This statement was read by ItsOurCoop.org organizing team member Laura MacKay at the June 14 board meeting. It was a full house, with owners spilling into the hallway.
There are a lot of people in this room! Why?
You as board members may feel beset and confused right now. So first I want to recognize and honor that you are volunteers who’ve taken on a lot of responsibility and very likely have good intentions.
What’s going on here, I think, is that because this is a co-op, we’ve made assumptions about how it’s being run, including how our workers are being treated. And as we find out that some of those assumptions are wrong, we’re confused and disappointed.
- We see what some would argue is wage theft in the form of unpaid shuttle time
- Starting wages barely above state minimum
- Multiple grievances
- NLRB investigations
- Nearly 17,000 dollars in OSHA fines for safety violations
- A virtual insurrection of workers in January at what was supposed to be a staff “retreat”
- And a number of other disconcerting things that I won’t even touch right now
So there’s a loss of trust here.
I can’t help thinking that you haven’t been getting all the information you need to perform the oversight that we thought was going on. We know all these things and more because our workers have felt so unheard for so long, that they finally started reaching out to us.
Now owners are starting to feel unheard as well. We’re learning that these board meetings aren’t really designed for owner participation. Requests for information that our bylaws seem to guarantee have been denied. It’s hard to even find the day and time of this meeting on the co-op website, a problem that was pointed out to you a month ago.
You may know that an owner-driven website called ItsOurCoop.org has just gone live. It’s about pursuing our values, and its initial focus is the shuttle issue. I’m one of the people who made it happen, because thanks to our workers I’ve come to recognize my responsibility as an owner.
It’s a little bit scary, frankly, to take such a public level of responsibility. To risk making some people angry, and very likely be accused of sowing discord.
But I’m willing to step into that that because I want a co-op that lives up to my values, and because I DO trust these workers. I do want to hear their voices, and I wish you did too, because I think they know a hell of lot about how to make our co-op the best it can be.
I hope that in the near future, we won’t need an entire website to get them heard — or get ourselves heard for that matter. Rather, they will be heard in this room, preferably sitting at that table as voting board members.
Because that’s a co-op.
Laura MacKay, owner 992, is a member of the ItsOurCoop.org organizing team.