GRASSROOTS ACTION and Communication ARE POWERFUL!

Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

COMMUNICATION?  HEY, WHAT’S GOING ON?

I’ve received a number of emails from HWFC member-owners wondering, “What’s going on?” “We’ve heard nothing from the co-op since our big Special Membership Meeting election results.” “I heard we have a new executive committee. Who?” “What’s up with communication?” “Why haven’t we heard anything from the board?” “Where’s the Board’s Inside Scoop?”

“Can you tell me what’s going on?”

First off: it’s the holidays. I think everybody is taking some time to be with family and friends, celebrate and rest. Things will hopefully pick up after the 1st.

As to the questions, I share your interest, your eagerness, your frustration, and your puzzlement! Why not only an Inside Scoop from the board on December 2nd, announcing the election results of November 30th, but also why not a Special Edition of the Coop Scoop with photos and member interviews, with reporting and discussion of the historic membership meeting which more that 700 of us attended on November 30th? What happened at the board meeting on December 15th? Why hasn’t the newly configured board and its new executive committee written us something, anything?

Why does it seem like there is a news black-out, that only a few people really know what’s going on …and the rest of us are left in the dark?

Well, let’s reflect. Our co-op is in a moment of great re-organization. 700+ member-owners, shareholders and their families attended our largest membership meeting ever on November 30th. The voters spoke. We voted out one board member and gained three new. The three new board members won on a platform of strong support for a member-owner run co-op and with a pledge of transparency.

This new platform is in direct opposition to what were the long-entrenched trends at our co-op: veils of secrecy and an accelerated movement towards dissolution of member-owner power and control in the co-operative corporation.

A majority of us attending the emergency Special Membership Meeting voted for change.

Therefore huge shifts have occurred. And it’s only been 30 days!

Only two weeks later, on December 15th, a board meeting was held and at that meeting a brand new executive committee was voted in; four board members assumed brand new leadership roles and three of those board members were newly-elected.

The board members who were in positions of power, lost that power, while still remaining seated on the board.

Conflict is a reality.

There is, therefore, both massive re-organization and massive resistance taking place at the same time behind the scenes of our co-op, rest assured!

Many of us want in on this change, to participate, to be useful & helpful, to choose where to plug in, or to at least be in the know.

This eagerness to want to know is a testament to our commitment and our engagement as member-owners and shareholders in our co-op. We want in!

Let me honor that commitment and engagement by talking about it today and inviting you to, as well.

Here are my thoughts at the moment. Our co-op is in a period of transition. Things are not what they were. Therefore, don’t wait for someone to do something. Take the reins. Call people up or email  them and ask what is going on!

Take the initiative! Join with others. Decide that this co-operative – my co-operative! – is important to me and my family and, therefore, I am going to figure out how I can add in my energy, support the new board members I elected, and help get this co-operative steering in the right direction.

If you want to know more about what is going on be a part of that solution. Go to the next Board Meeting on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 5:45pm at FUUSA’s Emerson Community Hall (First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany), 405 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY (between Robin & Lake). Here is the agenda.

And notice a small but significant change: at the bottom of the board meeting agenda is a listing of all the upcoming co-op committee meeting dates, times and places.

If communication (or lack of it) is your beef, get involved in the Communications Committee. Go to the next Communications Committee meeting on January 11, 2016 at 5:30pm at HWFC. Ask to join the committee. Co-chairs (as of 12/14) are Chaz Martel and Nickleson Cook. Contact info on the HWFC website is listed as the board liaison, Roman Kuchera, here.

I have been unofficially told that an HWFC member has to wait to be invited onto an HWFC committee. I do not know if this is true and I will ask for clarification at the board meeting on January 5th.

If one needs a “gold-plated invitation” to join a co-op committee then there is indeed a big problem here at HWFC which needs to be fixed. Keeping committee membership down to a selected handful of “anointed few” is the type of behavior that got this co-operative into big, big trouble. Secrecy. Special, inner circle behavior. “We few decide who comes into the club; keep out those who aren’t hand-picked.” The collective rules: it, and its inner circle controls who gets in …and who doesn’t.

This type of committee behavior is not at all democratic …and it is certainly not co-operative.

If HWFC committee membership is this rigidly controlled and enforced then policies do need to be changed.

But, first-off, let’s find out if this is, indeed, the case, at the January 5th board meeting.

