GRASSROOTS ACTION and Current Board Accomplishments ARE POWERFUL!

Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

HOT OFF THE PRESS!

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
MEMBERSHIP MEETING

CURRENT HWFC BOARD ACCOMPLISHMENTS: A.W.E.S.O.M.E!

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!

YOU NEED TO CONTINUE TO DEFEND WHAT A MAJORITY OF US DID ON NOVEMBER 30, 2015.

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.

CURRENT HWFC BOARD ACCOMPLISHMENTS

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 (http://www.honestweight.coop/page/inside-scoop-184.html) and, below, is the text, copied & pasted, word-for-word:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

INSIDE SCOOP

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
board–at–honestweight.coop
END
==============================================

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

~~~

Don’t we already have a newsletter?

Don’t we already have a newsletter?

The latest Inside Scoop mentioned that there’s a new membership newsletter coming out soon. Did you notice? Were you confused??

“Wait!” you might have said to yourself. “Don’t we already have a newsletter- the Coop Scoop?”

Well, we do- the Coop Scoop is a very nice publication with a long, proud history at Honest Weight. The current iteration of the Scoop is as a quarterly marketing tool for the Co-op, directed and produced by staff.The Coop Scoop used to be a membership newsletter, and though it often includes terrific articles by members, it now serves an entirely different function than being a platform for the voice of the membership.

Enter…the online monthly Co-op Voice!

Managed and edited by members, written by all facets of the Co-op community, and addressing a multitude of issues and interests, the Co-op Voice has been given provisional approval by the Board. As long as you have opted to receive emailed Co-op Member News, you will see the Co-op Voice in your email inboxes in a few short weeks.  (If you’re not sure you’ve opted in, you can go to the Co-op service desk and ask for the opt-in form.)

The Co-op Voice needs YOUR voice! Founding editors Carol Ostrow, Cara Benson and Paula Weiss are seeking Letters to the Editors and ideas for articles now. They’re also seeking a member or two interested in earning member hours by managing Voice advertising.

We’d love to hear from you! Please email memberservices@honestweight.coop, with “Co-op Voice” in the subject line.

Paula Weiss

Weekly Courtesy Clerk

Co-Editor, Co-op Voice

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

Transforming our Co-operative with Compassion

Submitted by Chrys Ballerano, HWFC shareholder

[Admin note, 12/8/15: The first version of this post was published in incomplete form due to a trick played on me by gmail, wherein the last two paragraphs of Chrys’ writing were hidden from me and I did not copy them.  They have been added now.  Apologies to Chrys for this error! – Rebecca Tell]
I appreciate these posts. There are so many personalities engaged in these discussions and so much speculation, that it seems impossible to not feel sometimes like I’m in some great fictional novel that is prime to become a hit film in the next decade.
One of the things that concerns me, even though I don’t like the structure of the Leadership Team, and never have, is the idea of throwing out hard workers who have tried their best, in a very challenging situation, to keep the co-op operationally successful. For instance, I don’t believe that Lexa, specifically wants to rid the Co-op of Member Labor, or ever wanted the co-op to not be a true cooperative, but her position has become more and more isolating for her over time and without support, we all make mistakes. And I think that the skills she had before being hired as part of the LT and the experience she’s gained could be a real asset to the Co-op. When I hear people talk about “firing the LT” I think instead, why not change their jobs instead and provide true supervision, mentoring and accountability? Since we have no ideas of their current salaries I’d also say that a pay cut may be necessary along with the change in their roles.  If there is talent, experience and commitment there, then shouldn’t we be humane in how we revolutionize and transform our Co-op- in both the process of how we go about our business of changing our structure, as well as the products we decide to carry in the future, etc. I wonder if we’ve ever asked any of the LT if they think the LT is working well or was ever a good idea. I thought the positions were supposed to be transitory to get us into the new building and then re-evaluated. This could be that time and we can evaluate how best to keep the good in place and discard the unnecessary, and wasteful aspects of the work force, beginning with those 3 top positions. I think each of these employees needs to be assessed on an individual basis and I think the salaries should not be held secret from the membership/owners who pay them.
Yes, there are many members with an agenda. Who of us doesn’t have an agenda of some kind.  We all want the Co-op to thrive for multiple reasons- personal, economic, political, philosophical, spiritual, physical, and we have an agenda in accordance with these reasons whether we like to admit it or not. (I for one miss the old store- and I mean the Quail St. store. I wish we had a dozen similar  satellite stores like that one scattered around the Cap Region that sold mostly local, organic whole foods at affordable prices, and basic locally produced body care/ herbal/ health products at affordable prices. And the GMO- laden, overpriced, overpackaged crap be damned. That’s my personal co-op fantasy.) What’s yours? Obviously I’m just one member with one limited, dreamer’s perspective.
 How do we begin to even hear the vision for how to transform what we now have- a large building with a large membership, staff, overhead, debt, etc.with many people fighting about what the best way to run the business of our Co-op is. The multiple strategic planning meetings and conference were to assist this process but sadly that process has been aborted or at least perverted by so much cynical action and fear based power moves, it makes our heads spin. It becomes ever more difficult to feel like there will be any integrity in the process itself. We need to get better at holding each other accountable for the greater good. And to do it with love and compassion. 
