Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Westside Store Exterior Painting

Update: Painting will begin 6/20 Friday morning on the North side of the building and will end on Tuesday 6/24

The West-Side store exterior is going to be painted soon! Depending on the weather, the work will start on June 20th or 23rd.  

This project should take about 2 days. Flying Colors, the company hired for the West-Side, are active Co-op members and have been great to work with so far.  They are aware of the effects this type of work can have on a retail environment.  

Flying Colors will be using low VOC products.  And to lessen the impact they will be starting work in the entrance area before the store hours.

The Eastside store will be open as usual if you'd rather switch stores for those two days. Check back here for updates; and please contact us if you have any further questions or comments.

Here's looking forward to brighter tones and a more vibrant Welcome to the store!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

2014 Local Eats!

Local Eats!

Join us as we celebrate our Local Vendors this weekend at both stores!  
Westside: Sat. June 14th 11-5
Eastside: Sun. June 15th  11-5
Come learn about the growing local economy of our community and meet the people who make it happen.  Local vendors will be on hand sampling their offerings and available to answer your questions.  These are some our favorite food and products to carry.  We're proud and delighted to host this event, and celebrate our local abundance -- see you there!


Monday, June 2, 2014

Olympia Food Co-op Boycott FAQs

Olympia Food Co-op Boycott FAQs


Why does the Co-op take political stands?
What other countries does the Co-op boycott?
How did the Co-op come to join the boycott of Israeli products?
What does “block” or “consent” mean at the Co-op?
Why didn’t members vote on the boycott before it was enacted?
Are all boycotts decided by the Board?
How many products were affected by the Israeli boycott?
Has the Co-op lost money due to the boycott?
Is the Co-op boycotting all Jewish businesses? Is the Co-op Anti-Semitic?
Did the boycott create division in the community?
Why isn’t the Co-op pursuing community dialogue or a reconciliation process right now?
MORE FAQs



Why does the Co-op take political stands?
Politics are at the heart of what makes the Co-op different from other grocery stores. Organic standards, fair trade, and GMO policies are all political stands that the Co-op weighs in on, from the products on our shelves to the signs on our doors.
Being political is part of the Co-op’s purpose. Our mission statement directs the kinds of work we do, and that includes encouraging economic and social justice, making good food accessible to more people, fostering a socially and economically egalitarian society, making human effects on the earth and its inhabitants positive and renewing, and supporting local production.
Other, conventional grocery stores are also political. Many of them donate to political parties or other causes. The difference is that the Co-op’s political decisions are based on our mission statement, are transparent, and can be directly changed by member vote.

What other countries does the Co-op boycott?
In addition to the boycott of Israeli goods, the Co-op also boycotts products from China. This is due to China’s ongoing human rights violations against the Tibetan people.
In the past, the Co-op has boycotted Norway, for its decision to resume commercial whaling, and the state of Colorado, for anti-gay legislation passed in the early 90s. The Co-op has also boycotted individual companies, including IAMS, Gardenburger, and Coca Cola.
Some individuals have suggested that the Co-op should boycott producers in the United States, because of U.S. human rights violations at home and abroad. Although we disagree with many actions, past and present, at home and abroad, taken by the U.S. government, it would not be possible to run a co-op while boycotting U.S. producers. Furthermore, such a decision would be in direct opposition to our goal of “supporting local production”.

How did the Co-op come to join the boycott of Israeli products?

What does “block” or “consent” mean at the Co-op?
The Co-op Board and staff both use consensus process to make decisions. In consensus decision-making, there is no majority vote. Instead, everyone must either consent (agree) or stand-aside (similar to abstaining from a vote) in order for a decision to be made. Any single person can “block” a decision.
There are many different forms of consensus. Wikipedia gives a good overview of general consensus history, theory and practice at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consensus_decision-making.

Why didn’t members vote on the boycott of Israeli products before it was enacted?
There are three main reasons that the Board did not call for a member vote when considering the boycott in 2010:
  • It has never been a practice of the Co-op to ask members to vote on boycotts. The Co-op has instituted many boycotts, but has never brought one to a member vote.
  • The Co-op had already spent more than a year considering the boycott suggestion at the time that members—and staff—asked the Board to make a decision.
  • The Board felt that the boycott clearly fell under both the Co-op’s mission and current boycott policy, which stated, “Whenever possible, the Olympia Food Co-op will honor nationally recognized boycotts which are called for reasons that are compatible with our goals and mission statement.”
However, any member may collect signatures to put the issue on a Co-op ballot via the “Member Initiated Ballot” process. http://olympiafood.coop/MIBProcedurePetitionReqs.pdf

Are all boycotts decided by the Board?
At the moment, the current boycott policy remains in effect, and the Board also continues to have the right to make decisions, too, per the Co-op’s bylaws. The boycott policy is available at http://olympiafood.coop/boycott.
The recommendations of the Boycott Policy Committee have not yet been considered, due to the ongoing lawsuit.

