GRASSROOTS ACTION and Current Board Accomplishments ARE POWERFUL!

Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner


Honest Weight Food Co-op Makes Front Page of Times Union Business Section today. See the article:

Honest Weight Food Co-op’s Board Majority Again Up For Election
by Tim O’Brien, here.

Tim O’Brien quotes HWFC Board candidate Howard Brent: “the previous board went off the deep end.”

ALERT! STILL HOT OFF THE PRESS! Here is the Co-op Voice’s April, 2016 edition, with the Q&A Responses of all ten (10) announced candidates running for our Board of Directors on Sunday. And, here are the candidates’ bios and here is a summary of the Meet the Board Candidates Meeting from April 3rd.

HOT REMINDER: Don’t forget your personal Committee’s of Correspondence: personally call five (5) HWFC Members whom you know. Remind them to vote on Sunday. Ask them to each call five (5), etc. Done.


Busy morning! I need my steaming, fragrant cup – no, pot of organic Jade Oolong tea, to bring this blogpost to bed, fast!

My blog theme this week is:

Why Vote on Sunday, April 17, 2016 at the HWFC Membership Meeting?

After each blogpost this week (see April 9, April 12 and the popularSkunkworks” post of April 13 (come visit the Comments underneath. Join in!), I hope you will come away having yet another really important reason for attending our co-op’s Annual Membership Meeting and Board Elections this Sunday, April 17, 2016 at the St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church at 440 Whitehall Road in Albany, NY.

4:00 – 5:30 pm Meet the Candidates (see here for meeting details, here for the agenda and  here, here and here for candidate information)
5:30 – 6:00 pm Dessert Potluck and opportunity for conversation. Please bring a healthy snack or dessert item to share. HWFC will provide beverages
6:00 – 8:00 pm


Today’s information from our Board (see below) will tell you all about the incredible things our current Board of Directors has accomplished! Accomplished in just four short months!!!

Let’s remember that three of those Board members – Nate Horwitz, Carolynn Presser and Kate Doyle – were elected at an emergency Special Membership Meeting (SMM), held on November 30, 2015, called for by the Membership to confront a threat to our co-operative corporation and stop the activities of an out-of-control Board of Directors. Two of those Board members – New Depew and Daniel Morrissey, who were Board incumbents when we held our SMM – received the highest votes of confidence from Membership at the SMM. One of those Board member – Saul Rigberg, who also ran for election on  November 30 – was appointed by the above five Board members, to come join their team, on March 1, 2016.

That historic emergency meeting, held on Monday evening, November 30, 2015 had ~620 voting Member-Owner shareholders come out to vote (just four days after Thanksgiving, remember!) In addition, there was a total of ~720 attendees!

We broke any and all Honest Weight Food Coop records from our 40 year history, for Membership Meeting attendance: and this was an emergency Special Membership Meeting, called for by a petition of the Membership on October 24, 2015.

In just 38 days SMM petitioners convinced ~620 HWFC Owners to get out, confront a threat to our co-operative corporation (see here, here, here, here, here and, finally here) …

…confront that threat, and vote.

~620 of us sure did, ~720 including shareholders and our families! (See the official election results, here.) We all successfully defended our food co-operative corporation from those threats.

Well, now it’s time for the Member-Owners of HWFC to review just what this Board team of six Member-Owners has done for us and for our co-operative, in only four (4) months!

This document should convince you that we did the right thing on November 30, 2015! It should also convince you of the imperative that we ALL get out and vote this Sunday, April 17, 2016 at St. Sophia’s!

There are plans afoot (and read the comments below) to derail this election. Supporters of the former Board and former Management are busy digging through our bylaws to find any way to re-take our Board on Sunday.

We have to prevent them from disrupting our co-operative meeting process …once again.

See, these people don’t honor or respect the democratic process. Secrecy, fear, intimidation and last minute, planned maneuvers to disrupt are at the top of their playlist. At our emergency SMM they tried this on the floor …and failed miserably. But it looks like that’s what they’re going to try again: this time a run to try and grab Board seats at the very last minute from the floor.

My upcoming blogposts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday will provide more details. And, go and read the Reader Comments, under my April 13 Skunkworks post: an issue of “blank ballots” and Sunday’s election posted by Nickleson Cook over at the Let’s Talk HWFC FB page (Nickleson is the co-chair of the HWFC Communications Committee, BTW).

Your vote is THE ONE SURE-FIRED WAY to insure that the  former Board – and its supporters – never get a foot in the door on our board, again.

We again need LARGE NUMBERS of Member-Owners to turn out and vote!


Can we equal the ~620 voters who came on November 30th? Let’s go for it!

Our bylaws call for a total of nine (9) Board seats: seven (7) seats are up for election. Nate Horwitz, President, and Daniel Morrissey are not up for election this time ’round.

We need to support the incumbent Board members (four are up for election: make your choices), and bring our Board up to full, by adding enough seats to vote for seven (7) candidates on Sunday! (BTW, election note: a ballot will be considered spoiled (not counted) if you vote for more than seven (7) candidates. So, count carefully when you cast your ballot: seven names only.)

