GRASSROOTS ACTION and Special Membership Meetings ARE POWERFUL!

Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 4:30PM: For Official Emergency Special Membership Meeting results, analysis and reflection please go to GRASSROOTS ACTION and Official Election Results ARE POWERFUL!

Here are today’s Grassroots-Grows-Capacity Action Steps:

1. Give thanks, celebrate and sing!  Remember The Ant Song? Now’s the time to haul out your Frank Sinatra & Eddie Hodges song all about the high hopes of ants: Whoops, there goes another problem kerplop! Win or lose the election, what an awesome emergency Special Membership Meeting we had!

The “poked dragon” awoke! Over 625 member-owners showed up!

Grassroots, baby!

2. TODAY: Read Tim O’Brien’s account of our emergency Special Membership Meeting in today’s Times Union, Honest Weight Food Co-op Members Vote on Ousting Board.

TONIGHT: I get to say “Hot off the press!” Read Tim O’Brien’s Times Union story releasing the official HWFC emergency Special Membership Meeting election results in his article Honest Weight Food Co-op Members Oust Just One Board Member.

Tim, you’re calling us member-owners! Bravo!

Read it in the Times Union before your board of directors informs you about HWFC election results. Maybe it’s been tacked up to the board’s board: that speedy & efficient 21st century bulletin delivery method favored by the (old) board?

3. Today, the footer quote goes front & center. Credited to Margaret Mead, it says: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

4. See the new Member-Owned, Member-Operated, HWFC website, here. Check it out, new things are being added often and there is info you need there!

5. Five kids were learning about democracy, firsthand, yesterday at our emergency Special Membership Meeting (SMM) of the Honest Weight Food Co-op (HWFC). They were being supervised and tasked with staying together in a secure room and stapling together the five, color-coded ballots, in correct order. We adults told them they were doing the most important task in the church, at that moment in time: guarding & preparing ballots for voting in a democracy.

Two kids (hi guys!) got to carry around color-coded ballot boxes during the actual voting taking place on the floor.  We shared with them how very important it was to make sure that each person put only one ballot in each box. They took their time,  making sure everyone was allowed an equal voice in voting.

Kids, you all did a GREAT JOB! Thank you! We couldn’t have done it without you!

6. THE SPECIAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING: Grassroots- kind-of-people, today is the day to do a dance of victory! More than 625 voting, working members of our food co-operative attended the emergency Special Membership Meeting of the Honest Weight Food Co-op last night.This represents more than 50% of the member-owner voters of our co-operative! There was additional attendance by the non-working, non-voting shareholders of our co-operative. Thank you all!

Outstanding voter turnout!

In its 39 year history, our co-op has never had such massive voter turnout! The huge hall in St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church was filled to capacity and an overflow room had to be opened up (thank you, St. Sophia’s, for all your help …especially the front office & clean-up crew!)

Many member-owners arrived early for the 4:30 Meet the Candidates event. The majority of member-owners stayed put for the entire three hour meeting, from 6:00pm-9:00pm.

Former NYS Department of Labor (DOL) Commissioner John Sweeney opened the meeting with his take on the situation with the board’s October 26, 2015 hand-couriered letter to the NYS DOL. He said people are scratching their heads wondering why a board would – in essence – turn its own corporation in to the department. He submitted a letter to the membership which is posted here.

Member-owners carefully and patiently listened to the information & Powerpoint Presentation by petitioners’ about an out-of-control board and influences by a nationally-based consulting firm.

That group, CDS Consulting Co-op out of Putney, VT, has a current contract with the board of HWFC and supports the development of a strong board-management structure. Information came out, last night, about CDSCC’s ‘Fresh Start’ Bylaws Template, which removes member-owner control in a co-operative. The board’s current draft bylaws remain a secret.  (They are poised to introduce new (secret) bylaws to our membership, for a vote on January 24, 2016.) Members want to know the similarities between CDS Consulting Co-op’s advice regarding co-op bylaws …and the (secret) bylaws being proposed by the board.

