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corporate dominance | economic justice

A National Takeover ​...One Co-op At A Time

Across the country and at La Montaņita, co-ops are changing their policies, products, and personnel. Over and over again, those decisions can be traced back to the influence of CDS Consulting and NCG.

The hallmarks of their influence are a board that refuses to communicate with member-owners, an unwise expansion or remodel that drains resources and leads to significant debt, and the hiring of a GM who:

Cuts hours and benefits from workers while management expenses grow
Creates toxic working conditions, leading to the loss of valuable employees
Displaces local and organic suppliers
Increases revenue, but decreases profits
Hires lawyers and consultants to "fight" member-owners and workers

a national takeover
​...one co-op at a time
by Dorothy Finnigan and Django Zeaman

What's a Big Corporation to Do?
Let's try a little thought experiment.

Imagine 10% of car owners refused to buy from big car manufacturers. Instead, they create car cooperatives. These car co-ops purchase from small, local car-makers. They care deeply about quality, ethics, and the total impact of production (fair wages, pollution, etc.). Members love the quality of co-op cars and love supporting the larger ecosystem of craftspeople. Members are incredibly loyal to car co-ops and join one whenever they move to a new town.

Would the big car manufacturers sit back and wish the car co-ops well or would they devise a way to conquer the last 10% of the market?

They could offer to buy co-ops, but member-owners would probably refuse to sell. And even if car co-ops did sell, everyone would know it was no longer a true co-op. Former members would refer to it as the "Ford co-op." They'd cancel their memberships and find another "real" co-op that matched their values.

So what if one of the big car companies got creative and approached the car co-ops through a third party that could gradually influence the co-ops over a period of years?

The third party could train co-op boards to focus on the right things and think the right thoughts via videos, articles, and guest speakers. They could propose changes to the bylaws and institute a model for board governance that limited member involvement. Eventually, they could require board members to sign an agreement forcing them to "speak with one voice" [1] or resign. The third party could even structure expansion loans for co-ops or loan them money directly. During a search for a co-op General Manager, they could vet candidates and make recommendations on whom to hire.

What if that third party could do this at over 100 co-ops across the country?

Of course, car co-ops don't exist, but food co-ops do. They make up about 10% of the natural and organic food market.

Let's take a look at CDS Consulting and National Co+op Grocers (NCG), third parties with extensive ties to United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), a publicly traded food corporation that does $8 billion in annual revenue. [2]

CDS Consulting
CDS Consulting has 40 paid consultants who work with co-ops across the country. [3]

Calling them consultants sells them short, however. They're more like an outsourcing company that advises co-ops to outsource just about everything to them. [4]

A year and a half ago, a writer in Vermont noticed her co-op was acting strange. The board became unresponsive, they wanted to change their bylaws in drastic ways for no apparent reason, and outside consultants were making appearances at membership meetings. She researched those consultants (who were from CDS) and discovered that CDS Consulting offers a wide range of services to co-ops:

"Inventory analysis; bookkeeping and recordkeeping; how to hire management; how to sell produce; how to "manage" labor and labor costs; how to design a new, expanded store; how to finance the building project; how to "tell stories" about the co-op to generate member excitement; how to figure out sales margins; how to implement board compensation; how to conduct annual meetings and retreats; how to replace the current bylaws with the CDI template; and on and on and on."
- Mimi Yahn, The Commons, Vermont Independent Media, February 11, 2015 [5]

And they don't stop there:

"Many of these services involve extensive time and training on the part of the board in order to comply with the CDS policies, and the range is so comprehensive that there's very little else for the board to do beyond following the guidelines given to them by CDS."
- Mimi Yahn [5]

Mimi Yahn attended a meeting at her co-op about changing their bylaws, and noticed the board was unable to even run the meeting without relying on CDS materials:

"As the board spokesperson addressed the multitude of questions and concerns, he repeatedly referred to his CBLD instruction sheet, the standardized guidelines provided by CDS to ensure that all boards behave uniformly.

Cooperative Board 101 Leadership Development is just one of a staggering array of protocols, trainings, services, templates, and policies our co-op has been instructed to utilize, which begs the question: Does the board's allegiance lie with the member owners or with a paid consultant?"
- Mimi Yahn [5]

That's a good question. Let's look at our own Co-op.