And I have no secret ballot to hide: I know I am voting for Carolynn Presser, Kate Doyle and their choice, Saul Rigberg …and by so doing, following up on our historic elections of November 30, 2015. They have proved their ability to lead. I will decide upon my remaining four votes …way, way before the elections (see why, here) on Sunday.


Without further ado, here is the current edition, April 14, 2016, of the HWFC Inside Scoop, listing all of our current Board’s accomplishments!

Work accomplished in only four months by six people! Imagine what this team will do with three (3) additional Board members!

For the convenience of my readers, some of whom are seniors and people with disabilities and/or on fixed incomes, who have limited e-mail availability to timely information, here is the URL for this information ( and, below, is the text, copied & pasted, word-for-word:




News and Views from Honest Weight Food Co-op Board of Directors

April 14, 2016

It’s a Wrap!

The Tuesday, April 5, 2016 Board meeting ended without ceremony, yet its adjournment marked the last session at which the current six Board of Directors will meet as this Board of Directors. After the April 17 election, the newly-elected member-owners will join continuing Directors Nate Horwitz and Daniel Micah Morrissey to create a full complement of nine Directors on our Board. In acknowledgement of the ending of the tenure of the current Board, we offer the following as a list of accomplishments by this group of Directors in service of our Co-op.

Fiduciary Responsibilities

+ Hired new legal counsel and confirmed that the Co-op’s use of member labor complies with federal and state labor laws. (New counsel’s legal opinion underscored former legal counsel’s opinion, though such former legal counsel’s opinion had not been presented to membership.)
+ Reinstituted compliance with legal requirement that minutes be kept of Executive Sessions of Board of Directors.
+ Placed a hiring freeze on new positions while assessing co-op’s financial status.
+ Obtained numerous financial documents previously unexamined by the former Board, but relevant to the ordinary course of HWFC’s business.
+ Exposed previous expenditures on consultants and attorneys.
+ Requested billing statements and work products of relevant consultants.
+ Hired an Interim CFO to lead the Co-op during a search for a new, permanent CFO.
+ Proposed a new management structure for HWFC, with a Chief Cooperative Officer, who would supervise a Chief Financial Officer and a Director of Operations, in order to create better accountability and supervision of top-level management.
+ Incorporated the mission and purpose of HWFC directly from the By-Laws and into the job performance standards of the proposed new top-level management positions, similar to Benefit Corporation Principles.

Governance and Legal

+ Declared null and void the previous Board Ethics Statement, which essentially imposed a gag rule on the Board and created confidentiality requirements that were unnecessary under the New York Business Corporation Law.
+ Cleared a backlog of several years of filings with the State Liquor Authority to clear up delinquencies that jeopardized HWFC’s liquor license.
+ Updated the Co-op’s delinquent “Corporate Black Book,” which the Co-op is legally required to have complete and ready to produce to the Internal Revenue Service and other relevant government agencies.
+ Created a Corporate Compliance Committee (which subsumed the work of the By-Laws Task Force) composed of attorneys and other regulatory or audit specialists in order to
  • review HWFC’s By-Laws, manuals, policies, and practices to ensure compliance with the By-Laws and internal consistency within each of the documents, and
  • review applicable laws and regulations to ensure compliance with such laws and regulations.

Began reviewing HWFC’s By-Laws with the intent to present proposals to member-owners for minor tweaks and corrections which will improve governance by member-owners and bolster member-owner labor at the Co-op.
+ Began reviewing the primary contract between NCG and the HWFC to determine and understand the benefits as well as the risks of the contractual obligations we have.
+ Created a Membership Marketing Committee, whereby member-owners can engage in innovative, aggressive marketing programs and efforts to complement the marketing efforts by employees in order to promote HWFC and increase sales and profitability.
+ Approved an Idea Facilitation Process whereby member-owners will solicit from the shopping public suggestions for improving the shopping experience at HWFC.

Reduced Expenditures

+ Imposed a moratorium on the use of consultants and attorneys without justification to and permission of the Board.
+ Initiated the legal process to terminate the need for HWFC to file an unnecessary semi-annual prospectus, which had been filed since 2009, and which costs HWFC $40,000 per year.
+ Authorized a settlement with the landlord of 484 Central Avenue to terminate the lease and cover contractual damages.  (Saving approximately $40,000/year.)
+ Publicized the facts regarding the expense of mailing notices to member-owners, and promoted switching to email delivery of notices. In first effort, encouraged over sixty member-owners to switch from postal mail to email. At no extra expense, added email enrollment forms to mailed Notices of April 17, 2016 Membership Meeting in order to increase notifications by email. (A minimum annual cost of $2000.)
+ Authorized the sale of the “grease bus” for $2500 to a local farm.
+ Authorized an analysis of credit and debit card usage and fees and initiated efforts to inform member-owners about the positive financial effects of using HWFC gift cards. (A current store expense exceeding $250,000 annually.)
+ Year to date, Co-op experienced two consecutive months’ profit as compared to same months in 2015.