If it is, become a part of changing it.

And, after all, nothing says you can’t begin going to committee meetings right away, initially, as a non-member, until a more democratic and co-operative committee membership system gets put into place …again. (I have a long memory, it used to be that anyone and everyone was welcome to join and participate in an HWFC committee …we need to go back to the good old days. So please, let’s!)

The way to improve communication at HWFC is to offer your time and talents, pick an area which interests you and you’ll commit to …and to work with the structure that we already have in place: the Communications Committee (as well as regular attendance at Board meetings, IMHO).

That’s one way to either get your feet wet on a committee or to contribute your communications’ expertise, if that’s what you have to offer.

Personally, I think we have urgent need of a member to step forward who has expertise in Strategic PR, whose talents can be put to good use supporting and helping member-owner initiatives …and who can immediately help the newly-configured board. Lots of changes here at HWFC, which need to be managed both internally in communications as well as in the media. Public & Media Relations used for member-owners’ benefit would, indeed, be a welcome turn of events!

Through the Communications Committee maybe you can affect change to the Coop Scoop. How about an electronic Coop Scoop, just like the electronic Inside Scoop the board has? How about going back to members having regular columns? (Remember your favorite columns you used to look forward to?) How about a Coop Scoop more often? How about a return to Letters to the Editor, one of my favorites! Remember the member-owner who diligently & thoroughly wrote about board meetings after each and every board meeting? How about topics of vital interest to HWFC member-owners like, oh, say …Big Food takeovers of natural & organic US food supplies, or the latest in GMO issues we better know about, or organic food and the wonderful increase in organic farmers here in the Northeast, or articles about the Weston A. Price Foundation and its local chapters (one of the top-notch advocacy and information groups out there when it comes to truly organic, whole, local, unprocessed food supply in the US).

The sky is the limit and we ALL have an interest in high-quality food, organics, small family farming, herbals, medicinals, kids who farm, heirloom vegetables, health, well-being, local, state and national organic food political issues, and so on…

What about the HWFC Online Forum? Concerned that posts are edited or deleted? Heard that it is censored and don’t want to waste your time? Concerned that the topics aren’t relevant? Maybe there is a way you can start to change that. Maybe your energy – along with  some policy changes – can start to draw member-owners to that electronic, interactive conversation. And maybe there is now a board in place who wants to help you do just that.

What about our new written petitioning policy? Yes, we finally have one, first time ever! Does it allow you to set up a table and speak to other members about topics of interest? December 2015 information about Who Owns Organic among Big Food corporations in the US? A December 2015 report about US organic egg production? December 2015 change to the country-of-origin-law labeling of meats sold in the US, the hiding of GMOs in foods?

Yikes, you have to read, study & stay current to keep your family’s food safe! We could certainly help each other to do that! Maybe a regular Coop Scoop column, petitioning, and quarterly guest speakers is the answer to this urgent communication need.

Did this new petitioning policy (petitioning: the heart of communications, face-to-face, realtime, and vitally important to grassroots work) work in October and November for member-owners who wished to speak to other member-owners about an emergency Special membership Meeting taking place?

Or did that new policy actually impede communication? Does it still need some work? (Yes, it does need work: management’s interpretation of the board’s new policy rendered it ineffective, at least initially, and I communicated that to the GRC at its December 10th meeting and asked for their help in changing it.)

And social media! I’m an older member-owner and social media is not a habit for me, yet. For younger co-op members it is. We need to tap into this means of communication in a big way.

So, if you are not happy with communications coming out of our co-operative, or the communication lines between members, or between members and staff, or members and board, or member-owners and shareholders, jump in and become part of the process of change. Your energy, time and talents are needed, in a very real way.

We have not yet had an Inside Scoop from the board announcing the election of its new executive committee members. The last Inside Scoop was dated December 3rd and was a memorandum entitled HWFC Meeting with the New York State Department of Labor. Not a pleasant communication or memory and a process and issue still unresolved and still shrouded in secrecy.

Yes, it’s a long time since December 3rd.  However, I remain patient, awaiting the first Inside Scoop from the newly reconfigured board and its new executive committee. Because I will know that when it is issued, it means that positive change has begun, and that it has begun to be implemented, to have life, to gain traction. This will only be the beginning of benefit to all member-owners, shareholders, and member-owner staff of HWFC, and if it takes a little more time to be realized, well then I can wait just a little bit longer for a new Inside Scoop.

