Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner
TODAY, Wednesday, 9:00m: Read Tim O’Brien’s Times Union article, More Changes Possible as Honest Weight Food Co-op Members Shake up Board.
~AN ADVOCACY TEACHING MOMENT~
(Hold your horses, the election results won’t spoil…)
The Times Union and reporter Tim O’Brien have been giving HWFC member-owner issues a great deal of coverage! Starting with his first article on October 16, 2015, each article shows a better and better understanding of the concerns of the owners of our 39 year-old, locally-owned food co-operative.
Read this opening to his third paragraph: “As a cooperative, Honest Weight is run by its member owners…” Isn’t that the perfect description of who we are …and very different in perspective from initial TU coverage? We’re being heard and listened to!
We are very lucky to have a local reporter who is tracking our issues and learning as he goes.
The Times Union’s Chris Churchill has recently covered our issues and Steve Barnes usually bumps his TU Table Hopping readers over to any current HWFC member-owner stories. Information Without the Bun blogger Roger Green included an entire letter submitted by HWFC member-owner Ken von Geldern! And the editorial board has published letters to the editor from two HWFC member-owners: Maria Schollenberger and HWFC co-founder Chris Mercogliano.
We have had six TU articles covering our emergency Special Membership Meeting since November 25th! At the moment, we’re getting more coverage than NYS Legislature issues!
The board of HWFC certainly ‘poked the dragon‘ and Tim O’Brien and the Times Union is helping that member-owner dragon to roar …and be heard for miles.
Remember we don’t have teams of expensive, wily PR Strategists sitting in smoky back rooms making up stuff to pump our cause (thank goodness!) (And heaven knows there are certainly plenty of wily PR Strategists floating around between Wall Street & Albany for hire by political wannabes, food co-op boards, and such).
Guys, we do have a local reporter who is following our story: listens, learns, follows his nose, chats with us. This is gold for grassroots’ folks!
Please be sure to drop Tim O’Brien, Chris Churchill, Steve Barnes, Roger Green, or the TU a note of thanks in Letters to the Editor . Even quick, private email thank yous – which are sincere – make a difference.
(…back to the election results. They did not spoil.)
4:30pm WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2015
OFFICIAL ELECTION RESULTS OF THE
HWFC EMERGENCY SPECIAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING
HELD ON MONDAY NIGHT, NOVEMBER 30, 2015
OFFICIAL ELECTION RESULTS FROM THE BOARD’S PUBLICATION THE INSIDE SCOOP
More than 620 eligible member-owner voters attended
More than 65 non-voting shareholders attended
Board Election Results
1. Election to determine the removal of each Director from the Board of Directors.
Acting President Dennis, Deb — 67.9 percent voted to remove
(403 votes to Remove; 190 votes to Retain)
Treasurer Hartmark, Leif — 65.2 percent voted to remove
(380 votes to Remove; 213 votes to Retain)
Former President Frye, Bill — 83.5 percent voted to remove
(500 votes to Remove; 99 votes to Retain)
Kuchera, Roman — 67.8 percent voted to remove
(383 votes to Remove; 182 votes to Retain)
Coto-Batres, Rossana — 58.4 percent voted to remove
(341 votes to Remove; 243 votes to Retain)
Morrissey, Daniel — 39.7 percent voted to remove
(230 votes to Remove; 350 votes to Retain)
Depew, Ned — 37.1 percent voted to remove
(221 votes to Remove; 374 votes to Retain)
The numbers indicate the percentage of members who voted to remove the Board member. According to our Bylaws, a Director can be removed by the membership with an “affirmative three-fourths vote at a Regular or Special Membership Meeting.” Anything less than 75 percent means that the board
member is retained. Anything over 75 percent means that the board member is removed.
All current elected Board members, with the exception of Bill Frye, have been retained.
2. Election to fill unexpired terms on the Board of Directors, determined by the outcome on the vote(s) to remove each Director.
