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Columbus Co-op?

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  • #81515

    Cuarry
    Member

    I have been a member of my local co-op in Clintonville off and on for a few years. I shopped there quite a lot a in 2004-2007. I had a bad experience one day with staff and I didn’t really want to shop there anymore. So I didn’t. I was perfectly fine gathering my essentials at other farmers markets and shops.

    Recently there has been a buzz about all the changes around the place and how the employees are now unionized, the place is under new management, so I stopped in. I liked it. The place had a face lift but was still your favorite hole in the wall hidden gem. I actually got helpful service when I asked for it. I saw a few smiles and remembered my initial draw to the store. I felt good about shopping there. A few visits later the cashier talked me into joining. It made me feel good. I am now a member and apparently “member owner” (as the banner above the check out proclaims) of my local co-op. For the first time in a while I felt good about spending money. It was not going to some guy at the top of the ladder, but was a community effort and I was apart of it.

    I visited the co-op’s website read over how the place was governed, typical co-op values, rochdale principles, board, by-laws mission statement etc.. I shopped at a co-op in Seattle and belonged to the OB peoples co-op in San Diego. Pretty standard business model.

    As I read on and learned more about this business that made me feel good about spending my money, I discovered a dark secret that made me re-think co-ops and made me lump them back up again with standard businesses with inside interests. Although the company bylaws state no paid staff may serve on the board of directors, this co-op seems to have two staff members on the board. As a member, I specifically remember getting a letter in the mail years ago voting for this by law change, as apparently a manager was also a board member. Read: conflict. I remember voting for this change and the by law change passed as reflected on the co-ops website, board link, bylaws pdf.. So why are there paid staff on the board? This is the drama that made me stop shopping there years ago. And now it seems they are not true to their mission. It makes me want to get my money back for investing in this “neighborhood” market governed by member owner, or democratic votes. Better yet; maybe I will contact the attorney general. I’m sure they don’t take kindly to non-profits acting like they are doing this while actually doing that. Or maybe organize a class action law suit. A business that claims to be community oriented and have the interest of their member owners at heart and then do not abide by the by laws voted in by the members is simply an injustice and a shame to the co-op brand. Is there anyone else that got dupped by this “co-op”

    #367793

    lifeontwowheels
    Participant

    I’m confused: if they sent a mailer asking members to vote for a change to the by-laws to allow paid staff on the board and it was democratically voted on, what’s the issue?

    #367794

    I’m a bit less inclined to think they are duping anyone with a “dark secret” and more inclined to think that there is a reasonable explanation for this. Have you contacted the Co-Op directly to inquire? I’d start there. Perhaps there was another vote that occurred when you were not a member and they approved the measure?

    Not very helpful, I know, but I’m not very well versed in the nuances of Ohio law.

    #367795

    Cuarry
    Member

    lifeontwowheels wrote >>
    I’m confused: if they sent a mailer asking members to vote for a change to the by-laws to allow paid staff on the board and it was democratically voted on, what’s the issue?

    They sent a mailer to add ‘no paid staff on the b.o.d.’ to the by laws and it passed, however the board did not uphold the bylaw that was voted on by the members.

    #367796

    SusanB
    Participant

    If the co op is a 501c3 and they have paid staff as voting board members that’s a big no no according to the IRS.

    #367797

    groundrules
    Participant

    Cuarry wrote >>
    Better yet; maybe I will contact the attorney general. I’m sure they don’t take kindly to non-profits acting like they are doing this while actually doing that. Or maybe organize a class action law suit.

    seriously? alternately, there’s just the option to shop somewhere else. you seem to be greatly exaggerating the scale of this ‘offense’. seems on the spectrum of injustices in the world, this is way, way low down. I would say even in terms of issues requiring community action at the local level, this is some back burner shit. But whatever gets you fired up… I just wish I had your kinda free time to worry about this kinda thing.

