Dear members of the Berkeley Student Cooperative,
At about 1:30 am on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, Cloyne members sent to Cloyne’s Facilities Manager (Alex Webb) and their supervising staff a memorandum about their uncooperative behavior. We took this step because past attempts to communicate our concerns diplomatically had proven ineffective. Almost unanimously approved by an absolute majority of our 140-person house during Finals week, the memo enumerated our grievances and demands, including but not limited to the following actions by Cloyne’s Facilities Manager:
- Called the police during council, when no one was in imminent danger, without the knowledge or consent of members
- Without the members’ consent:
- Closed the house’s Free Pile multiple times
- Ordered a dump run with 1-800-got-junk, which threw away the entire contents of the Free Pile
- Threw away the entire contents of the furniture room
- Illegitimately threatened members with unappealable fines, without having a policy basis to do so
- Criticized and imposed demands on managers without realistic consideration of managers’ material and emotional capacity to respond
We sent this memo in good faith, with the intention of fostering cooperativity and repairing our relationships with staff. We cc’ed the BSC’s Cooperative Experience Manager (Victor Saldivar), Executive Director (Kim Benson), and Operations Manager (Marie Lucero). Several of our new managers were even in the same room as these staff members during training this last week. In spite of all this, staff did not agree to our reasonable demands. Even after a one-week extension for good faith, staff members haven’t even given us the slightest acknowledgment of having received the memo. This is simply insulting.
These experiences lead Cloyne members to question the commitment of the BSC’s staff to the cooperative aspect of our organization’s mission. We said in our memo that we would refuse Central the use of Cloyne for training in the case of an adequate response, and Central responded by simply moving training to Rochdale. Those of us experienced in university organizing recognize this tactic as one that the University of California relies so much upon: wait just long enough for agitated students to graduate, and then institutional turnover will scatter any remaining energy for collective action. This approach leads us to believe that not even an unconditional agreement to Cloyne’s original demands would be a sufficient response: we require and deserve more than that.
We therefore write this letter as a rallying call to all BSC members. We are tired and angry with staff for constantly refusing to adopt cooperative solutions proposed by members, and instead for resorting to uncooperative actions that punish rather than support members. We desire and know that we are capable of achieving a clean and habitable BSC — not in spite of our commitment to cooperativity, but because of it. We believe that a BSC built upon goodwill, mutual aid, and anti-oppression is also the model that operationally will work best for us now and in the long-term. Which is to say: we are willing to work with all staff in a friendly and cooperative manner, so long as they are willing to align the BSC with a cooperative organizational model. We just don’t see that happening without further pressure from members.
If we want a chance at pushing back against Central’s growing uncooperativity, members from every co-op need to come together in solidarity. Central is happy and able to brush aside these concerns when they only come from the “vocal minority” — but not when we have strength in numbers. The Board of Directors is the highest-level decision-making body of the organization, to which staff ultimately must answer. And each co-op elects and may recall its own Board Rep(s). Therefore, it is imperative that a cross-co-op coalition of BSC members form, in order to discuss the issues that afflict us and organize around ways of co-creating a more cooperative BSC.
In the coming week or so, some co-opers will be putting together a petition for other BSC members to sign. The scope of the petition will encapsulate these points and more, and the goal is to demonstrate the support from a substantial portion of the membership for a more cooperative BSC. If you would like to be involved, please reach out to email@example.com. With the signatories, we can then organize a meeting for discussing these issues in further detail. Everyone will be welcome, including those who are unfamiliar with the BSC’s policy and/or organizational structure, and especially members from the BSC’s target demographics. Until then —
Cooperatively submitted, and in solidarity,