vi. Allegations/Responses

This section was created to address some common allegations that are made against Wholefoods and the Collective. If you have heard of other allegations or have one to make, please email us (wholefoods.friend@gmail.com) and we shall endeavour to respond, we welcome such an opportunity. We consider this page a work in progress.

Wholefoods made a loss of $30,955 in 2011. That amount of money could be used to provide food for 100 students at Free Food Mondays for 12 years.  (paraphrased from Lot’s Wife Edition 1# 2012 article ‘Why Change at Wholefoods is necessary’)

  1. Friends of Wholefoods agrees that the 2011 financial loss of $30,955 at Wholefoods is unacceptable and represents a waste of student funds. However, we firmly disagree that the Wholefoods Collective is responsible for this loss and waste of student funds.
  2.  Since 2007 the Monash Student Council (MSC) Executive has progressively and aggressively taken over the governance of Wholefoods from the Wholefoods Collective. The MSC Executive has refused to act cooperatively with Wholefoods Collective in areas of employment, budgeting, price-setting and organising the volunteer-system. Instead , they have appointed a single manager to make overarching decisions in all these areas. In doing so, successive MSC Executives have sought to impose a hierarchical and corporate management model on Wholefoods. This contravenes the MSA constitution, and demonstrates a complete lack of respect for the Wholefoods constitution and nature as a student-run co-operative.
  3. We believe – as a result of the above top-down structural and systematic overhauls – successive MSC Executive administrations (including the current one) are ultimately responsible for all financial losses Wholefoods has suffered over the past 5 years (including the projected losses in 2012).
  4. We also believe, as set out in our page on Wholefoods financial history [link], that Wholefoods has been most vibrant and most commercially viable when the Wholefoods Collective has been in rightful operational control. This Wholefoods Collective control always included working collaboratively and cooperatively with the Monash Student Association where appropriate.
  5. We believe that the past structural arrangement – whereby Wholefoods Collective is respected as the primary decision-making body of Wholefoods and works in cooperation with the MSA – is the most effective and productive for all students and Wholefoods customers.

The Wholefoods Collective is too idealistic and they do not understand the reality of running a business.

  1. Practicing the ideas of a directly democratic workplace, consensus decision making, no-bosses organising and “food for people, not profit” through the model of Wholefoods Collective has ensured a viable and thriving Wholefoods on campus for 35 years. This Collective organisational model is a form of student-run cooperative enterprise and history testifies to its achievements. A worker or volunteer at Wholefoods is far more than just a “cog in the machine of the firm” or a “unit of labor”: each person’s opinion and presence matters and their opportunity to meaningfully contribute to Wholefoods is ensured through the Collective. Participatory or direct democracy is essential to the structure and vibrancy of Wholefoods. Without it, we believe that Wholefoods becomes a shadow of its former self, its spirit is destroyed and, as recent financial evidence attests, it will struggle to remain commercially viable .  As students, we have invested our personal time and energy as workers and volunteers in Wholefoods because we knew our voices would be heard, taken seriously and acted upon.  We believe that high worker and volunteer morale are key to a productive, efficient and viable business that we know as a ‘student-run cooperative’.  This is our “idealism”, we are not ashamed of it and we stand by it. We do not disguise our ideology in the ‘realistic’ managerial rhetoric of the day.
  2. We believe there is a direct correlation between running Wholefoods as a profit driven business with top-heavy management, individualist consumerism and the severe losses incurred in recent years. In the past, Wholefoods has been strongest when the Collective has been strongest.
  3. What the current administration of the MSA considers the “reality of running a business” is radically different from our own. The rendering of students as only having value as consumers and customers is antithetical to the principles that are stated in the Wholefoods constitution.

Wholefoods Collective is a conspiring body of students who want to assume power over Wholefoods

  1. Membership of Wholefoods Collective is open to all students, staff, volunteers and customers who have an interest in organising Wholefoods as per its constitution. Anyone can attend a Collective meeting and eventually become a Collective member.
  2. As per the Wholefoods constitution, Wholefoods Collective is supposed to be the student decision-making group that organises the day-to-day operations of Wholefoods, which encompasses all tasks from budgeting, staffing, price and menu setting, volunteer training, etc.
  3. Wholefoods Collective organises itself according to principles of consensus – based decision making (not majority rules voting) and anti-hierarchical management (no bosses/managers/CEO/executive board/supervising person(s) in charge)
  4. Wholefoods Collective is primarily about students participating in organising Wholefoods as a viable economic venture, an invaluable cultural place and an important political space. It is a governing body that is intended to provide a viable alternative to the conventional corporate management model.
  5. Wholefoods Collective members are interested in exercising power together only insofar as this helps Wholefoods to achieve its basic aims of providing affordable and nutritious food for students, abiding by the ethos of “food for people, not profit.”

Volunteers cost Wholefoods too much and therefore they should get rewarded less or we should not have them at all. “Volunteers are eating away Wholefoods profits” .

