General Manager Letter to the Coop Community, June 18

Dear Coop Community,

I along with all the other General Coordinators recognize that the Black and People of Color on our staff and in the membership are in pain and grieving. It is the Coop’s communities of color who are dealing with the daily violence against them while also shouldering the burden of being hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. We stand in solidarity with the Black community in Brooklyn, as well as across the country, in our collective grief, anger, and the call for justice.

On June 7, I posted a letter on our website (https://www.foodcoop.com/manager-letter) explaining that the General Coordinators are not authorized to publish statements in support of social or political issues on behalf of the Coop without General Meeting approval. I recognize that while factually true, the June 7 statement was inadequate and angered member-owners and staff because of what I did not say. I am writing now to explain more clearly what I as well as the other General Coordinators believe we can do.

While we greatly respect the member-driven decision-making model of our Coop, the General Coordinating team recognizes that we are vested with authority for broad areas of Coop operations as supervisors of the staff and day-to-day administrators of the Coop’s operations. I am committed to using our authority in collaboration with staff and members to guide the Coop along a path of addressing racism in the coop. I deeply regret that I failed to make my position and commitment clear. I missed an important opportunity to communicate clearly and forcefully where I stand.

I believe that any actions the General Coordinators initiate to support the Black Lives Matter movement and to address systemic racism would be supported by the Coop’s member-approved Mission Statement: we are “…committed to diversity and equality. We oppose discrimination in any form. We strive to make the Coop welcoming and accessible to all….”.

In addition, any steps taken, by the GCs and/or the Membership should be in alignment with the Coop’s historical record of social and economic justice dating back to our founding in 1973. Improving our individual and collective consciousnesses about institutional and systemic racism, unconscious bias, sexism, injustice and inequality is work we must do, both in the Coop and in the larger society.

As we affirmed to the Coop staff, we acknowledge that racism is rooted in the very fabric of our country. We want to clarify to the membership, as we did to the staff, our commitment to confronting racism in the Coop. A first step is our pledge to provide ongoing anti-racism training for all staff including the GC team. Over the next months and years, we will work together with the staff and membership to engage in concrete steps that move the Coop towards a more equitable, just and inclusive community.

We recognize that these are small steps in what is a long journey toward racial justice. There is a great deal of work to do in our communities and our words today are just a start down that road. We recommit ourselves to listening to, learning from, and uplifting the diverse voices in our Coop, especially those member-owners and staff who are Black and People of Color. The GCs have a leadership role in supporting and promoting the Coop’s mission to build a just Coop that nourishes the community and uplifts the cooperative values of democracy, equity, and solidarity.

We will do our best to listen and collaborate with you to guide the Coop’s response. You are appreciated. Your lives matter. Black Lives Matter.

Joe Holtz
General Manager/General Coordinator