OUR GRASSROOTS ACTIONS are applauded by a Vermont Blogger & Co-op Member!

Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

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

1. Here are draft minutes of the recent board meeting, held on Tuesday, January 19, 2016 as posted over at Member-Owned, Member-Operated, HWFC. Thank you note-takers!;

2. Here is a recent article by Tim O’Brien at the Times Union, entitled Group Aims to Bring Co-op to Schenectady, which talks about the new Schenectady food co-op, the Electric City Food Co-operative, and which mentions HWFC;

3. Here is a URL to check HWFC meeting dates, times and places; you can also post the URL into your own browser: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-L8WC4-T6qzxcF3pL3WH6yzMkn01fyM-kDdYlHMwbWE/edit?usp=docslist_api

4. The January 24, 2016 Membership Meeting (and scheduled voting) has officially been cancelled. THE NEW MEETING DATE IS SUNDAY, JANUARY 31, 2016 in Emerson Hall at the FUUSA (the Unitarian Church at 405 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY); 5:30 pm dessert potluck, 6:00pm Membership Meeting.

All previously scheduled voting has been cancelled. There will be a financial overview with discussion. There will also be an opportunity to meet with all the different committees of HWFC, learn about them and their various projects & goals, and, perhaps, make a commitment to join!

Here is the official membership meeting agenda.

5. I have been invited to post on the HWFC Member Forum, the Virtual Conversation, by Chaz Martel, who is a moderator of the Forum as well as a co-chair of the HWFC Communications Committee, and who occasionally posts here. So, for the first time ever, I will join the conversation at the HWFC Member Forum and, as well, post the URL to my blogposts each time they are written. Thank you for the invite! And please do join in the conversations here, as well, HWFC Forum members!

A VERMONT ATTORNEY’S BLOGPOST
ABOUT HONEST WEIGHT FOOD CO-OP GRASSROOTS ADVOCACY

Honest Weight Food Co-op member-owners, we grassroots advocates have received official recognition & praise of our community, grassroots advocacy efforts from a fellow food co-op member and former food co-op board president here in the northeast: Donald M. Kreis.

He is a Vermont-based attorney who is

on a mission:  to build the cooperative economy.  By “cooperative economy” I don’t just mean people being helpful to one another.  I mean increasing the share of economic enterprise that is conducted by cooperatives — a unique kind of business entity that is owned by its users, democratically controlled by them, and committed to returning any surplus to its member-owners. [1]

He is a member of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society, an 80 year-old New Hampshire food co-operative, who served as a president of this co-op for three years and who is currently running again for its board.

You may be familiar with the Facebook page of a group of co-op members from the Hanover Consumer Co-operative Society, here, called Concerned About the Co-op (CATC), who, like HWFC member-owners are fighting the corporitization of their food co-op and who felt the need to set up their own means of communication in order to speak freely to each other. Mr. Kreis is currently seeking the endorsement of CATC for his run for the board of directors of the the Hanover co-op.

Mr. Kreis’s January 19, 2016 blogpost is entitled, Some Honest Talk about Honest Weight and Member-Workers at Consumer Co-ops. He compliments our advocacy efforts right off the bat as awe-inspiring:

“Democratic member control” is the second of the seven Cooperative Principles – and,  at the Honest Weight Food Co-op in New York’s capital city of Albany late last year, there was an awe-inspiring example of Principle 2 in action.  The members of Honest Weight called a special meeting and exercised their right under their co-op’s bylaws to oust one board member – an embattled former president — and elect three newcomers.

This was no mere popularity contest or expression of peevish personal pique.  At issue was a decision by the board of Honest Weight in October to end the co-op’s member work program in which consumers who belong to Honest Weight provide free labor to the co-op in exchange for a discount at the register.  A straw vote taken at the special member meeting in question on November 30 made clear the degree of member disapproval of this decision:  of the more than 600 members present, 85.7 percent said they wanted to keep the member worker program…

Mr. Kreis cited the recent resignation letter of four board members, as well as the personal response to these resignations by current board member and Vice-President, Ned Depew. He continued with a detailed legal overview of co-op member-labor, citing our board Treasurer, Kate Doyle’s document, Critical Legal Information. [2]

I think we will all be very interested in Kate Doyle’s response to the legal information which he has provided, as he has some legal disagreements (which he delineates) with her document. [3]

I have forwarded this blogpost to Kate Doyle and Carolynn Presser, [4] our newly-elected board members who are also both attorneys. It is my hope that they will communicate with Mr. Kreis through his blog – and here, as well – and add to the collective knowledge and opinions about member-owner labor programs at US food co-operatives. Our goal, of course, is how to strengthen and make sustainable our own member-owner labor program.

I submitted a reply to Mr. Kreis’ post here, included more details about our recent grassroots advocacy, thanked him for the hat-tip to our grassroots website here at HWFCinfohub and made sure he was also aware of our second grassroots website, over at Member-Owned, Member-Operated, HWFC.

