Citizen's Co-Op Manager Looks Forward, As Some Members Disgree With Recent Decisions
GAINESVILLE - The Citizens Co-Op in downtown Gainesville is not your typical grocery store. Members of the store act as shareholders of the company. Those who invest one hundred dollars are able to make decisions. However some of its members don't agree with the way things are being run.
Unionizers and protesters have been waving signs in front of the Citizens Co-Op in downtown Gainesville for the past couple of weeks, to make a point. Lisa McNett is two months into her job as the store's General Manager.
In late March, she decided to let go of five employees for tapping into the company's system and retrieving contact information from the 1800 member-owners of the co-op and sending them personal messages. "The week that the emails went out, our sales declined by 1500 dollars," McNett said. A definite violation of company policy, McNett adds.
"There was a lot of frustration that had developed among the co-workers and among the board of directors. A lot of lack of communication on both ends," Mcnett said.
McNett says she walked into what she calls "a mess," where job descriptions weren't clear enough and items weren't priced correctly, among other organizational issues. However some members of the Co-Op disagree. They believe these employees were fired for wanting to unionize.
"The fact that the workers felt they needed to unionize shows just how wrong things are at the Co-Op. A Co-Op is cooperative it's the one place where the workers are the owners... Where all of us are the owners," Claire McCulloch a member of the Co-Op said.
However McNett insists that the workers wanting to form a union had nothing to do with the firings. McNett said, "And also I felt the emails were a little bit slanderous. In one of the emails it was stated the workers had seen management and the board of directors make decisions that threaten financial stability of the store. And I think that's an interesting statement to make. In my first month as being a manager here the store tuned a profit of almost $2,000, when the previous month we had lost $2,000."
McCulloch who has ran for the Co-Op’s Board of Directors in the past says that was not a reason to fire the 5 employees. "First off, it wasn't a personal message, it was absolutely co-op business. This is all about cooperative effort. It is all about worker-owner it is all about that reality," McCulloch said.
Rob Brinkman Secretary/Board of Directors for the Citizens Co-Op says that McNett has the board's unanimous support. "We hired her and directed that she was responsible for all personnel decisions, hiring of personnel firing of personnel... Whatever she felt was necessary to run the store in a manner that showed a profit," Brinkman said.
Mcnett said her decision was made in the best interest for the Co-Op. "I love this Co-Op and I've been a member of this co-op since before this building was here and the food was on the shelves. I see this co-op as being a very successful and profitable business for the community," McNett said.
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