As I stated in my letter to the Board this week, “our historical membership meeting this Monday showed a clear demand expressed by the Co-op membership to protect the member labor program and not further jeopardize it. With all due respect to the many hours of work many of you have put into the Co-op and your genuine concern for its future, I implore Deb, Roman, Leif and Rosanna to step aside from “leading” the board at this time, if you will not actually, step down, which would be an even greater expression of integrity.
The new board members must be treated as full board members and given the information needed to serve the membership at this crossroads and discuss beforehand, any meetings with the DOL and Co-op attorneys. Now is not the time for power grasping and wringing of hands with attorneys who have not earned the trust of our membership or new board members. There has been a mandate for transparency. What about this is not clear?”
I don’t envy any of the new board members positions but I do cheer them on to dive into this muck and see what can be salvaged as we move forward. And I think we have to compassionately consider whether terminating staff- LT or others- who have valuable information, experience  and  commitment to Honest Weight, albeit with lessons learned and mistakes made (who among us hasn’t made mistakes?) is the wisest way to go. It may be squandering some of our greatest resource and not allowing the process of discussion, and conflict resolution to be completed, and lead us further down a path of financial loss, etc. as new people need to be trained, experienced, etc. And I think the Co-op better be sure, if we collectively or otherwise decide to end people’s jobs, that we are legally legitimate in doing so. I’m aware of non profits where unsavory & expensive lawsuits from former employees who alleged they were wrongfully fired cost high legal fees and many months of energy & time to resolve, even in cases where the worker’s record of productivity was not impressive.
If I’m off the mark, and there are too many grievances re: the LT to offer any of them alternate jobs in management at the Co-op, their productivity record and course of conduct will be clear enough to assess. Although I’ve been a member for over 26 years, I am not part of the “inner circle” of Co-op politics and I’m 100% sure that I don’t know half of what’s gone on since we voted to move out of Central Ave. and devised the LT to help lead the way to our new store. I regret that my day job was under such transition that I had my hands full there trying to steer a sinking ship with my new director and find ways to viably keep ourselves afloat and effective. That’s largely why I haven’t been a steady store worker in the new building or able to serve on committees other than this past year with strategic planning meetings and the conference, where I truly enjoyed a sense of solidarity and shared commitment to our precious, unique and ever-evolving Co-op. So many great ideas emerged there- so few fruit to show for it now. But I’m hopeful that we’ve got excellent new board members and active member/worker/owners who will diligently see this through. I’m honored to be among you. My thanks go out to the many who have put in the countless hours this past year + to raise the questions that need to be asked, answered, and integrated into our next stage of HWFC management and our presence in the larger community.

Letter from Rossana Coto-Batres

Dear Honest Weight Food Co­Op Members,

During the recent weeks, there has been talk of the Board having a secret ‘agenda’ or ulterior motives for acting the way it did. I want to come out in the open and say, as a Board director, I do have an agenda and a vision for what I’d like to see at our co­op.

I’d like to see the co­op as a thriving community hub where people come to work in a supportive environment, buy their groceries and trust the source of their food, get specialty items to gift, attend one of the many classes offered by our members, and meet with friends for lunch at our cafe.

I want to see that everyone who contributes to our community has a voice in democratic decision­making as we further our mission, and that all members have a meaningful way of participating in our community.

I’d like to see my fellow Hispanic and immigrant friends feel welcome, no, INVITED to participate in all the co­op has to contribute. I’d like to see the many refugees in the area as some of our future staff, vendors, and fellow members and the co­op acting as a stepping stone for them to achieve their dreams. I’d like to see the community immediately surrounding the store start to see the co­op as a community resource for healthy food, nutrition education, jobs, social connection, and for those who can easily walk to the co­op to feel as included in the co­op as the longest commuting members are.

I dream of seeing an edible community garden, solar panels, the installation of a grey water system, a bike share program, and other initiatives at the store to make the co­op a leader in sustainability in the Capital Region.

I want to see continued support for all things local by turning the question around from “what can you provide to the co­op?” to “what can the co­op do for you?” I want to hear more stories of our staff and members, inspired by what they learn at the co­op, venture out to produce the best salsa, handmade beauty products, locally brewed beer, homeopathic and botanical remedies, vegetarian kimchi, bread and baked goods, and many more items, knowing that the co­op will accommodate providing to their growing customer base.

I hope to help create stronger relationships with local organizations to start innovative programs that further our mission and contribute to empowering various communities in the area. I want to see a refugee farm that utilizes individuals’ experience and expertise in agriculture to enable newly arrived refugees to provide for their families and contribute to the agricultural diversity in our region. I want to see the co­op do more to provide healthy lunches to school children, affordable meals to community members, and training programs for future food producers.

Most of all, I want to see an end to the analyzing and reanalyzing of the recent votes to retain or remove Board members, and other such conspiracy-­laden hypotheses about what the Board is doing or thinking in order to make a point. Instead, let us work together as we come out of this internal crisis and see the many opportunities we are presented with that enable us to contribute to our mission and our community.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to make a difference in our community.

Sincerely,

Rossana Coto­-Batres