New Ends Policy proposal: Frequently Asked Questions

During Black Star’s annual election in the fall, you’ll be asked to vote “Yes” or “No” on a new set of Ends policies. So we will discuss the Ends Committee’s proposed policy and answer questions about it during the June 25th Members’ Assembly meeting at 12pm at the pub. In the meantime, we’ve already had some great questions from committee members, directors, and our member-owners who came out to the recent Ends Committee Q & A and we wanted to bring you up to speed.

Marcus wrote a great piece explaining why the board is tackling this work in the May newsletter. After the board drafted policies together, the Ends Committee shaped and edited them, and the member-owners at the Q & A gave their feedback, our current draft is:

“Black Star Co-op is a community-owned brewpub with inspired craft beer that contributes to a just society, a thriving cooperative community, and a resilient food system.”

Without further delay, here are the questions we’ve heard most often about both the process and the policy:

How will having a new Ends policy benefit the business?

The first way: telling our story. The WA has identified “telling their story” as one area weakness. The trend in Ends policies in the consumer co-op world is to have the policy be as concise as possible, quickly telling an elevator speech story of what the co-op is working to create. The Ends Policies, if written well, can tell that story on behalf of the co-op, and can be used by the Workers to create ways to infuse our purpose into their marketing materials.

The second way: allowing optimal creativity for our professional staff to find ways to fulfill Ends, without the Board and members stipulating the details of the means. Current Ends policies are very proscriptive, for example, says “ will be zero waste by 2015.” Having a concise and broad vision makes the Ends policies more flexible, which allows the workers to choose the means of Ends fulfillment which most suit the business’ needs and the competitive marketplace.

Does changing the Ends policy help change the balance of our business from having a large restaurant and small brewery to be more focused on either brewing or selling beer?

No, but it allows for it. Our current Ends policy states that we will “earn excellent reviews on our food” etc. (A1.1), stipulating that the cooperative sell food. In A3.3, l “purchase local, organic products […] when feasible” – organic is a food designe. The proposed policies only reference to food is that the co-op “contributes to […] a resilient food system” and there are ways of doing that which do not involve selling food. So were the leadership of the cooperative so inspired to quit selling food, nothing in the new Ends policies would stop them, while provisions of the existing policies require the production of food.

There are things I really like about our current Ends policies. Which ones will exist somewhere else?

Paying a dividend to investor shareholders (A5.1): paying a dividend is provided for in our contract with our Member Investor Shareholders, is outlined in the Texas Business Organization Code 251.302, and can be found in policy D11 – Allocation of Net Savings.

Pay a patronage rebate (A5.3): the process for paying a patronage rebate is fully detailed in the Texas Business Organization Code Section 251.302. When the co-op posts a taxable profit, it is of financial benefit to both the organization and our individual members to reduce the taxable burden via issuance of a patronage rebate.

Worker treatment:  The Board places constraints on the WA to ensure a great workplace in the D2 – Staff Treatment policy, and constraints to ensure the fairness and competitiveness of compensation in D3 – Remuneration. The Additional Principles section of our Bylaws stipulate pay wage based on Universal Living Wage when able, use participatory self-management, and section 5. Workers’ Assembly lays out the highest level processes for the self management of the Worker’s Assembly.

“Earn excellent reviews on our food beer, and service.” (A1.1)- The Ends policy says that Black Star will use “inspired craft beer” to create a just society, etc. While the current A1.1 tells Black Star which data will prove that they are fulfilling the Ends, the new policy allows them the freedom to utilize their own metrics. Our current Ends stipulate that we be crowd pleasing. Our proposed Ends use “inspired”, as having crowd-pleasing beer is necessary to staying open and therefore a given.

Open a second location (A5.4). Board policy D4 – Financial Condition states that “the WA may not cause or allow the cooperative to be unprepared for future opportunities.” D11.4.2.2 states that the allocation of net savings should “support the co-op’s growth”. While opening a second location is one way for the organization to grow, there could be other opportunities to grow, which our Ends need not exclude.

Environmental Sustainability (A3) – While A3 provides for specifics, like buying alternative energy, promoting alternative transportation,  using water and energy efficiently, and producing zero waste, in the proposed policy “resilient food system” and “just society” provide the same value based-aims, and allow the WA more latitude to choose the right thing for our business needs.

Gemutlichkeit (A1.3) – In our new policies,  “cooperatively-owned brewpub”, “just society”, and “a thriving cooperative community” are all phrases which emphasize the strength of our community, both Austin, our member-owners, and our fellow cooperative businesses. Isn’t strong, connected community what truly creates Gemutlichkeit?

Community Involvement (A2) Many owners appreciate the support of nonprofits selected by our owners in annual elections, as provided for in A2.2. The proposed Ends policy still allows for this practice in support of a “just society”. “Support[ing] cooperatives, local businesses and other community endeavors” (A.2.3) is a sentiment found in the proposed Ends’ “a thriving cooperative community.”