Friday, July 15, 2016

Will It Go Round in Circles: An Honest Weight Update

I haven't written about the goings on at the Honest Weight Food Corporation in some time so I thought I would offer a few observations on what has happened since the "revolution" of late 2015 and early 2016.

There has been a lot of turnover in the administration of the Corpop. Probably the most significant change in the management of the Corpop has been the demise of the old leadership structure. All three members of the Leadership Team have either taken jobs elsewhere or have been fired. This tripartite leadership structure has been replaced by a more centralised corporate structure with what the new Board calls the "chief operating officer" at the top. At any other corporation the CCO would, of course, be called a CEO or a general manager. Ironically, the LT, so I am told, was a response to the controversies and problems surrounding a previous general manager at the Corpop.

The new CCO, who was recently announced with great fanfare by the Board, and who makes, so a source informs me over $100,000 dollars a year, comes to the Corpop, as do several other members of the management team hired over the last several years by the old Board and the new, from Price Chopper, a regional for profit corporate grocery store. Apparently, the powers that be at Honest Weight think that only those with for profit corporate experience are qualified to run what is now a for profit enterprise.

Like any CEO or general manager the new Honest Weight GM has to show that he is doing something. Rumour has it that he wants to bring canned music to the Corpop. Corporate wisdom apparently has it that that canned music increases corporate sales and the powers that be at Honest Weight want to increase corporate sales. Apparently the new general manager doesn't realise that one of the previous members of the LT tried to bring canned music to Honest Weight several years ago. That experiment with "music" proved problematic given the poor sound system at the store, given the problems it causes for cashiers who can't hear what customers are saying because of the canned music and the store's poor acoustics, and because Honest Weight, though no longer a cooperative, is more of a community than Price Chopper.

The new Board continues what is increasingly another tradition at the Corpop, the corporatisation of the Corpop Board and its membership. Three members of the new Board are lawyers. The new Board is also continuing, though at a more intense level, another thing that has become increasingly common at the Corpop, an aversion to dissent. The Orange Bunch, the clique that now dominates the Corpop politically, has been particularly critical of one Board member, one of two who served on the old Board and the new. During the run up to the Board election in early 2016 at least two prominent members of the Orange Clique criticised the supposed intransigence of this elected Board member on the Let's Talk Honest Weight Facebook page. An unelected appointed member of the Board, one tied to the Orange Bunch and one prominently endorsed by the Orange Clique, went out of his way NOT to endorse this Board member on the Honest Weight Let's Talk Facebook page. He urged that members elect another favoured member of the Orange Clique. Recently, this non-conformist Board member was ousted or purged from cheese, where another Board member, one of the most powerful members of the Board of the Orange Clique and her husband, do their member work. It was also recently announced that the new manager of cheese will be the wife of yet another member of the Board who also seems to be friendly to the Orange Crush political and corporate agenda.

Honest Weight continues to struggle with its central contradiction, namely that it is a "democratically" run member owned cooperative at the same time that it is a corporation run by a managerial elite. This contradiction manifests itself in a number of ways. One of the more interesting ways this contradiction was manifest recently was on Memorial Day. On Memorial Day ten Honest Weight member workers who are affiliated with the IWW union decided to hold a picnic and protest on coop property at the far end of the outdoor eating area of the store where they impeded no one from entering the store. Management responded to the picnic and protest by calling the police on the picnickers and protesters. The police forced the picnickers and protesters to move off Honest Weight property that was and is ironically "owned" by the member workers picnicking and protesting.

Honest Weight and other faux cooperatives like to think that they are exceptional. In reality Honest Weight and most other fauxops are not exceptional whatsoever. As in most corporations, not to mention in most other countries, the powers that be at Honest Weight with their limited memory of history continually reinvent the wheel. As in most corporations, not to mention in most other countries, the powers that be at Honest Weight have an aversion to dissent. Honest Weight is a hybrid, part cooperative originating out of the 1960s counterculture and part corporation like any other corporation in the Western world, and the hybrid nature of Honest Weight which became manifest in the 1980s continues to impact the Corpop in inherently contradictory ways. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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