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Voices / Letters from readers

A union-busting law firm separates Co-op from its expressed ideals

This letter is to register my support for the staff wishing to organize the Brattleboro Food Co-op, and an expression of my dismay at the actions taken by the board and Alex Gyori, the store’s general manager.

By hiring a notoriously labor-unfriendly (some would say “union-busting”) law firm such as Downs Rachlin Martin (DRM), the management is further expressing and taking advantage of the power imbalance between it and labor.

How nice that Mr. Gyori and company have access to the Co-op’s coffers — money that comes from membership dollars and store revenue (which was earned through the staff’s hard work) — to hire an expensive law firm, yet the staff has no access to similar monies to pay for anyone to represent their concerns.

That hardly seems consistent with cooperative ideals, keeping the playing field so uneven like that. Democratic, my foot!

Please also note, the fees paid to retain DRM from the last go-round still haven’t been revealed to the Co-op’s shareholders. So much for transparency.

The board’s decision itself — turning the decision of whether to acknowledge the staff’s desire to organize over to Mr. Gyori — not only violates its own written bylaws, but it also hands over the sheep to the wolf, in a manner of speaking.

If the staff felt they had support and an advocate in upper management, none of this would be happening, and I’d be writing a letter about something else.

As it stands, the board members’ decision further separates the Co-op from its expressed ideals. No matter how good Mr. Gyori’s intentions and actions might be, placing that much power in one person’s hands — and returning that power to him again and again, even when the staff has begged of them otherwise — is in direct contradiction to cooperative ideals and practices.

For an organization that preaches “community,” one wonders exactly which community this board exists to serve.

Why lower staff morale?

Why disrespect the workers and the members?

What on earth is to be gained by such a strong statement?

My sincere hope is that the Co-op management does the right thing and calls off the DRM dogs.

Wendy M. Levy
Brattleboro

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Originally published in The Commons issue #174 (Wednesday, October 17, 2012).

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