So, as a member of a co-operative, recognize that your energy is valuable and important and needed. If communication, or the lack of it, is irking you, figure out what you like to do, where your skills are and then get involved. Plug in and be an active part of communication at this, your food co-operative, the Honest Weight Food Co-op.

And please feel free to communicate here: post below, raise issues, ask questions, ask to be heard. Dialogue. If you encounter problems plugging into communications at HWFC post here and I, and others, will do our best to offer ideas and support you. Members of the HWFC Communications Committee do read this blog and have posted, they may join in the conversation, as well.

We can figure out here, together, how to sow positive communication changes within the fabric of our co-op …or at a minimum to identify where problems are and to generate ideas on how to tackle them and fix them.

I consider communication one of the most essential things we can do to help each other to connect …and to re-connect during this process of change at our co-op. Right here, right now on this blog … is a two way street. Use it. More avenues will open up in the days, weeks and months ahead and until they do, two-way street right here.

More than anything, I think we want & seek connection and a sense of belonging and a sense of shared purpose …to our local, wonderful, vibrant, “changing and getting stronger” food co-op community here on the banks of the historic Hudson River in Albany, near the foothills of the majestic Adirondack Mountains of New York.

We do have a row to hoe ahead of us, but the hoeing has already begun and it ain’t gonna stop, especially if we all pitch in!

Next year we, HWFC, will be 40 years old. A banner year for celebration in  the HWFC community! So hang on, stay positive, offer help, and by all means pick an area you’re good at and get involved. Participatory democracy demands your participation!

Be self-reliant, while you also co-operate with others. Support you and your own family while, at the same time, you join others in helping them and their own. This is a win-win way for communities to thrive, including our food co-operative community.

And please go to board meetings i n 2016! This is where lots happens you’ll want to know about! Our newly configured board needs a lot of support, help and talent in the coming months. They cannot do this job without us.

So, see you on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 5:45pm at the Unitarian Church at our next HWFC co-op board meeting!

And calendar in these dates for 2016 Membership Meetings:

  • Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 6 pm
  • Sunday, April 17, 2016 at 6 pm
  • Monday, June 27, 2016 at 6 pm
  • Sunday, September 25, 2016 at 6 pm

Happy New Year’s Eve preparations to all! Please go to Saratoga First Night if you’ve never been. We got to hear the fabulous, incredible Lee Shaw Trio there last year and now Lee Shaw is gone from us. It was a blessing my family and I shall never forget – her improvs were unbelievable – and her music will continue to live on and bless us all.

How lucky we all are here in the Capital region, aren’t we? The arts & music abound! Happy New Year! Happy fireworks, food, merriment, family & friends (and please designate a driver, too, if out and about)!

Thanks to each and every person this fall and winter who has either sent me private emails, called, shared food, drink, “tabling” & petitioning at HWFC, or who has posted here at HWFCInfohub about our co-op. Your thoughts are very, very important and valued – truly, more than you can ever know. Thank you.

And many thanks and Happy New Year to our HWFCInfohub Team! Thanks for your vision and hard work!

