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Dublin Food Co-op: What went wrong?

category dublin | consumer issues | opinion/analysis author Wednesday May 18, 2011 22:40author by Daveauthor email davecorcra at yahoo dot ie Report this post to the editors

After 28 years of operation, Dublin Food Co-op is chronically sick: divorced from its founding principles and acutely dysfunctional. Following a deeply troubling incident in March, this author – until recently one of its most committed volunteers – has found it necessary to part ways.

So, what’s gone wrong with the city’s pioneering consumer wholefood co-operative?

Dublin Food Co-op
Dublin Food Co-op

After 28 years of operation, Dublin Food Co-op is chronically sick: divorced from its founding principles and acutely dysfunctional. Following a deeply troubling incident in March, this author – until recently one of its most committed volunteers – has found it necessary to part ways.

So, what’s gone wrong with the city’s pioneering consumer wholefood co-operative?

MISSION DRIFT

Back in 1983, a handful of peaceniks came together with a simple goal – to save money by purchasing collectively and in bulk. As the initial buying club transformed itself into a fledgling co-operative, it took on the costs of a member of staff and premises hire, thereby requiring a modest mark-up. Yet today, many of the Co-op’s core lines – like lentils and rice – can go onto the shelves with a whopping 58% added to the cost price paid. None of the stock, including a proliferation of highly processed foods, attracts a mark-up of less than 47%. Ballooning operating expenses have made a mockery of the original goal of providing members with affordable wholefoods. Furthermore, stock control processes are extremely weak and result in unnecessary wastage and additional costs that members must also shoulder.

Unable to offer keen pricing to those on limited incomes, in practice the Co-op’s prime appeal now lies with more affluent, pro-organic shoppers for whom price is not a key issue.

SQUARE PEG

As an alternative to hiring a community hall for weekly trading, the Co-op took on renting the majority of a large, disused warehouse in Newmarket Square in March 2007 at the height of the property boom. Rent alone now amounts to €7,700 per month after the acquisition of additional space for added flexibility. Yet the premises remain badly under-utilised. Moreover, despite remarkable volunteer efforts to adapt the site over the past four years, no possible configuration would allow for a goods inwards area that could receive deliveries adjacent to a sales area, making it fundamentally ill-suited to the co-op’s primary retail purpose.

Much reduced property prices should now open up a more appropriate and affordable relocation after the end of the current lease in December. Yet, the depletion of reserves to the tune of an astonishing €170,000 in pursuing and establishing full-time premises risks making this impossible.

MARKETIZATION

In the Co-op’s early years, membership was intended to mean something more than access to a discount in return for an annual fee. Welcome sessions for new members explained co-operative principles and attendance was expected. Today, these ‘Fáilte’ sessions persist but with a fraction of new sign-ups attending. Indeed, the very identity of the organisation as a co-operative, as distinct from a farmers’ market, has been obscured. The promotional literature that heralded the switch of premises in 2007 announced a ‘new market in Newmarket’. Far from being prominent, outward indications of the organisation’s co-operative nature and values have remained hard to find about the premises ever since. Instead, each weekend sees the Co-op’s main hall packed with stallholders and indistinguishable to many from a conventional market setting. The decision to hire out the premises for Dublin Flea Market and other independent Sunday markets, while pushed by the economic imperative of covering a high rent, has added further blurring while bringing with it very limited financial gain. Nor has the profile-raising potential for the Co-op of these events been well harnessed.

STALLHOLDERS ARISE

In theory, Producer Members who trade on Saturdays are just that: regular members who are also growers, bakers or producers of goods and services who provide something additional for other members and who contribute to the Co-op by passing over 10% of their turnover on each trading day. Initially, their addition was a way to ensure fresh produce was available without the attached risks of the Co-op itself buying in highly perishable stock. Yet a deep flaw lay behind this pragmatism. Few Producer Members arose from the ranks of the membership – they joined to trade and taking up membership was a required formality, not an active commitment. Understandably, they had businesses to run and trading at the co-op was only one of a number of outlets for many, especially with the increasingly proliferation of farmers’ markets. While these twenty-odd stallholders bring much colour and life to the Co-op, their interests differ radically from those of ordinary members. For many, trading at the Co-op represents a substantial part of their income stream – and one they have moved to defend by organising as a bloc, seeking to dictate terms and rebuff attempts to raise standards. In a consumer co-operative, this is truly a case of the tail wagging the dog.

