TALES FROM THE COOP

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LET'S HAVE FUN AT THE PARK SLOPE FOOD COOP GENERAL MEETING!

A member of board-of-directors rebel Stewart Martin's Democracy Initiative Group -- let's call them the "Stewartistas" -- proposed the first agenda item. The Stewartistas oppose the management of the 5,000-member coop by the employees ("coordinators") and also oppose the influence of members who are often the coordinators' friends. Coop governance is led by the monthly General Meetings, open to all coop members, where attendees -- usually only a couple of dozen -- vote on major issues. The Stewartistas had formed a Governance Committee to propose alternatives to the GMs, such as an elected congress of members.

The Stewartistas proposed that the Governance Committee's founding members be grandfathered rather than risk the upcoming election to restaff that committee. Most of them, including Stewart, were present to pad the vote. The proposer repeatedly refused to identify just who wanted to be grandfathered. The coordinator camp splashed the proposal with lots of vitriol. One person brilliantly noted the irony of Democracy Initiative Group members wanting to undemocratically keep their committee positions. But it was a strong debate. In an organization where committees are lucky to be staffed by active members with time and energy, mightn't members nominated and elected from the general population be less motivated? But even though the Stewartistas retreated to a friendly amendment to grandfather only two members (who still refused to identify themselves), it was voted down. Stewart Martin abstained.



Then came the agenda item for which most people had come to the General Meeting in the first place: How to combat the popularity of plastic produce and shopping bags? The Environmental Committee proposed punitive charges on plastic and to subsidize the cost of washable, reusable muslin bags. Debate followed. The Better Living through Chemicals camp worried about losing membership because of ecofascists who admit to hating not just plastic, but also "dead" meat, salt, sugar, fluorescent lights, and microfiber. The We're Poisoning the World with Every Breath We Take camp said we're poisoning the world with every breath we take. But arguments were surprisingly cogent, and many statistics were had by all.

When the tide seemed against them, the Environmental Committee abandoned its punitive-surcharge-on-bags proposal in favor of a scorched-earth, but friendly, amendment to ban all plastic bags. But it was really late, so it got tabled till the next GM.

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jkarpf@echonyc.com