Faced with a public backlash over a change to the Durham Co-op Market articles of incorporation, the stores' board of directors won't hold a vote on worker governance as planned. The vote, which is open to all co-op members, has been going on for nearly two weeks; it was scheduled to end tomorrow.
As we reported yesterday, members were being asked to vote on whether to strip co-op employees of their governance rights. This includes the ability to buy a separate class of shares, and to elect two people to the 10-member board. However, many members did not fully understand the ramifications of their vote; the board's explanation of the proposed change—that it reflected "best practices" was both vague and potentially misleading.
According to documents we obtained, 11 employees have requested to buy worker shares, which could allow them to receive a share of co-op profits. However, as board president Frank Stasio told us yesterday, the board can elect not to issue shares.
Profit-sharing, though, is important because most of the co-op's rank-and-file workers earn less than a living wage, starting at around $9 an hour.
This is the email the board sent to members:
"As you probably know, the board of directors of the Durham Coop Market asked you to vote on a proposed amendment to market’s articles of incorporation (AOI). In talking with many of you over the past couple of weeks, we’ve realized that we erred in offering such and important choice with so little time for consideration and discussion. Therefore the board has decided to withdraw the referendum.
Moving forward we will create opportunities for our owners to hear from experts on all sides of this issue and engage in dialog. This full and robust conversation should make a sound foundation to decide whether you would like to re-consider the issue and put forth another referendum.
Please know that the board acted in good faith. We have very worked hard for many years to make the dream of this market a reality. You have always shown great faith in us. With your help and confidence, we opened the store that is on the path to success.
We want to boost that success going forward by continuing to work closely with all of you to maintain the strong sense of collaboration and unity that has brought us this far.
Please join us at our Annual Meeting tomorrow (Sunday) at 6 pm at the store.
The Durham Co-op Market Board of Directors