Following the results of the votes on Item #1, there are 3 vacancies on the Board of Directors. To be elected to the Board, candidates needed to receive at least 25 percent of the 605 total votes. The three candidates, who were elected to the Board of Directors and who have accepted the position, are:
Nate Horwitz — 467 votes
Kate Doyle — 354 votes
Carolynn Presser — 343 votes
Voting result of candidates that were not elected to board:
Rebecca Tell — 308 votes
Nickleson Cook — 307 votes
Rebekah Rice — 294 votes
Timothy Corrigan — 275 votes
Saul Rigberg (write in candidate) — 257 votes
Andrew Lu — 234 votes
Christopher Gockley — 221 votes
John Serio — 166 votes
Howard Brent and Elizabeth Loparco did not reach the minimum required votes.
3. Advisory Votes
Member review and approval or disapproval of the board’s decision, made at the October 20, 2015, Board meeting and made public on October 23, 2015.
“Consistent with the Bylaws Task Force recommendation, the board will end member labor on the floor and administration by January 1, 2016. The board will make a good faith effort to engage the membership in the process.”
Straw poll results are as follows:
85.7% Disapprove the Board’s Decision
504 Disapprove Board’s Decision
84 Approve Board’s Decision
Member review and vote on recommendation for the Board to research and consider a different Management Structure.
Straw poll results are as follows:
67.7% Voted Yes the Board may consider a different management structure
395 Yes – Board may consider different management structure
188 No – Board is not encouraged to consider a different management structure
Member review and vote on a finding of no confidence in the members of the leadership team and request that the board initiate review, pursuant to the employee manual, regarding each member of the leadership team.
Straw poll results are as follows:
69% Voted to Change the Leadership Team
393 Voted to Change the Leadership Team
176 Voted to Keep the Leadership Team
This was the largest membership meeting in Honest Weight Food Co-op’s 39 year history! Voter turnout was amazingly high! 620+ voting members! Holy moly! More than 50% of eligible member-owner voters turned out, for a three-hour meeting on the Monday night after Thanksgiving weekend. Congratulations to each and every member-owner for making the decision to participate in a crucial emergency Special Membership Meeting for our co-operative, and to the 65+ shareholders who were interested enough to attend and observe our democratic and co-operative process.
MEMBER-OWNERS VOTE NON-CONFIDENCE AND CENSURE OF MAJORITY OF BOARD MEMBERS
The percentages are very revealing. Of the six board members retaining their seats, a majority of member-owners voted non-confidence and censure of four, that is 67% of the board: acting-President Deborah Dennis, Treasurer Leif Hartmark, Roman Kuchera and Rossana Coto-Batres.
MEMBER-OWNERS VOTE OF SUPPORT FOR TWO BOARD MEMBERS
Ned Depew received the highest level of support from member-owners, of all board members who were retained: 62.9% voted to retain. Daniel Morrissey received a 60.3% vote to retain from member-owners. Congratulations to Ned and Daniel!
MEMBER-OWNERS VOTE NON-CONFIDENCE AND CENSURE OF MAJORITY OF EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS
The current executive committee has only three positions filled; the vice-president position is vacant. Two of the three members of the executive committee of the Board received among the highest percentage of non-confidence & censure by member-owners: acting-President Deb Dennis (67.9%) and Treasurer Leif Hartmark (65.2%).
The third member of the executive committee, Secretary John Serio, was not up for removal from the board as he was a board appointee, filling a board vacancy. He lost his bid for election to the board.
This means the current, top level of decision-making on the HWFC board of directors – its executive committee with only an acting-President and Treasurer – has a 100% vote of non-confidence and censure by the member-owners of Honest Weight Food Co-op.
The vice-president and secretary positions on the executive committee of the board are currently unfilled.
MEMBER-OWNERS VOTE NON-CONFIDENCE AND CENSURE OF MANAGEMENT (LEADERSHIP TEAM)
69% voted non-confidence and censure of the current HWFC management (the Leadership Team or LT) and recommend to the board a change to the LT. This percentage is higher than the highest percentage of non-confidence and censure of a board member who retained their seat, which was acting-President Deb Dennis at 67.9%.
67.7% want the board to investigate a new management structure for our co-op.
