category Culture

Co-ops Have More to Be Thankful for

In years past, the inimitable Dana Curtis penned letters of appreciation to the Membership in the spirit of Thanksgiving. An inventory of what the business owes to the devoted support of our Member-Owners. This year, my first with the co-op, I am writing that letter. My perspective is fresh, but raw, if I miss a few things, forgive me. 

1. Participation and Accountability:
Everything we do as a business must meet the standards set by membership. You elect the Board of Directors, the policy makers at Black Star Co-op, and in turn hold the Board accountable for its policy decisions. By attending monthly Board meetings you provide feedback by participating in meetings and member events.

2. Goals and Values: 
The moral guideposts that factor into the everyday operation of the Co-op are provided by the Member-Owners.  By being a member of the Co-op, you support, not only the internationally accepted cooperative principles, but also Black Star’s values of excellent worker treatment, environmental sustainability, and community involvement. 

3. Patronage: 
Perhaps the most obvious way that we rely on the membership is through patronage. Whether you’re bringing co-workers by for happy hour, enjoying a Member-Owner discounted house beer on Tuesday, or making Black Star Co-op your regular Friday lunch spot–we depend on you utilizing our services. 

If you’d like to share any of the aspects of Black Star Co-op that you’re thankful for, please feel free to comment (one more way to participate in your Co-op). 

 

Worker Spotlight: Amy

What do you do at Black Star Co-op? 

 I’m on the pub team, slinging drinks and happy memories.

Where are you from? 

Dallas. 

What’s you favorite beer currently on tap?

Old Sour Dewberry (the Old Sour Portberry cask is great too)!

What’s your favorite late night drunk snack?

Spicy chicken wings from Rockin’ Rice. 

What’s the last book you read? 

 Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed series. 

What’s your favorite cooperative principal? 

Democratic organization is a beautiful thing, especially in the service industry!

If time were no issue, which completely impractical skill would you work to perfect? 

Whistling — I want to whistle like Jodi someday.

Preferred music station at work? 

Sam Cooke *swoon*

What Is the Title of Your Future Memoir?

Big Things Come in Small Packages: Exploring the Beauty in Little Things/Good Eats, Good Beer, and Human Liberation. 

The House That Beer Built: In the “Home” Stretch

Our Directors and member-owners met up on Monday September 22nd for a Member-Owner Extravaganza–a chance to sample some fine house brews, tasty snacks and to encourage further donations for the Black Star Co-Op Board of Directors-endorsed fundraising project “The House That Beer Built.”  Attendance was great, and Director Steve bought pints for those who donated $20 or more on the spot.

During the week of September 21-28, the pub and WA donated $1.00 to the project for every pint of High Esteem served, raising $519 more.  Director Scott Kelley held a fund raising beer tasting and gathered $585 more, bringing our total raised to $4,586, a fine showing versus our goal of $5,000.  

There is STILL TIME to volunteer, and to donate.  If you are interested in donating, visit the BSC Team Page at http://bit.ly/ATXHTBB and click “Donate Now” on the right. Build volunteers can click on this link for Saturday shifts on November 2, 9, 11, and 18.  http://vols.pt/KtVLnK

The dedication of the House That Beer Built for the Huerta family (plus 6 other families!) will take place on Saturday, November 22nd from 4-6 pm on Barteny Cove.

For more information, contact Board Member Steve Basile at steve.basile@blackstar.coop

Austin Habitat For Humanity is an IRS certified 501(c)(3) organization and contributions are tax-deductible and are eligible for matching by your company. 

Black Star Co-op: Embodying the 7 Cooperative Principles

If you didn’t already know, October is Coop Month! In honor of the occasion I’ve compiled a list of the 7 cooperative principles adopted by the International Cooperative Alliance and how Black Star practices each one.

1. Voluntary and Open Membership

Coop membership is open to anyone of legal drinking age with a valid physical and electronic mailing address. Members can revoke their membership at anytime and have their equity investment returned to them.

2. Democratic Member Control

Black Star is a democratically controlled business, where members elect the Board of Directors and vote on changes to our Bylaws and Ends Policies. In fact, there’s an election happening right now

3. Member Economic Participation

All members are expected to contribute the same equity investment. The member elected and controlled Board of Directors distributes the Co-op’s profit back into the business for expansion and growth, or declares a patronage dividend back to the owners based on how much money they spend at the Co-op throughout the year. Members with an additional investment in Black Star do not receive additional voting rights or privileges. 

4. Autonomy and Independence

Our business is only controlled by the members. There are no outside interests guiding our business or organizational decisions.

