Ozark Natural Foods: Confused? Maybe reporters should be taking a look at the minutes of their board meetings | Street Jazz

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ozark Natural Foods: Confused? Maybe reporters should be taking a look at the minutes of their board meetings

Posted By on Wed, Jun 13, 2012 at 12:02 PM

The news reports make the situation at Ozark Natural Foods even more confusing than it already is.

Offhand, I’d say that that Ozark Natural Foods board meetings are the poerfect place for someone to bring a camera in, so that the proceedings can be taped and shown on Fayetteville Public Access Television, which is also seen on the Internet. I believe that, at this point, there is a ready-made audience for this.

I have been reading the newspaper articles and and watching the television reports about the dustup at Ozark Natural Foods co-operative between the staff and the board, which resulted in a one-day strike this week, and the store shuttered for a day.

Writing as someone who has not only served on the boards of non-profits (even though this may not be precisely the same sort of set-up at ONF - but the principle is similar in a way) but has written about them, I might be in a position to offer some unsolicited advice:

If you want to know what is going on, look at recent board minutes, maybe going back six months or more.

True, board minutes can be manipulated, but if they are accurately kept, one might begin to get some sort of real idea of what has been going on, especially if staff has a beef with the board. As it is, we are getting a sort of Alice in Wonderland version of this story, with almost every tale ending with the statement from the board.

I’m not sure who the evil Queen is, the Mad Hatter or even Alice on any particular day.

There is obviously some bad blood between the staff and the board, who may - or may not be - living up to their responsibilities. My first inclination is always to side with staff, though.

You can dismiss that as coming from someone who has been a strong supporter of labor throughout his life, but it also derives from my experience serving on several boards; I know first-hand how they can gum up the works.

Situations like this don’t get lot of press coverage, until the inevitable train wreck. I have seen it all too many times over the years (with public access television, for example) what happens when things come to a head, and all the public sees are garbled news reports. Invariably, the boards will have their way.

Sometimes, though, the organizations vanish under the waves as a result of the internal battles. Remember First Night? AIDS Resource Center of Northwest Arkansas? Friends For Fayetteville?

Still, Arkansas is a Right-to-Work (Right-to-Starve) state, and employees are pretty much below ground when it comes to management/labor relations. Who do you think will ultimately prevail in this battle between staff and board?

This situation didn’t spring on us like something out of the forehead of Zeus; the seeds were laid long ago. If you want some idea of how things might have come about, get copies of those board minutes.


Kid, I could tell you stories that would break your heart . . .

My own experience with boards and committees aside, every time I have interviewed someone from a non-profit or an organization like ONF, they have their own horror stories to tell about the boards they have to deal with.

That too many people get on boards to pad their resume, and don’t take the work seriously is one of the main problems.


Linda Ralston and Sue Graham - super villains?

Every time you hear or read a story about Ozark Natural Foods you hear about the demands that two board members -Linda Ralston and Sue Graham - resign from the board.

I have nothing to say about that but this:

What is it that they have done? Been disruptive at board meetings? Attempted to interfere with workers at ONF?

I have not been able to get a clear idea from the news reports of why the staff at the store wants them removed.

Maybe they should be removed from the board. Maybe others should be, as well.

But don’t bandy their names about without giving the reading/viewing public some idea of what it is that has upset so many at ONF. This is what gets the imagination working overtime, and turns them into figures to be reviled.


Quote of the Day

Without any practical taste or skill myself, I always look with admiration, almost reverence, on the man who has it and uses it even for his own sake. - Stephen MacKenna




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