From 2011-2014, our Board President was Martha Whitman. She held that position during our decision to expand and open the Westside store. [6] She is now a paid CDS consultant who trains other co-ops. [7] Recently, CDS placed her in a store manager position at one of our locations. [8]

Let that sink in for a second: she was Board President during the expansion that financially damaged our co-op and profited CDS, she is now a consultant for CDS, and we pay for the privilege of having her manage one of our stores.

How did we end up in a situation without checks and balances, where an outsourcing company seems to be making expansion and management decisions via proxies who are on—or soon-to-be on—the CDS payroll?

The Silent Board
Three months ago, 500+ La Montaņita Co-op shoppers signed a letter to the board. The letter called for dialogue, transparency, and a return to the democratic principles upon which a co-op is built. The board didn't respond. The General Manager did.

The group sent a follow-up to the Board, reiterating that as member-owners, we wanted to communicate with our elected representatives. The Board President replied with a short email, stating that the board was delegating communication to the GM.

Before and since, hundreds of member-owners, workers, and farmers have attended board meetings, town halls, and cafes. We've reached out to board members individually and offered to meet one-on-one. They remain silent.

Why won't the board meet with us? Why won't they speak?

A System of Silence
Under the advisement of CDS, co-ops around the country have adopted the Policy Governance model. [9] According to the model, the board doesn't have a say in how stores are run. [10] Instead, the board cedes decision-making power to the GM [11], who is not accountable to member-owners.

Another component of the Policy Governance model is that the board speaks with "one voice." [1]

"Two keys to sound board process are the ability to speak with one voice and the ability to protect confidential information."
- Thane Joyal, CDS Consultant [12]
CDS is so determined to enforce the "one voice" doctrine that it provides boards with a template for a Code of Conduct. [13] Once board members sign the agreement, they're told they aren't allowed to publicly disagree with a board decision or else they violate the "one voice" requirement of the Policy Governance model.

The Supreme Court of the United States of America publishes dissenting opinions, but board members at our local food co-op aren't allowed to voice theirs.

In fact, at two co-ops, board members were forced to resign because they listened to member-owners who disagreed with a board decision.

"The board members listened — we emphasize that they listened. They were careful not to speak for the board and made it clear that they were only there to listen...

We all learned quickly that our Brattleboro Food Co-op board speaks with one voice and listens with one ear. By listening, these two board members 'broke the Code of Conduct' (a document that is nearly identical in co-op boards across the country) and felt compelled to resign, otherwise having to accept the notion that they had behaved unreasonably."
- Brattleboro, VT Co-op employees and members [14]

No wonder our board members aren't willing to talk to us. They've been told they can't.

"We Don't Know Shit From Shinola"
Each year, CDS manipulates more co-ops via the Policy Governance model, the Code of Conduct, and other changes to co-op bylaws and policies.

Why don't more co-ops say "no" to these changes?

When CDS begins working with a co-op, one of the first services they provide is what they call "board study" time. [15] Every month, boards are trained on a topic prepared by CDS consultants. They are also sent on retreats where CDS has dedicated access to board members.

"Pretty soon you'll have an hour available to study, invite speakers, watch videos, share readings all designed to help you better understand the world around you. You'll be pleased with the results... New board members will stop being so interested in discussing the cheese selection and it will point their minds where you need them to think."
- Martha Whitman, former La Montaņita Board President, current CDS Consultant, and acting manager of a La Montaņita store [15]

As observed by member-owners at other co-ops around the country, the more that board members are trained by CDS, the more they exhibit powerlessness, ignorance, and self-doubt.

At a recent La Montaņita board meeting, Ariana Marchello, our Board President, exclaimed, "We don't know shit from Shinola!" [16]

She seemed to use it as a justification for the board blindly trusting the GM.

Once CDS has instilled fear and doubt in the minds of board members, those same board members are now primed for dependency on CDS. And board members who lose confidence in their own ideas begin to rely on CDS's depiction of the marketplace and vision for the future.

Of course, CDS isn't around day-to-day, so the board has to rely on the person vetted by CDS and given authority by the Policy Governance model: the GM.

