South Slope needs to be fully transparent

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: March 21 2014 | 11:01 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:50 am in

By Richard Running

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We always have believed in and supported cooperatives because they are democratically run organizations that support their members and employees. So when we moved back to southwest Cedar Rapids about four years ago, we signed with South Slope Cooperative for our phone, Internet and television services. Unfortunately, management has changed since then and so has the support and respect for South Slope members and employees.

As a result of an investigation by the field examiner for the National Labor Relations Board, a Complaint and Notice of Hearing has been issued by the NLRB finding merit in multiple charges against South Slope Cooperative and our CEO, Justyn Miller.

Charges against Miller include threatening employees with loss of benefits, locking out employees and refusing to bargain collectively in good faith with South Slope employees.

These and other charges against Miller are mostly violations of the National Labor Relations Act section 8 (a).

In an effort to gather more information, I stopped by the South Slope office in North Liberty last week. At the customer service counter, I informed the attendant that I was a member and would like a copy of 2013ís annual meeting minutes.

The courteous counter person said she would get it but came back later and requested my name.

Later, I was informed that CEO Miller would have to talk to me. Mr. Miller came up behind me and announced who he was. I again requested 2013 meeting minutes and was told I couldnít have them and that 2013 minutes only would be passed out at this yearís†meeting.

I asked if they hadnít taken minutes a year ago and was informed they had but the public version would be handed out only at the meeting. I asked for the date of this yearís meeting but was informed he couldnít tell me because the financials werenít completed.

I requested South Slopeís IRS financial Form 990 and was informed that 990 forms are not given to members but that other financial reports would be available at the annual meeting.

IRS 990s are public information but it looks like members will have to go through the IRS to get our copies.

As a South Slope Cooperative member, my concern is for the future of South Slope. Iíve already heard from members leaving because of the alleged violations of federal law. These actions diminish not only the reputation of South Slope but cooperatives in general.

All of us who are South Slope members must make it clear that we expect full transparency and improved governance from our South Slope CEO and board of directors or we must consider whether these current members need to be replaced.

Richard Running of Cedar Rapids served 15 years as an Iowa legislator. He also was the 1995 presidential appointment as the Secretary of Laborís representative for the Kansas City Region. In 1999, he was named director of Iowa Workforce Development, severing seven years. In 2007, he became the executive director of the Dubuque Area Labor Management Council, then retired in 2012. Comments: rrichrun253@gmail.com

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