And please post your thoughts about communication at HWFC, below. Ideas, thoughts questions? Fire away!

~~~

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!
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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64 thoughts on “GRASSROOTS ACTION and Communication ARE POWERFUL!

  1. Chris Colarusso

    Great article Laura!

    Go to the HWFC website and press the Participate Button. Scroll to Board, the dropdown will show Inside Scoop as an option. Scroll to the bottom of that page and find Inside Scoop for December 2, 2015 and enter the “sorta secret” password and you will find the edition of the Inside Scoop which was posted the day after the completion of the vote count which was finished and available for publication the evening of December 1, 2015.

    Please come to the upcoming meetings if you can.
    Chris Colarusso

    Like

  2. Sue Longtin

    Nate and I go a long way back. He said that the board is divided and that they’re having problems making decisions. What a shock.
    On a little different note, Nate and our very own Bob Linn were at the dissolution of Northeastern Co-op, a wholesaler, as it was being bought by UNFI. This was 2002, Not pretty. UNFI is not our friend. You who remember, what was our wholesaler back in the day? Was it Northeastern?

    Like

    1. Laura

      Sue,

      Here is UNFI’s description of its history: https://www.unfi.com/Company/Pages/UNFIHistory.aspx

      Here is a different perspective: a July 9, 2009 CommonDreams.org article, The Organic Monopoly and the Myth of ‘Natural’ Foods: How Industry Giants Are Undermining the Organic Movement by Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association:
      http://www.commondreams.org/views/2009/07/09/organic-monopoly-and-myth-natural-foods-how-industry-giants-are-undermining-organic

      Like

      1. Susan Longtin

        Laura, Hi. Reading the article from Common Dreams. It says “UNFI and Whole Foods: Products at any cost.” From what I’ve read of UNFI, I’d agree. I’m at work but I have something at home from the Co-operative Grocer after the takeover happened. Gayle Anderson introduced us to the Co-operative Grocer years ago. Didn’t like the feeling of it then. Didn’t want it. It’s somehow mixed up with UNFI and that consulting firm whose name I forget now, at least. And the old board and at least one past boards at the Co-op are buying into it. I’m careful what I eat, not only in terms of ingredients, but in terms of the company.

        Like

      1. Sue Longtin

        Thanks, but I’m not much of a writer. I do fine with punctuation and grammar but don’t always use the best sentence structure!

        Like

      1. Nickleson works at the front end fulltime. Chaz is on the Forum. I would send him a private message there. I believe it would be helpful to publicize all committee members’ names. My current search for this info is unproductive. I’ll bring it up as an agenda item.

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  3. Laura

    Sue,

    It’s called the Cooperative Grocers Network (CGN), http://www.grocer.coop/, and HWFC is a member, http://www.grocer.coop/coops?province=New%20York. It is a nonprofit 501(c)(6) trade association.

    On the footer of its home page, this nonprofit lists the following three organizations as its sponsors:
    CDS Consulting Co-op (CDSCC): http://cdsconsulting.coop/
    National Co-op Grocers (NCG): https://www.ncg.coop/
    National Co-operative Bank (NCB): https://ncb.coop/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sue Longtin

      Now, is this a good thing or a bad thing? I’ve read that they are also associated with Whole Foods in some way, From my prospective with my sense of politics, I’d say it isn’t good. But in terms of the Co-op and its changes and member workers/owners (and just members in general) is it a positive thing, do you think, Laura? Are you on Facebook and are you following some of their discussions, as well?

      Like

      1. Laura

        Sue,

        Dr. Philip H. Howard at Michigan State University teaches about the US food system and sustainability: Here is his homepage: https://www.msu.edu/~howardp/

        He tracks sales, distribution and mergers within the US natural and organic wholesale network. He has data (through 2008) of mergers and acquisitions among the US wholesale co-operative distribution network. He also helps you understand which Big Food companies own which natural and organic brands: updated as of 12/2015.

        This information is worth your study time; it will answer your questions as to which companies are wholesaling natural and organic food to US food co-ops, like HWFC.

        Organic Industry Structure: Major Organic/Natural Foods Distributors, 2008:
        https://www.msu.edu/~howardp/Distributors08.pdf

        Organic Industry Structure: Cooperative Distributors, 1982-2008
        https://www.msu.edu/~howardp/coopmap.pdf

        Organic Processing Industry Structure (Updated as of 12/2015):
        https://msu.edu/~howardp/organicindustry.html
        (See the non-updated PDF version, Organic Industry Structure: Acquisitions & Alliances, Top 100 Food Processors in North America: https://www.msu.edu/~howardp/Organic2014.pdf)

        See his upcoming book, as of 02/16 (unknown how much he delves into the US natural and organic wholesale distribution network in this book):
        Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat?
