Rob Baran or Robber Baron? (part 3.)

Part 1. Part 2.

Call, write, email, stop in or take whatever action you deem appropriate, to send a message to “co-op” management, letting them know that such conduct is unacceptable, especially from an establishment which sells itself as an alternative to chain stores.

Petty, East End Food “Co-op” tyrant, Rob Baran, has apparently suffered a head injury, similar to the one that makes Ben Roethlisberger spend thousands of US dollars on doggie clothes.
Maybe Mr. Baran needs a helmet?
An email that is circulating on several local email lists was received by the YT. In it, a co-op worker sheds some lights on Mr. Baran’s latest egomaniacal demands:

To anyone interested in justice or at least in the well-being of your friends at the EEFC, especially those involved with the city paper:
The cafe staff has been subjected over the past two weeks to numerous actions of questionable legality and are being threatened with a wholesale lay-off upon refusal to sign a document we’ve endearingly termed “The Ultimatum.”

A new manager was hired two weeks ago. Upon his first active day in the kitchen, he was demonstrably hostile to at least three employees, shouting continually in an unprovoked fit of rage despite their calm tones and attempts to pacify his outburst. He screamed things like “All the shit you make here is garbage!,” “I will not put my name on this crap” (while slamming a full pan of pasta into a trash can, and other things. When one staff member reminded him (his name is Terry) of a meeting he was scheduled to attend, he misheard her and screamed repeatedly “Terry IS THE MEANING! Terry IS the MEANING! Terry IS THE MEANING!!” These are the words of a megalomaniac. All the while, he shouted through the store, walking out the aisles to the lobby continuing to shout. Both employees to whom he had originally raised his voice were written up for insubordination. One, who has worked here over 10 years, insisted that if Terry were permitted to continue working as the manager, that she would deliver her two weeks notice effective the day in question. This is exactly what happened.

Two weeks lapsed with no word from management as to the status of Terry’s continued employment. Upon coming into work on Monday, November 26th, having never even met this man, I was prompted to a meeting with management along with the rest of the cafe staff. We were handed a legally questionable document by the general manager of the store, Rob Baran, REQUIRING our signatures by the next day at 5PM, to a list of promises including a promise to work FOR this man whose behavior was completely threatening and unprofessional. Keep in mind that, speaking only for myself, I had no idea this was coming and did absolutely nothing to provoke this ultimatum.
Quoting from the “cafe transition vision”/”ultimatum”: If you are unable to make this commitment, for whatever reason, you will be laid off at the time that best suits the business interests of the coop.
Please come into the coop, CALLing would be even better, or just come in and fill out a comment card and insist to be heard — that one of the best places to shop, a co-op no less, which is supposed to operate on democratic member-reviewed process, is trying to fuck all of us over as quietly as possible and sweep this under the rug. Our deadline has been extended to wednesday at 5pm.

A loyalty oath? Is it a slightly above minimum wage job or a motorcycle gang? What’s next, 7 year FBI background checks? Hair testing for drugs? Interviewing neighbors to see if a prospective employee is “co-op” material? Do the greenwashed chains put the people who work for them through this kind of nonsense?

Another “co-op” worker is also expressing their discontent with the conditions and atmosphere, and not just the working ones. Sounds like management is ignoring some pretty basic health and sanitation concerns, despite what appears to be multiple attempts to remedy them.

Even loyal consumers (or ‘member-owners’ or whatever pretentious bullshit title your membership fees pay for) are questioning whether “co-op” management views them as the same kind of captive audience that they view the workers to be, as evidenced by this exchange. I guess the “co-op” is overcharging people for the good feeling they get by shopping there?




Rob Baran or Robber Baran? (part 2.)

 Part 1.

The origins of this little gem are unclear. I was handed two hard copies of this, from two different people, on two different occasions, who likely had different motives for passing it along to me, both with differing accounts of how they came to be in possession of it. The how and the why weren’t important. What was important was the potential for low grade strife and discord in this little sacrifice to the Divine Mother.

This floated across my transom during the contentious and ultimately unsuccessful IWW organizing campaign (details here) at the self-described “East End Food Co-op”. The Wobblies were running a pretty clean drive, and against my better judgment, I kept the dirty tricks up the sleeve. The Nixonian, Ravacholian, and even the Alinskian tricks. were personally off the table. I fell into the mindset of the ‘activism 5th amendment’, and sat on my hands because “I didn’t want to create any problems for the organizers”. That just made it easier for management, who weren’t out for a moral victory anyway.