5. Education, Training, and Information

The Co-op strives to educate the members and public through various means. The Workers Assembly and Board of Directors publish monthly articles about topics related to our mission and vision. Black Star members are leaders in the cooperative community and actively participate in the governance and training of other cooperatives and allies. 

6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives

Black Star is a member of several cooperative associations and organizations, including: the National Cooperation Business Association, the Austin Cooperative Business Association, and the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives. Workers and members serve on board of other cooperative businesses, non-profits, and associations. Black Star actively works to promote and support other cooperative businesses whenever possible.

7. Concern for Community

Our work for the sustainable development of our communities is approved by the members through our Ends Policies. We are proud to offer as many locally sourced, quality goods as possible. We work with local businesses to keep our money in the Central Texas economy, and we’re proud to be one of the first LEED gold certified brewpubs in the country.

Worker Spotlight: Macy

What do you do at Black Star Co-op? 

I work on the pub team, and laugh without smiling. 

Where are you from? 

Austin born and raised! We’re rare these days. My friends call me the last unicorn. 

What’s you favorite beer currently on tap?

Sculpin IPA, it’s so damn good!

What’s your favorite late night drunk snack?

Pizza 4EVER.

What’s the last book you read? 

The Shining by Stephen King. 

What’s your favorite cooperative principal? 

Cooperation. Seeing so many people work collectively is really awesome. 

If time were no issue, which completely impractical skill would you work to perfect? 

Hair Braiding. It’d be cool to be able to do complicated intricate braids on myself. 

How many forks are there in a formal place setting (please don’t use Google)? 

3? I know there’s at least a salad, entre, and dessert fork… Right? 

First and last song on your perfect party playlist? 

First: Elton John – The Bitch is Back
Last: Elton John – Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me

What Is the Title of Your Future Memoir?

I <3 Cats, and it’d just be a chronology of all the cats i’ve had throughout my life. 

 

 

State of the Co-op Union

Hi everyone! 

Fall is here, which means it’s time for our fall Members’ Assembly meeting! I wanted to review a few of the things we’ll be doing at our fall meeting. 

Board Elections: We’ll be hearing from the folks who are running for the Board. Voting for your Board of Directors is a very important way you can participate in the management and governance of your business. The Directors represent your best interests, so make your voice heard! It’s always an exciting time when we seat new Directors because new ideas and perspectives refresh and invigorate our vision of the future and our understanding of how we fit into the local economy and the global co-op community. If you haven’t yet reviewed the candidates, please do so here

Bylaws Updates: Occasionally, we need to vote on things together that involve changes to some of our policies or bylaws. This fall, we are proposing three changes to the bylaws: 

1) Reduce the mandatory number of Members’ Assembly meetings from three to two. When we wrote our bylaws back in 2006, we were meeting three times a year: once in the spring, once in the fall, and once for a big party somewhere along the way. Now that we’re open for business, we have member-owner events throughout the year as well as our spring and fall MA meetings. Changing this language will not impact our meeting frequency; we’re aligning our bylaws with current practice. 

2) Remove language about the number of meetings the Board of Directors holds per year. The bylaws require the Board to meet 12 times a year. However, sometimes due to a variety of reasons it’s difficult or perhaps unnecessary to meet that many times. We want to remove the mandate of 12 meetings per year so each Board can have the flexibility to decide a schedule that works out best for them and for the health of our business. 

3) Change the name of our standing committee. Our standing committee is responsible for recruiting new Directors and ensuring that we have a healthy pool of leaders in our membership. The committee is currently called the Member Linkage Committee, but we feel this title does not accurately describe the charter of the committee or its responsibilities. We propose to change the title of the committee to the Leadership Development Committee. Nothing about the committee’s charter otherwise will be changed. 

Vision Discussion: This fall, we’ll also be engaging in a group interactive discussion about the vision of our expansion and how we can contribute to that development as member-owners. We’re still working out the details of that discussion, and the more people who get involved the more fun and dynamic it will be. Come with your ideas and enthusiasm!

The Members’ Assembly meetings are fun, informal ways to learn about your co-op, get involved, and get reacquainted with old and new member-owner buddies. They are also your opportunities to participate in the democratic operations of your business. I hope to see many of you on October 26th

Erin O’Bryant is the President of the Black Star Co-op Board of Directors. She’s not a’scared of nothin’ never. *raises her fists with pugilistic bravado 

Worker Spotlight: Dana

What do you do at Black Star? 