        http://www.amazon.com/Concentration-Power-Food-System-Contemporary/dp/1472581121/

        Sue, how many wholesale co-operatives are left in the US out of the 28 there were in 1982? Who are the main US wholesalers of natural and organic foods?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Laura

        Sue, no I’m not on Facebook and I know a fair number of people who are not. Maybe you can invite people on FB to come over here to converse as well?

        Like

      3. Sue Longtin

        They may be. But I was referring to the discussion we had about UNFI. There was a discussion there, as well. Also, I haven’t been involved in that side of things for a long time at the Co-op and I need to be. I’m learning. Do you, in your opinion, think that the whole thing is positive or not for us? I mean considering everything going on. I’d really like to hear a discussion about this.

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      4. Sue Longtin

        I know about the “almost everything goes back to Heinz” chart. I copied it from someone on Central Ave.
        Now, if all our grocery-buying power, Albert’s Organics and everything- is from UNFI or some division of them, where do we go if we opt out? Start our own wholesaler? It’s very hard and complicated but I don’t like monopolies and I don’t like that bunch of organizations that are associated with UNFI.

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  4. Great post, Laura! I’ve been wondering myself what exactly has been going on with the board and LT. All has been pretty silent.

    There’s going to be a proposal made for an online member-written and -edited newsletter at the 1/5 HW Board meeting. There are columns planned for concerns of staff, and of shareholders. Letters to the Editor- All the things you miss from the old Coop Scoop, and then some! (calling all writers!)

    Laura gave a link for the agenda- here’s another one: http://www.honestweight.coop/uploads/BdAgendas/1451570415_Board_Meeting_Agenda_2016-01-05_Revised.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great research everyone! I was very disappointed with the new, marketing driven Coop Scoop. Once Judy and David stepped down, or were told to step down, I too quit writing for the Coop Scoop. I miss all the details we used to find in it and I also miss all the great articles written by members. Bring back the old Scoop!!

    Jules

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Julie

        I’d love to. We live an hour east of Albany and I work in Pittsfield, MA. It’s a challenge to attend Board meetings.

        Like

  6. Susan Longtin

    I saw Ms. Dennis in the Times Union. Even as the Board President, she was just one person. How could she speak for us?
    One of the beauties of the Co-op is that people who are involved with other organizations, Food Not Bombs, for example are also involved with the Co-op in some way and we with them. I also have worked with several different sorts of organizations. I understand that Ms. Dennis has, as well. These people read what she has done here and it ruins her credibility with them, as well.

    Like

  7. Susan Longtin

    Jules, I found it on Facebook. When I get home tonight, I will try to remember to post the link. I saw it online WNYT, as well. Are you re-foiling that letter?

    Like

    1. Julie

      I did re FOIL the letter, yes. If the letter exists I will get it one way or another LOL. I am hopeful that a Board member will have signed it for a change, rather than the “legal team” representing the Board.

      I did post the link I saw on TU in comment above.

      Jules

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  8. Laura

    Here is the URL for Michael Hill of the AP, who wrote the 01/03/16 article featuring the former acting-President of the HWFC board, Deb Dennis: http://bigstory.ap.org/content/michael-hill

    See Michael Hill at Muck Rack and a list of national newspapers which picked up / echoed his article: http://muckrack.com/michaelthill .

    Here is the article, featured in the Times Union: http://www.timesunion.com/news/us/article/Will-work-for-food-Co-op-programs-end-amid-6733855.php .

    If you google “Michael Hill” and “Will work for food? Co-op programs end amid labor-law fears” you will gain an idea just how much national coverage this AP article is getting (how many newspapers echoed / bought the article.)

    This article received PREMIER coverage in Sunday US news outlets.

    This national article and its PR value is worth gold to any entity seeking to end local ownership and control of US food co-operatives using labor law fears, including the Honest Weight Food Co-op.

    Did the AP reporter fail to uncover the story about our historic emergency Membership Meeting and its five ballots – which occurred THE DAY BEFORE he interviewed Ms. Dennis, the former acting-President of the HWFC board (according to her statement at the 12/15/15 board meeting) or did Ms. Dennis forget to mention this significant fact to this national reporter, deeming it as irrelevant and of no significance?

    What about the membership vote, at that same meeting, of 85.7% to disapprove the board’s decision to end member labor at our food co-op? That fact wasn’t relevant to this story?

    In either case, somebody did not do their job.

