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Is the Durham Co-Op Market betraying its progressive roots? 

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As to concerns about employees' wages, Stasio says the board has tasked general manager Leila Wolfrum with developing a plan. "It's up to her to make them happy," he says.

Tyler Jenkins, a Durham resident who works for a nonprofit that develops both worker- and consumer-owned co-ops in North Carolina, is one of six candidates, including Stasio, seeking election to four seats on the board this year. Ahead of Sunday's board meeting, Jenkins told the INDY the board would be making a mistake if it axed worker ownership.

"Considering many employees make less than what would be considered a living wage, this is a really important avenue and a unique way cooperatives can address growing income inequality," he says.

"It's intellectually lazy and misleading to say that the fact that something isn't common is a good justification for getting rid of it," says Sam Hummel, a consumer-owner in the Durham Co-Op and a former member of the People's Intergalactic Food Conspiracy. "There are hundreds of food co-ops that would love to be as uncommonly successful as Weaver Street has been as a hybrid consumer and worker-owned co-op."

While Weaver Street's hybrid model may be unique, more than a dozen co-ops across the country guarantee worker representation on the board. That fact, Jenkins says, is the primary reason why board members are now reconsidering their proposal.

The board's difficulty, Bacon says, is in returning value to consumer-owners while still giving employees a fair shake. "It's really difficult to implement," Bacon says. "And the board is really struggling with it."

Rivera understands that dilemma, but she's still struggling to find justification for the board's push.

Yes, she says, having workers on the board would make the co-op harder to manage. "And if they made their board all upper-class white people, a homogenous group, yes, there would be less conflict, but it's just an easy way to explain it away."

This article appeared in print with the headline "Disappointed, frankly"

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