I first would like to thank Paula Weiss for giving me the opportunity to write about my encounters as a member of the Co-op.
My family and I have been members since 2009. Regrettably our experiences have always been strained ones. We have felt ignored and unimportant since we joined. This has been unfortunate because we were very excited about our membership since we had been searching for stores that supported our healthier food choices. At the time it was very hard to find wholesome foods in the popular markets in the area. So for us discovering the Co-op was a breath of fresh air. Our joy was hard to contain, we looked forward to creating a niche for ourselves by providing our wealth of knowledge and talents as working members. We tried countless times to make our existence known to the Co-op by applying to become working members, asking for information about teaching classes and lastly we made numerous inquiries about getting one of our products in to be sold at the store, but time and time again we were overlooked. Finally, we just gave up. We pretty much all but stopped going to the Co-op to shop. It really was not a pleasant experience being there. I finally decided to relinquish my membership. I just did not know when I was going to do it.
In the last year or so, I had been noticing an upheaval in the Co-op that culminated publicly with the Times Union article last October about the member labor program at Honest Weight. I followed this very closely reading the Inside Scoop emails regularly about the goings-on. I knew the April 17th elections were coming up but because of my past experience it really did not mean much to me especially since I was going to divest anyway. A few days before the elections my daughter and I were reading the bulletin board after shopping at the Co-op and she suggested that we go to the “Meet the Candidates” meeting. I was very cynical about this, but after reflecting on it more I decided this would be my last ditch effort in having anything to do with the Co-op. So my sister and I went to the meeting.
Upon arriving the 1st thing I noticed was there were only white people attending and whites only as board members. That kind of explained why things might have gone as they had over the years. All the more reason to get out of the Co-op. I decided to remain at the meeting a while longer just to solidify my decision to cancel my membership.
As I was about to beckon my sister to let her know I was ready to go, Saul- one of the candidates- made a statement that changed everything. He said: “the Co-op needs to strive for more diversity. As you can see there are only white people here for the most part”. There was dead silence in the room, not one of the panelists had a retort about Saul’s statement. It was really for the most part ignored. The fact that Saul’s comment was ignored did not sit well with me, but I still felt maybe there was some glimmer of hope because he had made the comment. After that I decided I would postpone dissolving my membership and see if this board would really work to fix the ills of the Co-op.