Signing Over Control
CDS's approach is subtle and takes place over many years. That's what makes them so successful. By the time member-owners discover what's going on, the board has often pushed through new bylaws and policies, taken out huge expansion loans, reduced local and sustainable purchases, increased outsourcing to CDS and shelf space for UNFI products, and hired a GM recommended by CDS.

Sadly, that's what happened to us.

Dennis Hanley was hired in December of 2015 as La Montaņita's GM. [17]

Our Co-op paid a CDS Consultant, Carolee Colter, to "screen qualified candidates for Co-op compatibility" during the search for a new GM. [18]

"Compatibility" seems to refer to compatibility with CDS, because before Dennis Hanley was hired, many La Montaņita senior staff members and store workers expressed grave concerns about his suitability for our Co-op. [19] He was hired regardless.

So who is Dennis Hanley and why were staff members concerned?

Previous positions were at companies that include K-Mart, Winn Dixie, Sprouts, and Safeway, with a recent stint at Coldwell Banker as a realtor. [20] He had no prior experience at food cooperatives.
LinkedIn reveals that he's worked at 9 companies in the last 14 years, which means an average stay of 1.5 years per company. [20]

And how has he performed since being hired at our Co-op?

Numerous workers independently report a culture of fear and intimidation since Dennis became the GM. Multiple respected, long-time workers have left La Montaņita or were let go. [21]
One of our stores has unionized (Rio Grande) and workers often cite the GM as the reason union protection is necessary. [22]
La Montaņita broke federal labor law and was charged with four counts of retaliation against its employees who unionized. [22]
He appears to have filled high paying upper-management positions with his out-of-state cronies, creating a top-heavy organizational structure while cutting hours from workers in the stores. [21]
Workers have expressed concern that in groups or one-on-one, Dennis and his new leadership team are "creepy," "condescending," "egotistical," and "bullying." [21]
Based on public statements and private interactions, member-owners and workers have described him as "a master of doubletalk and manipulation" and "comfortable in using deceit" about a number of topics, including the health and vitality of our business. [21] [23]

Does that sound like a person the board should trust to run our Co-op?

The Bottom Line
At our Co-op, revenue means total sales. Profit is the money left over once you subtract costs.

Revenue - Costs = Profit

Healthy businesses are always aware of their profit because it doesn't matter how much revenue you generate if you aren't able to make a profit.

At a recent board meeting, Dennis Hanley gave a financial update to the board. [24] He spoke at length about La Montaņita's revenue. He proudly stated that it was up from last year and compared favorably to other grocery chains. He went on and on about revenue. Revenue, revenue, revenue. He never once mentioned profit.

When it came time for our board members to raise questions or make comments, they didn't say a word.

To anyone with business experience, the GM's focus on revenue instead of profit is strikingly irresponsible. It's as if he doesn't care about the health of our business. It's as if he wants our Co-op to sell more, even if it makes less.

Who Profits When We Don't
Let's say our Co-op has two options:

Scenario 1: We sell 100 jars of spaghetti sauce at $6 each. We pay $3 for each jar. So we make a profit of $3 per jar. In total, we make $600 in revenue and $300 in profit.

Scenario 2: We sell 200 jars of spaghetti sauce at $4 each and we still pay $3 for each jar. So now we only make a profit of $1 per jar. Our revenue jumps to $800, but our profit drops to $200.

Our Co-op
Scenario 1 $600 revenue $300 profit
Scenario 2 $800 revenue $200 profit

In the second scenario, our revenue goes up but our profit goes down. Even though it's bad for our Co-op, it can be very good for other parties.

Let's look at it from the point of view of the distributor. They sell us the jars of sauce for $3 each and let's say they make 15% profit on each jar they sell to us, or 45 cents a jar.

Scenario 1 $300 revenue $45 profit
Scenario 2 $600 revenue $90 profit

In the second scenario, the distributor who sells us the jars of spaghetti sauce makes twice as much revenue and twice as much profit for their company. Also, their salespeople sell more, so their commissions go up. And if a GM had incentives tied to store revenue, they would get paid more too.

In other words, the sauce distributor, their sales team, and GMs incentivized on revenue, all have the same objective: sell more sauce, even if it hurts the Co-op's bottom line.