How many products were affected by the Israeli boycott?
The Co-op stopped selling about nine products. They included gluten-free and regular ice cream cones, moisturizer, baby wipes, crackers, and several flavors of dairy-free chocolate bars. The boycott affected approximately 0.075 percent of the Co-op’s inventory.

Has the Co-op lost money due to the boycott?
Sales and memberships continued to rise in the months after the boycott was enacted, as well as in the years since. Although some of this rise may be attributable to the enactment of the boycott, it could also be due to other factors; it is difficult to say for sure. Although a small number of Co-op members rescinded their membership after the boycott was enacted, more joined the Co-op. In the future, we hope to regain the trust and reactivate the memberships of those who have left.

Is the Co-op boycotting all Jewish businesses? Is the Co-op Anti-Semitic?
The Co-op continues to sell products made by Jewish producers, and to stock ritual and holiday Jewish foods. We strive to work against both Anti-Jewish and Anti-Arab racism. We have passed on information and held trainings on Anti-Semitism within the community since the boycott was enacted. We do not believe that criticizing the government of Israel is anti-Semitic.
Did the boycott create division in the community?
Members of the Co-op, and members of the larger community, held strong views about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict before the Co-op enacted the boycott of Israeli products in support of Palestinian human rights. The enactment of the Israeli product boycott did not create divisions within the community – but it did expose divisions that already existed.

Why isn’t the Co-op pursuing community dialogue or a reconciliation process right now?
Because we are involved in a lawsuit, we have not been able to undertake the additional dialogue within the community that we, and many others, feel is needed. This includes reconciliation processes and community dialogue (as recommended by the Co-op Conversation) as well as updating the Co-op’s boycott policy. There are several reasons that the Board has decided to pause this work:
  1. The lawsuit poses a financial risk to the Co-op. The plaintiffs have argued that, even if they lose their appeal, the Co-op should pay any fees or fines they incurred because they are suing on behalf of the Co-op. (Page 46 of their appeal, available at http://ccrjustice.org/files/Davisv.Cox_AppellantsBrief(02-22-2013).pdf).
Conversely, if the plaintiffs win their appeal, the indemnification clause in the Co-op’s bylaws requires the Co-op to pay any fees or fines assessed to the defendants. (See part III, section 18 of the Co-op’s bylaws for information on indemnification of Board members.) Until the lawsuit is resolved, the Co-op’s financial risk remains unclear.
  1. As long as the lawsuit is ongoing, individual member and community comments could be used by either the plaintiffs or defendants in the lawsuit. Open dialogue is not possible when it is only attended by those individuals who are willing to take the risk that their comments might become part of a lawsuit.
  2. Full participation in reconciliation processes is not possible when some parties cannot take part because they are parties in a lawsuit. Regardless of whether an individual is in the right or in the wrong, the threat of their statements being used against them in court precludes open dialogue.
The Board is committed to continuing our work on the Co-op Conversation’s recommendations, and on the boycott policy review, as soon as the lawsuit is resolved. The Co-op Conversation report can be read at http://coopconversation.org/2012/10/01/co-op-conversation-board-report-2/.

MORE FAQs
The Olympia Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions group also maintains its own FAQ sheet on the Olympia Food Co-op’s boycott. Members looking for an additional perspective can read them at http://www.olympiabds.org/resources/faq.html.



Olympia Food Co-op Lawsuit FAQs


Olympia Food Co-op
LAWSUIT FAQs

For an overview of what has happened in the lawsuit to-date, see the Lawsuit section of the Co-op’s Boycott Overview (link). All court filings can be read on the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page (http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/davis-v-cox).

Frequently Asked Questions
Who is suing, and who is being sued?
Is the Co-op being sued?
What is an anti-SLAPP motion and why did the defendants use it?
How is the lawsuit about free speech?
Was the outcome of the lawsuit impacted by the Co-op’s incorporation under the Washington State Nonprofit statute?
Is the Co-op seeking damages against the Plaintiffs?
What is the Citizens United ruling, and why is it cited in the defense to this lawsuit? Does this mean that the Co-op endorses the Citizens United ruling?
How much does the lawsuit cost the Co-op?
What is going on with the lawsuit right now?
Who is suing, and who is being sued?
The lawsuit was brought by five Co-op members: Kent L. Davis, Linda Davis, Susan G. Trinin, Jeffery I. Trinin and Susan Mayer.
The defendants who are being sued are: Grace Cox, Erin Genia, Eric Mapes, Jayne Rossman (formerly Kaszynski), Harry Levine, Jackie Krzyzek, Julia Sokoloff, TJ Johnson, Rochelle Gause, Rob Richards, John Nason, Ron Lavigne, John Regan, Joellen Reineck Wilhelm, Suzanne Shafer, and Jessica Laing.

