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Forum, July 16: Co-op Matters; Waste in Vermont; Coverage Appreciated

Management Flaw

To the Editor:

Terry Appleby’s column in the Valley News (“The Co-op Serves Its Members and Workers,” July 12), intended to ease the minds of concerned friends of the Co-op regarding recent firings, instead revealed what could be the source of our discomfort — a fatal flaw in managerial thinking. In an effort to quiet the talk about recent firings being generated because of employee interest in collective bargaining, Appleby states that Co-op management does not know which employees have any such interests and, more importantly, “does not want to know.” Even if we accept that “hearing about” may not prove to be the same as “knowing,” we most certainly will not accept not wanting to know. What competent management team would not want to know about and then work with employees to address concerns regarding their place of employment?

Lynn Schad

Cornish

Left Unknowing

To the Editor:

We now know that in our fair state it is perfectly legal for a boss to fire an employee without so much as a “sorry,” but once again, Mr. Appleby, would you explain why you felt it was in Dan King’s and John Boutin’s best interest to send them packing without a word of explanation? Apparently, they still don’t know the nature of their sin.

A law is a law is a law, agreed, but beyond the legal niceties, one has to wonder if common decency should not have had a role to play in this instance? After giving excellent service to their customers –– and from what most of us could see, to the store, itself — for 11 years, our two friends might have an urge to know just what egregious act they perpetrated.

Tom Brody

Lebanon

Value of Experience

To the Editor:

What value do you put on experience? When Co-op management recently fired John Boutin and Dan King, it not only lost two loyal employees, it also said goodbye to more than two decades of involvement in their respective fields of cheese and wine. This includes not only their extensive product knowledge, but customer relationships too. It is especially true in the selling of cheese and wine that customers rely not only on a vendor’s ability to assess quality, but also to make recommendations that are suited to the buyer’s taste and needs. Over time a level of trust and loyalty evolves, the value of which is not quantifiable, but it is what drives business. The Co-op no doubt will find people to stock the wine and cheese department shelves. Recapturing customer allegiance and confidence will be another matter altogether.

Blake Allison

Lyme

A Right to Know?

To the Editor:

I don’t know, nor do I have a legal right to know the private facts surrounding the recent personnel changes at the Hanover Co-op. But it has been disheartening to see how many Valley News readers have readily embraced unsubstantiated allegations and to see the Co-op undermined by innuendo and an unseemly rush to judgment. Perhaps naively, I had thought the Co-op community to be a bit more thoughtful and respectful of due process.

The Co-op is a bountiful resource for our community, dedicated to member participation and reinvestment in local organizations and businesses that enhance all our lives — member and non-member alike. But contrary to suggestions recently reflected in these pages, it does not exist in some fairy tale, parallel universe. It provides a largely social return to the owners and wider community by selling products at a profit, meeting a payroll and planning for its long-term financial security ... and yes, also managing its workforce. That may horrify some, but I for one have nothing but admiration for the Co-op management that has managed to maintain a steadfast commitment to the community while securing its long-term survival.

Peter M. Clark

Hanover

Quick Conclusions

To the Editor:

I’m a little stunned to see intelligent Co-op members jumping to black-and-white thinking about the Co-op’s management system without acknowledging that employment issues are complex in any organization.

Do we really think one of this region’s leading employers is “autocratic,” has no smart internal systems for addressing issues, and should be willing to make your, my, or anyone else’s personnel information public in the newspaper? That kind of reaction isn’t the Co-op membership I know.

No large group of human beings, workplace or otherwise, will be without its differences. But I feel confident that there are nuances in the story, and that the Co-op is led by smart, hard-working, thoughtful people. I’m curious about why intelligent Co-op members would jump on a bandwagon and insist that only one set of answers is going to make them happy.

I suspect there’s a silent majority of us who actually believe the Co-op is well managed and caring. It’s time for us to speak up, and the July 23 Co-op board meeting (4:30 p.m.) is one of many good places to do so.

Lizann Peyton

Norwich

Waste in Vermont

To the Editor:

To the Vermont politicians who now want to eliminate some food waste from our dumps: I would much rather see concerns expressed about the proper disposal of the “new” mercury light bulbs we are forced to use so that we can longer have enough light to read our newspaper. Perhaps we could address the millions of disposable diapers that never disintegrate over the years. The list goes on.

Soon we are going to join the ranks of other countries and have no more room for our trash, and will be dumping it in the ocean. Food waste, to my knowledge, disintegrates and betters the soil. We throw a hissy fit about genetically modified food, and then want to truck spoiled food to our farm animals for fodder. No wonder there is a pig illness epidemic. Just because they will eat it, they should? What am I missing?

I would like to see our Vermont government be progressive, not regressive. One that soundly stands up for the people and the environment rather than tracking behind other political entities, catering to financial and political interests and over-regulating “just because they can.” It appears that when we give government officials the power to make changes, this power is being abused for the benefit of a few and the detriment of many.

Sylvia J. Heath

Hartland Four Corners

Thanks for Coverage

To the Editor:

I would simply like to thank you for covering the Paul Bremer presentation at the Center Meeting House in Weathersfield this past Saturday evening (“Bremer, in Vt., Calls for a U.S. Resurgence,” July 13). This was a fundraiser for the Weathersfield Proctor Library’s capital campaign. Reporter Zach Despart did an outstanding job.

Although not everyone present agreed with all of the speaker’s points, the talk was thought provoking. Zach Despart focused on the highlights and the purpose of the event, but also respectfully included the incident with the protestor.

Loraine Shand

Weathersfield