    #367798

    Cuarry
    Member

    groundrules wrote >>

    Cuarry wrote >>
    Better yet; maybe I will contact the attorney general. I’m sure they don’t take kindly to non-profits acting like they are doing this while actually doing that. Or maybe organize a class action law suit.

    seriously? alternately, there’s just the option to shop somewhere else. you seem to be greatly exaggerating the scale of this ‘offense’. seems on the spectrum of injustices in the world, this is way, way low down. I would say even in terms of issues requiring community action at the local level, this is some back burner shit. But whatever gets you fired up… I just wish I had your kinda free time to worry about this kinda thing.

    Yeah, well you are reading it an posting about it.
    I like the idea of co-ops, if you want a cvs or wal-mart on every block, then sit around, do nothing, let the world do what ever it wants. Me, I expect people to walk the walk, and if they don’t they need called out on it.

    #367799

    Cuarry
    Member

    sugarplumclarey wrote >>
    I’m a bit less inclined to think they are duping anyone with a “dark secret” and more inclined to think that there is a reasonable explanation for this. Have you contacted the Co-Op directly to inquire? I’d start there. Perhaps there was another vote that occurred when you were not a member and they approved the measure?
    Not very helpful, I know, but I’m not very well versed in the nuances of Ohio law.

    That is good advise. I contacted them today. A manager did state that there were two employees on the board and that the bylaws on the website were up to date but declined to comment further on the subject and referred me to the board. That makes this even weirder.

    #367800

    Thory
    Participant

    “I discovered a dark secret that made me re-think co-ops and made me lump them back up again with standard businesses with inside interests.”

    The self-interested are everywhere. Doesn’t matter if they’re hippies, a small business owner, the CEO of the biggest corporation, or whatever else. Unprincipled people are everywhere.

    As for the manager directing you to contact the board, that sounds like an employee faced with an issue that they’re not sure how to deal with. Did you contact someone on the board?

    #367801

    Mercurius
    Participant

    When I first moved back to Columbus from Athens, I joined Simply Living, which provides a membership to the co-op. Unfortunately I made a mistake in that I conflated Simply Living and the Clintonville Community Coop into a single entity; thinking I was going to a Simply Living board meeting, I ended up going to the, discussed above, Clintonville Community Market board meeting. It felt like a hostile takeover in that people were being thrown off the board unwillingly and alliances had been made. I’ve never seen so many angry hippies in one place.

    That said, I go to the coop not as much for altruistic reasons but more that they offer many products, at the best price, that I can’t find elsewhere. I love their loose leaf teas, spices, bulk and home/grooming offerings. The fact that it’s conveniently located next to farmer’s market and Wielands Gourmet makes it all that much easier. It should be run as a sustainable organization that provides employees a reasonable wage. If the manager that is currently there is the only person capable of doing that, so be it.

    #367802

    KarenH
    Member

    You are missing some important intervening circumstances here!
    As mentioned earlier, the Workers of the co-op chose to seek Union representation. There is a lot of history attached to that, but I’m sure anyone concerned with social justice, workers rights, and cooperative principles see the merit in allowing workers to organize. This is a fundamental difference between cooperatives and corporations!
    I have also been involved with this market for years. The Workers are very devoted to the market, they take pride in their work, and they obviously care very much for their customers, their product, and these principles. They are what kept me coming back to the co-op despite some very negative management issues in the past. I give the Workers a heck of a lot of credit for their qualities; they have not always had a positive, encouraging, dignified workplace environment. Why do you think these Workers were compelled to risk their jobs to organize for a more just and democratic workplace?
    Because the Workers are now unionized, and if they choose to be a Member of the market, they have the right, by law, to all the privileges of membership. That includes the privilege of running for election to the Board. The Members who elected them to the Board knew they were staff…. They liked that they were staff! Honestly, I attribute a lot of the improvements in the co-op over the past year to the fact that Workers are represented on the Board now. The Board’s primary function is to represent the Members. And this is one member who values the benefits of a cooperative and democratic enterprise, with happy, devoted, engaged Workers who are treated with dignity and respect. There are plenty of corporate alternatives in Columbus for those who prefer a hierarchical, management-dictated environment in which to shop. The cooperative model is in scarce supply in our area, and its potential at this market is a great part of what makes it such a gem!
    If more Members would become involved in assuring that we help this market become truly cooperative, I believe it would accomplish (and instruct) great things in our community, the local economy, and the local food movement!