A SECOND TAIL

Dublin Food Co-op trades on Thursdays, Saturdays and most Sundays (to coincide with the markets). However, Saturdays remain the only truly substantial trading day.

Almost all of the workload related to handling stock is undertaken by volunteers, with the staff primarily focused on checkout duties and other cash handling tasks, along with ordering and administrative support. Thus, for a maximum of 21 hours trading, 120 paid staff hours are allocated each week, shared amongst 9 part-time workers whose hourly rates range from €13.49 to €16.50. Book-keeping support is bought in at additional cost.

Unsurprisingly, salaries represent the Co-op’s primary overhead - yet an actual assessment of staffing needs has been glaringly absent in recent years. Instead, workers have been left to roster their own hours and are not required to submit timesheets. None have job descriptions and recruitment processes have been sorely lacking in both transparency and logic. Thus, in many key respects, consumers retain only a weak hold on the running of a co-operative that they they formally own.

INTO THE VOID

All of the above point in a single direction – that the Co-op has been short of clear-sighted and effective leadership amongst its board of member-directors, many of whom have lacked relevant experience or even a perception of the legal and practical responsibilities going into the role. Despite the presumption in the Co-op’s constitution that a paid ‘Co-ordinator’ head up and oversee the staff team, this position has been left vacant for several years, leaving the directors, as a body, to try and do the impossible. Similarly, the board has struggled under the weight of added responsibilities that accompany the running and upkeep of a large warehouse unit. Bogged down by minutae and hampered by division, the strategic role of the board has been crowded out and, too often, membership decisions at general meetings have been forgotten rather than followed through.

Instead of being strongly connected to other organisations and developing links in the local community, the Co-op has been introverted and aloof since its relocation to Newmarket and largely divorced from vital ideas around food sovereignty and sustainability. Even a limited living up to the ecological principles that might be expected, such as attentiveness to recycling and closely managing power consumption, have been conspicuous by their absence in Co-op culture.

Member-led efforts to bring the co-op back in the direction of its values – such as reassessment of products for ethical and ecological suitability and a re-energising of member engagement and volunteering – have been resisted by key staff and have too often lacked the emphatic support of the board. Thus, the potential of volunteer working groups has been severely hampered, despite their mandate from the membership.

FINAL STRAW

All of the above criticisms are ones I freely articulated and worked with others to try and address. Despite frustratingly slow progress, none of them were responsible for my decision to part ways. That came only when Dublin Food Co-op proved itself incapable of dealing with an issue that should have been utterly straightforward in an organisation born of the peace movement: violence. Quite simply, physical aggression and intimidation can have no place in a co-operative environment. A perpetrator must be immediately suspended and a process begun that provides for expulsion by the membership.

Yet I watched in horror as the co-op failed dismally in dealing with reports from two members of a serious incident committed by a stallholder before the start of trading. More than a month afterwards, he remained at large, normalised by inaction and utterly defiant. Meanwhile, the complainants - and others, like myself, who offered them support – were left to feel marginalised and increasingly uncomfortable within the walls of our own co-op.

April’s Annual General Meeting was ugly and peppered with vitriol. By its end, the Co-op’s dysfunction and vested interests were firmly embedded into the new board, snuffing out even the faint hope of a belated resolution.

For myself and others, our co-op was gone.

About the Author: Until April 2011, Dave Moore volunteered as Dublin Food Co-op’s web and eNewsletter editor, undertook membership administration and served on its Products Working Group. He is now focusing on other projects toward building alternative local food systems and can be contacted via davecorcra [at] yahoo.ie

author by anarchaeologistpublication date Thu May 19, 2011 14:09Report this post to the editors

My family joined the co-op when it moved to the Liberties a few years ago. We'd shopped on Pearse Street a few times before and the ethos was then as attractive as the prices. There was always something of an aloofness in Newmarket though and let's face it, it became very quickly just too expensive to shop there. Last year we carried out an experiment and compared prices with a similar range of organic fruit and veg in a weekly shop for a family of 4 down the street in Lidl. Unfortunately it was a no-brainer and we were as much as €30 better off shopping with the Germans. Any locals I've asked about the place wouldn't go near it for that reason alone.

