Voice Mail – December 2017


This month, the Co-op Voice has received several letters to the editor.

To the Editors of the Co-op Voice,

It was with dismay that I read the Board’s threats to the editors of the Co-op Voice in the Inside Scoop this morning. As a former owner of the Co-op and someone who worked there for over eight years, I find it appalling that the Board would censor this publication and threaten to cut ties with it if their demands are not met. This is not the act of an open and honest Board but one that wants to conceal any dissent from their agenda.

I hope that the editors of the Co-op Voice continue to speak truth to power and do not capitulate to threats. Thank you for your open and honest coverage of Honest Weight, you do a great service to the owners of the Co-op.


Cindee Lolik

To the Editor,

I have written a communication to the Board regarding its response to the resignation letters that the Voice published in October. In response to these two letters, the Board had demanded that the Voice check the letters like the New York Times for factuality before publishing anything. The Board’s Inside Scoop of November 29th also stated that the Board wanted to take away from the staff of the Voice the ability to earn member-owner hours. I find these demands to be a bit over the top. First, a person’s point of view is often his or her point of view and impossible to verify with facts. Next, a small newsletter for co-op members is a local, voluntary effort.

The only failing on the part of the Voice is that it did not request a letter of reply from remaining board members. However, those members were perfectly capable of writing a letter presenting an alternative point of view. [Editor’s note: On the day the October issue was published, the Voice offered to print rebuttals and/or responses from the Board alongside the resignation letters, as soon as they were received. That offer was refused. Please see the Voice editorial policy now in place.]

As a reader of the letters what I did sense was that the previous board appeared to have an unprofessional relationship. Having served on several NYSUT committees, and having been a union president of a small teachers’ and counselors’ local for twenty years, I know that personal rancor has no place in any meeting.

Given the Board’s reaction to these letters, I suspect that the Board is acting in a closed, dictatorial way which is the antithesis of what I regard as the Co-op’s principles of openness. I also suspect that many on both sides of the Board were behaving unprofessionally. It is important when serving on any institutional board that all participants are working toward a common goal- -the good of the institution. It is important to remember that everyone is of worth, even those who disagree with you. An alternative opinion is not personal- it is just that a differing point of view.

The remaining board members may be frustrated with the people who resigned but that is not the fault of the Voice. All the newsletter is guilty of is honoring a request from two resigning Board members.

If the Board wishes to have hard working members, then it must prepare itself to see opinions and points of view that may be critical. Open governance is difficult at times but important to any Democratic institution, as is civility.

We as working members must remember that we are all invested in the Co-op’s success. There are so many important issues that we all face. I think it’s beneath the Board to vent hostility toward the Voice but instead both could work toward galvanizing all of us to face a very competitive future.

Remember, we have a common goal as a unique community. Blaming, anger, and shaming have no place in our community.

Susan Hoff-Haynes

To the Board Members of Honest Weight Food Co-op,

I feel relief that I no longer have to deal with trivial matters revolving around the Co-op and its dealings with its member owners. It reminds me of a dysfunctional NYS office that gives cause for its members to flee in search of early retirement due to its toxicity.

When are the Board members going to take a look at what is being brought to their attention and DO SOMETHING POSITIVE about the issues that are being raised by the real authority there, the member owners?????? When an issue of concern is brought to light that reveals that there is a major problem within the Board, the Board needs to investigate and rectify that concern. The smokescreen of shaming and blaming that is being directed at the volunteer Voice members to “keep their mouths shut” forgets that there is a Constitutional right of Freedom of the Press…instead of threatening the Voice members with legal suits, isn’t it time for the Board to do what they were elected by the real authority, the member owners, to do?

By denying hours and access to the Co-op of the Co-op Voice members, I am reminded of tactics utilized by some of the most despicable villains of history….your authority is not given to you to conduct yourselves in such embarrassing ways….and thankfully it is only temporary….Rethink this nonsense and drama, rid us of those who abuse their power on the Board. Start over by refusing to use these tactics against Co-op members who work so diligently and earnestly to represent their member owner partners’ concerns; the staff of the Co-Op Voice. Let them continue to represent us and our salient needs as they have done in the past and try to get back to the business of the true mission of the Honest Weight Co-op…..healthy food.

Sincerely, Rita Hoffman, Member Owner

Rita Hoffman

December 8, 2017

Dear Editors of the Co-op Voice,

The recent upheaval and conflict related to our member-run newsletter the Co-op Voice has again raised questions about our ability to respectfully and cooperatively relate to one another. Our relationships are predicated on the Mission Statement that informs all of our actions:

Honest Weight Food Co-op Mission Statement:
Honest Weight is a member owned and operated consumer cooperative that is committed to providing the community with affordable, high quality natural foods and products for healthy living. Our mission is to promote more equitable, participatory and ecologically sustainable ways of living. We welcome all who choose to participate in a community which embraces cooperative principles, shares resources, and creates economic fairness in an atmosphere of cooperation and respect for humanity and the earth.

I believe that, in order to work through times of conflict, a willingness to adhere to our principles is vital. Polarized positions destroy relationships and diminish the Community. A willingness to offer good will and an openness to working through our differences is required if we intend to come to genuine resolution. There have been several recent interactions that inform this concern.

I wish that our Board had found a more cooperative way to approach their concerns regarding the Co-op Voice. I wish that the Board had scheduled an open meeting with a clear willingness to work with the staff of the Co-op Voice to come to agreement about how to continue the wonderful work they have done since the inception of the newsletter. I believe this would have been possible and would have sustained and affirmed the best interests of the entire Co-op Community. Instead, the Board presented an untenable “choice” to the editorial staff that left them with no real time or opportunity to come to a better outcome. The Board has, in my view, precipitously voted to end the relationship of the Co-op Voice with the Co-op. While they cannot silence the Voice, they have stripped the staff and editors of the tools necessary to make this a true member-run newsletter.

I believe that the concerns expressed by the Board can be addressed in reasonable ways that would strengthen our community and honor the work of the staff of the Co-op Voice. It is the responsibility of Member-Owners to actively participate in the governance of the Co-op. Remaining informed is the only way we can accomplish this responsibly. It is my sincere hope that the Member-Owners will join me in urging our Board to reconsider their recent decision and retain the Co-op Voice as our member created, produced, and published vehicle for access to one another’s thoughts and interests.

Chris Colarusso

“Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.”
Jane Addams

Dear Editors of the Co-op Voice,

I have been following the controversy regarding the letters published by the Voice from former Co-op Board members. The letters make it clear that the members of the Board who resigned were also part of the problem. No reasonable person would have written the letters attacking other members of the board in this unproductive manner.

The letters offered no viable solution to the issues that clearly exist. In addition the resigning Board members were not mature enough to accept their portion of the blame for the issues.

From my experience with meetings at many different organizations, I feel the best solution for the issues between the members of the Board would be to record the meetings on video and put them online for the members of the Co-op to view.

It would keep the members informed of the actions of the Co-op Board. It would address the Board members’ concern that the Voice may not be reflecting the true actions of the Board. Lastly it is very likely the members of the Board will behave in a much more cooperative manner.

These results are very much in line with what I expect from an organization that specializes in fair trade products.

Martin Roby