    #367803

    Cuarry’s story is a load of manure.

    If you were a member of the OB People’s Co-op in San Diego you would know that they were formed as a worker collective; read: WORKER OWNED! They then became a co-op. Their original board of trustees was eight people half of whom were employees. Now their board is still eight people two of whom are employees. I spoke with a woman who just finished a two-year term on the board and she said they really had no problems with self-dealing or conflicts of interest. She said that the employees “took off their employee hats” for board meetings and served without limitations. Call them at (619) 224-1387. The story will check out; grocery pun intended.

    Conversely, the two employees at the Clintonville Community Marked are repeatedly being asked to recuse themselves from the decision making process. Now someone is also stirring up trouble within the ranks of the market about this non-issue of employee trustees. The drama spoken of exists only in Cuarry’s mind.

    KarenH explained very accurately the employees’ situation and why they unionized. Many co-ops allow employees to serve as board members. Furthermore, the decision to include employees was approved by the board after unionization. The membership then gave its approval by electing those two employees. This was all out in the open.

    What exactly are you going to tell the attorney general? There is no consumer being wronged. Co-op members are the most involved and invested in the business. Incidentally, CCM is an LLC and not a 501(c)3. I had to clarify. Class action lawsuit? If you were such a wise member-owner you would see how that is a ridiculous affront to our values. Find the seven cooperative principles and the Rochedale and read them for yourselves people. Co-op memberships don’t start class-action suits. The idea is patently ridiculous.

    How is the market not staying true to it’s mission? We still have plenty of local and organic items including some things you can’t get anywhere else. The bulk herbs and teas are great! +1 Mercurious.

    I once was employee of the market and have been a member for several years. I am very thankful that I can walk to such a wonderful store to shop. I will admit that there has been contention in the past and a history of mismanagement but the Clintonville Community Market is definitely on an upswing. Don’t let this idiotic attempt at defamation sway you away from our market.

    If anyone has any questions or concerns please PM me. I am happy to share what I know to help educate Columbus about our coop.

    Lastly, to Cuarry: quit hiding behind the anonymity of the internet and own up to your accusations.

    Peace and falafel grease,

    KC

    #367804

    starfish
    Member

    That is why I rarely shop there. Don’t want to bump into angry uninformed drama queens like the “kombucha_commando”. “Cuarry” find a bigger company doing worse things to wage war against. Its a little store not a coal mine. I’m sure the workers are treated fine.
    you people need a hobby.

    #367805
    Tom Over
    Tom Over
    Participant

    groundrules said:
    seriously? alternately, there’s just the option to shop somewhere else. you seem to be greatly exaggerating the scale of this ‘offense’. seems on the spectrum of injustices in the world, this is way, way low down. I would say even in terms of issues requiring community action at the local level, this is some back burner shit. But whatever gets you fired up… I just wish I had your kinda free time to worry about this kinda thing.

    And it’s overlooking all of the positives involved with the Clintonville Community Market. It’s a work-in-progress. @ Starfish: I’m not sure how Kombucha Commando represents in your mind all of the venders, staff, board, patrons and members of the Co Op. Though you suggest focusing on bigger businesses doing worse things, your own statement might be overgeneralized, and thereby play into the hands of those in the food industry who abuse their power.

    In other news, the UN—whatever good or bad anyone here may think of that institution—named 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives

    A thread on how this movement might pertain to our city, state, region, country, and so on might be useful. Instead of starting a new thread, let’s try it here and Walker can reword the title if necessary.

    #367806
    Tom Over
    Tom Over
    Participant

    Jennie Scheinbach is making Pattycake a worker owned co op.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 15 total)

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