UPDATED: Ozark Natural Foods workers on strike, demand resignation of board members

Employees conduct a sit-down strike in front of Ozark Natural Foods Monday morning.

Staff photo

Update, 3:30 p.m.. June 14: We received a statement Thursday afternoon from ONF staff concerning the strike. Read it here.

Update, 10 a.m. June 12: The strike has ended at Ozark Natural Foods and the co-op is open for business.

Something’s up at Ozarks Natural Foods today.

Employees are on strike, and are demanding the resignation of two members of the co-op’s board of directors.

According to marketing director Alexa McGriff, 60 out of 63 ONF employees who attended a special meeting held Sunday night voted to strike until board members Linda Ralston and Sue Graham resign from their positions.

McGriff said that owners recently met and voted to remove Ralston and Graham from the seven-member board, but that neither member is recognizing the removal.

“As a co-op, you have to listen the ownership,” McGriff said. “We just feel they aren’t doing that.”

Ralston told KFSM she has no plans to resign, but declined further comment. “I’m very surprised, and I do plan on staying on the board,” she told the station.

Graham said she was undecided, and added that she suspected workers are upset with she and Ralston’s vote “with the majority” to remove Alysen Land as general manager.

Mike Anzalone has served as interim general manager since Land’s departure.

As of Monday morning, the co-op was closed, and a group of striking employees were outside explaining the situation to customers who tried to enter the building.

The staff released the following statement regarding the strike this morning.

Dear Co-op Owner,

We the staff of your co-op, Ozark Natural Foods will no longer stand by while your voices and the will of the staff remain ignored.

A group of owners asked for a special meeting in order to discuss the conduct of Linda Ralston and Sue Graham. The owners were denied that meeting. The owners chose to meet anyway. Those owners met quorum; voted to remove both board members, and submitted those results to the board of directors. Linda Ralston and Sue Graham remain seated against the will of the ownership.

The majority of the staff wrote letters to the board of directors and overwhelmingly signed a petition asking for the reinstatement of Alysen Land. That request has not been acknowledged.

We, the staff of Ozark Natural Foods, believe that our co-op is in crisis. We will no longer stand by while we are hushed like children and told to be quiet while the adults in the other room decide our fate.

As of the close of business on Sunday, June 10, in the spirit of passive resistance, the doors of the co-op will be locked; and before you we will sit down. We refuse to work under these conditions. We refuse to continue as if nothing is wrong, while the basic tenets of co-operation are being ignored. We will fight for the co-operative principles, for transparency, and for the voices of the ownership and the staff to be respected. We sit before you with a single goal:

We demand the resignations of Linda Ralston and Sue Graham.

We believe that it is impossible for our board of directors to carry on a reasonable relationship with this management team, with the staff, and with our ownership until Linda Ralston and Sue Graham resign. We believe that in their absence, the remaining members can move on to the crucial decisions of our time. We believe that in their absence, Alysen Land will be returned to her position as General Manager; that John Eldridge will be removed and an attorney who is willing to defend our bylaws will be hired; that our mortgage will be paid in full as we promised the ownership many months ago. We believe that in the absence of Linda Ralston and Sue Graham, our ownership and our community, rather than personal agendas, will once again become the focus of our board of directors.

We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this will cause to you and the interruption in your ability to get wholesome food for your families. But we believe that the very nature of co-operation is now in jeopardy. We ask you, our owners, our friends, our family, our community, to please sit with us in protest.

We ask that you contact all of our board members and plead for the resignation of Linda Ralston and Sue Graham. We hope for a speedy resolution so we can return to being your community owned co-operative grocery store.