Much has been said and written about the turn into this new year. At the Co-op, things are no different—our cumulative exhaustion is proof enough that things need to go better in this new year, as we will no doubt need to adjust several more times to new normalities. Still, I find that gratitude has actually been easier to come by in my own assessments, and I believe this to be true of lots of our community members and Co-op customers as well.
I work at the Shareholder Services desk at the Co-op. In mid-March I returned one week early from a trip to the Pacific Northwest and California, quarantined for two weeks, and then came back to find a completely transformed workplace. It was shocking: the business had been completely reinvented in less than a month. No customers at 10 am on Tuesday when I arrived, just a sort of warehouse feel with a bunch of very busy colleagues, as though all the grocery aisles were just for storing food for purchase, none of the browsing or chatting, just dry storage, cold storage, freezers full of future shipments.
Fear has been on my mind lately. You’d think, after living several (some might say many) decades in this society, that I would not be surprised at the centrality of fear to our human reactions and decisions. In my continuing education about white supremacy and my privileged existence, the constant drumbeat of fear in the appallingly consistent steps that we have taken against populations of color is overwhelming. What in the world are we so afraid of?
Chris has been a part of the Brattleboro Food Co-op family for many, many, years. She has been our Staff Nutritionist and provided support to hundreds of staff and shoppers in one-on-one consultations as well as thousands more with her years of writing in Food for Thought. She also works in Early Education Services with a deep pride in delivering these children delicious and organic food. Her impact on the children of our community might be her greatest superhero strength, and for this we are deeply in debt to her work. You may have noticed that she has authored less articles recently in Food for Thought and while she will continue to write in Food for Thought it will be less often. This shift is occurring as we decrease the print editions of Food For Thought and manage the Co-op’s financial situation.
Despite it being January, it’s hard to know where to start, when we are looking at new beginnings throughout our lives. First and foremost, I want to express the thinking I’ve been doing since the week of the Annual Meeting, including the community conversation in which many of us took part. The most overarching emotion to convey is gratitude. Gratitude to the aggrieved parties who took the forum offered to shareholders to bring up concerns to the organization and to quite openly expose their hurt and dismay at the various transgressions we have made, the microaggressions we have perpetrated on people of color. Although our Co-op is an open and forward-thinking organization, we reflect the society we occupy, with all of its faults and challenges. So many of us have incorporated unconscious bias in our lives since we were small, since our great-greats were small, that we are terribly blind to the effects of our words and actions.
On July 15, the BFC staff represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1459, voted to ratify a new three-year contract. This is the second contract for our staff, and this one was arrived at by a group of folks from both management and the bargaining unit who met nearly every week since March 30 to work through an understanding, using the principles of “interest-based problem-solving.” This methodology first identifies the interests of each side,