Cooperation Among Cooperatives

Comments from Park Slope Food Co-op

Dear Editor,

I work for the Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn, New York, which is an 1,800 plus member co-op with a member labor requirement, very low prices and an annual sales volume of about $1.6 million.

In the February/March issue of Cooperative Grocer, co-ops that use member labor systems that require members to work were implied to be or described as "exclusionary," as "guilt" inducing, and a not "truly open to all." No store is for everyone. There are co-ops that are too high-priced for some people. Other co-ops require too much labor for some people.

If some co-ops have been unsuccessful with one system, they should not trash the system that is still working for others. The high death-rate for cooperatives should teach us to appreciate all successful co-ops.

Would it be fair to co-ops without a work requirement to be characterized as follows: "Being a member in a co-op like that is just as involving as owning a share in General Motors and sending in you annual meeting proxy every year." I'm sure that many co-ops would take offense to a statement like that.

Co-ops that become like that description will probably go out of business. Co-ops that are truly exclusionary will also probably go out of business. If we want to comment on any of the systems that co-ops use to get the work done, then let's talk to the co-ops who are doing those systems successfully. Cooperation among cooperatives should include understanding and respecting one another.

Cooperatively yours,

Joe Holtz, Coordinator

Park Slope Food Co-op, Brooklyn, NY
Joe Holtz, Co-coordinator
Park Slope Food Co-op
782 Union Street
Brooklyn, New York

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