I’m the Business Team Leader and Black Star mom. Basically, I make sure everyone’s homework is done, rooms are cleaned, and take away the xbox when people forget to feed the dog. I also read everyone bedtime stories and give them loving pats on the head.

Where are you from? 

Dallas, Texas

What’s your favorite beer currently on tap? 

Sun Eater. So good!

What’s your favorite late-night drunk snack? 

Any type of breakfast food.

What’s the last book you read?

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

What’s your favorite cooperative principal?

Education, Training, and Information. I’ve learned so much from Black Star and continue to expand my knowledge and skills each day. 

If time was no issue, which completely impractical skill would you work to perfect? 

My bowling score. I love bowling!

How many forks are there in a formal place setting (please don’t use google)? 

I cheated. The answer is 4. (Hello, Shrimp Fork!)

First and last songs on your perfect party playlist? 

I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston

The Kids Are Alright – The Who (Not a great closer, but slow ending songs are kinda cliche, no?)

What is the title of your future memoir?

I Can’t Believe It: A Completely Fictional Account of My Life Thus Far

September Member Extravaganza

One of the great things about being a Member-Owner at Black Star Co-Op is being asked your opinion on things—over a free beer!  Come join us for another Member-Owner Extravaganza on Monday, September 22nd from 6-8pm   

The Extravaganza is a casual open-house event and also gives you an opportunity to meet other Member-Owners, chat with Directors, and get some much-deserved appreciation with tasty snacks and beers.

Once again this month our Directors will be around to discuss our part in the ongoing fundraising project “The House That Beer Built.” Austin’s Habitat For Humanity will soon be building a house for a deserving family with funds we helped raise. Bonus! Make a donation at the Pub of  $20 or more and Director Basile will buy you a “House” pint.

Come throw in your two cents and meet some new friends. Gathering will be in the Dart/Barninsula area.

You Must Be the Change You Wish to See in the Website

At the beginning of summer, in the midst of widespread and persistent problems with the website, the decision was made to build a new website. Now speaking specifically to the problems that plagued the old website, I’ve prepared a bullet-point list: 

  • The site was huge. It took an absurd amount of time to traverse and edit (speaking in a modern internet context–by antiquated dial-up standards it was lithe and spritely). As to why it was so big? I’m not sure, but the site didn’t seem to have it’s storage well organized. 
     
  • The site was faulty. Pages would die, calendars would disappear, and service complaints would roll in. Part of the problem seemed to be that the Wordpress build was, in many ways, hobbled together with third-party plug-ins that would just up and go out of service. Leaving us with a non-functional website. 
     
  • It wasn’t gorgeous. Which is a diplomatic way of saying it was ugly. Strange off-brand wallpaper, poor use of pictures, and confusing site navigation are just some of the more obvious reasons why visiting the website felt like a chore. 
     
  • The blog was sprawling and labyrinthine, with no clear entry-point. Which is a problem, because we have plans to put our blog to better use by publishing more frequently on a regular schedule.  

We hope that with the new site most of these problems have been addressed. Whether or not that’s the case is something that you, member and fans, can help us assess. You can do so through the contact page on the website, or by emailing us at info@blackstar.coop (speaking of, we had a member-owner contact us as soon as the site went live to tell us that the contact page wasn’t working).

 

Worker Spotlight: Chris

What do you do at Black Star? 

I cook. I’m cooking right now. (Editor’s note: this is true. The interview was conducted while the subject was cooking)

Where are you from? 

Lubbock, TX

What’s your favorite beer currently on tap? 

Waterloo. It’s delightful!

What’s your favorite late-night drunk snack? 

God, anything–I’m drunk! Maybe hot wings and tacos. Though, to be clear, I’ll eat those anytime, anywhere. Or ramen… Michi and Dojo are open late. 

What’s the last book you read?

The Lord of the Rings, for like the 800th time.

What’s your favorite cooperative principal?

Making grilled cheese. That’s my favorite part of working in the Black Star Co-op kitchen. Is that a cooperative principal? 

Which do you prefer: pie, cake, or mochi?

None of the above. I like cheesecake. I’ll eat any of the others, but only if they’re made with strawberries. 

Favorite Austin restaurant? 

Michi Ramen

Kimchi: is there anything you wouldn’t put it on? 

Pancakes. I mean western style flatcakes–I wouldn’t eat those with kimchi. But actual kimchi pancakes are fine, obviously. 

If you could go anywhere for the month of August to escape the Austin heat, where would you go? 

Vietnam. The heat doesn’t bother me, I work in a kitchen!