WSM BoD Meeting Answers "How Bad Can It Get?"

The Weaver Street Market Board of Directors will meet Wednesday December 17 at 201 North Greensboro Street downtown Carrboro at 6:15pm.  The Board will seek to answer the question posed in last month's meeting: "How bad can it get?"  This is regarding the negative cash flow in the last fiscal quarter.

In the last fiscal quarter, the worker-owners did not receive a dividend.  Consumer-owners receive a dividend as a point-of-sale discount.  Is this fair?

Basically, if you own a share in the Co-Op, this is the one Board meeting you need to attend!  Contact WSM BoD Chair J. Myers at to inform him you will attend (meal provided by Panzanella Restaurant) and to receive an emailed copy of the meeting agenda.

I really want additional co-op owners to attend! 


When you say that the worker-owners did not receive a dividend, do you mean their point-of-sale worker discount was taken away?

The point-of-sale employee discount is unrelated to worker-owner dividends.  All regular employees receive a 20% discount at checkout, regardless of whether or not they elect to become worker-owners.  Worker-owner dividends are different.  After six months of continuous employment, an employee may elect to become a worker-owner by making a $500 investment in the cooperative (not unlike the $75, $135, or $175 investment consumer-owners make).  Most employees opt to make this investment with a bi-weekly payroll deduction.Dividends are paid to worker-owners based on the total profit made that year, divided by the total number of hours worked by worker-owners.  The more hours you work, the bigger your portion of the profits you get.  There were no profits this year, so no dividend was paid to worker-owners' internal accounts.  That's a somewhat simplified explanation of worker-owner dividends, and I'd be happy to give a longer and more in-depth version to anyone who is interested, but probably not here in the interest of not dumping several pages of text into a single comment.


"In the last fiscal quarter, the worker-owners did not receive a dividend.  Consumer-owners receive a dividend as a point-of-sale discount.  Is this fair?"apples.  oranges. Looking forward to the meeting.

The issue lies in that some people feel that this system is out of step with the third principle of cooperatives. Via the National Cooperative Business Association:

"Cooperatives ... return surplus revenues (income over expenses and investment) to members proportionate to their use of the cooperative, not proportionate to their "investment" or ownership share."

It is difficult to argue that co-op owners are benefitting proportionate to their use under the current system. But, there are good (and legitimate) reasons why it's working, too. I'm personally undecided. Disclaimer: I'm currently (at least in interim) the owner services coordinator at WSM, so anything that vaguely resembles an opinion is my own, not Weaver Street's, but I'm happy to answer any how-things-work type questions.

Weaver Street Market has moved so far from its original principles-- on so many issues-- that it's hard to know how to even approach the topic at a board meeting.  I hope that worker-owners aren't suggesting  that consumer-owners be denied their 5% discount (a discount given only for some-not all- items purchased) -- when the loss of profitability is the result of decisions made (quite "uncooperatively") by the board and general manager. With all of the expansion activities-- coupled with the looming economic meltdown-- there is likely not going to be any real "profit" for quite some time-- given WSM's debt.I feel badly for the worker-owners who were expecting a return on their investments.  But no profits = no dividends.  Please don't place the blame on the consumer-owners (as implied in the "is this fair?" portion of the initial post.)I don't think that taking away our 5% discount is going to go very far in eliminating the millions of dollars in new debt.  (Isn't the number something like 11 million?)I've been involved with coops since the 70s-- and WSM hasn't operated much like a coop for a very long time.  I'd actually like to volunteer -- and increase my discount-- as we once were able to do.   (The loss of volunteers has diminished the shopping experience as well-- in my opinion-- but that's another long comment for another forum.) Weaver Street Market is one of the most (if not THE most) expensive places to shop for food in all of Orange County.  Prices continue to rise.  For some of us, sad to say, the 5% means something. For those who don't need it, perhaps an "opt-out" could help.Honestly, I can't see a future for WSM as a coop; private investment from outside sources is going to be necessary at some point.Please report back on what was discussed tonight. I hope that everyone listened carefully and responded thoughtfully.

Weaver Street Market is one of the most (if not THE most) expensive places to shop for food in all of Orange County.

