October 24th, 2002


Don't stop, Co-op.

Got back to town this morning at 4:30AM after a 12 hour drive back from the Western Worker Cooperative Conference that I helped organize. Everything went so smoothly that I actually have little to talk about on my LJ. We all know that positive entries are boring so if you’re looking for fun, skip the next 2 paragraphs.

It was our biggest Western conference ever with almost 100 people attending representing between 35-40 cooperatives. In contrast to the Eastern conference I attended a couple of months ago, probably 95% were people who actually worked in worker co-ops. My workshop went well, all the things I organized actually happened without incident and every time I see my co-workers interact coop-wise in public, it makes me proud of them and our workplace. As a conference, we also voted to go forward with plans for a national conference to found a national worker-coop organization, something long overdue.

And for the first time in the four conferences I attended, the weather was beautiful every day. I went for two long hikes and soaked in the hippie hot springs many times. I, in fact, took an extra day this year just to soak in the tubs as my co-workers went to the intensive facilitation or conflict resolution workshops. It was a nice and needed, if short, vacation.

Conference thoughts:

-The place where the conference was held is a collective hot springs resort and intentional community. After our criticism of their orientation last year which was rife with cultural imperialism and dubious history ("The native people of this area gathered here for centuries because of the healing power of the hot springs. Now we gather here, continuing the tradition."*) they skipped the history part entirely.

-We pretty much take over the whole place, occupying 100 out of 120 rooms. I pity the hippies who just came hoping to offer up backrubs to spiritually-seeking nubiles who instead are stuck in hot tubs hearing co-opers carrying their retail margin and management structure debates well into the late night hours. Well, almost.

-Rainbow workers were asked to estimate how much of our profit-sharing pay out goes to tattoos. We promised to do research and report back next year.

-My roommates were from CitiBikes in Portland. They were incredibly cute boys dressed all in black. One had pouffier dyed black hair and the other had more tattoos. I came back to the cabin one night to find all the cabin lights on and the bigger-haired one (who I thought of as "Wittgenstein" for some reason) asleep face down with his arms over his head still holding Alexander Berkman’s "ABCs of Anarchism" which he had been reading when he dozed off.

-I love seeing my old friend from the heady ‘80s anarcho-tourism days who works at a co-op in a different state. While being publicly affectionate to annoy her co-workers, she said to me, "You like big, stinky, opinionated girls who are loud and take up a lot of space. How come we aren’t going out?" Awwwww. Every year we love discussing why we’ve never gone out.

-I could probably write a whole LJ about Denny’s ** but it was our one food stop on the way back so it’s worth mentioning here. They didn’t like the looks of us. While most rest stop denizens assumed we were some kind of church group, they had us pegged accurately as a bunch of race-mixing commies. They tried not seating us but we insisted. Many excuses were given for our being ignored despite the fact that there were only four other tables full of people in the whole place. The dishwasher was broken. "Gordon" was on a break. They were out of a lot of individual menu item. In truth, it was hard to tell whether our 60 year old waiter was just exhausted and overworked or we were being treated badly. We debated this among ourselves as we waited nearly 30 minutes to place our order. Still, after all the lawsuits you’d think their mandated sensitivity training wouldn’t have allowed them to serve the one black person at our table a good 5 minutes after everyone else. Especially when she only ordered a salad.

But as in every non-urban Denny’s, the later it got, the more the restaurant filled with punk rockers and queer youth. We waved to them as we left the restaurant. As we pulled away in the van, an hour and 45 minutes after we stopped, I looked back at the sign. Some lights were broken so it read only "De ny’s".

-After driving at nearly 100 mph for about an hour, our driver got pulled over, radar-gunned at 87mph in a 65 zone. Probably in response to awareness of racial profiling, the ticket form has a spot for ethnicity which the cop fills out without asking for the driver to self-identify. When we got back on the highway, our driver (who is bi-racial: Cherokee and white) asked me, "What am I?"

"You’re Hispanic," I replied.

OK, that’s it for now. I only got about 3 hours of sleep last night so my brain is a little scattered. I might make another entry later about actual co-op issues.

*To be fair, in other years I have heard accurate and informational histories of the area, including what happened to the area’s native people and who was responsible. Last year was just jaw-droppingly bad.

**Yes, it was wrong to stop there. However in our defense, we had few options. We were, about to head into the Oregon/Northern California no-services zone and there was too much crankiness to continue another 100 miles. You should check that Denny’s link, by the way.
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