GRASSROOTS ACTION and Executive Committees ARE POWERFUL!

Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

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

1. Take a break! Celebrate! Revel! Prepare for the solstice, mid-winter, your family’s own religious festivities and … the upcoming New Year! Hang up lights, light candles, invite in family & friends, eat, drink and be merry! Only 15 more days until we say good-bye to 2015 and only 15 more days to plan for your New Year’s Eve blast-off celebration!

And Hear Ye the news:

Last night, at the first HWFC board meeting since our historic emergency Special Membership Meeting (SMM) on November 30, 2015, the board of directors & membership welcomed newly-elected members Nate Horwitz, Carolynn Presser and Kate Doyle.

The board immediately voted to alter the meeting agenda and place elections at the top of the list for the night’s meeting, and promptly conducted an election for two vacant Executive Committee seats: President and Secretary.

A vote was taken and Nate Horwitz was elected as the new President of HWFC and Carolynn Presser as our new Secretary. Congratulations to both!

Nate took immediate charge of the meeting and, following hard on the election of President and Secretary, a motion was put forward to call for a vote on ousting from the executive committee the acting-President, Deb Dennis, and the Treasurer, Leif Hartmark. Kate Doyle cited the votes of non-confidence for these two board members (very close to the 75% needed to oust a board member) expressed by member-owners at the SMM on November 30th.

In short order the vote was taken and five members of the board, Nate Horwitz, Carolynn Presser, Kate Doyle, Ned Depew and Daniel Morrissey voted to remove Deb Dennis and Leif Hartmark from the executive committee; they will, however, continue to maintain their board seats. Kate Doyle was elected as our new Treasurer and Ned Depew as our new Vice-President.

Honest Weight Food Co-op members you have brand new leaders!

President: Nate Horwitz
Vice-President: Ned Depew
Secretary: Carolynn Presser
Treasurer: Kate Doyle

So, in addition to the four executive committee members our newly-configured Honest Weight Food Co-op board of directors includes Daniel Morrissey, Rossana Coto-Bates, Roman Kuchera, Leif Hartmark and Deborah Dennis.

Nate, you did a wonderful job assuming the gavel!

Reflect back to our historic Special Membership Meeting: 16 days ago, 720 of us showed up, the largest HWFC meeting in our 39 year history. We voted in three new board members. We ousted one board member. We expressed strong votes of non-confidence and censure for four additional members of the current board. We affirmed our right to maintain member-owner control of our member-owner labor program (MLP). And we expressed non-confidence in our current management (Leadership Team) and want to see a change in our management structure.

Today, only sixteen days later! our voices expressed together through democratic process, have resulted in the removal from the seats of power of two of those board members whom we felt did not reflect the mission, values and spirit of our co-operative.

Member-owners, you participated in this incredible, awesome shift in the direction of our co-operative! In only 53 days of hard, co-operative, dedicated work, we shifted the tide: that October 23, 2015 small piece of paper tacked to the board’s bulletin board started this grassroots’ action. Congratulations to each and every one of us!

Don’t let anybody tell you old-fashioned cork bulletin boards aren’t effective as tools for systemic change!

Lots more happened at last night’s meeting. A ton more! It was a 5 ½ hour board meeting, before the board recused itself in executive session to discuss legal and personnel issues. They were still going strong when we all left at 11:30pm.

So, member-owners I can’t update you as to decisions made last night, at least not today! Well, except for one:

I can tell you that the cord has been cut on this pack of consultants that has been charging our co-operative an arm and a leg (wait until you hear how much), moving at lightning speed to force new (secret, nationally-promoted, boilerplate) bylaws on us, and manipulate us member-owners from within with all the nefarious tools at a Strategic PR Consultant’s fingertips. The board voted to have a 60-day moratorium on the use of all consultants hired by the former executive committee or board of this co-operative (except for legal services and physical plant issues), until they can conduct a complete review. However, the board was going to discuss the excessive use of two law firms in executive session; the outcome of that conversation is unknown at this time.

