UMD co-op aims to fight capitalism, corporate greed

A co-op at the University of Maryland has expanded its mission beyond providing healthy food, and is enlisting volunteers to join the fight against capitalism, racism, and heteronormativity.

The Maryland Food Co-op, an independent, worker-owned business that has operated out of the University of Maryland's Stamp Student Union since 1976, recently displayed signs—photos of which were provided to Campus Reform—advertising for volunteers by appealing to those with an intrinsic hostility to free markets.

“The Co-op wants you … to assist us in ending the CAPITALIST, WHITE SUPREMACIST, HETEROPATRIARCHY (and be well-fed and caffeinated for finals),” one face of the sandwich board sign states, while on the reverse side bears the slogan “Down with corporate greed/Up with worker-owned co-ops.”

Those who heed the call to volunteer are paid in “food credits” redeemable for items sold at the co-op.

Chris Litchfield, a Co-op employee, told Campus Reform that while the organization is worker-run, “a lot of us aren’t actually students,” and that they rent space in the Student Union just like other businesses operating from the building.

As for the recruitment signs, Litchfield explained that the store’s employees see their business model as being intrinsically at odds with the concepts listed, and don’t shy away from being associated with that contrast

“We’re a worker-owned business, and we see worker ownership as a way to limit a lot of the problems of capitalism, and allow a lot more liberty in the work environment,” he told Campus Reform, reiterating, “We do see ourselves as against capitalism.”

Indeed, the Co-op has identified itself as an enemy of capitalism in the past, as well. In November, according to the group’s Facebook page, they hosted a “New Economy Week” event at which participants were invited to “hear and talk about how we can build together a more just society.”

The New Economy Week, which took place from Nov. 9-15, billed itself as “a public conversation about the ideas that can transform society and build an economy where people and the planet matter,” and challenged member organizations to consider topics such as “Building an Economy Where #BlackLivesMatter,” “Democracy Versus the 1%,” and “A People’s Climate Agenda.”

Litchfield noted that his own experiences had helped to shape his perspective on the question of capitalism, saying that in previous jobs he has seen managers harass employees with virtual impunity, and believes such problems are a condition of the current capitalist system.

“I’ve worked for businesses that perpetuate that heteronormative, patriarchal order, and I like to think that any self-respecting business would be opposed to those things,” he added.

Spokespersons for UMD had not responded to Campus Reform by press time.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @FrickePete