Regarding the involvement of the membership, I 'volunteered' initially to help out on the occasional Saturday, to get the reduction off the food bill more than anything else I'll admit. The bloke I spoke to didn't seem that interested and said he'd give me a bell if he needed anybody. I sorta got the feeling that you had to be known, part of the gang. Needless to say he didn't get back to me and I wasn't too pushed pursuing the matter.

The violent incident is incredible though. It seems to me that anyone I knew involved in the old co-op wouldn't have stood for that kind of thing. Is it really the case now that the stall holders call the shots as opposed to the membership or are the latter as apathetic as I became? It's sad to see that things have got to this stage in the co-op.

Anyway, thanks for posting this on Indymedia...

author by Sceptic . - None Whatsoeverpublication date Thu May 19, 2011 20:15Report this post to the editors

Just read your story with interest , i suppose the newies simply want customers who are
' organically grown ' so to speak ,

author by Tpublication date Thu May 19, 2011 20:40Report this post to the editors

I would be interested in your observations on how the co-op has arrived to the position that it has. There are so many organisations that start off with good intent, objectives and general rules of operation but over time drift over time and in the process lose sight of their goals and become the opposite of what they had stood for.

It is tempting to say well just start again, but these things take so much energy. Given the reasons outlined above, it is understandable that you finally gave up but again, I think this is a common problem that the people who are of generous nature and lofty ideals tend to leave rather than form their own block and fight and it may well because they recognise that the act of forming such blocks draws them into the type of politics that they are trying to avoid.

author by kristine taylor - food cooppublication date Mon May 23, 2011 16:10Report this post to the editors

I completely agree with Dave. The co-op has been separated from its mission with the traders basically there for the sole purpose of profit. The mark up on dry goods is ridiculous just to pay the exorbitant rent. And the idea that workers manage their rosters and do not present a time sheet to the coordinating body is absurd. The coop which we own is now there to serve the workers and not the other way round!! The incident of violence by a stall holder was not dealt with. Physical abuse and verbal abuse have no place in a coop. As an active member I think the perpetrator should have been suspended with no chance of coming back on board. The AGM where stall holders protected him was a joke and full of disgusting animosity. I could not go back in for 2 weeks. I do not want to see him there. but the "Just for profit" stallholders stand behind him. So we are being manipulated by the producer members and the staff. A co-op? It was in aspiration, but now is to enrich the stall holders. What a joke!! And Dave is quite right the majority of shoppers are organic middle class people where money is not the first concern.

author by Tom Byrne - artistpublication date Wed May 25, 2011 06:27author email tj at tjbyrne dot comReport this post to the editors

Hello
I heard about this incident on my last visit to Ireland. I'm glad to see that a stand is being taken where the issues can be addressed and identified. The co-op and the principles behind it are too important to let it slide.

When I last visited the co-op in Dublin it was with the intention of learning what can be done to replicate a similar system in france. I spoke with various people about this (thanks to Tim and Padhraig) and saw the pressure that the group were under.

Obviously bad decisions were made which had further cumilative negative effects later on, forcing decisions which were counter to the principles of the co-op.

I hope that the people who hold the original principles of the organisation close to their hearts can join with others to recreate the original structure and expand in a wise manner using professionally minded, experienced and motivated administrative staff, whose principles are true to the aspirations and plans of the organisim.

author by Annapublication date Fri May 27, 2011 10:08Report this post to the editors

I was unaware of a lot of the undercurrents that were swirling for some time. It's been a revelation to hear more of what has been going on.

It's as though everyone is looking for the very best solutions in these extraordinary times. When there is a diverse group involved in anything there are going to be differing opinions on the best approach.

As things get more chaotic we are inclined to harden our positions and can't reach out to find a compromise. With some conflict resolution and a commitment from everyone we can move together into a new and better situation and be the co-operative we were set up to be.

Labels are being attached - middle class, mortgage holders, stallholders bloc, etc. One of our first principles is non-discrimination. Whoever chooses to join us is welcome. Please don’t put people in boxes and throw accusations. It's not 'us and them' - it's only us.