(…and the PR Strategists’ spin just keep spinnin’: we learned last night about a supposed “AP reporter” who interviewed (former) acting-President Deb Dennis two weeks ago (two weeks ago would have been December 2nd, the date of that secret meeting at the NYSDOL and, as well, our Special Membership Meeting on November 30th) and took photos at our co-op yesterday. Turns out, Deb said he was put in touch with her by Corning Place Communications, the PR & lobby firm the board hired in April, 2015 and re-hired in October, with work beginning on October 16, 2015 (the same exact day that that 1st Times Union article came out …hhhmmm.) Apparently, somebody gave the “AP reporter” (who would not identify himself by name nor did he display press credentials at the co-op this week…thank you to a very alert member-owner Chris Colarusso) Nate Horwitz’s phone number and Nate, not having been told that this may be an orchestrated “synthetic media” in-the-making operation, did the interview. Nate was asked, in specific, to comment about our member-owner labor program (MLP).

Deb would not disclose to the board and membership what the content of her interview with this “AP reporter” was.

Who was this “AP reporter?” Why was Nate the only board member called for an interview (that we know of), outside of Deb Dennis? Did he ask questions about the Special Membership Meeting with 700+ people in attendance (how could any reporter resist that?) or was he only interested in the secret NYS DOL meeting attended by 7 people, two days later? Was Corning Place Communications – with whom the former board contracted to pay $5,000 a month (!) for Strategic PR, crisis communications, and lobbying starting in October – tasked by (former) acting-President Deb Dennis to seek out this particular (national) coverage at this particular time? Had to be Deb, because two weeks ago, just after the SMM elections, there was no legally-functioning HWFC Executive Committee to make the decision. Unless the three-person executive committee made this decision before the SMM? And told no one.

Oh, and BTW, why is somebody maneuvering HWFC to have national media attention & exposure … involving member labor at a NYS food co-operative and just around the same time there was a secret meeting with the NYS DOL … about member labor at our NYS food co-operative?

More about “synthetic media,” “democracy-for-hire,” “media manipulation,” or “source journalism,” in my next post. Fake grassroots at its best.

So, yet another secret meeting by the former leadership of this co-operative comes to light – this time with (perhaps) the AP & national print media.

And if I can find out the name of this “AP reporter” I’ll report back. Maybe this is legit; time will tell.)

What I can do today is tell you how important it is that you continue your involvement in the meetings and inner workings of our co-operative. The newly-configured board has its work cut out for it. And they simply cannot do this alone, that is not how this works.  In fact, it won’t work very well without your involvement.

You have to be there! You have to be engaged. You have to participate. Our co-operative is under threat by nationally-based forces and that threat is not gone. We are now confronting it with eyes open, but locally-controlled, member-owned co-operatives across the United States are falling, failing, losing control, and losing the ability to create and manage their own future’s independently. We don’t want to be one of them!

Here is the lesson learned: if we don’t with due care & diligence “watch our borders,” monitor the leadership whom we empower and also help the leadership whom we empower, that leadership could go off in a direction we don’t choose, we don’t agree with and we don’t want … which is what happened here at Honest Weight Food Co-op.

We still have a lot of housecleaning and re-ordering and course-correcting to do. This will take months. The new executive committee and the newly-configured board cannot do this without you being there, participating in committee work, attending meetings and continue to “be in the know” in our community.

So, show up, pick a committee, take one small part of HWFC and make it your own, with the help of other member-owners and member-owner staff. Make the change from being a shareholder and become a member-owner by working three hours a month. Make new friends, pick a shift and show up every week. Whatever! There are many places to plug in and we member-owners need to create even more places for us to feel like our co-op is not only a store where we buy food, it is a community, a place where we can hang our hats and call it – for three hours (or more!) a week – home.

So, the next HWFC board of directors meeting is on January 5th. The next membership meeting is January 24th. Calendar them in now!