To advance their objective, they could push "dyn-o-mite deals," "sizzlin' savings," and cheap conventional produce. The more products sold at our Co-op for low or no profit, the more money they personally make.

Meanwhile, our Co-op suffers. Less profit means lower dividends for member-owners, lower wages for employees, and less money for outreach programs to our community. It means that our mission as a socially responsible business that serves our community is put in danger. If profit continues to plummet, it could mean taking on debt, and even closing locations, as has happened at other co-ops advised by CDS Consulting. [25]

So in our real-world scenario, who actually sells sauce and other products to La Montaņita? We imagine it's local farmers and small suppliers. But more and more, it's a major distributor who sells 85,000 products [26] to grocery stores around the country: from paper towels and cereal to cheese and bananas.

Their name is UNFI and to them, the equation is simple. The more products they sell to food co-ops, the more money they make.

United Natural Foods Inc. is a publicly traded corporation that does $8 billion in annual revenue. [2] It's a distributor that supplies produce, packaged food, and other goods to grocery stores nationwide. Its largest customer is Whole Foods. [27] Safeway/Albertsons was one of their biggest accounts until they lost it to a competitor last year. [28]

Unlike a co-op, publicly traded companies like UNFI are beholden to their shareholders. When they lost the Safeway/Albertsons account, their stock plummeted and shareholders were shaken. [29]

But publicly traded corporations are smart about finding new sources of profit. Over the last year, UNFI has expanded by buying up conventional and organic produce suppliers. [30] [31] They've also signed a six-year deal with National Co+op Grocers (NCG), [32] the largest association of co-ops in the US.

Our Co-op is one of the 143 co-ops that are members of NCG. Together, NCG co-ops do $1.7 billion in annual revenue. [33] The recent deal names UNFI the "primary distributor for natural and organic products" for NCG co-ops. [32] In other words, co-ops now make up a substantial percentage of UNFI's business.

"As a virtual chain, NCG is one of our largest and fastest growing customers in the last 10 years."
- Steve Spinner, UNFI's President and Chief Executive Officer [32]

Did UNFI's CEO just refer to independent food co-ops as a chain? Lucky for him, NCG is willing to help:

"NCG will provide the vision, leadership and systems to catapult a virtual chain of food co-ops to a position of prominence in the natural foods industry."
- NCG Mission Statement [34]

But how do you create a chain when you're dealing with unique, autonomous member-owned co-ops? Some group would have to go to those co-ops and install the same bylaws, board policies, and the same kind of GMs. They'd have to promote the same produce, standardize all cereal aisles, and most importantly: disenfranchise the actual owners. They'd enforce uniformity, but convince co-ops it was their choice to do so.

And they'd have to be someone that UNFI could trust.

The Link
Mimi Yahn, who witnessed CDS's influence over two Vermont co-ops, uncovered a troubling pattern:

"The fact is CDS does promote UNFI in their training, especially for new co-ops, and this promotion does not give equal time to supporting and doing business with local producers or smaller, independent distributors." [35]

CDS profits from selling their extensive outsourcing services to co-ops who are undergoing expansion, but they're not the only beneficiaries:

"For UNFI, convincing a coop to expand is equally lucrative: The bigger the store, the more products they'll order from UNFI. And the less shelf space there is for local producers... I find it quite troubling that the CDS consultants in charge of store expansion are deeply connected with UNFI." [35]

The connections are often direct and involve the same person being paid by both companies:

"Nicole Klimek, for example, was a Store Planner for UNFI from 2006 to 2013, then joined CDS in 2012 (notice the overlap when she worked for both) as a Store Planning & Design Consultant. [35] [36]

PJ Hoffman, a primary CDS Store Designer, has been with UNFI since 1987 as a Store Development Manager, and joined CDS in 2002; he still works for both entities. When he first joined CDS, he was promoted on the CDS website as being part of a 'collaborative agreement.'" [35] [37]

It appears that CDS almost operates as a sales arm for UNFI. They bring co-ops into the fold through training and standardization, then suggest expansion and an increase in UNFI products.

