On June 12, 2019, Co-op Members for Fairness endorsed Carroll Chubb as a candidate for the Saskatoon Co-op Board. (See more profiles of Co-op Members for Fairness candidates here.)
At the June 20 AGM, Carroll Chubb was elected to the Saskatoon Co-op Board. Thank you Saskatoon Co-op members and workers for putting your trust in Carroll.
So, Carroll, tell us about yourself.
I am a retired scientist. I know a lot about the toxicity of chemical substances. I have a PhD in Physiology and Biophysics and a Postgraduate Diploma in Toxicology. Before I retired, I worked for the federal government at Health Canada. I am involved as a volunteer in work on environmental issues and library issues.
My family moved to Saskatoon in 1991. I have been a member of the Saskatoon Co-op since 1992.
Over the years, I have been a member of several co-operatives. My family lived at Rainbow Housing Co-operative in Saskatoon for several years. I was a member of the Board of Directors of a housing co-operative in the Ottawa area. While in Ottawa I attended training sessions on co-operatives given by the local association of housing co-operatives.
How did recent tensions at Saskatoon Co-op involve you in the Town Halls about Co-op, and eventually, to consider running for the Co-op Board?
As a Saskatoon Co-op member, I was concerned about the strike. In my opinion, the Co-op Board made a mistake when it demanded a two-tier wage scale. I also thought the Board did a poor job of communicating with members. I attended the Town Hall meetings of Co-op members and was impressed by this grassroots effort to improve the way the Saskatoon Co-op functions. To achieve this goal, we must elect Board members committed to making the changes needed.
What do you think needs to be done to inform the public and the membership about the issues facing Saskatoon Co-op, so that the membership realizes what’s being taken away from them and why this matters?
Two or three free public presentations on co-operatives should be organized. Perhaps the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan could help with these presentations. Topics covered could include the history of the co-operative movement and co-operative values and principles. Perhaps a movie could be shown that gives an idea of the types of cooperatives around the world. The presentations would be followed by a period for questions and comments from the audience.
If there is sufficient support from the new Saskatoon Co-op Board of Directors, a flyer with information on co-operative values and principles might be included in one of the mail-outs to all members. Also, additions to the website of the Saskatoon Co-op could help members learn more about co-operatives.
From a board member position, what do you think you’re able to do to empower workers, particularly new ones who will be receiving the new lower starting wage?
Since only three new members will be added to the Board of Directors this year, what can be done will be limited by the views of the six people remaining on the Board. As part of the new 7-year agreement the Saskatoon Co-op has with the Union, workers hired after the agreement have a lower wage scale, but their wages will be increased if the Co-op’s profits are large enough. Due to this, one focus should be on improving the Co-op’s financial performance so that this “bridging” part of the collective agreement can bring up the pay of new employees.
Perhaps by next year, a sufficient number of Members of the Board would support reopening negotiations with the Union for the purpose of returning to a one-tier wage structure.
The member and worker Town Halls that became “Co-op Members for Fairness” passed a series of resolutions aimed at starting to adopt more “cooperative values.” Can you talk about why these are important?
I attended the Town Halls of the group that became “Co-op Members for Fairness” and voted for the resolutions that were submitted for consideration at the Saskatoon Co-op’s Annual General Meeting.
One of the co-operative values is democracy. The first resolution was designed to improve the voting process of the Saskatoon Co-op. It proposed that voting on Board members and resolutions be done over 5 days at the Co-op store locations so that more Co-op members could vote. Another resolution was aimed at fostering better communication between the Board and Co-op members. This also would help the Co-op to function in a more democratic way.
What do co-operatives and/or co-operative values mean to you? How do you see the current Board as fulfilling them or not?
I think that in a democracy with a free market system, co-operatives are a way that large groups of people can be organized to get important work done. This results in less difference in wealth than occurs with large corporations.
Large differences in wealth between people result in many problems. It seems to me that co-operatives often serve society better than corporations, because the management of corporations usually must make shareholder wealth a higher priority than the common good. Co-operative principles include working for the larger community in ways approved by the co-op’s members. Also, I like the idea that when I buy things at the Co-op, I get to share in the profits.
The values of the Cooperative movement are on the website of the International Co-operative Alliance. The current Board of Directors made a mistake in demanding a two-tier wage structure. In my opinion, the two-tier wage structure violates the co-operative value of equality. A one-tier wage scale is fairer, and more likely to foster good relations among Co-op employees.
The current board rejected the resolutions, saying that they were “out of scope” of what the Board can legally do. Do you think that’s true? What will you do to help implement resolutions/policy the members clearly want?
It is my understanding that the resolutions endorsed by Co-op Members for Fairness were rejected by the Board based on the opinion of a lawyer. I have read that another expert disagreed with that opinion.
To me, the resolutions seemed appropriate for presentation at the Annual General Meeting. If I become a Member of the Board, I would support bringing similar resolutions to the next Annual General Meeting.
In addition, most of the things called for in the resolutions can be done by the Board of Directors. As a member of the Board of Directors, I would work for improved communication between members and the Board. I would support reviewing how well practices at Saskatoon Co-op follow co-operative values and principles. I would work to improve the way the Board ensures that management follows the Board’s policies.
How would you improve the democratic processes for members in our Saskatoon Co-op?
I think the legal process for changing Board Members between Annual General Meetings needs to be examined. A way to make it feasible for more people to vote in the annual election of Members of the Board of Directors should be devised. The proposal that voting be done at Co-op stores over a period of a few days should be considered. A change to the way voting is done would need to be approved at an Annual General Meeting.
What do you see as the proper working relationship between the board and management?
I think the role of the Board of Directors is to set policy and to intervene when management is not adhering to policy. If management does something that causes concerns and is not covered by an existing policy, the Board should let management know there may be a problem and the Board should consider developing policy to deal with the situation.
The Board hires the CEO and evaluates that person’s performance.
As I mentioned earlier, I think the Board should review how well the Saskatoon Co-op follows co-operative values and principles.
We as Co-op Members for Fairness are ecstatic that Carroll Chubb has been elected to the Saskatoon Co-op Board.
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