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Workers of the co-op unite!

The Brooklyn Paper
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Members of a fledgling food co-op in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill voted overwhelmingly last week to require that every member toil in their eventual communal store in order to earn the privilege of purchasing farm-fresh produce and organic goodies at a discount.

The alternative, which was rejected by a two-thirds vote of the Greene-Hill Food Co-op, was to create a co-op that allows non-workers to enjoy the same discount as members.

In the co-op world, the difference is like organic oranges and pesticide-covered apples.

The vote puts the Greene Hill Food Coop squarely on a trail blazed by its more famous cousin, the 13,000-member Park Slope Food Co-op, which is only open to individuals who labor for two-and-three-quarters hours every four weeks.

Notwithstanding the landslide vote in favor of hard work, the three-dozen people who voted last Thursday seemed more evenly split about the pros and cons of the working model during the preceding debate.

For one thing, they grappled with the punitive measures that will come from missing a scheduled work shift (in the Park Slope co-op, delinquent workers get hit with double make-up shifts).

But members ultimately decided that communal work is a part of building a community.

“I’ve been a member of the Park Slope Food Coop for a short time and I’ve been on probation the entire time,” Kristina Wilson, expressing her frustration with the rigid requirements. “But I’m in favor of getting a system where you want to pick up the apple [that falls] on the floor.”

Without a work mandate, there would no group mentality — it would be simply a health food store, perhaps with a membership fee, some argued.

Others countered that the working model is exclusionary to the larger neighborhood, because it would prohibit non-members from venturing inside to sample the fare, but the all-for-one and one-for-all arguments won out over a two-tiered system that would give discounts for working coop members, which is what they do at the Flatbush Food Co-op on Cortelyou Road.

The work of deciding on work shifts done, the real hard work still must be done: The Greene Hill Food Coop is nowhere near selling its first minimally treated quince. The members must incorporate themselves, find a storefront and assemble the capital to stock the shelves with tofu, kohlrabi and various granolas, among other irreplaceable products.

For information about the Greene Hill Food Co-op, call (718) 208-4778 or visit www.clintongreenefoodcoop.com.

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Reader Feedback

Ira Ostroll from Kulpmont says:
And where do permanently disabled people who can not work fit it?
Sept. 15, 2008, 5:14 pm
al oof from greenpoint says:
in austin, wheatsville coop has hired people, which means creating jobs in the community. members pay dues and get discounts. non members don't, anyone can shop there. i understand the need for a sense of community, but jobs are nice and community can be fostered in other ways. i don't hear a lot about the park slope food coop community, because there are so many people working there no one really knows eachother.
Oct. 10, 2008, 10:27 pm

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