"All of this has to do with making more profits for United Natural Foods Incorporated, who has a monopoly of the natural food distribution in the US. No more direct purchasing from local producers, or dealing with small distributors. Their hostile takeover of Blooming Prairie distribution speaks to that. The pretext is to compete with Whole Paycheck, but if Coops get corporate enough, they'll just be sold off to the highest bidder in 20 years."
- Portland Indymedia report [38]

Although standardization could lead to a corporate buyout of the "virtual chain" of co-ops, one could argue that UNFI and CDS reap a greater benefit from co-ops operating as seemingly independent establishments.

In our car co-op metaphor, 10% of car shoppers would turn away from a "Ford co-op." Similarly, many of us would balk if a large grocery chain purchased La Montaņita. Maybe we'd call it the "Safeway co-op" and take our business elsewhere.

So if food co-op shoppers can be convinced that they are still supporting small farmers, fair trade, and local commerce, when in fact they are driving profit for UNFI shareholders and CDS consultants, wouldn't that be the best way to conquer the last 10% of the market?

With that in mind, UNFI must be very grateful to NCG. After all, they delivered 143 food co-ops in one fell swoop.

NCG is the association that brokered the six-year deal between its member co-ops and UNFI. [32] Our Co-op pays dues to be a member of NCG.

NCG's vision to "unify natural food co-ops in order to optimize operational and marketing resources" [34] builds nicely on CDS's goal to create uniform bylaws, policies, and governance structures. Perhaps that's why NCG and CDS co-publish training videos, co-host retreats and seminars, and even employ some of the same people.

"I feel there is a national drive to standardize co-ops and get away from our unique offerings that make us feel like a special community store. Our current GM and upper management are fully on board with this trend to homogenize co-ops. I am afraid that if La Montaņita and the 150 or so co-ops across the country who are a part of the NCG all grow to look and feel similar and carry the exact same products, we will drift further from what we should be, which is a true neighborhood community market."
- Worker at La Montaņita [21]

It does make sense that our Co-op and other co-ops work together so we can benefit from shared experiences, best practices, and resources. But NCG doesn't serve as a simple platform for co-op collaboration. Instead, they appear to have a vested interest in promoting UNFI products.

Kelly Miles, NCG's Purchasing Programs Specialist, is currently responsible for implementing promotions, new items, and displays at co-ops like ours. Previously, he coordinated NCG business services for store expansions. From 1999-2005, right before he worked for NCG, he was a Territory Manager for UNFI, "responsible for account management and business development in retail accounts including Whole Foods Market, NCGA co-ops [NCGA is now NCG], and independent national foods grocers." [39]

That's right, a former salesperson for UNFI now works for NCG, advising co-ops on purchasing, promotions, and pricing.

"Stay away from the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) and other national organizations that offer policy and best-practices on a one-size-fits-all approach... In the case of NCGA, they use the collective buying power of more than 100 retail co-ops nationwide to buy processed, packaged food in larger quantities, often from the transnational food conglomerates that have come to dominate the natural and organic foods industry. Pooling buying power is a useful and important strategy, but when it is used to cheapen food from Nestle, ConAgra, or the Altria Group (read: Philip Morris) then it does more harm than good... Stop trying to compete with large grocery chains, including Whole Foods."
-Bob St. Peter, Executive Director of The Good Life Center at Forest Farm in Harborside, Maine and co-founder of Food for Maine's Future [40]

La Montaņita's GM, recently decided to terminate our contract with Veritable Vegetable, a values-based B Corp [41] with an award-winning Green Fleet, [42] who has been our primary organic produce supplier for decades. Instead, we'll be purchasing from C.H. Robinson, a trucking and transportation Fortune 500 company [43] now launching a fresh produce supply chain with exclusive marketing rights to Welch's, Tropicana, and Green Giant. [44]

Member-owners of La Montaņita would feel betrayed if they knew that we were forsaking an ethical supplier who supports small growers and socially conscious companies in favor of a large corporation that purchases produce from greenwashed companies with histories of labor disputes.

Perhaps our GM has been taking NCG's advice about "courageous leadership": [45]

"A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be."
- Dave Olson, National Co-op Development Manager for NCG [45]

So where is it that co-ops don't want to go? What are these "great" leaders trying to convince them of?