It has been true that the value for organic and fair trade dry goods has been better elsewhere but is it my imagination or are prices coming down in the co-op?
It’s a fine balancing trick to keep the revenue rolling and having low prices for the members.

Then there’s the rent issue. The whole ‘upward only’ rent review thing is totally absurd now. If we can negotiate a deal with the landlord so much the better. If we can’t what does the future hold? It is a huge undertaking to move.

There are issues and we can sort them. It will take good will, transparency and a willingness to compromise.

Conflict or co-operation – which is it?

I was a member long before I was a producer member – since 1987. I’m in it for the long haul.

author by Serfpublication date Fri May 27, 2011 10:28Report this post to the editors

All you guys are currently doing is working on the cheap / free to make money for a landlord by charging high prices to middle class punters. And because he/she charges so much, you are forced to negate the whole point of your existence, i.e. cheap whole food for the less well off. You can't fix this while paying high celtic tiger rents. And don't expect FG to address ridiculously stifling upward only rents any time soon. Even though it's certainly one thing that would help businesses stay in business. Rental income is just unproductive removal of money from the system. Of course landlords will blame the interest on their property loans etc. so it all comes back to the banks. Which we own. Go figure. Its almost as if there is a systematic attempt to completely destroy all small enterprise and initiative in our society.

author by Seanpublication date Fri May 27, 2011 13:46Report this post to the editors

visitors to the co op will observe that all is well, good food being purchased by generally nice people having been stacked by happy volunteers in a place staffed by a small group of committed employees. There's less tension these days too.

author by Conor O'Mearainpublication date Tue May 31, 2011 00:47author email conoromearain at hotmail dot comReport this post to the editors

I am sad to hear about this event. I volunteer for the Co-op because I believe in its principles. It is fundamental to put our thoughts into words, and our words into action. Our actions must not contradict our words, or our thoughts.
My only hope, and I thank the author for expressing himself, is that there will be new blood in the Co-op and that it will take a new direction, one coming from the vibrant enthusiasm that keeps growing inside all of us.
Revolutions give way to new rules and are intrinsically faulted because they replace old rules with new ones.
I hope that compassion, wisdom and courage will prevail.
ps, I'd like to see more products sold without containers, like milk, wher you can go with your own bottle and fill it up, thereby eliminating waste.. this could also be done with cereals and prices done by the kilo. In a short space of time, this could be applied to all products, shampoos, oils, detergents.. We reduce our waste, our costs, save the environment. This is the next step forward, I feel.
Regards
Conor Marren

author by Tpublication date Tue May 31, 2011 14:22Report this post to the editors

Conor, I think the principles that you promote there for a vibrant co-op are exactly the ones that the author had and wishes to see. His whole point essentially is that the business types and those without those principles have taken over.

You suggest that maybe new blood could come in and fix it. But surely if any new blood came in with these principles they would be in the minority at this stage and would see that it is an almost impossible task to turn things around. Any reasonable conclusion would see that the co-op will go from bad to worse and will eventually fail.

author by Co-op Minded - This so called Co-oppublication date Wed Jun 08, 2011 18:25Report this post to the editors

On the 12th March 2011, a number of members complained to the board of directors of a violent incident before the Co-op opened earlier that day. More wrote to them in the days following. Apart from a couple of us getting a "we have received your complaint" style letter/email, and the 2 main complainants and the accused being interviewed, we've heard nothing since.

There's barely been an investigation to speak of, not even an attempt to look for witnesses. No-one has been brought in from outside, even though an investigator was hired last year over something less serious. The whole thing has been kept from the membership and seems to have been buried. Bad for business, is that it?

There was plenty wrong with the organisation before this happened but I was aware of at least 10-15 other souls (some of them your 'new blood', Conor and T), trying their damndest to discretely steer it back to being a real co-op (not an indoors farmers market with a heath food store attached), trying to promote the best ethical and organic choices (yup, food-a-plenty from China, home of environmental & human-rights abuse, which could come from Europe instead / food stalls with cheap non-organic ingredients from Lidl/Tesco), trying to promote eco-friendly living (where are the recycling bins? seriously).

Volunteers who wanted push beyond the status quo were already being treated with suspicion, increasing hostility, resistance and intimidation - and I'm speaking from personal experience. After the way this incident was (mis)handled, most of us have now pulled out, and more have vowed to take their business elsewhere, only popping in to see friends, if even that.

