In May of 2016, the EFC Board of Directors had a retreat to discuss the upcoming proposal for consolidation. We began by sharing our hopes and our fears about what would happen after this information was disclosed to all EFC Owners.
My biggest hope: That this consolidation could have the potential to revolutionize the entire American economy.
My biggest fear: That this issue would divide our community.
Let's me talk first about my hopes for a successful consolidation. I believed it then and I still do believe today that the cooperative movement can transform the national economy. Why? Because cooperatives are economic models that put the people first. Cooperative corporations answer to their Owners and not to wealthy shareholders as is the case in conventional corporations. The amount of C- and D- share that a Owner purchases bears no influence on how the cooperative is run and organized. Each Owner-Member is alloted an equal voting share with their purchased membership.
When the residents of any given region come together to build a cooperative, the entire community benefits. Cooperatives bring investment in the local economy. They try to pay staff a fair, living wage. Cooperatives build relationships with other small businesses, growers and producers. They put back into the community more than they take out.
A Cooperative's ability to transform the economy is true on our local level. You can see how EFC has nurtured small businesses on Central Avenue. Before the expansion, numerous start-ups leased space in the back of the building. Recovery bike shop was one of those.
EFC is a steady anchor to Central Avenue development. It is hard to envision what the street was like just 15 years ago. In 1997 when I moved into the neighborhood, the area around Central was decrepit and run-down. The steady presence of our co-op has brought confidence to other businesses hoping to achieve success in NE Minneapolis. And EFC has been the inspiration for two other cooperatives that moved in to the area: Fair State Brewery and NEIC, both of which are experiencing unprecedented success.
Cooperatives work. We've seen EFC take the lead in developing our little corner of NE Minneapolis.
This is why I believe if done carefully and with the input of all co-op Owner-Members, we can move out of the inner circle, and move towards transforming and empowering others in our country to do the same.
So, I am not entirely against a merger of co-ops. It is the process that is troubling to me. A process that neglected the knowledge, know-how, and hearts that the EFC Owners could have brought to the table. It is because of this troubling process that I am voting "NO" for the consolidation.
Instead we now have deep divisions in our community. My biggest fear has been realized.
Yet, at the same time, I am bolstered by how many Owners have engaged in the issue once they were brought in. For the first time EVER, this upcoming election has 13 board candidates. More than the number of open seats.
I have another hope I want to share. It is about community and democracy.
My hope is that the EFC Board will shift their dialogue away from positive-only dissemination of information. My hope is that the EFC Board will take on the challenge of fostering a genuine discussion within our community that can embrace all opinions that surround this debate.
Do it, please, at the very least to honor democratic processes that our nation is built upon. Do it, please, for the maximum benefit to all EFC Owner-Members.
It is indeed an exciting time for our community. Let's continue the engagement in a way that honors the love and committment we share for our Co-op!
Have you any hopes and fears? Please share with me and others so we can all do our part in understanding what the road ahead of us looks like and where the road will lead us.
Everyone has a role in this revolution. This I believe to be true.