Worker-Member Seat: Three Year Term
Shelby Summer Alexander
My involvement with Central Co-op began with the Tacoma Food Co-Op merger. I started out working in the produce department at the Tacoma Food Co-Op in 2012 and was promoted to department lead in 2014. After the closure, I was offered the position as Assistant Produce Manager at the Seattle store and have thoroughly increased my understanding of operations and have worked with more local farmers to make sure our produce department is stocked with the best sourced fruits and vegetables available.
Outside of the Co-op, I have been involved in the Washington State farming industry since 2011. I started out as a field hand at a mid-sized organic farm in Puyallup and have recently purchased my own 7-acre organic blueberry farm in Auburn. I am currently getting prepared for my second harvest this summer and am excited to bring more progressive practices to our business. My dual experience as a farmer and grocer make me a strong candidate for the Central Co-op board.
My primary vision for the Central Co-op involves expanding the solidarity model beyond our store to include the support of other unions and their membership. I believe that connected people with common goals can create stronger communities and more readily enact positive change in the form of policy. Today, our communities are faced with unacceptable food justice issues that leave too many people without access to healthy, sustainably sourced food. Member organizations, like the Central Co-op, must play an important role in helping resolve these issues by furthering community engagement and organizing efforts towards change.
I’ve had the pleasure of serving the co-op since November of 2011, when I was hired to work in the Point of Sale department. After joining the board less than a year later, I advocated for a stronger worker voice in the co-op’s governance structure and have worked hard to earn respect for the worker position. I firmly believe in the power of the worker perspective as we continue to shape our strategic vision.
Over the last four years, I have worked tirelessly as your Board Secretary, Nominating Committee Chair, Board Development Chair, and now Facilitator and Vice Chair. I currently serve on the board’s hiring committee to assist in our search for a new executive. I have also represented Central at a national conference on cooperatives, when I taught a workshop on our innovative governance structure.
Service to community is important—this is my passion, and this is why and how I serve. We may be a grocery store, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. We are a community gathering place, and we impact our community in a very profound way. Through cooperation with various producers, partner organizations, and consumers, we help to create a more just economy and provide a democratic structure that you don’t find in any other organization.
Most of all, I find engaging with our diverse membership, both in my day job and on the board, the most rewarding aspect of service. I hope to see you around, and don’t hesitate to say hello!
Consumer-Member Seat: Three Year Term
I have been a member of Central Co-op for over 15 years and a Board Trustee since October, 2013. In my day job I'm a consultant to natural foods producers and restaurant owners. Over the years I have been a research scientist, sustainability director, and managed a food packaging business. My startup ventures include online food guides, a social media consultancy, and a music venue. I've served on several boards, including Chair of the World Affairs Council in Seattle.
I'm running for Trustee because I believe in the potential of cooperatives to make a difference in the world.
Although the prevailing economy has brought us enormous prosperity, it tends to concentrate power among the wealthiest members of society in a “one dollar, one vote” system. In fact, 1% of the shareholders own 75% of the shares in public companies. The side effects are profound -- from climate change and species loss to the growing wealth gap.
Cooperative businesses are different. Unlike the “one dollar, one vote” system, the cooperative model means “one member, one vote.” While public companies are driven to maximize shareholder value, co-ops are incentivized to maximize benefits to their members and their communities. The advantages for society at large include more local sourcing, community well-being and greater wage equity.
Today, many grocery co-ops are struggling, unprepared for the fierce competition from all sides as the natural foods market has become mainstream. In this new business environment, food co-ops face the challenge of becoming more competitive without compromising their principles.
I'm excited about the progress we have made at Central Co-op in the last few years. A first step was to expand our cooperative principles, spelling out our responsibility to workers and the environment, and our commitment to sustainable business and innovation.
Recognizing affordability gap for natural foods, we built the “Central Basics” program to make healthy staple foods more accessible to all. That program has been picked up and enhanced by the co-op industry and is now called “Co-op Basics.” In 2015, we implemented the highest entry-level wage and benefits package of any grocery in the country. And we revised our governing documents to offer ownership to workers -- the first conversion from a consumer food co-op to a worker-consumer “Solidarity Co-op” in the country. During this same period, we significantly improved the co-op's business performance.
If elected, my top priority as a Trustee will be to open a new store in Tacoma as soon as possible to serve our 2,300 members in the South Puget Sound. I'm very happy with our board's hiring of Garland McQueen, who began in January as interim general manager and is already making an impact. Meanwhile, the search is on for the right permanent executive to lead the operation into the future. The Board must also provide leadership in improving member communication and participation, while preparing for competition from several new grocery stores opening nearby.
Worker-Member Seat: One-Year Term
I have been a worker at Central Co-op for 16 years, much of this time as a consumer-owner prior to bylaw changes, and now as a worker-owner. Over this period I have been a deli cook, a wellness clerk, a grocery clerk, and have done a small amount of seasonal produce work. Currently I am a full time grocery clerk.
My desire to serve on the nominating committee stems from a desire to help in the vetting process of board candidates as much as possible; further, I wish to gain some familiarity with the inner workings of our relatively newer set of democratic processess that have been put in place through bylaw changes in the last few years. As a nominating committee member I would utilize my organizational skills to the best of my ability to assist the committee in coming to a decision as to which candidates to put forward. My years of experience as a rank-and-file grocery worker would likely bring a unique perspective to this process.
My vision for Central Co-op is multi-faceted: Protecting our market share in an increasingly competitive market through a variety tactics, including but not limited to expansion; gaining maximum insight from all stakeholders and using that information wisely; continuing to support other cooperatives and related community groups, and supporting high standards for workers at Central Co-op (and elsewhere) through a positive approach to labor relations.
It has been an honor to serve on Central Co-op’s Nominating Committee since its inception in 2013. I have worked at Central Co-op for over 5 years, and currently serve as the HR Director. During this time I have worked to strengthen and integrate the cooperative values and principles into our culture, and support our effort to be a welcoming and friendly place to work and shop. Our transition to a solidarity cooperative has deepened the connection between our workers, our customers and our community, and creates a truly exciting opportunity for us to grow the cooperative economy together and empower current and future cooperative leaders. This work has been challenging, rewarding and inspiring. Each year the Nominating Committee has improved the process for recruiting and vetting candidates for the annual election. We connect with cooperative leaders locally and nationally to better understand the qualities necessary from our elected member-owners to be the skilled and collaborative leaders Central Co-op deserves, and have built and refined our systems based on these qualities. I believe that successful cooperatives can positively affect the lives of their members and their community and this is the reason why I am a candidate for the Nominating Committee.
Consumer-Member Seat: One-Year Term
I have been a member of the Co-op since 2015 and have served on the Nominating Committee since 2016. I’ve enjoyed the selection of high quality foods, from the prepared deli to the coffee counter to the bulk foods. I feel like I’m always discovering some new food item every time I walk through the store. As a vendor to the Co-op, I am excited to be helping make the organization more energy efficient and sustainable.
I believe that the NomComm has an important role in helping meeting the Co-Op’s mission because it ensures strong leadership. I also run the nominating committee for the MIT Enterprise Forum, a non-profit with an executive committee of 10. My experience there has taught me the importance of casting a wide net, getting to know prospective candidates, encouraging diversity in perspective and team building.
If elected, I would bring my expertise and background help the Co-op maintain its leadership in the cooperative movement. I seek to be impartial, be concerned for the organization as a whole and work on succession planning. The qualities I would look for are innovative leaders that will carry the organization forward and hold to the cooperative principles and values.
Thank you for your consideration.