"Maybe you need to change your bylaws... maybe you need to reinvest in your business and do a remodel when you don't have a lot of capital... "
- Dave Olson, National Co-op Development Manager for NCG [45]

Sound familiar? Changing bylaws to reduce the voice of member-owners is one of the hallmarks of CDS involvement. [11] [46] And encouraging co-ops to take out loans for store expansions is a practice that drives many co-ops into debt and financial danger. [47] In fact, NCG publishes a Financial Watch List to identify co-ops that are in trouble. And one of the actions that can place you on that Watch List is expanding your store. [48]

You heard that right: CDS and NCG encourage co-ops to make expansion decisions that may place them in financial trouble, then NCG can add them to a Financial Watch List [48] as soon as those co-ops expand.

The Watch List
Just the sound of it is frightening.

Ironically, many of the things NCG and CDS advise co-ops to do are what can land co-ops on the dreaded list: [48]

Expanding a current store
Opening a new store
Hiring a new GM
Being a new co-op

So if you expand—you can be placed on the Watch List. If you hire a new GM—Watch List. Heck, just open a new co-op and you can be placed on the Watch List.

So why in the world would CDS recommend taking actions that cause co-ops to appear on the NCG Watch List?

The answer is: Fear.

Once co-ops are in a state of fear, they're more likely to accept the advice of outside consultants, who instruct them to forego democracy, compromise their values, and follow the rules of standardization.

It's brilliant, actually.

UNFI provides standardized products to co-ops, CDS sells co-ops on the idea of standardization, and NCG motivates co-ops with a steady stream of fear.

It's a vicious cycle.

And it works.

A National Scandal
Our Co-op has lost several million dollars. Other co-ops have gone into debt for as much as $5 million. [49] Multiply that by the 100+ co-ops being advised by CDS and the 143 co-ops affiliated with NCG, and hundreds of millions of dollars may have been lost by co-ops across the country.

This is not just about La Montaņita Co-op. This is a national scandal where over a hundred co-ops have been marked as easy targets and preyed upon.

This isn't a one-off situation where a few good people made a few bad decisions. This is a systematic national takeover. And it's growing.

From what we've seen here and heard from other co-ops, it's our opinion that CDS operates a bit like Amway with a dash of Scientology thrown in.

"[Policy Governance] supporters promote it with a fervor bordering on religious; say anything less than glowing about it, and that fervor turns to defensive attack."
- Mimi Yahn [5]

So be prepared. We know how to stop them and we have the legal right to stop them, but CDS, NCG, and UNFI will not take this lightly. There's too much money at stake.

They're likely to turn up the propaganda machine, hold one-on-one and small group "informational" sessions, and paint the people who oppose them as "crazies" and "an angry mob."

Actually, they've already started doing that. Our GM has referred to the 700+ people who've signed letters or spoken up in opposition to the changes at our Co-op as "crazies." [50] And the head of development at NCG, Dave Olson, called groups like ours "an angry mob." [51]

They'll try to divide us and distract us. Ask about profits and they answer with revenue. Try to engage in a discussion about pesticides, and they accuse you of racism. Raise concerns about the ways farm workers or La Montaņita Co-op workers are treated and they nearly faint from the "personal attacks" against the board or GM.

Propaganda, misdirection, and doublespeak aren't the only characteristics that resemble Amway and Scientology. It appears that there's even a feeder system for climbing the pyramid.

The Pyramid
Art Sherwood served as the Board President of Bloomingfoods Co-op [52] [53] in the small college town of Bloomington, Indiana. While they were a client of CDS Consulting, [54] they decided to open two new stores near their existing locations. UNFI is now their "largest food supplier." [55]

Bloomingfoods was a "thriving and vibrant, locally-owned food co-op." [56] After expanding they are now in severe financial trouble. Last year alone, they had a loss of $700,000. [57] They've made deep labor cuts, [58] closed locations, [25] and their operations have been "taken over by acting GM, Paula Gilbertson from National Coop Grocers (NCG), assisted by NCG's Chief Operating Officer, C.E. Pugh." [56] [59]

And Art Sherwood, the Board President during the expansion? He's now a CDS consultant. [52]