I finally got to hear some garbled nonsense purporting to be about the situation last week, way outside of the Co-op, so got to correct it. But God knows what other people are being told. The place runs on gossip, disinformation and tribal loyalty, not facts.....and certainly not much co-operation.

author by Green Giantpublication date Sun Jun 12, 2011 16:29Report this post to the editors

I am stunned at this article. I can only assume it is sour grapes. As a member and somebody who was present at the last AGM, the irony is that the author said how concerned he was that in a consumer co-op the members should have the main say, but then appeared to have great difficulty in accepting that the democratic will of the members present at the AGM did not support his motions - I would say in fact quite the opposite! - at which point he declared that he was finished with the Co-op. Where were all these members on the night who share the author's views of how the co-op has gone to pot? Perhaps only the middle class rich ones showed up and the 'real' members were somehow kept away! It is a real shame the author decided when his views and motions were not supported by the membership that he would walk away from the co-op rather than stay involved and continue to use the proper constitutional channels to pursue his agenda. One of his motions was to change the constitution so that staff could no longer stand as members of the Co-ordinating Body - this despite the fact that there were not sufficient people standing to fill all the places, so staff would not be taking places from any other members who wished to stand (staff are members too). (There had been no staff on the CB in the previous year, so the author cannot blame the mis-management of the co-op on that anyway!). I felt he displayed at the AGM an inexplicable and barely disguised hostility towards the staff. This was particularly regrettable in view of the fact that we learned at the AGM that the staff in the past year felt (for the FIRST time since the Co-op's inception) they were being treated appallingly by a largely dysfunctional Co-ordinating Body (one which I believe had the support of the author) - some staff have been there for more than 15 years working for wages that certainly in the good times one might struggle to classify as 'fair trade', and it would seem in the last year they feel with much criticism and lack of support from the Board. In my view they are committed above the call of duty, stepping into the breach left by the Manager's post being left vacant for years and a vacuum of management by the Co-ordinating Body and just getting on with the job - I am sure they did not seek to work there just for financial benefit - it is because they were committed long-standing members who applied for advertised jobs to work there. Whether or not any member may legitimately express the view that there could be less staff and more volunteers, it is not the staff's fault that they were hired and have not been managed properly. (As in any such organisation, there is of course a history of experience that you do need paid staff to run such a large operation and that with the best will in the world you cannot rely wholly on volunteers - this has been borne out by the way staff have stepped into the breach, involving unpaid overtime, to pick up for example the work that is no longer being done on a voluntary basis by the author and any other volunteers who suddenly stop doing the voluntary work they have been doing). There have by all account been some disgraceful incidents of disrespect, mistrust, lack of consultation on key staff matters and bad management of staff in the past year. They felt they were being treated as if they should feel lucky to be paid to work there at all and keep quiet. For anybody who knows the staff and is a regular member and attender at the Co-op the idea of the staff having somehow gotten control of the co-op is an absolute joke - the truth is they have been managing with lack of direction and proper management for some time with little complaint. Perhaps this contributed to their desire to stand as Board members, which is their absolute constitutional right, has been since the Co-op was set up, and is considered good practice for consumer co-operatives. If members wanted to change this constitutional position, then they had the chance at the AGM to do so but they rejected the author's motion in this respect, although he seemed very unwilling to accept the members' will in this respect and with the other of his motions that were unsuccessful, taking up an inordinate amount of time in continuing to argue for his position. Perhaps what the author is saying is that he doesn't feel an affinity with the current membership of around 1,000 people (many of whom have been members for a long time) or agree with the members, in which case perhaps he is right to leave. Without saying too much about the 'violent incident' there is a whole other side and history to this. Any investigation that was or was not carried out was the duty of the CB ! There is a whole other view about what could be seen as many contributing factors that may have led to this incident and also a very different view about the severity of this so-called 'violent' incident - as I understand it no injuries whatsoever were sustained by anybody - am I wrong? As an ordinary member, who is not middle-class or a high earner by any means, I truly believe that the author's view of the recent history of the co-operative is deeply one-sided and unfair, and does not represent the vast majority of the members in any way, shape or form, many of whom are ordinary members who treasure the co-op, do not feel it has become like just a market or 'drifted' from its constitution (how could it? the co-op has to stick to its constitution unless changed by a quorum of members), treasure the principles that still do inform the co-op's operation and buying policy and continue to shop there because it is a beautiful community, you can buy local organic produce, fair trade produce, local organic unhomogenised milk and cheeses - maybe it could be better, but it will only be as good as the will and commitment of its members to effect change. I do not recognise the author's version of the co-op as having strayed from its principles in terms of the food it sells and if so, then who do we look to: the Products Group that decided what the co-op should buy, of which I believe the author was a member? The large membership who have agreed to and decided on most of the major decisions taken by the co-op? Personally I feel the author is in a tiny minority, that his views are not supported by the majority of the members of this membership co-operative, and I personally have not experienced his approach to be in line with co-operative principles to say the least. Has anybody asked the membership how they feel about their co-op? Certainly the membership has spoken through the AGM (although the author did not like what they said) but perhaps they could all be contacted or suveyed to see if they share the author's views and if so to encourage them to take a part in making changes - because nobody is stopping them I can assure you! Anybody who wants an alternative view should speak to the staff who I think are remarkably restrained in not responding on this forum or perhaps to some of the active and involved members represented at the last AGM.
As one of many committed members whose buying policies are underpinned by sustainability and justice I will continue to shop at the co-op and take part in its processes. I really wish the author had stayed the course and continued to use legitimate avenues to win over other members to his viewpoint and make changes in the proper way - I find it hard to believe that anybody has ever stopped him from doing this

