Thursday, September 18, 2014

Welcome Back My Friends to the Down the Rabbit Hole That Never Ends...

I love working at the Co-op. I really, really do. That love, however, doesn't blind me to what I can see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears. Taste, touch, and smell don't come into it at all as far as I can see. God I love empiricism.

It is the Alice in wonderland stuff that happens at the Co-op that inevitably sticks with me the most since, at the age of 60, I am a cynic. C'est la vie. Life in all its kafkaesqueness, voynivichness, and Alice in wonderlandishness, has made me a cynic and an appreciator of the bizarre which just keeps of giving. So what down the rabbit hole things have I seen and heard at the Co-op recently. I saw and heard a staff meeting where a lot of things got said, including problems that need resolving and ways to resolve problems, but these problems never seem to get resolved (the idea of sending problems back to the places who haven't dealt with them for years is a stroke of kafkaesque and voynivichian genius). In one of the very few things that actually came out of staff meeting discussions I see a small group or clique which calls for an election to a staff group (presumably as an alternative to the union movement afoot at the Co-op that the leadership team overreacted to earlier; the powers that be reaction to this call for a vote has been totally different)--they call it the SAT, the Staff Advocacy Team. The problems with the SAT "election" are that it could presumably be an election in which very few staff members vote since the SAT committee (volunteers) set no rules as to what percentage of the staff would need to vote in the election for it to be valid (I would suggest the same percentages required by law for a union vote), that those who established the SAT are the only ones who are being allowed to run for office, no nominations from staff allowed, and that staff have no ideas about the competencies of those running for office since they did not provide voters with statements of competence or hold a meet the SAT candidates meeting (quite Stalinesque). As for me I will not vote in this sam the sham election because voting gives this "cooperative" enterprise the air of legitimacy and I won't do that. Nor will I recognise the outcome of such an "election" given all this and as a result the SAT will be of no use to me.

Again, I like working at the Co-op. It is one of the few places I have, over the course of my screwed by neoliberal capitalism life, I have really felt connected to and comfortable at. While I love the Co-op, however, this emotion hasn't blinded me to the fact that the Co-op is not perfect. Of course, nothing human is.

More, more, more...
I love ironies as you know by now dear unreaders. So I found it wonderfully ironic that Clique SAT, a group that ostensibly wants to diminish conflict, has brought about conflict in its wake. When I arrived at the Co-op on Saturday several questions had been posed on the poster announcing the election to the SAT which the SAT had placed in the staff bathrooms. These posts asked why staff could not nominate candidates of their own for the election to the SAT. They asked why the communication between the SAT and the staff was so poor. I asked the questions I posed during the staff meeting: why, given that the Co-op does this during other elections (e.g. board elections), was no benchmark of percentage of staff voting set before the election was considered valid (I think it should be the same standard as set for union elections since the SAT is an alternative to unionisation) and why there were no meet the candidates forums or published statements of the candidates and their competencies in the area of mediation distributed, put on the website, or hung up somewhere in the store. Isn't transparency and knowledge a good thing?

I would urge the SAT to do several things immediately. First, make the unedited minutes of your meeting public. Transparency in a "democratic" and "cooperative" setting is a good after all, isn't it? You can, I presume, put these on the HWFC website. Second, post the names of candidates and give us some idea about their competencies to mediate. Again, transparency is a good isn't it? Third, tell us how many people are being elected to the SAT and whether, as with the Board, victors will be decided on the basis of percentages or whether, as in a winner take all system, only those four candidates with the most votes will serve on the SAT. If everyone on the ballot is going to win election to the SAT what is the point of the election? Doesn't a predetermined election smack of Calvinism and Soviet election practises? Fourth, tell us whether you thought about establishing criteria by which to judge the election as valid and whether you thought about releasing candidate information and statements. I have heard from one member of SAT that you apparently didn't think of the former despite Co-op precedent while I read a statement posted as a reply to the queries in the bathroom which seems to suggest that you did. Which is it? Is it simply amateur hour or something else? Either way it really raises questions about the competencies and the motives of the SAT board.

I think I will be cashing in my HWFC membership soon. The SAT clique fiasco and the fact that the staff meeting is more symbolic--a nostalgic imaginary that allows some at the Co-op to believe the fiction that HWFC is a co-op rather than a business much like any other capitalist enterprise these days--and the tendency of the powers that be to pass the buck back to the source of problem are the straws that finally broke the camel's back.

Even more, more, more, how do you like it, how do you like it???
Fascinating, interesting, and very revealing things continue to happen at the Co-op. Last Tuesday or Wednesday a large announcement of the SAT elections appeared in both staff bathrooms. Many, including myself, raised questions, valid questions, about a number of aspects of the SAT elections in annotations on this announcement. This Tuesday (23 September) I typed up a letter which summarised these objections and raised others. Following precedent I was going to put this letter next to the SAT form in the staff bathrooms but lo and behold the SAT announcement had disappeared after remaining in place for a week or so. Did the SAT take it down because they didn't want anymore debate? Did the powers that be, the LT (the Leadership Team, i.e., the management) collectively or individually take it down, because they didn't want debate over a group they seem to have embraced (something that can and must be counterpointed against their attack on the idea of a union at the Co-op)? I don't know. What I do know--god I love empiricism--is that put my letter up and my letter disappeared within hours of posting. I suspect it was taken down by the LT or a member of the LT.

As I mentioned I find this all incredibly revealing. I think that what has happened says much about Honest Weight and about the Honest Weight powers that be's commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of debate--it is not particularly great--and says volumes about the notion that Honest Weight is a Co-op owned by its members--a fiction since I am a member, I posted a letter in a place that a campaign poster was put up and my letter was summarily taken down without any discussion by the powers that be. The only conclusion I can draw from all of this is that Honest Weight is not a Co-op other than in name only. It is a business with a hierarchical power structure that has almost absolute power and absolute power of discretion. This is why I will very likely be turning in my membership. I will continue to work at Honest Weight but I will work under the more realistic assumption that Honest Weight is a business and not a co-op. And while Honest Weight really isn't a co-op in my opinion, it is a great company to work for. It is a company I really enjoy working for.

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