And please introduce yourself to each other when you work. Share emails and phone numbers, go out for a cuppa at Starbucks or Lil Buddha, take a walk together at Five Rivers or on the bike path along the Mohawk or at a (warm) local mall!

I am meeting more and more wonderful, kind and friendly people, the more I engage with my co-operative community, the one we all call the Honest Weight Food Co-op. And that is enriching and supporting my own life and my family’s life, here in Albany and the greater Capital District …and growing my own local roots even deeper and stronger. My own brother came to last night’s meeting to show support for all of us and, as a former HWFC member, maybe he’ll either join again, or go join a co-op nearer to his home!

So, as one of the many organic gardeners here, I can’t tell you how life-affirming this is to me: growing strong roots within a community which I love. Roots which are lengthening and strengthening even as winter plans to settle in on us.

They don’t call it grassroots for nothin’!

And – for all of us, for today – please don’t sit silent and just read today. Today, write! Drop a post, below and share something about our co-op here at Honest Weight, our community, which is important to you. Something which enriches you, makes you stronger, more resilient …or just plain  happier!

So, pen to paper – so to speak – and hit that send button…

…right now.

~~~

PS I know, I am incorrigible but this is the musician in me.  Please go practice The Ant Song!  Whoops, there goes another problem, kerplop!

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.
Have faith: It simply works! It is simply working! Grassroots baby!
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!
Laura

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32 thoughts on “GRASSROOTS ACTION and Executive Committees ARE POWERFUL!

  1. Susan Longtin

    Excellent, Laura. I would like to see a synopsis of that executive session. Not necessarily the specifics but the gist. I think the three are doing great. Nate has to grow into his role a bit but that’s OK. He’s very capable. We are doing great and let’s keep it up! I am so glad that we’re getting rid, even temporarily of the “consultants.” Somebody on the facebook group said something that piqued my interest, but I haven’t had time to check it out. There may be a relationship between the “consultants” and UNFI, the company that delivers our products. It might go further than that. If anybody has some information, I’d be interested to know.
    Would somebody, please, post the dates, locations and times for all the committee meetings both here and on the facebook group? Thanks a bunch to everybody! We will win with the people we have working for us.

    Like

    1. Here’s the link to information regarding the connection between UNFI and CDS:
      http://vtdigger.org/2015/02/04/mimi-yahn-searching-democracy-putney-co-op/

      Scroll down to the 3rd comment (mine) in response to a couple of comments from CDS boosters.

      Thanks again to all of you for all your diligence, persistence and hard work — democracy is sometimes hard work, but the alternative is a kleptocracy for the elite few at the expense of the many. You all are an inspiration to those of us who are still fighting to regain the democracy that was hijacked! –Mimi Yahn

      Liked by 1 person

  2. gary edelman

    there is a relationship alright.both groups often swap employees so i bet that unfi practices policy governance.know a good investigative reporter? i would love to see what happens to unfi’s market share at the coops that swallow the cds koolaid

    Like

  3. Laura

    Susan, You are a very loyal reader, thank you. Yes, wouldn’t it be nice if there were an interactive calendar on the HWFC website, FB page, etc. with a listing of all committees, contact info, meeting dates and so on, so we could all EASILY figure out how to participate. Twitter meeting dates and times, etc. What a great idea you have! Maybe join the Communications Committee or at least go the the next meeting and recommend this idea to them?

    The Committee page at the HWFC website is not very helpful at all:
    http://www.honestweight.coop/page/committees-14.html

    Go back to the FB post and ask the person for info: researching any connections between CDS Consulting Co-op and ANY co-op – whether a local co-op or a nationally-based “co-opy” type organizations, is probably very important. Go to it and let us know what you find out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura,

      I would like to invite you to become a member of the Communications Committee.