author by Dave Moorepublication date Sun Jun 12, 2011 21:39author email davecorcra at yahoo dot ieReport this post to the editors

Not wishing to be drawn into a personal tit-for-tat, I’ll keep my response brief to correct facts and fill otherwise misleading gaps:

- I placed a motion at the Special General Meeting, two weeks prior to the AGM (not at the AGM itself), which would have developed safeguards in the rules where someone who wished to stand for the board derived economic benefits from the co-op. It would have debarred no-one but would have ensured extra scrutiny around vested interests, which have been an issue in the recent past. Following objections from staff and stallholders, it was clear it would not gain consensus and I withdraw it rather than push a vote.

- The AGM, which was held over two long evenings, saw an unprecedented push from staff and stallholders to achieve representation on the board (a few notably signing up family members before the meeting). Thus, two groups who together comprised less than 5% of the co-op’s overall membership, now made up 4 of the 11 directors (and were thus the majority of the 7 elected at the poorly attended AGM part two, following a fractious AGM part one). In the absence of a meaningful contest, it was determined that a single vote would secure a candidate’s election. This is democracy of a kind, but in a fairly impoverished form.

- The idea that I was a supporter of the outgoing board makes little sense. Within the co-op, I was critical of much that it tried to do as well as its inability to do many needed things, as is clear from my article. The previous board fell down badly in managing and communicating with the staff team and at times the level of conflict was acute.

- The presence of a staff representative on the board of consumer co-operatives is widespread and may be helpful. However, the definitive article on this topic makes clear that it is not and cannot be a solution to conflict and is only likely to entrench it. [see Karen Zimbleman (1993) 'Should Co-op Staff Serve As Directors?']

- I did not, as is stated, declare that I was finished with the Co-op at the AGM, even with co-operation little in evidence and the issue of violence being the elephant in the room (something I was shouted down for raising). As for failing to ‘stay the course’, my decision to withdraw came only after being slandered while leaving the meeting and then facing harassment the following day (at a time when I was already feeling less than fully safe on co-op premises). In notifying the board of my withdrawal, I made reference to these incidents but the unresolved issue of violence was at the centre of my concerns. It remains so, three months to the day since it was first reported to them.

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/99981
author by volunteer at - your cooppublication date Sun Jun 12, 2011 23:21Report this post to the editors

Wednesday, June 15 · 7:00pm - 10:00pm

Did you know Father Christmas has Volunteered at the Dublin Food Coop?

Find out how you can too.

This meeting is for all ordinary members who are volunteers or want to volunteer & who are not serving on the Coordinating Body, staff or as producer members.