[Simple answer: demand that the board immediately release to member-owners all copies of any bylaws currently being prepared by itself, the Bylaws Task Force, Committees, consultants, attorneys or the newly-uncovered HWFC “Bylaws Research Team.”] [1]

Member-owners listened attentively and quietly as each board candidate gave a 5″ presentation. For a roomful of maybe 725  people, with such a charged subject – the removal of an entire board of directors and a vote for new board members – democratic process ruled. There was a brief skirmish in the beginning of the meeting when one person, using “union-busting” techniques (“member-owner busting?”), tried to gain access to the mike; he was quickly silenced by numerous co-op members calling for democratic process and a fair and orderly meeting to resume. Which it did.

Shame on the people who planned & participated in this action given that there were children in attendance at our meeting.

Member-owners also voted on three “advisory ballots:”

  • an affirmation that member-owners alone hold the right to make changes to our member-owner labor program (MLP)
  • a vote on investigating a new management structure
  • a vote of a finding of no confidence in HWFC’s current Leadership Team (management)

The voting results are not in yet! This is because a rigorous, democratic, paper-ballot, vote-counting process was utilized. The safety and security of the ballots and ballot boxes was of prime importance, insuring that there was a “chain of custody” of ballots and ballot boxes. People with disabilities were afforded the right to vote by ballot boxes being brought to them.

Ballot counters, representing both the board of directors and the SMM petitioners were co-operatively set up to count ballots together at seven different tables. Votes were counted quietly and methodically, with ballots & tally sheets doubled-checked by each of the two people. There were plenty of observers in the room itself. The counting continued until at least 1:30am. The GRC was available for questions and was impressed with the entire voting, ballot-counting and security systems set up by the petitioners. Thanks to the GRC for helping with the process!

The meeting itself was well-organized and ran like clockwork. This is a testament to the ability of a dedicated group of member-owners to work together, co-operatively, take responsibility for tasks and complete them on time. This being the largest membership meeting HWFC has ever had, a round of applause goes to ALL who pitched in to make this meeting an absolute success, on so many levels.

Thank you to those intrepid souls who brought potluck dishes; it was greatly appreciated! Thank you to the kind soul who went out last minute and bought more seltzer, when it was clear not enough had been provided.

Special thank yous to the two kindly & efficient souls who provided last minute sound system and tech support for our meeting: Bob Henshaw and Paul Rosenberg. Both Bob and Paul have been working member-owners of HWFC since the late ’70s. I have known both for many years through my local music performing & teaching (and I’m a member-owner since the late ’70s, too). Thank you Bob and Paul for the excellent audio hook-ups!

I can’t list all the many, many people who worked on preparing this meeting on a very short time frame. Everyone did a splendid job. Set-up; welcoming people at the front door and checking in voters; operating the Powerpoint; making the Powerpoint!; photocopying the pounds & pounds of handouts and ballots; ballot counting until 2:00am; getting the actual meeting authorized through bylaws’ channels with the GRC; picking up food & drink; planning out the meeting itself; a YouTube video; homemade dinners and late-night meetings; email blast lists; 4C google list; this Infohub website; and communicating with all to the best of our ability via the old-time grassroots method: word of mouth!

Oh, BTW, for those of you that wonder what happened to the google groups 4C list that just disappeared four days before the eSMM: it was hacked into.  We had to shut it down.  Not sure who hacked it, but we took defensive action. New one on its way; more when I know more.

Many, many people quietly did some little thing that meant a lot: move chairs, set up a table, go get a moderator a glass of water, pick up a stack of fallen handouts; go park the car; grab a box. Simple, small things that showed kindness when it was needed.

You know many of these people. If you don’t, you should get to know them. Nice bunch! Friendly. Fair. Open-minded. Co-operative. Prone to moments of humor. Love to share good food & drink. It is a pleasure to work with such, dedicated, hard-working, task-oriented, democratically-minded people …who also all love good, whole, organic food! Thank you all!