      Further, I would hope that you would post in the future at our in-house Forum (Boardhost). I don’t think it is good to make all our issues (good and not-so-good) available to the entire world in these public forums. If you have doubts about it’s ethics, become a Moderator or an Administrator. I think Ned’s going to be mighty busy from here on out.

      Be well; be at peace,
      Chaz
      The Cutler

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Chaz it is secrecy and intrigue that got us in this mess. Lets be public and put the *Honest* back in Honest Weight. The online forum is not that popular, but this site has been amazing. Thank you though for trying. Speaking for myself I prefer full transparency. Julie Harrell

        Like

      2. Susan Longtin

        Chaz and Laura, there used to be a woman who wrote for the Scoop. Of course, I don’t remember her name. She wrote “Notes from the Board.” If someone had a cold, she reported it. She was thorough. Maybe we could have that again or something like it? Sue

        Like

      3. Laura

        Dear Chaz, I believe you also extended an invitation to me to join the HWFC Communications Committee right after member-owner petitioners held an Info Meeting at the Best Western on November 14th. I thanked you and had to decline,,stating that I was a little busy at the time communicating … and working with a large group of member-owner petitioner’s for an emergency Special Membership Meeting.

        I would be interested, though, in learning more about the HWFC Forum (Boardhost). Who is chosen to moderate and what are the rules they are told to follow? Why do you think member-owners are expressing frustration with this Forum and not participating?

        If it is true that there is a policy of secrecy, a lack of transparency, and posts are edited and/or deleted (censured) I would not chose to be a part of it.

        If, however, it is a place for member-owners to have open dialogue, participate in transparency & polite conversation (with facts predominating) leading to increased trust at HWFC, I would absolutely think twice.

        Like

    2. Sue Longtin

      Well, I’m already part of membership. We’re going to have an expanded role. I do store work, of course, in the bulk herbs Saturday afternoons and Saul thinks I’d be good on the committee that Daniel heads up but where’s the time? I also go to as many meetings as possible. And I own a house, have a job and cat.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Leslie

    Thank you so much for your explanation! Well done! I was so disgusted by all that has been happening over the past year that I bought back my share (after 27 years of membership). I am so heartened by this tremendous rebound that I am going to rejoin. Seeing what members have accomplished reminded me……HWFC is one of the coolest places on Earth!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Laura

        Dear Leslie, Mazeltov! Hallelujah! Welcome! You’re needed here!

        Many of us had gotten to the same point. Many continued to fight the good fight. The (former) board didn’t even track how many shareholding, member-owners were leaving, so we don’t even know how many we have lost in recent years.

        To get up to speed, read every post here at hwfcinfohub (mine usually have “Grassroots” in the title.) This website was started by a member-owner.

        Member-owners recently started a new website here; lots of recent, good info: https://memberownedhwfc.wordpress.com/

        There is also a private google-groups list started by a member-owner, for member-owners. I think going here will get you there: https://hwfcinfohub.wordpress.com/get-connected/

        And read Mimi Yahn’s two Vermont articles and one letter to the editor (Mimi just posted in comments, above):

        http://www.commonsnews.org/site/site05/story.php?articleno=11411&page=1#.VnIUAuK9gVB
        http://vtdigger.org/2015/02/04/mimi-yahn-searching-democracy-putney-co-op/
        http://www.commonsnews.org/site/site05/story.php?articleno=11618&page=1#.Vmd6Z-K9gVB

        And plan to go to the 1/5/16 board meeting and the 1/24 membership meeting. Please be sure to introduce yourself and tell your story.

        So glad you’re back, Leslie!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura

      Dear Leslie,

      Mazeltov! Hallelujah! Welcome!

      You’re needed here!

      Many of us had gotten to the same point. The (former) board didn’t even track how many shareholding, member-owners were leaving, so we don’t even know how many we have lost in recent years.

      To get up to speed, read every post here at hwfcinfohub (mine usually have “Grassroots” in the title.) This website was started by a member-owner.

      Member-owners recently started a new website here; lots of recent, good info: https://memberownedhwfc.wordpress.com/