In my thanks to Mr. Kreis I acknowledged the unbelievably wonderful grassroots community action here at HWFC:

Thank you for calling our actions an “awe-inspiring example” of “democratic member control”! Truly, thank you very much. To our credit, member-owners took action less than 24 hours after the board posted its intent to gut our MLP …and we sustained that action for 39 solid days of hard grassroots work (during the holiday season!), to get us to to an emergency Special Membership Meeting, attended by more than 700 people, 620+ of whom were active, voting members!

Our largest membership meeting ever: history-making, for our 40 year-old co-operative!

…I am very, very proud of our co-operative, grassroots community action! It proves to me that, despite powerful forces, national consultant influence, legal & Strategic PR & Lobby teams, secrecy, and big pots of money levied against us, a group of community members & families can still band together to advocate and save something of great value to them, their families and to their local community: their community-owned and operated food co-operative.

If you were part of this action, take these thanks very personally: you made a difference!

Go on over and join the conversation with yet another American attorney who strongly supports locally-owned, democratically-controlled food co-operatives …and who saw fit to compliment us here at Honest Weight Food Co-op for our awesome grassroots actions!

Mr. Kreis obviously spent some time reading & learning about our own co-op’s recent issues and our member-owners’ successful advocacy, [5] and he took the time to formulate a lengthy and well-written response. Read his thoughts, accept his compliments, consider the legal information he presents …and open up a brand new line of communication to a fellow co-op member here in the northeast by going over to his blog and saying hello.

We people dedicated to strong, democratic action in our locally-owned food co-ops need to reach out to each other and share information, as a first step, wouldn’t you agree? We are not all alone here in our Albany, NY food co-op!

READ ABOUT ANOTHER CO-OP’S MONTHLY BOARD MEETINGS

Donald Kreis’s December 17, 2015 blogpost, The ‘Share of Stomach’ Challenge at the Hanover Co-op: December Board Report, gives a recap of his co-op’s December board meeting, here; compare action there with action at our own co-op’s board meetings. You might find it of interest to note his comments about his co-op’s recent NCG (National Co-op Grocers) contract (under A mysterious plan); his commentary about the board withholding essential documents – like the 2016 Budget and Business Plan (!?) – from member-owners (under Cash Poverty); and this quote about CDS Consulting Co-op (under T is for Transparency – and Trouble);

“Blum [a board member] also said she had a discussion with Marilyn Scholl of the CDS Consulting Co-op, who offered a ‘very nice sense’ of what ‘transparency’ should mean at a cooperative: ‘It’s not the ability to see all of the details but to see through all of the details to understanding key points.'”

(The saying, The devil’s in the details, immediately leaps to mind as a response to that rather disingenuous statement by CDSCC’s Marilyn Scholl.)

Board documents kept secret from members, a current NCG contract renewal process, and comments by national consultants from CDSCC. Topics which sound at all familiar?

I urge you to methodically read all of Mr. Kreis’s blogposts as many of them contain key information about both local and national co-op issues which we here at HWFC are confronting.

Thank you, fellow blogger and co-op member, Donald Kreis, for applauding our solid grassroots advocacy!

~~~

[1] See the website for the Law Offices of Donald M. Kreis, PLLC, here.

[2] In the interest of good research habits, I include a second document created in November, 2015 by attorney (and newly-elected Board Treasurer) Kate Doyle here entitled, A Letter to Shareholders from Concerned Owner-Workers. The document discusses the popular slogan (being echoed nationally at other food co-ops being shepherded towards a weakening of their local member-owner power & control) “One Share – One Vote” and the ramifications to member-owners of the (former) HWFC board adding 12,000 new shareholders to the co-operative corporation.

[3] For further research see this 2009 article by Laddie Lushin, Esq. entitled Co-op Member Labor Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act: A Matter of Economic Reality.

[4] Carolynn Presser (newly-elected board Secretary) conducted her own informal survey of member-owner labor programs at other NYS food co-ops and presented her findings to HWFC member-owners in November, 2015, here, in a document entitled Opinions From Other Cooperatives on the Legality of Member-Owner Labor Programs.

[5] Detailed information which could, likely, only have been gleaned from the Times Union newspaper coverage of HWFC and two HWFC citizen websites / blogs. This is a testament to the power of citizens communicating quickly & directly via the internet. Blogs create the communication channels so desperately needed by citizens, advocates, families and community members – working together co-operatively – and seeking to create positive change in their hometowns and communities. We are truly the new media!

Citizen bloggers are the 21st century’s re-creation of the 18th century Committees of Correspondence, formed here in the original Thirteen Colonies and of which I have written about before. The Committees recognized

…the power of correspondence, and more importantly the vital significance of town meetings.   (See: Committees of Correspondence at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, here.)

How appropriate that we have a Vermont lawyer from a New Hampshire co-op communicating with grassroots advocates from a food co-op near to the confluence of the Hudson & Mohawk Rivers in New York State!

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. Good, solid, real grassroots action simply works!
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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