Thank you to the 625+ working, voting members of this co-operative who showed up. They took the time – on the Monday night after Thanksgiving – to drop family obligations and ignore holiday fatigue… …to show up, to pay attention and to vote their conscience.

Our 625+ fellow member-owners heeded our call which, like the 1772 “first communication [of] the Boston Committee of Correspondence  …[included] a request that asked for a free communication…of our common danger.” [2]

And finally, thank you to the many, many shareholders who attended. We hope this meeting convinced you of the utter importance of joining ranks with member-owners: work just three hours a month so you gain the right to vote and be a part of participatory-democracy in action!

Bright orange t-shirts are certainly de rigueur around our co-op! Thanks again to our anonymous orange-shirt-donor!

Whatever the vote turns out to be, this emergency Special Membership Meeting was a rousing success of people coming together over a common cause, to try and solve problems and clear the way to a stronger self-reliant co-operative community for our families, friends, neighbors and colleagues.

Do get & stay involved member-owners and shareholders! Now you know why! A Vermont gift to us – in a totally different vein from Vermont “consulting co-ops” – is from the July 8, 1817 [Bennington] Vermont Gazette:

“…let your motto be ‘eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty.’ ” [3]


[1] Member-owners, please go to the HWFC Bylaws Click-on.   Click on: Please click here for information on the Honest Weight Bylaws Task Force and the issues concerning our existing bylaws.  The document is called Honest Weight Food Co-op Bylaws Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). At the bottom of page 8, under Citations, see:
“1. Member labor programs at comparable co-ops and related resources, by Mark Goehring and Thane Joyal. Prepared for HWFC Bylaws Research Team, May 15, 2015.”
[Note: Thane Joyal and Mark Goehring are consultants with CDS Consulting Co-op and are both currently working with the HWFC board of directors; a contract was executed in December, 2014 by the board. It is unknown who makes up the “HWFC Bylaws Research Team.”]

[2] Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

[3] Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead

Grassroots Action: One HWFC member-owner individual, family, and employee at a time …we can reach every HWFC member-owner if we ALL work it.
Build Capacity: If everybody does their little bit (or a bigger bit if they can), we build our capacity day-by-day. Boy, did we ever!
Have faith: It simply works!
YOU are the PR: Be factual, be calm, don’t attack anyone personally, and please do be impassioned about saving our member-owned, locally-owned & controlled co-operative!

This is co-operative, in action!

5 thoughts on “GRASSROOTS ACTION and Special Membership Meetings ARE POWERFUL!

  1. Susan Longtin

    Yes, it was great and thanks to everybody again. Now, I’ve been asking lots of questions today! Here’s another. The board had no right, in my opinion, to take a large contract like that and then tell us that they wanted to do away with the member workers or lower our discount. Can we break the contract?


  2. Ron

    I think Kuchera, Dennis, and Hartmark should immediately resign after this resounding vote of no confidence. If this were Canada or the UK or NZ or Aus new elections would have to be called. Feel sorry for Bill. At least he, among these four, was honest and straightforward.


  3. Ron

    I wrote urging Kuchera, Dennis, and Hartmark to resign immediately as a result of this vote of no confidence. I urged Rossana Coto-Bates to resign as well given that 55% of those voting gave her a vote of no confidence, given her role in the letter to the DoL, a letter which violated the by-laws, and given her role in a video which is quite possibly illegal and was taken down for that reason. We will now have the opportunity to see what Kuchera, Dennis, Hartmark, and Coto-Bates are really made of.


  4. Congratulations to our co-op’s member workers! While I couldn’t make it there to vote on Monday — I appreciate all of the work that was done to make this meeting happen and all of the member owners who could make it to the meeting Monday to vote. Thanks to the folks operating this blog for keeping us informed of the voting results! No sign of voting results on our co-ops website yet — at least not that I could find. Really pathetic.


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