatively oriented to return Honest Weight more closely to its real cooperative roots.

    8. Please list any potential conflicts of interest you might have. (Conflicts of interest will not preclude you from serving on the Board, but helps establish open communication).
    None. I am a staff member but I am also a professional. As a professional with a passionate dispassionate temperament I can analyse anything systematically without emotional attachment. As to another potential or real conflict of interest I know members of management but I am not close to them, indebted or emotionally attached to them, or emotionally disattached to them. Ergo, there is no potential or real conflict of interest here.

    9. In order to maintain our liquor license all elected Board members must be able to pass a background check conducted by the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA). If there is anything that may preclude you from passing a background check, please feel free to ask a Board member. Please keep this in mind during the application process. None that I know of. I have been arrested at protests—Quaker protests against nuclear power and nuclear weapons—but those are misdemeanours. I am, by the way, quite proud of this activism.

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  5. Ron

    When I decided to rejoin HWFC after leaving it because of creeping corporatism, diminishing “democracy”, and by bullying of a Board member my only intention was to vote. I was told I couldn’t vote, however. But I was also told I could run for the Board. Initially I had no intention of running for the Board. I decided to run since I couldn’t vote, however. I turned my Board application in on the 22nd of November only to find it appear, disappear, reappear, and disappear like a Stalin era dissident.My application went up. Then my application disappeared because of a wrong date. Then it reappeared. Finally I was told that I couldn’t run. Fast forward a few days. I was told by one of the orange shirt brigade that I would have to run as a write in candidate along with Saul Rigberg. OK. Over the last several days several members of the orange shirt brigade asked me not to run so that I wouldn’t split the ballot. Yesterday I got a message saying that additional information was necessary. I wrote back notifying the orange shirter that the information was already in my application. Today I was told that nothing further was needed for my application package. The application is still missing in action, however, and I was pointedly not invited to the “meet the candidates” soiree today though Mr. Rigberg was. When I arrived at the “meet the members” soiree I was told by one of the members of the orange shirt brigade that she couldn’t talk to me at the moment. I want to end this prelude by noting the differential treatment from the orange shirters I received compared to that of Mr. Rigberg, who another member of the orange shirt brigade has praised to high heaven on the hwfcinfohub site. As to me, there was nothing but a deafening silence on the hwfcinfohub. I am not one of them, I guess. I must say that I find this differential treatment quite revealing. Apparently to the power wanna bes the ends–victory–justify the means–getting me off the ballot so the vote is not split. Before you vote on Monday you might want to take this into account.

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  6. Ron

    I found Nicholson Cook’s Whole Foods tunnel vision unfortunate. Whole Foods is slaying off thousands or, or so they claim, trying to find workers jobs elsewhere. Other grocery stores not only in the Albany market are getting into the “natural and organic” game but so are stores nationally. Kroger, a corporate market that stretches from Texas to Ohio is apparently now WF’s biggest competition.

    Kroger and Whole Foods, by the way, are different, to some extent from HW. I know HW is a “virtual branch” of the National Cooperative Grocers Association. I know that we buy in bulk and do sales in conjunction with other NCGA “virtual branch” stores. And while HW may be part of a “coop” IGA it still isn’t able to match WF and Kroger in terms of buying power or market share. I suppose it may be possible, though perhaps not advisable given the problems at WF, to grow if we want to. That would presumably require increasing corporatisation.

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