Sunday, November 29, 2015

If I Was Running for the Honest Weight Board Here is What I Would Say...

Before I begin my remarks let me say that I didn’t need media specialists, pr firms, or advisors from the National Cooperative Business Association, the National Cooperative Grocers Association, CDS Consulting, UNFI, or either faction at Honest Weight to help me write my remarks. I wrote them. I fully approve them.

A little about me: I am a member of Honest Weight again, am fully paid up in terms of my dues, and am fully up to date on my member hours. I became a member once more in the hope that I would be able to vote in this special election. I am, however, being disenfranchised because I wasn’t a member on a particular date though I have worked 15 to 27 hours per week, more than enough for a weekly worker, at HWFC since 2012. In bureaucracies one size fits all. Before Honest Weight I was also a member of Bloomingfoods in Bloomington, Indiana—I went to college at IU—back in the 1970s when to be a member you had to work and to buy at the coop you had to be a member. Yes Santa Claus, once upon a time there were worker coops.

Why did I drop my membership in 2015? I saw the bullying of dissident Board members by other Board members at HWFC. I saw increasing corporatisation. I saw violations of the by-laws every Thanksgiving. I was given contradictory information about running for the Board in March and denied the ability to run for the Board and the fact that I was given incorrect information by Board members was simply ignored. As a result I found it morally difficult to remain a member of an organisation in which this was going on. Ironically my current application hasn't been handled any better by the orange shirt power wanna bes raising the question of whether the new bosses, should they replace the old ones, will be any better than the old. The actions of the orange shirt brigade with their almost any means to achieve the desired ends seems as morally problematic to me as the actions of the corporatists.

Speaking of quandaries: Today, I fully believe that Honest Weight is at a cross roads and the decision tonight will either restore democracy and cooperative structure to the HWFC or lead to the Honest Weight’s further corporatisation. The fundamental question we need to address tonight, in my opinion, is the same question we have needed to address for years now: whether to corporatise or not to corporatise.

With further corporatisation Honest Weight will become even more a “virtual branch” store of the National Cooperative Grocers (Association). With further corporatisation we will continue to see CDS Consulting “advise” Honest Weight to ditch the member worker programme quickly and will see Honest Weight continue to hire CDS consultants like Thayne Joyall who fail to mention that in addition to being members of the Syracuse Coop they are CDS Consultants who have for years been arguing that member labour programmes are illegal when they are, legally speaking, not. With further corporatisation we will continue to see a veil of secrecy fall further over Honest Weight like a fog of war and thicken around things like management salaries. With further corporatisation we will continue to see Board members like Deb Dennis not take responsibility for sending a draft letter to the New York State Department of Labour and not resigning as a result of this major mistake and John Serio accept appointment to the Board even though he didn't run in the election of the Board member he replaced and even though he finished second nearest the post not first. With further corporatisation we will continue to see what little transparency that remains at Honest Weight decline. With further corporatisation we will continue to see a rise in the number of goods in the store made in China and a decline in local product. With further corporatisation we will continue to see a diminishment in the democratic foundations on which Honest Weight was originally built. With further corporatisation will continue to see banality increase more and more in the bureaucratic and hierarchical structures of Honest Weight. With further corporatisation we will continue to see the sense of community diminish at Honest Weight as cooperative culture is replaced by corporate culture. With further corporatisation we will see Taylorism increasingly come to dominate discussions about staff. Whether further corporatisation will improve Honest Weight’s financial condition is a question worth asking particularly given the increasingly saturated marketplace.

Like those who called this special meeting according to the by-laws of Honest Weight—they are not the coup plotters those who voted to end the member labour programme without a vote are the coup plotters— I am concerned that corporatisation has gone too far, a corporatisation too far that is reflected in microcosm in the Board's decision to unilaterally and undemocratically eliminate the member worker programme. According to the letter the Board had couriered to the New York State Department of Labour HWFC’s “new leadership “has directed Honest Weight’s management team to commence the transition [to a non-member labour programme] with all deliberate speed”. This is the reason we are having this special meeting tonight and are voting democratically on whether or not to recall the Board.

One final word and that word is fear. We have known for a long time that fear is an effective manipulator of human emotions. Tell the masses that the enemy is near and they will declare themselves ready for war. Tell Honest Weight members that our banker loan holders are concerned with instability and they will vote, not necessarily knowingly, for further corporatisatiom. Or will they? I guess we will see tonight. By the way, are our banker loan holders in the audience this evening and if they are are they ready to go on the empirical record expressing their discontent with this democratic action tonight?

You have a clear choice before you today. If you want corporatisation to continue as it has for several years vote to retain the current members of the Board. If you want corporatisation to slow down and transparency, democracy, and checks and balances to be restored at Honest Weight vote for those Board members opposed to corporatisation as it has been put in place by the powers that be and their “advisors” over the last several years.

In closing let me note that I am running at a four fold disadvantage. 75% of the vote is required to remove a sitting Board member--the game, in other words is rigged as usual in favour of the powers that be--a difficult threshold to meet, I have not been allowed on the ballot by the powers that be because of bureaucratic technicalities, I was not invited to the Sunday meet the member meeting though I stopped in during my break on the registers at HW, and my application will not be distributed at the special meeting thanks to bureaucratic pettiness. I urge you to remove all sitting Board members. As to who to elect you could do worse than me. At least I am someone who is independent of the old bosses and the new boss wanna bes. Isn't it time to elect someone who is independent of both factions who are jockeying for control of the Corpop to the Board? Thank you.

Ronald Helfrich, member-worker-owner, at least for the moment.

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