      There is also a private google-groups list started by a member-owner, for member-owners. I think going here will get you there: https://hwfcinfohub.wordpress.com/get-connected/

      And read Mimi Yahn’s two Vermont articles and one letter to the editor (Mimi just posted in comments, above):

      http://www.commonsnews.org/site/site05/story.php?articleno=11411&page=1#.VnIUAuK9gVB
      http://vtdigger.org/2015/02/04/mimi-yahn-searching-democracy-putney-co-op/
      http://www.commonsnews.org/site/site05/story.php?articleno=11618&page=1#.Vmd6Z-K9gVB

      And plan to go to the 1/5/16 board meeting and the 1/24 membership meeting. Please be sure to introduce yourself and tell your story.

      So glad you’re back, Leslie!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Susan Longtin

        Now, I understand that we can’t have every word. Human resource issues and stuff are sensitive. But when we find out, can we have a synopsis? Sue

        Like

    1. Laura

      Susan, I am as anxious as you to know the outcome of the recent executive session. Normally, the board posts its minutes when they are approved at the next board meeting, which is January 5th. If anybody hears anything before then, post it here, but make sure it is not rumor, please. Facts are what is needed.

      So, we may have to wait until board minutes are approved on January 5th.

      It is GREAT that you are so invested and interested!

      Like

  5. In the past I found the “official” Forum problematic. First of all it requires a password, and second it was moderated and censored. The moderator spent too much time on it, on things that were not interesting (to me). I gave up after a couple of tries. This info hub is a million times more useful. I would advise you to stay here, Laura (of course you could post to both…)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Leslie

    Thank you so much! I am happy to be able to reconnect with this place which has been so important to me and my family. Did find out though that as a “new” member, I can only work for an 8% discount. We worked as 24% member workers for years. So I’m kind of bummed about that!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura

      Leslie,

      The new executive committee discussed this issue at the Board meeting on Tuesday. They tabled it but it IS NOT FORGOTTEN. It will be back on the agenda, let’s hope, at the January 5th board meeting.

      The former board or LT did not have the authority to make that changed; that is the key issue, as I understand it.

      Like

  7. Leslie

    Thanks for letting me know. I really would like my 24% option back. Even though its been less than 2 months that I bought back my share, I was told that there was no option to “reactivate” my membership, and that I could only go in as new. Given the circumstances, I was hoping that I could pick up where I left off. Morgan said that I could write a letter to the board, but I haven’t done so. They are pretty (and wonderfully) busy!!!

    Like

    1. Laura

      Leslie, Please DO jot a note to the board, perhaps to the new President, Nate Horwitz, and/or Carolynn, the new secretary. They need to hear that their commitment to transparency and to strengthening our member-owner labor program is bringing former HWFC members back!

      And ask if they will vote, on January 5, 2016, on a repeal of this board and/or LT decision to disallow new member-owners 24%.

      Here is the HWFC board contact info: http://www.honestweight.coop/page/board-91.html

      Like

  8. Thank God! Yes with Nate at the helm we have a chance at transparency! I am shocked that the mistrusted now twice voted out Board members havent resigned yet. What are they holding onto? We have wonderful new candidates who could take their seats. Secrecy, Deb, again, really???? It’s called Honest Weight for a reason. Sadly more people are shopping elsewhere because of the overall high prices at the Coop. My dyed in the wool committed Coop shopper friends continue to leave the store in dismay. Lets jettison unwanted baggage and lower the BULK prices PLEASE! Figure it out. We need to bring back our sticker shocked shoppers, myself included. Jules

    Like

  9. Judy Klem

    I am very THRILLED to have Nate as president and Carolyn & Kate working hard on our REAL issues. Very good fast work to STOP the consultants! $5,000.00 a month! Somebody needs to tell Ned it is not the 24% that is our “money” problem but issues like the above. Judy Klem member/worker since 2008 11364

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am thrilled to have Nate and Ned working together with the Board. I feel confident that they can handle whatever comes up. My support has always been behind Nate and now I’m putting it also 100% behind Ned. He’s proven himself.

    Jules

    Like

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