- to discuss how to support volunteers better with training, discounts and infrastructure.
- to fill vacant positions in the Products Group, Premises Group, the Work Rota Monitoring Group and subgroups of that group.
Volunteering is a wonderful way to get to know fellow Co-oppers learn more about what the Co-op does and get discounts on your shopping bill.

It will be facilitated by Pears. We'll make coffee and tea together - please bring snacks to share. There’s lots to discuss so please bring your opinions & ideas for a lively exchange.

PLEASE DO COME! PLEASE DO SHARE THIS EVENT.

Related Link: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=189757971074907
author by Green Giantpublication date Wed Jun 15, 2011 09:54Report this post to the editors

No energy any more for this but you have presented a grossly one-sided view and I wish you could have accepted the majority view of the around 80 members at the AGM who actually gave a round of applause when the elections were over, or even decided to stay and become a CB member yourself and work from within (there was still one seat vacant at the end of the proceedings), rather than attack from outside. I truly believe that you yourself wanted way more control of the co-op as one individual than any other group within the co-op could ever want. Do feel free to carry on this attack on the co-op, because that is what it is - I will not be visiting the site again - I will instead join the rest of the co-op in moving forward and healing differences and trying to work in co-operation.

author by Co-op Minded - This so called Co-oppublication date Thu Jun 16, 2011 16:32Report this post to the editors

The co-op was never meant to run by 'majority views' winning out over everyone else. It's meant to run on everyone listening and working hard for decisions by consensus.

Numbers at the second night of the AGM were definitely a good bit lower than Green Giant has them, especially by the time of the vote (quorum is only 40). As for applause at the end of the elections, it came after something like 4 or 5 hours of business in a frequently unpleasant meeting, less of a ringing endorsement than tension release for many I'm sure.

The running of the ballot was a farce. With too few standing, one vote (a candidate's own) would get them a place on the board, even if many more people had concerns. Seriously, there was just no way anything useful could be expressed by a charade like that. In fact, I remember the author saying he wasn't willing to stand on that basis, despite the certainty of his 'election'. (Hardly the actions of a power crazed individual seeking ever more control). I just saw no point in voting - and I wasn't alone.

You can only move forward and heal if you accept and address problems, rather than bury them. Painful scrutiny is a very different thing from an 'attack'.

author by sensibilistpublication date Fri Jun 17, 2011 21:18Report this post to the editors

the rules should have been written down and put up on the wall with real consequenses for breaking them ie. how things function in the real world instead of expecting people to follow unwritten rules as if if we are all so cool man that violence will never erupt, it was a bit naive, it's not the 1960s. also the location was bound to be a failure given that organics and eco-products are a middle class option

author by Dave Moorepublication date Sat Sep 17, 2011 13:24author email davecorcra at yahoo dot ieReport this post to the editors

Recent article marking 6 month anniversary of violence complaints, with fresh discussion...

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/100496
author by A consumer - who's in the market for a new co-oppublication date Sun Dec 11, 2011 22:47Report this post to the editors

Proof positive, if any more was needed, as to the dodgy state of health of the DFC was the recent shabby, grasping invite to the 'Failte & Christmas party'.

A crappily put together email invite to both events, highlighting what you could buy on the night  of the 'social' - no mention of whether children are to be catered for or not, what sort of entertainment apart from 'live music', whether there's an alcohol policy (apart from who gets to *sell* you some on the night), or even whether there will be any of the regular ceremonies - like the pagan and solstice celebrations that we were used to.  These 'socials' were never before about commerce and that's how they should stay.

Much more effort of course went into the attached flier for 'the market' on Thursday. Lacking the DFC logo, a select bunch of  producer members invited the rest of the members to an extra shopping opportunity, using our members database for contact details. Was this official? Is this a Data Protection issue? Is there any point even complaining?

And the most prominent name on the flier - a new member of the CB, a Producer Member. In fact his details are on there twice. The tradition of producer members on the CB unashamedly exercising their vested interest is still going strong.

Our core produce area, a.k.a. 'the dry goods area' just about gets a cursory mention. The co-op started as a wholefoods buying club. I suppose we should be grateful it was mentioned at all.

'Sustainable food for our community'? Just look at some of the products on the stands and the ridiculous food miles they've clocked up.

