Rink Dickinson – co-founder, co-Executive Director, co-op member
Since our founding in 1986 Rink has played, at one time or another, almost every major role in helping Equal Exchange to become a model of a democratically controlled, socially responsible business — Co-founder, Board Chair, Director of Sales, and since 1999 co-Executive Director.
Rink was deeply influenced by the two principle areas where he grew up: inner-city Detroit and the “Springsteen” region of New Jersey. He first gained a passion for organic foods when working at the New England Food Co-ops in the early 1980’s. There he met Michael Rozyne and Jonathan Rosenthal, with whom he co-founded Equal Exchange in 1986. Their goal was to create an unprecedented, progressive organization that balanced the interests of farmers, customers, shareholders and workers. They had no models to follow, but did decide to forego the privileges that normally accrue to entrepreneurs. Instead they structured Equal Exchange as a worker-owned cooperative, where every employee would also be an equal owner, each with one vote and each eligible to serve on the company’s board.
Rink has also served on the board of another natural foods worker co-op, Once Again Nut Butters (New York). He holds a BA from SUNY-Binghamton, and a MA in Urban Planning from M.I.T. Rink lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
Rob Everts – co-Executive Director, co-op member
When Rob joined Equal Exchange in 1997 he brought with him 20 years of challenging big business by organizing the other participants in the marketplace – namely workers, consumers and voters. This background has uniquely prepared him for leading a mission driven, yet for-profit organization.
Rob grew up in Mill Valley, California, and left college in 1975 to join Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. There he worked until 1982 when he became an organizer with the Hotel and Restaurant Workers’ Union. In 1987 he joined the grassroots social justice organization, Neighbor-to-Neighbor. There he had his first experience in the coffee industry when in 1992 he helped lead a successful nationwide boycott of Folger’s. The objective was to encourage Folger’s parent company, Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s largest buyers of Salvadoran coffee, to support a peace accord in El Salvador’s bloody civil war. He later moved to Costa Rica and worked as a consultant to UNICEF and other NGO’s.
Rob was lured to Equal Exchange in 1997 to help design a grassroots organizing approach to building Fair Trade, but soon was assigned increasing responsibilities. He joined Rink as co-executive director in 1999. Rob is a graduate of University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.