    How could this reporter move forward with this interview and NOT know that the person he interviewed had just received the highest vote of non-confidence and censure of any board member at the emergency Special Membership Meeting held on November 30, 2015: 67.9% – almost the 75% required to remove her from the board (403 votes to remove; 190 votes to retain)? Except, of course, former President Bill Frye who received 83.5% and who WAS removed from the board.

    We, the member-owners of HWFC who called for and held our historic emergency Special Membership Meeting, deserve and request a rebuttal article authored by Mr. Hill. He missed an essential part of this story. Good journalism and fair & balanced reporting demands he tell the whole story.

    Like

  9. Laura

    Here is the URL for Michael Hill of the AP, who wrote the 01/03/16 article featuring the former acting-President of the HWFC board, Deb Dennis: http://bigstory.ap.org/content/michael-hill .

    See Michael Hill at Muck Rack and a list of national newspapers which picked up / echoed his article: http://muckrack.com/michaelthill .

    Here is the article regionally, featured in:
    Times Union: http://www.timesunion.com/news/us/article/Will-work-for-food-Co-op-programs-end-amid-6733855.php
    Troy Record: http://www.troyrecord.com/article/TR/20160103/NEWS/160109887
    The Saratogian: http://www.saratogian.com/article/ST/20160103/NEWS/160109889; the Daily Gazette: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_FOOD_AND_FARM_CHANGING_CO_OPS?SITE=NYSCH&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
    The Post Star: http://poststar.com/news/state-and-regional/will-work-for-food-co-op-programs-end-amid-labor/article_40bc5048-1502-5a3c-91e6-81d6b15fc0f7.html

    It’s also in the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/will-work-for-food-co-op-programs-end-amid-labor-law-fears/2016/01/03/d30a8428-b22c-11e5-8abc-d09392edc612_story.html and HuffPost: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20160103/us–food-and-farm-changing-co-ops/ .

    If you google “Michael Hill” and “Will work for food? Co-op programs end amid labor-law fears” or google “Michael Hill” and “Honest Weight Food Co-op” you will gain an idea just how much national coverage this AP article is getting (how many newspapers echoed / bought the article.). This article received PREMIER coverage in Sunday US news outlets.

    This article is worth PR gold to any entity seeking help to end local ownership and control of US food co-operatives using labor law fears as the means. The damage it has done to HWFC and member-owned co-ops across the United States is inestimable.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Laura

    This AP article also made the Wall Street Journal: http://www.wsj.com/articles/AP0d4fa593e5944ae09c0a2a773f0fd47e

    It has a secondary title, search under: “Food co-ops end worker programs once tied to idealistic origins amid legal fears, competition”

    These two titles will remain archived on the internet, and in future searches will serve to provide PR gold to any entity seeking help to end local ownership and control of US food co-operatives using labor law fears. Brilliant PR work. Also, brilliant means to continue the destruction of US locally-owned and locally-controlled food co-operatives.

    Essential search words utilized: food co-op, worker, labor-law, legal, fears:

    “Will work for food? Co-op programs end amid labor-law fears”
    “Food co-ops end worker programs once tied to idealistic origins amid legal fears, competition”

    Like

  11. Laura

    Sue, Come to the board meeting tonight at the Unitarian Church at 5:45pm. It seems like a lot of member-owners are saying the same thing: the(former) executive committee, two members (at a minimum), need to step down from the current board.

    Like

  12. Colleen Putnam

    In my humble opinion, this was almost inevitable. It’s very unfortunate and extremely sad the way this whole situation was handled. Unintended consequences will always arise when actions are rooted in blame, fear and anger. And haste. Instead of sitting down like reasonable adults and having a conversation from the very beginning, our “dirty laundry” has been hung out for all to see. Yes, it could have been very different.

    Like

  13. Susan Longtin

    Yes. I wasn’t at the end of the board meeting last night because I was beat and had to get up for work in the morning, but did the board say what they were going to do to replace the members that quit? The logical thing would be to reach out to the people that didn’t make the cut at the special membership meeting, I think. Thanks a lot, all of you.

    Like

  14. Julie

    And yes, this is all unfortunate, but people MUST take responsibility for their actions, right or wrong. If the members and the Board want people off the Board, due to their actions while on the Board, then the people should step down or be removed. That’s how one would expect to participate in a democracy, a cooperative, and a collective.

    These people’s actions, going out on their own with AP and TU articles, meeting with the NYS DOL on their own, and misrepresenting the wishes of the Membership, are absolutely wrong. If they refuse to do the honorable thing then it is up to the Board and Membership to do what has to be done and ensure that they cannot further misrepresent the Coop.

    When there is no cooperation then further action is required.

    Jules Harrell

    Like

    1. Colleen Putnam

