Thursday, November 29, 2012

A History of Disputes At The Park Slope Food Co-Op

Posted By on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 3:26 PM

  • Paul Lowry/Flickr
This week, Park Slope Food Co-Op members who missed shifts on October 29th and October 30th because of that Hurricane you may have heard about (and because the Co-op was, necessarily, closed during Sandy) found out that they've been put on "alert," meaning they face suspension if they don't make up the shift within 10 days.

Technically, they can contact the office to seek "clemency" if this isn't possible, but still, this feels a little...harsh? Ill-timed and in poor taste? Or if you're a Co-op lifer, just "totally appropriate," because aside from, you know, keeping their store stocked with delicious ethical food, there's nothing Co-opers are better at than going to belligerent pains to prove a point. A look back at some of their more notable dust-ups, because they're as easy to (gently) mock as they are to get riled up over nothing.

After he de-camped to the Greene Hill Co-op
  • Greene Hill Food Co-op / flickr
  • After he de-camped to the Greene Hill Co-op
The Time Adrian Grenier Quit (Or Was Maybe Kicked Out)

Amid damning, widespread accusations that he had been skipping his required shifts, (both Grenier and a manager publicly denied this), the actor quit the Co-op to join nearby Greene Hill Food Co-op earlier this year.

Contentious split or no, there is no worse brush to be tarred with than that of "rich person using their clout to blow off Co-op shifts." More on this later.

The Time They Tried To Ban Hummus

Arguably their biggest kerfuffle (and, some say, the real reason for Grenier's departure), was this year's big hummus dispute. Back in March, a referendum was put forth proposing the Co-op join the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement by taking its six regularly-stocked Israeli products (including Sabra hummus and Sodastream machines) off the shelves.

The referendum was ultimately voted down by a large margin, but not before earning the condemnation of Mayor Bloomberg and Glenn Beck alike, and its very own embarrassing Daily Show segment.

The Time Nannies Were (Maybe) Covering Shifts

In February 2011, Fucked In Park Slope (and shortly thereafter, The New York Times) reported that members were doing the least theoretically cooperative thing possible: paying nannies to cover their shifts. Both objections and elaborate, extenuating loopholes were cited, and blog rage over the issue died down.

However, when similar rumors surfaced about Maggie Gyllenhaal earlier this year, a member told Daily Intel, "There is no bending of the rules at the co-op. There is only the member's submission to the rules. This is communism. It is not fun, it is not loose, it is not capitalism. It is the iron will of the collective." Aaah!

The Time They Threatened To Sue Barney's

When Barney's Co-op — a business utterly unrelated to theirs — announced plans to move to Cobble Hill in 2010, the other Co-op (again, totally unrelated) in town took serious issue, worried that the fashion retailer would "undermine efforts to brand the idea of collective shopping."

A general manager spoke to the Brooklyn Paper about a possible lawsuit, saying, "It’s a new thing having a co-op in Brooklyn that’s not a co-op. There is something wrong with that." The legal basis for this? A somewhat arcane city law stating that “Any cooperative corporation may sue for an injunction against such prohibited use of the term," i.e. use by a company that is not, in fact, run as a co-operative. In the end, Barney's — who has been using the term for at least 25 years — opened without much real opposition, but still, the threat looms.

The Time Someone Live-Tweeted A Meeting

Plastic bags at checkout have been banned since 2008, but in February of this year, a separate meeting was held to determine whether or not to also leverage a ban on plastic produce bags. Reuters opinion editor (and Co-op member) Chadwick Matlin live-tweeted the event, and the results were... more or less exactly what you would expect of such a meeting.


The Time They Held A Trial By Jury

This one actually sounds like it makes sense. In November 2010, after over 60 hours of investigation and a long, long meeting, multiple committees and a "jury" issued a one year suspension (and a demand for an apology) for a member who had reportedly, "Over a period of three years, driven the staff to distraction with numerous incidents of angry, confrontational altercations, profanity and abuse of the Co-op's returns policy." This includes one notable altercation in which she tried to return cooked chicken she claimed was "rubbery."


The Time They Boycotted The Entire State of Colorado

On the long, long list of products and companies the Co-op has boycotted over the years, perhaps most notable is 1995's embargo on the entire state of Colorado. In response to recently passed anti-gay legislation, the Co-op voted to boycott all products from the state (it's unclear what, exactly, those were, but very likely meat), and one member noted in retrospect that "the affected companies were arguably innocent, and had not advocated nor campaigned for the ordinance."

Given Colorado's recent leaps forward on gay marriage and marijuana (which we also assume the Co-op supports), it's a safe bet the state has long since entered back into the store's good graces. Unless it gets caught bandying about the term "Co-op," which, as you may or may not know, is highly unacceptable. Let's all continue to tread lightly.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

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About The Author

Virginia K. Smith

Virginia K. Smith

Virginia K. Smith is the Assistant Editor at The L Magazine and a Bushwick resident. Her profile picture was taken at Summerscreen, because she is a real team player.

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