Speaking of C.E. Pugh, he came from a conventional grocery background [60] and served as the GM of La Montaņita from 2002 to 2007, when we began our contract with CDS. C.E. Pugh resigned from La Montaņita in order to take a job as NCG's Chief Operating Officer. [61]

Our next GM, Terry Bowling, was hired in 2007. He came from a GM search that was also led by CDS. Under Terry's watch, we opened the Westside store, which has led to huge financial losses for our Co-op. In 2015, Terry left La Montaņita to become an NCG Development Director. [62] [63]

The pyramid is pretty clear:

Serve as a co-op Board President who supports expansion, UNFI contracts, and a CDS-approved GM, and you may get promoted to CDS Consulting.

Work as a co-op General Manager who takes out expansion loans, buys more from UNFI, and supports the CDS-trained board, and you may get promoted to NCG.

Co-ops around the country are being co-opted by individuals climbing this pyramid. Their personal gain comes at the expense of a co-op's heart and soul, its bank account, and its ability to survive.

"Bloomingfoods feels more like a corporation than a co-operative... something happened along the way to begin to torque our original member-owner operation into a quasi-corporation, with an expanding physical presence (three major stores, two minor ones, and counting), a long-time CEO-like General Manager, a budget that is not transparent, workers who are both underpaid and feel disrespected and disenfranchised, and a board that vets anyone who wants to serve on it to say whether they can even be nominated to come up for a vote!"
- Ann Kreilkamp, Bloomington, Indiana [64]

The Time is Now
It's time to stop this corporate takeover: the transformation of successful, beloved co-ops into corporatized clones that no longer serve their communities and instead serve individual and corporate greed.

We know how to stop it and we have the legal right to stop it.

It's time to Take Back the Co-op.

Join us.

Next: How We Take Back Our Co-op

1:  https://www.dccs.org/uploaded/About_DC/Board/Basic_Principles_of_Policy_Governance.pdf; "The Board Speaks with One Voice or Not At All."

2:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Natural_Foods

3:  http://www.cdsconsulting.coop/cooperative_governance/

4:  http://www.cdsconsulting.coop/services/

5:  link to www.commonsnews.org

6:  link to www.bizjournals.com

7:  http://www.cdsconsulting.coop/consultants/martha-whitman

8:  https://issuu.com/lamontanitacoop/docs/jun2016completesm; page 4; "We have hired Martha through CDS... "

9:  https://cdsconsulting.imeetcentral.com/cbld/doc/20339578/w-WritingEndsPolicies

10:  link to lamontanita.coop pages 6-8; "In brief: Policy Governance means that Board members must not interfere with operational issues. By delegating this to the GM, the Board is not just saying that the GM will oversee operations, it is also saying that the Board will not oversee operations." "The Board speaks with one voice when it represents La Montaņita."

11:  http://vtdigger.org/2015/02/04/mimi-yahn-searching-democracy-putney-co-op/; comments section; David Growler, Northampton Massachusetts, River Valley Market: "After initially being rebuffed, the board finally agreed to meet with us. They refused to meet with us without the general manager present, however, as we had requested. At that time board meetings were still being directed by a CDS (Cooperative Development Services) consultant, under whose direction, a similar 'streamlining' of the co-op's bylaws had occurred. In short, our concerns were basically ignored and we, and supporting members, received a patronizing and dismissive letter from the, then, board president." "River Valley Market like many retail food co-ops have their boards operate under 'policy governance' which specifically identifies the general manager as the only point of contact for store operations."

12:  https://cdsconsulting.imeetcentral.com/cbld/doc/24655939/w-FieldGuideToBoardDiscipline

13:  http://library.cdsconsulting.coop/board-discipline/

14:  link to www.commonsnews.org

15:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMrWM4sFMAQ; 07:30; Martha Whitman, speaking at a Cooperative Cafe in 2013, sponsored by National Co+op Grocers (NCG)

16: Multiple independent eyewitnesses.

17:  link to www.theproducenews.com

18:  https://issuu.com/lamontanitacoop/docs/01-16-cover_reduced; page 9

19: Multiple independent sources.

20:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/dennishanley

21:  http://www.takebackthecoop.com/inside-the-co-op.html

22: Multiple independent sources; UFCW rep, Chris Saavedra; National Labor Relations Board, Case 28-CA-174708
April 22, 2016, La Montaņita was charged with unfair labor practices violating Section 8(a)(1), (3), and (5) of the National Labor Relations Act by:

"1) eliminating the ability of employees at other Co-op locations from working shifts at the Rio Grande store location due to unionization;

2) eliminating monthly employee meetings for the Rio Grande store location;

3) abruptly canceling catering work scheduled for the Rio Grande employees to perform; and

4) unilaterally reassigning catering work from the Rio Grande store location to a non-union location (the Westside store), resulting in these hours being stripped from Rio Grande store staff."

23: Member-owner, Elisa Boyles, who attended the Santa Fe Town Hall.

24: Multiple independent eyewitnesses.

25:  link to www.heraldtimesonline.com

26:  https://www.unfi.com/news/unfi-completes-acquisition-haddon-house-food-products

27:  http://fortune.com/2016/02/29/united-natural-foods-shares/

28:  link to 247wallst.com

29:  link to www.bloomberg.com

30:  https://www.thestreet.com/story/13200414/1/united-natural-foods-is-in-the-market-for-acquisitions.html

31:  https://www.unfi.com/news/unfi-announces-acquisition-nor-cal-produce

32:  https://www.ncg.coop/newsroom/ncg-signs-primary-distribution-agreement-unfi

33:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Co%2Bop_Grocers

34:  https://www.ncg.coop/about-us

35:  http://vtdigger.org/2015/02/04/mimi-yahn-searching-democracy-putney-co-op/; comments section; Mimi Yahn

36:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicole-klimek-60649294

37:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/p-j-hoffman-47085b18

38:  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/07/342631.shtml

39:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/kelly-miles-021a131b

40:  http://www.geo.coop/node/403

41:  http://www.veritablevegetable.com/our-values.php

42:  http://www.veritablevegetable.com/trucks-and-drivers.php

43:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._H._Robinson

44:  link to www.fruitnet.com

45:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tb3BtRj-V6Y; Dave Olson, NCG Development Director, speaking in a CDS training video; 21:23

46:  https://hwfcinfohub.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/hwfc-specialmembermeet20151130-12pm.pdf; pages 1-3; "Decisions made [by members] at any special meetings are advisory only."

47:  https://hwfcinfohub.wordpress.com/author/hwfcmemberteam/; "A troubling pattern emerging nationally among local, independently-owned food co-ops, is either their expansion into brand new, very expensive "bigger & better' storefronts or their too-quick expansion into multiple storefronts. These expansions are being brokered by several different firms of very expensive, national "expert" food co-op consultants & corporations... These expansions have leveraged many formerly strong & solvent US food co-ops into positions of weakness: capital is gone, debt is now high... and the pockets of co-op Member-Owners - via unsecured loans to the co-op - have also been tapped!"

48:  http://www.grocer.coop/system/files/leader_spring_2015.pdf; page 8

49:  link to alloveralbany.com

50: Eyewitness account.

51:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tb3BtRj-V6Y; Dave Olson, NCG Development Director, speaking in a CDS training video; 20:41

52:  http://www.cdsconsulting.coop/consultants/art-sherwood

53:  link to lamontanita.coop

54:  http://www.cdsconsulting.coop/case_studies/bloomingfoods-market

55:  link to www.bloomingfoods.coop

56:  https://hwfcinfohub.wordpress.com/author/hwfcmemberteam/

57:  link to www.bloomingfoods.coop page 3; Financial Statements; FY2015: "Net Income (Loss) $701,499"

58:  https://beta.prx.org/stories/152745/details

59:  link to www.bloomingfoods.coop pages 1-2

60:  https://www.ncb.coop/uploadedFiles/BankNotesSummer05.pdf

61:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/c-e-pugh-62342a17

62:  https://issuu.com/lamontanitacoop/docs/ccn_2015_may; page 7

63:  http://nfca.coop/membergatherings

64:  https://www.exopermaculture.com/2014/10/09/bloomingfoods-co-op-crisis-act-ii-unite-bloomingfoods-unite-marches-to-board-meeting/