While not indicative of anything that could be classified as ‘illegal’, this email shows the kind of advice that the self-described “co-op” management was receiving from their big money, union busting consultants. This email appears to come in the wake of a press release from the East End Food Co-op Workers Committee announcing the results of clear majority in an independent union authorization “card count”, facilitated by the Thomas Merton Center.

Mr. Baran is either an early riser or was having trouble sleeping as any CEO would, given the circumstances. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never sought the advice of an attorney at 4 am, though.


Bob Braun’s coaching of Rob Baran (say that 5 times fast) on how to compose a press release is beautiful. They even tell him to be sure to mention the phony management created “union”. Hopefully people will quit referring to him as the “manager of a community owned grocery store” which in reality is “a tiny corporation that is sitting on the fence”.

Rob Baran or Robber Baron? (part 1.)


 Part 1.   Part 2.

Update: Reader, Withold Birquest, points out that:

P.S. The Rochdale folks may have not mentioned labor explicitly because they thought true co-ops would be formed by working class people in the face of the company store, not by Deadhead yuppie opportunists, looking to pull-in 60K/yr. as managers. Was told Rochdalers were blacklisted striking workers.

In a move sure to please the board and management of the East End Food “Co-op”, the anti-abortion wing of the US senate filibustered the Employee Free Choice Act. The anti-gun wing was unable to garner the required 60 votes to end debate on the bill, where it would have been vetoed by “The Decider”. Say what you will about Bush and the Republicans, but they do push the theocratic agenda, shakin’ it for the glassy eyed, snake-handling dollar. Nor do they ever forget the exalted shareholders, even when it pisses off the small money. They’re like bleu cheese: I wouldn’t eat it, because it’s mold, but I respect that it never pretends to be anything but. The self-described “co-op” is more like sweetbreads; named like a dessert, but its just veal brains.

One thing I like about the Democrats, though, is their insistence on symbolic investigations of Bush and the GOP. If they’re investigating, they aren’t making new laws, and that can’t be bad. If there’s one thing we have and abundance of, it’s engineered violence, for the benefit of a few laws The Democrats just take the union dues and run (campaigns and commercials way less entertaining than the Republican ones) but they never forget the exalted shareholders. It’s like giving cash to a junkie, to go pay your light bill for you, because “they weren’t always that way”. The shareholders are fine with the business unions, since they manage revolt by clearly pointing out to the worker that they are only entitled to a little bit, and they should be happy with that.

These are interesting times, indeed. The big, bad local corporation allows workers to organize, but the local, greenwashed, would-be corporation, resorts to every dirty trick short of busting heads with ax handles (a fact which the grad students who organize blue collar workers for the SEIU are obsessed with). In the self-described “co-op’s” defense, the 19th century English weavers, who drafted the Rochdale Principles, which remain the seven commandments of co-ops with some semantic changes, to this day.and made no mention of labor, only cash and prizes.

Is it me, or are these kinds of self-described “co-ops” just tiny scale models of corporations that go public right away? Given the liberal love of law and order and their esteemed practice of purchasing 21st century indulgences to absolve them of their guilt, in the form of marketing gimmicks with names such as: fair-trade, organic, and then there’s literal plenary plastic indulgence cards in the form of carbon offsets, it’s a short walk to convince the shareholders members that the employees are probably already over rewarded for their efforts. These folks are fine with shitting on the people who sell them their coffee, the ones who they can see, so long as they get an extra penny a pound or whatever for the romantic, exotic coffee farmer, who they will never meet.

The self-described “co-op’s” chicanery continues, only this time, Rob Baran, would-be CEO, makes one of his stupidest, most intelligence insulting statements to the press that I am aware of:

But, says Baran, the money it will take to replace the windows means less funds for profit-sharing with employees, so if the damage was meant as solidarity with workers, it backfired.

Maybe I’m an idiot, exactly the kind that Baran seems to think everyone else is, but isn’t that why businesses carry insurance policies? Isn’t there some kind of law regarding double-dipping of insurance monies?

Apparently, Baran realizes the stupidity of his statement, as he spins the penny ante corporate looting of the employee profit sharing, but still can’t justify further ripping off the self-described “co-op’s” employees, to pay for damages that will be covered by insurance. Rob, did you check with your union busting consultants from Braun? Has Braun Consulting convinced you that bathroom breaks are “time wasting activity” or have you taken any of their advice on feeling better about firings?

If you’re a member of the self-described “co-op”, or just the type who believes that you have powers as a consumer, contact the self-described “co-op” (412-242-3598) and ask them about Baran’s latest scheme to rip off workers. If you know any of the board members ask them why this is acceptable, especially the radicals/anarchists among them.

Or just steal something, for crying out loud.