      Jules, I truly respect your assessment of the situation. My comment reflects how things should have and, with out a doubt, could have been handled from the beginning. Way back in October. And now look at what is happening. Things are blown way off course. The cooperative spirit was not practiced by most. There was NO compassion — which takes one to let go of anger and ego — and work from the heart. Peacefully, cooperatively, around a table, talking.
      Instead, an agenda was set and there was no stopping it for clear, rational and critical thinking. I tried many times to speak up about this, asking for a pause to think before acting, but no one would listen. Even the atmosphere was so highly charged that many thought I had a “side”. No matter how many times I said that I did not.Totally ridiculous and paranoid thinking. If any, my side was “reason”! — that’s what I was trying to get across.
      As for the voting? Well, the straw polls were a very clever move. No matter how the vote came out (which should be the deciding factor, like every other election, no matter how close) – a “second” vote, the just-in-case-we-lose-the-first-time “straw” vote allowed some to make the argument that since it was a vote of “no confidence”, therefore they should resign. Democracy? I don’t think so. That’s not how it works.
      But, here we are. And I only hope HWFC can survive . I know you care, Jules, as do I.

      Like

      1. Adam Baldwin

        That’s not why the straw votes were there at all. When the petition was drafted and submitted, it was before the board rescinded their decision. It wasn’t originally a straw vote – it was a vote to reinstate the MLP. Because the board rescinded their decision to end the MLP, the petition group, conferring with the GRC, decided to change the vote to a straw poll so the membership could make their opinion known of whether or not the board’s unilateral decision was the wrong choice to make.

        As for the last two straw polls, the membership is not allowed to directly make decisions to change the management structure or hire or fire employees, including the LT. Therefore, the purpose of the polls were to send a message to the board, with whomever ended up on it, that the Member-Owners would like them to consider taking those actions. It’s the only effective tool available to tell the board what the membership as a whole feels they should take on issues that they don’t have the power to change directly.

        There have been several accusations made that the petitioners are a vocal minority and don’t reflect the views of the greater membership. Because more than half of the eligible Member-Owners came out to vote and approved these straw polls, it proves that these are not just the views of a vocal minority.

        Like

  15. Susan Longtin

    Well, look at the National Meat vote. 4 times!
    Now I know that the rest of the board reads this, so I’ll say this here. I think that the new ad hoc for now committee, should be run by Saul Rigberg (sp). Not only is he a lawyer, he has a lot of years and experience with the Co-op I would also like to see one more article for the TU. I would like Carolyn and Nate to try to repair some of the damage done by Ms. Dennis; Carolyn because she’s a beautiful older woman with smarts and Nate because he’s board president. Happy New Year, everyone. Now lets get to work.

    Like

  16. I am challenged to feel compassion when people are still misrepresenting the Coop in the news long after the Members have attempted to vote them out of office, and long after the Board did vote them out of their position. I believe there were many talks, yet this continues. When will it end, I ask these people? When will you step down, step back, and allow others to come forward?

    Like

  17. Laura

    Dear Jules,

    I attended last night’s board meeting and am still processing it. However, given your wonderful persistence in wanting to know how much the (former) board spent on legal fees and your strong recommendation that the (former) co-op board end its practice of spending so much on lawyers, I want to share this figure with you and others: it was disclosed last night by the treasurer, Kate Doyle, that the (former) co-op board spent $257,000 on lawyers … since July 2015.

    $257,000.

    Since July.

    Six months. $257,000. Legal fees.

    $42,833 a month.

    So, the question to ponder is: exactly what was that money used for? Money which belong(ed) to the entire co-operative, as a whole, and belonged to the furtherance of our mission and our local co-operative community. For what purposes did the (former) board utilize money to the tune of $257,000?

    Two law firms? What legal advice? Which legal maneuvers? Lobbying? Secret meetings with the NYS Department of Labor (at least one)? Secret letters to the NYS DOL (at least two)? Secret 2 1/2+ hour executive committee meetings which were attended by (what we not now was) a paid lobbyist & PR Strategist, a well-paid Strategic Planning / Bylaws Task Force consultant, and not one but two law firms, and the entire co-op management Leadership Team …and member-owners patently and purposefully excluded.

    The former board was expending $42,833 a month since July on legal advice, legal maneuvers, legal documents, and legal representation at meetings. Go back to the minutes: what (legal) co-operative corporation motions did this board pass since, say January 2015, which required this amount of capital for lawyers?

    What was their objective ..their endgame? How do their board motions correlate to $42,833 a month?