Member-Owner Services

+ Began implementation of an equitable thaw of the former board’s freeze on 24% member-owners, with intent to monitor financial impact.
+ Transferred the Owner Services Coordinator (OSC) to direct supervision of the Board of Directors and away from supervision by the Leadership Team, in order to create more direct accountability of the OSC to the Board, and thereby, to member-owners.
  • Instructed the OSC to ascertain from each department the number and types of member-owner work that is discrete and distinct from employees’ work.
  • Instructed the OSC to begin cataloging member-owners’ skills and qualifications in order to create a “member-owner resource bank” that can be referred to for member-owner shifts when tasks are needed to be accomplished for work that falls outside of any paid employees’ job descriptions.

Proposed creating a “Member-Owner Accountability Committee,” to develop initiatives to present for member-owner approval including:
  • Establishing incentives for better member-owner time, attendance, and work effort accountability;
  • Developing a member-owner-to-member-owner “member-owner expectations” document addressing the rights and expectations of member-owners from other member-owners about responsibilities as owners and employers; and
  • Creating a network of co-ops to share expertise and experience in co-op related matters, already in progress.

At the January 31, 2016 Membership Meeting, attended by over 250 member-owners:
  • Requested HWFC’s Interim CFO to present financial information to member owners in clear and specific detail, and entertain questions from member-owners.
  • Held a “Committee Fair” at which all Board committees tabled and answered member-owner questions about committee work, and encouraged and invited new committee members.
  • Held “Member-Owner Workgroups” at which member-owners brainstormed ideas for addressing issues that member-owners identified as areas of concern or for improvement or initiative at HWFC.   Topics were varied and ranged from addressing environmental issues to increasing profitability to decreasing expenditures to improving member-owner labor program to improving marketing.

Promoted and increased member-owner participation by establishing a distinct email address for each committee, publicized on HWFC’s website, in order to promote and increase committee participation by member-owners.
+ Directed the Membership Committee to create a “Membership Meeting Procedures Guide.”

Employee Relations

+ Held ten (thus far) Executive Committee Reach Out Days, and
  • Met individually with over 30 Department Managers, Assistant Managers, and staff to learn ways to improve the way HWFC does business, to identify barriers to increased productivity, and to initiate discussions around problem-solving, improving teamwork, creating employee incentives for time and attendance and increasing productivity, and improving professional development;
  • Ascertained top needs by department managers and staff:
    • better time and attendance policies for accountability for staff and member-owners;
    • signage in each department and throughout the store;
    • training on SMS;
    • more weekly member-owners; and
    • better inter-department and top-level management communication.

At member-owners’ request, met with member-owners to hear concerns about and ideas for improving employment conditions at the Co-op.
+ Promoted and increased employee communication and participation by establishing a distinct email address for staff liaisons to the Board and the Personnel Committee.
+ Directed outgoing employees to create policy manuals for their jobs to ensure smooth transitions for any future vacancies.
+ Drafted proposal for a pilot program whereby, after consecutive quarters’ profitability, member-owners would work in place of their employees in order to provide two paid holidays for staff. After initial assessment and sustained profitability, intent would be to incrementally add more holidays to choices for staff to take and for member-owners to work for their employees. (To be introduced at May 3rd Board meeting)

Communication Improvements

+ Authorized the creation of a member-owner-run newsletter, the Coop Voice, to improve communication within the Co-op community.
+ Produced six Inside Scoops that generated praise for being positive and informative.
+ Improved accountability for HWFC’s website information.
+ Directed HWFC’s website be updated by removing obsolete information and adding current information.
In just four and a half months, we learned a lot, met often, disagreed frequently, but agreed way more often, we worked diligently to fulfill our responsibilities as Directors of the co-operative corporation we own, and we made advances toward correcting the direction of the Co-op as mandated by the member-owners who voted us to stay on the Board or to be on the Board. We appreciate the opportunity to have served our co-operative community.

Honest Weight Food Co-op Board of Directors

Carolynn Presser, Daniel Morrissey, Kate Doyle, Nate Horwitz, Saul Rigberg and Ned Depew

The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran



2 thoughts on “GRASSROOTS ACTION and Current Board Accomplishments ARE POWERFUL!

  1. Susan Longtin

    Really good. However, I can’t get the TU articles. They are “TU Plus” or whatever and you have to subscribe to get them. Is there any way you can post the articles otherwise? Also, Ed Miller proposed to Duke the idea about the gift card. I think it was two years ago that he did this.
    I really enjoy your writing.


    1. Laura

      Dear Susan,

      The TU started charging for articles about HWFC at some point. I assume it is because a lot of people search for the articles and/or read them! We are a popular news subject!

      Can you get to a library? Do you have a friend who gets the TU and will share? Maybe you can go to a Starbucks, they always have the TU lying around. Try searching google, input the title, maybe the TU posts it there somehow.


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