Really?  I'm not much of a comparrison shopper, but for the few items I've compared, the Weave is way less expensive than Harris Teeter. I suppose it depends what you buy.

I can't speak for the board, and it's not my place to, but I'm happy to share with you what information I can. The consumer-owner point of sale discount is a type of dividend.  Some co-ops use a different dividend scheme in which dividends are paid based on actual profits at the end of the year instead of immediately at the register.  If you're an owner of another co-op, like REI for example, you might be familiar with this type of dividend payment, called patronage dividends.  There was no discussion of changing the type of dividend paid at tonight's meeting, but it has been discussed in past meetings.  If you're interested, check out the board minutes from September and October.  In the past, dividends to worker-owners and consumer-owners have been pretty consistent, but since they weren't this year, there has been some discussion of exploring other methods used by other cooperatives around the country.  If you have a strong opinion about the method of dividend payment to consumer-owners, I highly recommend you attend a board meeting and share your thoughts directly.  I can't imagine any scenario in which a major decision is made without first consulting the owners who the board was elected to represent.

"I can't imagine any scenario in which a major decision is made without first consulting the owners who the board was elected to represent."How about creating branches or a separate restaurant? As far as I could tell, these ideas were focus-grouped with selected members after the decision was made. I don't recall being asked whether I thought expansion itself was a good use of co-op resources, no to to mention what type of expansion. I have been a member for at least 10 years.Thanks for the background and the open communication, Jason. As someone who has opinions about how the co-op is run, and occasionally tried to engage with these decisions by attending the annual meeting and board meetings, it has not been very easy in the past to grapple with the complexity of the issues or the members of WSM board, and I've only occasionally felt that my input was authentically welcome in the process.It's a real help to have you here, and I hope WSM supports your continued participation as there are not very many other venues for multi-directional communication with large numbers of owners.


There were one, two, three, four, five, six owners who came to spectate the meeting.  This includes Jason Baker, who works for WSM, and David Bright, who is a Director-elect.   I really hoped that more owners would get involved. Ginger Guidry came to voice concern for the diminishing volunteer program.  Ginger gave a well-thought and rousing speech acentuating the positive elements of the volunteer program.  The response is that while she is appreciated, the Board wants to let the volunteer program go by the way-side.  If one is not already a volunteer, it's probably too late.  And, when current volunteers give up their shifts, there will be no replacement.  And so, that specialness of the co-op is be phased out. The Executive's response to negative cash-flow is to remind all employees to become more efficient and reduce waste and to advertise with all consumer-owners.  Expect more info in your postal mail in the next month. I am not certain a full answer was given to one Board member's question last month: "How bad can it get?"But, of course, I was not present for the second half of the meeting.  The Board met in executive session. Cross your fingers and keep on buying at the Weave.  And tell your friends to come on in, especially if they haven't checked it out before! As to Ruby's opinion about the decision-making process for major co-op decisions, I agree.  The ship that is the WSM Co-Op is not directed by the majority of the owners.  That is, unless of course, one considers this done in part by the four owner representatives elected to the seven-member Board. Next meeting is the third Wednesday of January (aka January 21st) at 201 North Greensboro Street.  Please come!

I tried to make this meeting, but had to finish up a previous commitment first. The clock was not on my side."The Executive's response to negative cash-flow is to remind all
employees to become more efficient and reduce waste and to advertise
with all consumer-owners."I am not particularly impressed by putting this back on the employees.  Consumer-owners in the original store have been through a lot of changes this year and less employee interaction (no one is tempting me to buy salmon anymore) is one of them. While I don't object to other branches in theory (though becoming one's own competition is rather questionable), some of the execution has been less than mindful. As a specific example, my spouse found the daily to go options severely reduced during the summer months (how much meatloaf do you want to eat in July?). It's good to remind the consumer owners that we value the stores and they need our support, but reducing waste and attentive decision making are two different things and shifting the responsibility to the employees who handle food to do the first if the second isn't being done is not fair or smart.

Not trying to be too self-serving here, but I hope that advertising doesn't just rely on mailings to owners. We're moving thousands of papers to owners and potential owners around each store's draw area each week.

...and I find junk mail much more offensive than an advert in the Carrboro Citizen.


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