    Was this money used to benefit the member-owners, as a whole, of our co-operative … or to harm us?

    Did we, the 620+ voting member owners stop them in their tracks with our emergency Special Membership Meeting …or had the damage already been done to our co-operative prior to our November 30, 2015 meeting?

    We do not yet know how much they spent on legal fees for the period January – July, 2015. We do not yet have access to the billing to know what hourly rate was charged for which legal activity.

    Jules, that is a partial answer to your question: $257,000 in legal fees for a six month period. Please let us share in your reaction and thank you keeping our attention on this issue.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Laura

    Jules,

    We learned last night that the Joanmarie Dowling law firm has terminated its relationship with HWFC and that attorney John Vero, of Couch White, stated to, I believe, Kate and Carolynn last Friday, that he can no longer represent the co-op; that he would be willing to act as co-counsel during this period of transition (with another, different law firm in the picture) but that he has to be aware of any issues of conflict of interest which may arise from this point forward.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well folks there is a reason I pushed for legal fees. Thank you for the news. So between lawyers and consultants the Board authorized almost 50k per month. Is that even legal? I almost want to use the word negligent.

      Like

    1. My reaction is this. After serving on three Boards, one of which spent over 250k on attorney fees before they were stopped by public disclosure (yes me), one of which paid 75k in an out of court settlement and finally fired the store manager (Honest Weight yes because of me), and one of which saw the rapid resignation of the bleeder along with firing their director, all three due to my scab picking, I know where to scratch. Now lets dig deeper. Every invoice has a signature. I would ask for a financial audit from an outside accounting firm and see who legally has authorized al the blood letting with their signature on each invoice. Attorneys and consultants are are vendors who submit invoices which are then paid by the accounting arm of the Coop. Shall we insist on due diligence? I ask the Membership to demand a full accounting of all legal and consulting fees, down to the invoice and signature. Jules Harrell. Email me at photonicgirl@hotmail.com

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Sue Longtin

    Yes, Jules, but I think we need to pick up and go forward. Ms. Dennis et al are off the board. We now have honest people who are working for us. I’d trust them with my life.
    Now, as I said, I wasn’t at the end of the board meeting. What was decided about the GM? What, if anything, will they do about the other board members that we need?

    Like

    1. While I agree, there should be full disclosure to the Membership about financial information that has been withheld. In other words, let’s learn from the past and move forward on solid ground. We need to know what the attorneys and consultants have done with Honest Weight’s 300k. We need to enact rules to stop this from ever happening again. We need to ensure that any legally binding contractual arrangements that have been made on behalf of the Coop are brought to light and dissolved if necessary. In order to do all of the above we need an audit of the books. Jules

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Steve Young

    $257,000 in legal fees in 6 months! Assuming $12.5 million in sales during that period, and $7.5 million cost of goods sold, we get $5 million markups. So legal fees were over 5% of gross profit and probably 100% of net profits.

    What do we know about consultant and PR expenses?
    – Corning Place – at least $15000.
    – Shem Cohen’s firm – who knows, but probably $5000-$15000 or more
    – CDS – also who knows? – probably more than Shem Cohen.

    I’m guessing we’ll find $50,000 in consultant and PR expenses. Bringing the total to 6% of gross profit and probably > 100% of net profits.

    Then there’s the first half of 2015 – and 2014 and 2013 …

    It’s probably time to compare the leadership teams compensation to that of store managers at similarly sized grocery stores in the area if we can find the data.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Steve Young

    More on the lawyers. My friend started a firm that trades electricity in the day-ahead market. The high priced lawyer he hired to incorporate charged $450/hour. He was able to keep costs under $20,000. At $450/hour that’s about 570 hours of billing or about 3.5 months at 40 hours per week. Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Steve Young

    In my post above, I should have said “If the coops lawyers charge about the same rate, $450/hour ,that’s about 570 hours of billing or about 3.5 months at 40 hours per week.”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Great article in the TU. At least DD admitted to the $257k in legal fees. Ridiculous! Outrageous! Unbelievable! Wasted net profits for the year and for what? To “protect” the Coop? Without asking the Membership if it was ok to waste the entire year’s net profits. I hope everyone is as appalled as I am that the Coop had been smeared in the national press and bled dry by four people. In SECRET!

        Like

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