  1. Volunteering has been the lifeblood of Wholefoods since its establishment in 1977. The volunteering system is fundamental not only to the viability but also to the vitality of Wholefoods.
  2. Viability: Volunteers save Wholefoods tens of thousands of dollars financially because despite doing the same amount and quality of work as a paid staff member, they are reimbursed at a financial rate that is less than a staff wage. This rate was traditionally 1x meal ticket for 1x hour volunteered (approximately $7.50 worth of food).
  3. Vitality: Volunteers (and staff) have the opportunity to engage at all levels of Wholefoods operations from the servery to the Collective, from making coffees to drafting budgets. Volunteers (and staff) are not only encouraged to provide ideas and opinions to help shape the space and make Wholefoods special, they are also empowered to make decisions and implement those ideas themselves.
  4. Rewarding volunteers less than a meal per hour of work (as the current MSC Executive are proposing) would be a radical break with Wholefoods tradition, demonstrate a devaluing of volunteers and undermine the integrity of the volunteering system. Many volunteers find the abolition or dilution of meal tickets insulting and disrespectful.
  5. Not having volunteers at all means we are just like the fast food outlet downstairs – where there is a lack of sense of community and personality and things are standardised for the sake of convenience and ‘efficiency’. Note: ensuring efficiency does not entail prosperity!
  6. The historic success of the volunteer system proves that Wholefoods volunteers were fundamental to the well-being of Wholefoods and as all volunteers will attest, Wholefoods was fundamental to their well-being also.

Volunteering at Wholefoods is illegal because volunteers expect an entitled reward (i.e. a meal ticket). Such honorary benefits are equal to a payment obligation – making Wholefoods volunteers, essentially, underpaid staff.

  1. Friends of Wholefoods recognises that the issue of volunteers and a volunteering system in Wholefoods has reached an impasse. We understand that the MSC Executive has been given (legal) advice on this matter that casts doubt over the legitimacy of the 35 year tradition of volunteers in Wholefoods. The Wholefoods Collective is prepared to sit down, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation, with the MSC Executive to work this issue out.
  2. Resolving this issue would at least need to take into account the following factors:
    – 35 years of the centrality of volunteers within Wholefoods
    – Rewarding volunteers is common practice in many charitable organisations and food co-operatives such as the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Friends of the Earth, and Melbourne Uni Food Co-Op.
    – There is no history  in Australia of a volunteer suing an organisation for being underpaid/exploited.
    – Acknowledgement of the important role of the position of Volunteer Coordinator and their role in the training and support of volunteers; the multitude of issues to do with OH&S and the Victorian Food Act (1997); maintenance of volunteer rostering; publicity and recruitment.

The $250,000 refurbishment plans created by the MSA for Wholefoods will save staff time and consequently save Wholefoods money.  (Lot’s wife edition 1# – article titled ‘Where is your money going?’ details the MSA’s renovation plans across the campus)

  1. We are concerned that a massive redevelopment of Wholefoods has been planned with barely a token contribution from the Wholefoods Collective.
  2. We are concerned that the MSC Executive has systematically excluded Wholefoods Collective from negotiations with the University Senior Administration on this proposal. The Wholefoods Collective has consequently not formed an opinion on the need , desirability or viability of any major redesign or refurbishment.
  3. Friends of Wholefoods considers that there are more important things to resolve within Wholefoods that the redesign of the space. Further, we would be concerned that a preoccupation with ‘saving time and money’ indicates a preoccupation with what we consider neo-liberal business formations that care little for significant social impacts, such as the removal of volunteers and the dis-empowering of students by undermining the Collective. We consider the productivity of Wholefoods important. However, rudimentary efficiency calculations are an unnecessary distraction from the more severe structural governance problems facing Wholefoods.
  4. By the MSC Executive’s own calculations, $250,000 could provide food for 100 students at Free Food Mondays; for not 12, but almost 90 years! A lack of economic forethought and understanding of Wholefoods means that we will be spending a superfluous sum of student and University public money on refurbishing a space which does not reasonably need to be refurbished/made-over. This money could be better spent elsewhere.
  5. Collective would be the best decision making body for future plans of Wholefoods as it has overseen the operations of Wholefoods since its inception in 1977.  We consider the processes of Collective and consensus -decision making to be the best way to work out if the current design impacts operations of Wholefoods. It is hard not to consider $250,000 an excessive response to a problem we believe could be solved much more cheaply and effectively by re-instating the Wholefoods Collective.
  6. Friends of Wholefoods has concerns around the fact that Wholefoods is required to generate sufficient revenue to provide for capital improvement of the premises, fittings and equipment. We believe the MSA has not set a budget for Wholefoods that meets these requirements, putting it in the position of potentially breaching its responsibilities under the MSA Constitution.
  7. It should be made clear that Friends of Wholefoods sees a distinction between redesign and refurbishment and the need for repairs to take place within the space.

If the refurbishments mean that there are shorter lines, isn’t that a good thing?

  1. Friends of Wholefoods cannot remember the last time there were lines in Wholefoods, but assuming that there are: shorter lines means that we are not providing to a large and diverse enough student population.
  2. We would be cutting lines at the expense of cutting the access of financially disadvantaged students to healthy and affordable foods on campus
  3. By contrast to this management approach, Wholefoods Collective are best placed to (re)make Wholefoods as accessible as possible by providing affordable and nutritious food for all students.
  4. The credentials of Collective are again illustrated by the success of past practice. [Link to Finance Info-graphic]

The MSA is responsible for all MSA staffing and employment: it is unviable for the Wholefoods Collective to employ its staff.

  1. In the past the Wholefoods Collective and the MSA worked collaboratively on Wholefoods staffing in the best interests of Wholefoods.
  2. Friends of Wholefoods contends that a shift occurred that is fundamentally political – political in the sense that it occurred over fundamental differences in approaches to organisational direction.
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Published on June 25, 2012 at 2:45 am  Comments Off on vi. Allegations/Responses  
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