The Weave: Diminishing Worker Democracy

I try now to write sparingly in OP about matters pertaining to our local grocery co-op, Weaver Street Market, where I attempt to be an active worker-owner.

But the WSM management are currently proposing changes to the WSM Board Policy ‘Treatment of Staff’ which dramatically diminish the few remaining co-operative and economic rights WSM employees still retain, and we workers need the support of the some 18,000 WSM consumer-owners in rejecting these changes.

We workers learned of the proposed changes only this past Friday (October 16), and we have until October 26 to register objection.

WSM Employee Policy (as of two years ago) now prevents me reproducing the text of the proposed changes publicly. In what one local newspaper editor has described as an anti-whistleblower whistleblower policy.

What I can do is ask any and all WSM consumer-owners reading this post please to contact the WSM Board (board@weaverstreetmarket.coop) and the WSM General Manager (ruffin@weaverstreetmarket.coop), and ask them to delay any changes to the WSM Board Policy ‘Treatment of Staff’ until all WSM owners (both consumer and worker) have been properly informed of those proposed changes, and their opinion has properly been sought.

Essentially the proposed changes seek to replace the existing requirement that WSM employees be included in decision-making within WSM with a weakly-worded alternative that merely requires that the WSM General Manager occasionally seek opinion.

If you need more information, have a look at my blog post here, or feel free to contact me – geoffgilson@hotmail.com. I thank you in advance.

Total votes: 108

Comments

Geoff, if you persist in antagonizing the Weaver Street Market corporate office management team, you will likley lose your job.

Yes, I am trolling myself. Yes, it is a cheap way of getting onto the front page of OP. Yes, it is naughty. But yes, workers of The Weave need your support. Today. Can't wait.

So. I apologize. Um. Back to CHALT ...

I do not often toot my own horn - unless it is about my book or Pop Voxx / Geoff Gilson. But you will know that I responded ... um ... aggressively to the proposed changes to the WSM Board Policy 'Treatment of Staff,' notice of which we were given only last Friday, with feedback supposed to be in this coming Monday.

People wonder why I care. Why I go out on a limb. Well. Because I don't like seeing my friends hurting. I am not a brave person. I am terrified every time I take on WSM management. I have bills, too. But, sod it. Friends come first.

So, I posted on Facebook. Tagged the world. Put up a post here. Recorded a Commentary to go out on WCHL on Monday. Spent two hours yesterday with a local newspaper. Their journalist spoke at length with the WSM General Manager.

Five minutes ago before I left for work this morning. Fifteen minutes before I was due to have a private meeting with the WSM Human Resources Manager. The newspaper in question received a letter from the WSM Board, saying they are withdrawing the changes, and are going to re-consider, due to employee feedback.

You guys responded. And it worked. I hope I played some small part in triggering the employee and consumer feedback. Now. Follow through. Demand the changes to 'Treatment of Staff' are simply binned. Permanently.

If you agree with me that the WSM Board Policy 'Treatment of Staff' should remain completely intact, please write to the WSM Board (board@weaverstreetmarket.coop), and tell them so.

My letter to the WSM Board:

"I have just heard that the WSM Board sent to The Chapel Hill News a letter stating that the Board would be reconsidering the proposed changes to its policy 'Treatment of Staff.'

We have had only a very short period to consider those proposed changes. It has taken me a while fully to grasp their impact. Time, I would add, which has all been off-the-clock. Those proposing the changes are paid when they produce their paperwork. I do it on my own time.

In any event, I now formally request of the WSM Board that they leave the policy 'Treatment of Staff' intact, in its entirety.

Rather I request that they ask the WSM General Manager immediately to hold a consultative exercise with WSM employees to design a process fully and properly to implement the said policy.

I have spent much time over the years discussing with former Board members why the policy that exists does exist. 'Treatment of Staff' was not a whim. It was a carefully-considered response to the special worker-consumer hybrid that is WSM.

It is no good saying the proposed changes are merely bringing WSM into line with other co-ops. Other co-ops are not worker-consumer hybrids.

There is a need to ensure parity between worker and consumer agendas. That is achieved on the Board.

There is also a need to ensure protection for the work conditions and for the return on the very considerable investment ($500) that workers-owners make, within the workplace itself, so as to be sure that managers do not impinge upon those conditions and that return.

Hence 'Treatment of Staff.'

The proposed changes would take away completely the right of workers to be involved in decisions made by managers that affect their workplace. Those changes should not be made. Seeking worker opinion is not sufficient safeguard against management. However irritating that safeguard may be to management.

The proposed changes also remove from Board protection the worker right to dissent ethically (to complain about overbearing management, and therefore to protect work conditions and return on worker investment), and the right to take grievance about breach of Board policy by management to the Board.

It has, quite rightly, been pointed out that the right to dissent ethically and to take grievance about breach of Board policy is contained elsewhere in WSM Employee Policy. But that's the point. That is not Board policy. Protected by the Board.

If 'Treatment of Staff' is altered, the right ethically to dissent will, henceforth, only be guaranteed by the General Manager, not his boss. Bit of a problem if it's the General Manager you're ethically dissenting against.

Same thing with appeal to the Board. It follows that appeal from the General Manager to the Board has to be guaranteed by the Board, not by the General Manager.

So. Bottom line? Unless there is really good reason. Which to date I have not heard. Then please leave the existing 'Treatment of Staff' completely alone.

But. It goes further than that. I have been campaigning for three years now to get the terms of 'Treatment of Staff' which relate to including employees in decision-making fully and properly implemented. Without success.

Please now take this opportunity to stop leaving those terms dormant. In 2007, a consultation exercise was held among workers in WSM to determine which decisions should get covered by those terms. A document was produced. If you ask the General Manager, he will produce it.

What I would wish now, on behalf of all the workers of WSM, is for a new consultation exercise to be held, which would design how the we could successfully implement the policy calling for employees to be included in decision-making, in a way that fully meets the terms of the policy, without overbearingly interfering with day-to-day operations.

Therefore, I formally request with this e-mail that the WSM Board do so make request of the WSM General Manager, as expeditiously as possible, but certainly before the end of 2016, that he conduct a full consultation exercise with all WSM employees, to allow them the opportunity to help design a process for fully and properly including them in the making of the decisions outlined in the said 2007 document.

I wish this e-mail to be forwarded to all members of the WSM Board, including the two members just elected.

Yours truly,
Geoff"

Article in today's Chapel Hill News. I know everyone's mind is full of elections. But, if you support your workers at your favorite, local, co-operative (still, just) grocery store, please take a moment and write to the WSM Board (board@weaverstreetmarket.coop), and ask them please to leave WSM Board Policy 'Treatment of Staff' intact, in its entirety. So that the WSM Board have that message, loud and clear, before the proposed Board Meeting on November 4. And many thanks!

So, my Commentary on the proposed changes to WSM Board Policy 'Treatment of Staff' hit the airwaves on WCHL this past Monday (October 26). Please act (workers and consumers alike), and help your friendly workers at The Weave.

In the meantime, Charles Traitor, the newly-elected WSM Worker-Owner Director, has himself taken to the intra-WSM social media (Slack), and posted his opposition to the proposed changes to 'Treatment of Staff.' Opposition which is much in line with mine and other employees.

I trust that Charles will be allowed to voice that opposition at the WSM Board Meeting on November 4, and that he will have effect. Don't, however, take that for granted. If you are free that evening, please find the time to attend the Board Meeting, and show your support for Charles and those he represents.

In case you hadn't already worked it out, the link to my WCHL Commentary did not lead to the WCHL Commentary. Now it does. Sigh. Sorry ...

 

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