As an active worker-owner with Weaver Street Market Co-operative these past six years, I have worked hard not only to help WSM be successful as a business, but also as a model for democratic co-operation. It is with regret that I have to report that WSM continues to fail on both counts. It is time now to begin an active, community-wide conversation about the future financial and co-operative direction of WSM, and I invite OrangePolitics to take part in that conversation.
Bottom line: WSM has a crippling long-term debt of $8 million, incurred undemocratically in order to pay for the dubious expansion project of 2007/2008. That debt is costing our co-op millions in capital and interest repayments each year. Hence, the need for the 15% sales increase in 2011. With similar efforts required in the next four years.
It is WSM workers who are having to make those repayments by working ever harder, for less. We get longer opening hours. Less shift hours. Insufficient staff support. Paltry pay raises. And no dividend (haven't seen one for the past three years).
Notwithstanding incredible sacrifices and enormous effort by all WSM workers, WSM has managed only to achieve a 9% increase in sales through the first two Quarters of this current Financial Year (not the 15% demanded). And here's the catch. If we don't get to 10%, we don't even make a profit (due to the exorbitant cost of servicing the WSM debt). Which is why the corporate office just issued what amounts to a dividend warning in the most recent issue of its employee Market Messenger.
Folks. It is time to realize that your community co-op is headed in the wrong financial direction. It is time for a change. It is time for a community-wide conversation about the future security of our community co-op; one that addresses the debt question, without continually making impossible and exploitative demands of WSM workers.
It is not enough to leave it to the WSM Board of Directors and the corporate office. WSM is a democratic co-operative. We pride ourselves on being a community organization. The community deserves to be included in the conversation about the future. And that conversation needs to take place now. Before the banks determine our future for us.
Please respond here. Or better still, write to the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org requesting a community-wide conversation about the future financial direction of our co-op.
In 2007, the Annual Meeting of WSM supported my call for the creation of a Board Committee of Owners to undertake an immediate review of the sustainability of WSM's finances and its long-term debt. The Board ignored the expressed wishes of its Annual Meeting, and did not form that Committee. Maybe it's time now?