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Forum, July 8: The Co-op, Common Sense, and Principles

The Co-op and Common Sense

To the Editor:

As a Co-op member, I assumed that there was no need for me to get involved in the direction and management. For the past few years I noticed a decline in employee morale plus the Co-op shifting into more commercialized, profit-driven areas, but I felt hopeless to do anything. I was wrong. After the recent firings, I realize that it is my responsibility to speak up and inform the board and management of my concerns.

The spirit of the Co-op is supposed to be one of cooperation, not a two-tier system of workers and management. Management has failed to support a healthy and fair work environment. Wouldn’t it be wonderful (and astonishing) if someone in management stood up to take responsibility for this fiasco? I hope the board does more than offer the standard corporate response of placating rhetoric and patient listening without taking action.

In the meantime, I ask members to take a more active role in our Co-op to help achieve a harmonious atmosphere with equality for all.

Patricia S. Cashman

Newbury, Vt.

Imagine a World With No Co-op

To the Editor:

Can we picture, for a minute, a world without the Co-op? A world where every single dollar spent goes to Massachusetts or Holland or who knows where? Can we, just for a minute, contemplate the consequences of listening to Jim Kenyon? Do we believe that a responsible employer would, in public, give us the real reason employees are let go?

Can we, for a minute, remember all those visitors, relatives, friends who say there is nothing like the Co-op where they live?

The Co-op is a special place — where we can come together, buy food, learn to cook, have our opinions matter about where food is from or how it is farmed.

What is the goal here, Jim Kenyon? Do you want this place that sets the Upper Valley apart from vanilla places to disappear? What do you think is going to happen if you keep railing away on the word of a few malcontents? Why would we do anything but support, trust and be proud of our Co-op?

Barbara J. Jones


Co-Op Members Must Act Now

To the Editor:

As members of the Hanover Consumer Co-op for over 40 years, we were stunned to read the allegations made by Jim Kenyon in the Valley News regarding the peremptory firing of two outstanding long-term employees (“Cheese and Wine Firing Party,” June 29). For this reason we attended an information meeting held at the Norwich Library on July 2. There we learned that Kenyon’s allegations were not only substantially correct, but only touched on the surface of many major problems with management practices.

To cite but one, two employees went to work on Friday, June 13, were called into management’s office and told that their employment was terminated. They were publicly marched to the exit and out of the store in front of their co-workers. Dismissal in this carefully planned way is designed to intimidate, and sow fear in, the remaining work force.

According to New Hampshire law, the Co-op firing was not illegal, but a dismissal in this manner undercuts the very foundations of employee motivation and satisfaction. The Co-op Governance Policies state that: “There will be a major source of employment in the community that provides personal satisfaction and ... financial security for employees and their families.” How does such a dismissal provide satisfaction and financial security?

A Cooperative Society is owned by its shareholders, thus members must take ownership of the problems management has created. It seems clear that the Co-op board has been inattentive or indifferent to management’s drift toward autocracy and bureaucracy. For this reason the members themselves must now exercise their shareholder responsibilities and instruct the board to direct management to immediately reinstate the two fired employees with back pay and, equally important, make Co-op governance conform with its charter principles.

Members of the Co-op, please inform yourselves. Be on the lookout for upcoming meetings and petitions of the concerned Co-op members.

Hoyt and Marianne Alverson