‘Take Back the Co-op’ Wins 4 Seats

‘Take Back the Co-op’ Wins 4 Seats

Organizers Say Fight’s Not Over

By ABQ Free Press Weekly Staff

A group dissatisfied with the management of La Montañita Co-op is nearly halfway to its goal of removing all nine of the co-op’s current board members in what they say is a fight to return the co-op to its founding values.

A slate of candidates supported by the “Take Back the Co-op” organization won all four board seats that were up for a vote in the regular board election that occurred earlier this month. The group intends to continue its effort to call a special board meeting to oust the remaining five board members.

The four winners were Gina Dennis, Elise Wheeler, Marissa Joe and Chad Jones. Twelve candidates vied for the four board seats. The winners received a combined total of 4,036 votes out of 6,784 votes cast. The co-op has around 16,000 members.

“I think people were concerned about the issues we brought up: the focus on labor issues, local, sustainable organic food and more transparency and democratic involvement of the members,” Django Zeaman, head of the Take Back the Co-op movement, told ABQ Free Press Weekly.

“We want to return to an emphasis on local organic food, and we want to see the workers treated better. Unfortunately, a lot of the information was hidden and we want to make sure that 16,000 members have access to information we felt that was hidden and kept from us.”

Zeaman and his group have gathered about 1,800 petition signatures calling for a special board meeting in which they want to oust the remaining board members. He said that special meeting had yet to be scheduled.

The Take Back the Co-op group has alleged a conspiracy among three national groups to homogenize all co-ops in the nation and make them look and operate like one another. The group also said it wanted to oust La Montañita Executive Director Dennis Hanley.

Hanley told ABQ Free Press previously that the move to sell non-organic products was necessary to compete against competitors that include Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts and Whole Foods. While the co-op was a pioneer in offering organic and local produce in the 1970s, it has to change to compete, Hanley said.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.