Three Twin Cities food co-ops are considering merging into one, evoking memories of the last big proposed co-op consolidation in town. In 1993, five co-ops (The Wedge, Seward, Mississippi Market, Lakewinds, and River Market) considered a merger that would have created a single co-op with 4000 members (huge at the time).
Proponents argued it would strengthen the food co-ops by increasing buying power and market share, especially in the face of the new natural food chains coming into the Twin Cities market. They said consolidation would allow stores to offer careers, with better pay and profit-sharing, vs. marginal low-paid jobs. Opponents feared a loss of neighborhood control over the community assets that their patronage, and often volunteer labor, had built. Some felt that the timeline for deciding was too short and that co-op boards and management hadn’t offered enough concrete information about the benefits and risks.
The arguments on both sides seem to be very similar in the current proposal. Two Facebook groups, made up of Eastside members, have emerged to oppose the consolidation, making points that may sound familiar to people who were around for the 1993 discussions. And the three co-ops published a website to answer questions about the proposal, in which they echo much of the pro-consolidation logic from 1993.
On Monday the 15th, members of The Wedge, Eastside, and Linden Hills Co-ops gathered for a town hall meeting to discuss the current consolidation proposal, which would result in a co-op of more than 30,000 members. Voting comes in October. How will YOU vote?