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…
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.
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!