MEMBER-OWNERS VOTE NON-CONFIDENCE AND CENSURE OF BOTH THE BOARD AND MANAGEMENT
Member-owners of HWFC have clearly and unambiguously expressed both non-confidence and censure of both the board and management of HWFC:
67% non-confidence & censure of a majority of the board ( 4 of 6 members)
69% non-confidence & censure of management (Leadership Team)
MEMBER-OWNER PETITIONERS WIN THREE BOARD SEATS
Kate Doyle, Carolynn Presser and Nate Horowitz have been elected to the HWFC Board of Directors. These are three member-owners who are part of the emergency Special Membership Meeting petitioners’ group.
Congratulations to Kate, Carolynn and Nate!
MEMBER-OWNER LABOR PROGRAM (MLP) SUCCESSFULLY DEFENDED
85.7% (!) of the voting, member-owners of HWFC disapproved of the board’s action in trying to alter or eliminate our member-owner labor program (MLP). This is an unequivocal statement from the owners of our co-operative that the right to alter our MLP – and protect our right to vote thereby – rests with owners, and the owners alone.
BOARD AND MANAGEMENT “PARTNERSHIP BEHAVIOR” CENSURED
The board tacked its notice to its bulletin board on October 23, 2015, telling the member-owners that it was (effectively) ending member-owner labor by January 1, 2016.
This action was initiated three days’ earlier, on October 20, 2015, with the board’s secret 2 1/2+ hour executive session – which included management and excluded member-owners – followed by two public votes designed to gut our member-owner labor program and, ultimately, our right to vote.
We voted non- confidence and censure, not only of a majority of the board, but of the management (Leadership Team) of HWFC, as well.
Member-owners expressed clear disapproval of the the pattern of board and management aligning themselves together, against the best interests of the owners of our co-operative: with votes of non confidence and censure against both.
FOUR BOARD MEMBERS SHOULD STEP DOWN
There is a great deal of active discussion going on since Monday’s emergency meeting, questioning whether the four retained board members who received extremely high votes of non-confidence and censure should remain or step down. The percentages of voter non-confidence and censure for each are:
acting-President Deb Dennis: 67.9%
Treasurer Leif Hartmark: 65.2%
Roman Kuchera: 67.8%
Rossana Coto-Batres: 58.4%
With each one higher than 50%, can leadership be effective with the membership expressing this strong a voice of mistrust?
FORTY-ONE DAYS LATER
Forty-one (41) days after the board and management’s (Leadership Team) secret 2 1/2+ hour meeting with the two (2) legal teams, with three (3) lawyers (one with offices in D.C.), and two (2) consultants, the member-owners of our co-operative put down this attempt by the board & management of HWFC to “cement its working relationship:” a professional relationship which is clearly not only devoid of appropriate checks & balances and internal controls, but which operates to the detriment of the member-owners of our co-operative.
This is the power of an emergency Special Membership Meeting (SMM)! This is why we must defend our right to call SMM’s in the future. Therefore, keep your eyes peeled on this (secret) bylaws process which is still in play by the (old) board. Demand to have public disclosure of all (secret) draft bylaws by the board to the member-owners. January 24, 2016 is the date the (former) board has selected as the date to roll out new (secret) bylaws at a membership meeting …and (somehow) get us to pass them.
I don’t think so! There are 620 members who are watching a whole lot closer now!
ONE AMERICAN FOOD CO-OPERATIVE STANDS ITS GROUND
Three new board members immediately took their place on the Honest Weight Food Co-op’s board of directors; three member-owners who clearly understand the meaning of ownership in a co-operative and who value and will defend HWFC’s place in the 200 year-old tradition of locally-owned American co-operatives.
They will need our help. Stay tuned. Stay active. Go to board meetings. 23 days after the New Year, on January 24th, we are all called to vote again. So, get informed before then! Read, go to meetings, do grassroots things – you know the drill – but stay in the loop! And demand of the board a copy of those (secret) bylaws now! This week.
We owners all have to continue to defend our member-owned, locally-controlled co-operative. We’ve seen that undue national influences are not only at the borders, they have breached the borders. As my grandfather used to say to my brother and me, and he grew up on the lower east side, so he oughta know, “It ain’t over yet kids.”
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
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!