Friday, March 31, 2017

Round and Round: Keeping up with Korpdashians

Even before I became a member and then a staff member of Honest Weight Food Corporation, also known as the Honest Weight Food Co-op, I heard, from a number of people over the years, that Honest Weight was and is, a cesspool of petty politics. It was, in fact, for this reason that it took me twenty or so years to join. It was only when I became a staff member at Honest Weight, however, that I saw firsthand just what a mess it was and is and in a variety of ways. First off, there is the "democratic" or should I say non-democratic aspect. The Corpop, largely for propaganda or branding purposes, claims to be "democratic". The actions of its powers that be, however, tell a very different story. There was the decision by the Politburo, oops, sorry, I mean the Board, to limit member staff representation on the Board, a decision Ned Depew opposed and for which he appears to now be paying the price for. Depew has been fired from the staff and excommunicated from the membership ranks of Honest Weight. By limiting the number of staff on the Board the current Board created fractions of have and have nots at the Corporation, a fraction of members that can have as many members on the Board as possible and another fraction who have been granted by royal proclamation only two places on the Board. There were the appointments of individuals to the Board by the Board of individuals to fill empty Board seats. On two occasions during my tenure at the Corpop those appointed to the Board finished below others who were passed over by the Board for what should be obvious reasons. Mr. Depew, sadly, played a role in this for reasons that seemed political to me. There was the aforementioned fact that an elected Board member has been excommunicated by the Board around Board election time for what should be obvious reasons and isn't allowed to run for election or present his reasons at the forthcoming Membership Meeting for why he wants to end the discriminatory practise put in place by the Board recently which limits member staff representation on the Board to a, in theory at least, two seats. So much for Corpop "democracy".

Secondly, there is the "benevolent capitalist" aspect. The Honest Weight Food Corporation sees itself and portrays itself, just like other benevolent capitalist institutions, as a caring and responsible member of the place where they do business. It real mission is the same as any other for profit corporation, however, and that is to make money. Once again Honest Weight's hardly benevolent actions speak much louder than its largely we care words. There is the fact that floor staff get paid substantially less than management. There is the fact that staff, those who actually know what is really going on in the store, are, particularly now that the Board has outlawed more than two staff on its Board, limited in power in a place that was once a cooperative, if perhaps only in theory. There is the fact that floor staff isn't paid anything close to a living wage.

Thirdly, there is the bureaucratic aspect. Though the Honest Weight Food Corporation brands itself as a cooperative it is, in reality, a classic modern bureaucracy in the Weberian and Foucaldian sense. Power is distributed, just as it is in any other modern and postmodern society, unequally. Those few at the top of the hierarchical bureaucratic pyramid, HW's own 1%, have more power and get significantly more of a salary than those 99% at the bottom of the power and income pyramid. This fact alone means that when HW says it is a cooperative that it is spewing empty rhetoric once again for presumably propagandistic or branding purposes. Needless, to say the managerial elite and enablers of the managerial elite, the latter Honest Weight's iteration of Erik Olin Wright's contradictory middle class. Modern bureaucracies like Honest Weight inevitably create a bureaucratic aristocracy and a bureaucratic middle class with their own identities and cultures. Among the latter is the sense that what they, us, do is more important than that of the proletariat, them.

Fourthly, there is the paranoia angle. The current Board seems to have an irrational fear that staff members are going to take over the Corporation and instantly establish a worker's state. Mr. Depew, of course, was a staff member. Such a fear of workers, of course, has a long history in the US and in Europe though some might be surprised that such irrational fears exist at an institution that claims to be different from the broader society. Such paranoia, by the way, has little basis in reality and there is a remedy should, in the extremely unlikely case that such a delusion become a reality. Those opposed to a workers cooperative could, just as the OrangeBunch who are the dominant faction at the Corpop currently, did not so long ago. They could call for a special membership meeting and overthrow the workers state just like they overthrew the previous regime at Honest Weight that is if such a remedy has not been eliminated by the current Board during its by-laws revisions.

For those of you interested in why Depew was fired I have learned the following from several sources. First, Depew was accused of bullying, sexism, and racism (these can and sometimes do involve the controversial regulation of speech). Second, he was accused or retaliation, apparently a fireable offence or so say the seven Board members who backed his firing and the omnipresent Corpop lawyers, by naming the person who accused him of bullying claiming s/he wanted to get him fired. For the record, I have never seen Depew bully anyone nor have I heard him say anything remotely sexist or racist. I have never heard or seen Depew retaliate against anyone. I have never heard or seen Depew engage in any of the iterations of that patented high schoolish name calling behaviour that is so common among our species. I have heard those associated with the OrangeBunch complain about Depew and say that he needed to go. I have it from a very reliable source that two members of the Board hate Depew. Another of my in the know sources told me that there was "a clear attempt to ruin Ned [Depew's] reputation" at the Corpop. Would it surprise you if I told you that the person who whinged about Depew is tight with the two Board members who, according to a source, hated Depew?

I could go on but I don't have the time or inclination at the moment. It is all too surreal, hypereal, whatever.