 


I'm not sure when the DFC stopped being a consumer co-op because it certainly does not put it's ordinary, consumer members first, the vast bulk (95%+) of our membership. It is not about getting the best deals for it's members, using the collective buying power of hundreds, closer to a thousand members, as well as visitors too. And it certainly is 'for-profit' for a select bunch of members. No wonder they pushed to get on the CB. No wonder they attacked, physically and verbally. Some members really are more equal than others.

The 47% markup to finance this farce is still there and the 6% (sometimes more) typical rebate disappears into a financial black hole, that is in no small part, an unsuitable premises which some previous CB members have wasted vast amounts of members money on and are still trying to. The work of the premises group has been grievously interfered with by their obstructive behaviour, in the last few months. These middle aged men also take the mick at meetings, wasting members time with their jawing on and on at every opportunity, instead of suggesting agreeable and sensible amendments, in line with our values, and in a timely fashion, to respect the time and effort of the other people there present. They need to be called on this disrespect or better still denied membership.

 

When I first walked through the door, I could see the disembodied words 'organic', fair trade', 'sustainable' and like most people, I suppose, joined up the dots.
The Dublin Food Co-op, as an organisation, is not certified organic.
Very few of the stallholders are either (look for proof and ask for it) and several use ingredients likely to contain GMO's - most because they don't bother to investigate but some because it's cheaper than the organic alternatives and the overly trusting shoppers neither look for evidence of high standards nor expect to be spoofed or misled, when they do ask.

Like I did once, I'm sure that members and visitors alike think it's all been screened and approved and we can relax that our  values are respected and reflected in the products on offer. I know better now. There are only 5 or 6 I'd take my custom to.

 

You might as well walk into a  regular independent health food store to buy your food. At least you'd be giving someone a job who has to look after their customers needs in order to stay in business. Many independent health food stores also do case/bulk deals. Just ask.
They'll also order in for you what you want instead of ever saying 'no, sorry, it's against our ethical values' but that's no different from what the Co-op has become.

Save yourself the price of the membership fee. Anyone can walk in and purchase a cuppa and hang out. Members do not even need to buy food to sit down the back and eat. Bring your own lunchbox in. At least you'd be sure then that you are getting a GMO-free, additive-free, Israeli-produce free, meat-free, natural feed, if some or all of that's important to you because it can't be guaranteed in the co-op. Nor cleanliness either, sometimes.

You can get ripped off less by joining and volunteering in a very limited fashion but the CB's inaction has sent the message that it is still ok to hit a volunteer, even in the European Year of Volunteering.

Unless members actually have the (considerable) time and energy and will to reform the Dublin Food Co-op and that means going, in numbers, to the horrendous AGMs, OGMs and SGMs to vote (or at least witness the tricks at these meetings, like people refusing to sign in to prevent a quorum being achieved), unless members start demanding proof and facts in the meantime, don't bother getting membership. Membership gets you no discount from the stallholders in the halls, unless they are feeling generous.

Not that getting motions through makes much of a difference either - some really important ones have still not been implemented. Where are the CB Minutes? The will of the membership, including dealing with complaints of bullying and violence, is not as much of a priority for our board of directors, even though it is their duty. It's the 12th tomorrow, 9 months now since the violence occurred and was reported to them and still not a statement from them, even though it was one of their own who was physically attacked. Where is the investigation that the members called for? The CCTV was wiped on the day, during a busy trading Saturday. There is still no policy to protect the CCTV from interference. Just ask where it is sited, for the laugh.

In any case, you'll find out pretty quickly for yourself about the hostility you'll encounter by trying to reform this farce of a co-op. Your money, your call, members.


 
P.S. There is no attempt at education sessions, a duty of a functional co-op to it's members. The nearest thing, of late, was the Failte, given by a pro-GM member of the CB!

 

author by Davepublication date Sun Oct 28, 2012 16:18author email davecorcra at yahoo dot ieReport this post to the editors

New article brings an up-to-date perspective from the original author

Related Link: http://www.dublinfoodcoop2013.net/2012/10/dublin-food-c...oods/
author by Davepublication date Sun Mar 16, 2014 11:57Report this post to the editors

Three years on from the incident that sparked this post, much has changed at Dublin Food Co-op - and much still needs to be done. For more, see...

Related Link: http://www.dfc-critique.net
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