Except for Grace, Jayne and Harry (who are all staff members), the defendants were volunteer Board members at or after the time of the board vote on the boycott.

Is the Co-op being sued?
No. The lawsuit has been filed as a “derivative” lawsuit (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivative_suit), in which the five plaintiffs claim to bring the case on behalf of the Co-op itself. The defendants disagree with this, and have said so in their legal filings.
The current and former Board members were sued individually, but retained counsel as a group.

What is an anti-SLAPP motion and why did the defendants use it?
A SLAPP is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. According to Tim Wyrwich in the Washington State Law Review,
Plaintiffs file SLAPPs to interfere with the protected free expression of defendants. A SLAPP has little or no chance of success in the courts. Even without a successful court judgment, though, a SLAPP accomplishes an ulterior goal: forcing defendants who legally exercised their constitutional rights of free expression into costly litigation that chills their current and future involvement in public debate.” (https://digital.law.washington.edu/dspace-law/bitstream/handle/1773.1/1063/86WLR663.pdf?sequence=1)
Washington State has an anti-SLAPP law that protects defendants from frivolous SLAPPs, and this is what the defendants used to protect themselves against this suit.
There are many reasons that the defendants chose to counter-file a SLAPP motion:
  • Most importantly, evidence strongly suggests that this lawsuit is a SLAPP.
  • Furthermore, in situations like this one where the plaintiffs can’t show that they have a likelihood of winning the case, the SLAPP counter-motion protects the defendants and the Co-op itself from the cost and burden of the litigation process.

In lawsuits about the free speech rights of the defendant, the plaintiff must show by “clear and convincing evidence a probability of prevailing on the claim”.

In plain speech, this means that plaintiffs must convince the court that their lawsuit is not frivolous before the court requires the defendants (and, in this case, the Co-op itself) to spend a lot of time and money on the case. In this case, the court decided that the suit was meritless, and spared the Co-op and defendants’ attorneys from spending even more time defending against it.
  • Lastly, the SLAPP counter-motion speeds the processing of the case, so that defendants spend less time in between court hearings. As the lawsuit was filed in 2011 and continues to date, this might be difficult to believe. But the lawsuit could be taking significantly longer, if not for the SLAPP law’s protections.

How is the lawsuit about free speech?
The lawsuit is about free speech in two ways:
  • Defending the Co-op Board’s right to free speech on behalf of the Co-op
  • Supporting our state’s Anti-SLAPP law, which protects the free speech of other activists and citizens.
The lawsuit was filed because of the Board of Directors’ decision to join the boycott of Israeli products in support of Palestinian human rights. In their complaint, the plaintiffs ask the court to “permanently enjoin the OFC Board from enforcing or otherwise abiding by the Israel Boycott…” (emphasis added.) By filing this lawsuit, the plaintiffs have attempted to override the decision of democratically elected Co-op Board members.
As part of their appeal, plaintiffs have argued that Washington State’s anti-SLAPP law is unconstitutional and that it should be struck down. In defending themselves, the Co-op’s past and current board members are defending our state’s anti-SLAPP law, too.
Washington’s anti-SLAPP law provides important protections to activists. Without it, individuals, corporations, and others can file meritless lawsuits against activists, forcing them to either spend huge sums of money to defend themselves in court, or settle on unfavorable terms. Animal rights activists, environmentalists, unions, and many other groups have been faced with SLAPPs and have used laws like Washington’s in their defense.
In Gordon v. Marrone, Judge Colabella stated:
SLAPP suits come in many forms camouflaged as ordinary lawsuits. The conceptual thread that binds them is that they are suits without substantial merit that are brought by private interests to ‘stop citizens from exercising their political rights or to punish them for having done so’… The ripple effect of such suits in our society is enormous. Persons who have been outspoken on issues of public importance targeted in such suits or who have witnessed such suits will often choose in the future to stay silent. Short of a gun to the head, a greater threat to First Amendment expression can scarcely be imagined.”

In continuing to fight the lawsuit, the defendants are also working to support our state’s strong anti-SLAPP law.

Was the outcome of the lawsuit impacted by the Co-op’s incorporation under the Washington State Nonprofit statute?
The Co-op’s incorporation status was not the cause of the court’s ruling in defendants’ favor.
The lawsuit was ruled a “SLAPP” (or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”). The SLAPP law applies regardless of how the Co-op is incorporated.
Here’s why: in all legally recognized organizations having a Board of Directors (whether they are cooperatives, non-profits, or corporations), the Board is legally required to follow the organization’s bylaws. The Co-op’s bylaws (http://olympiafood.coop/bylaws.html) give the Board – as the elected representatives of the membership – the power to oversee all operations of the Co-op.
The plaintiffs argue that the Board is guilty of acting “ultra vires”, or of exceeding its powers under our bylaws. They claim that the Board was legally required to follow the staff boycott policy, which states that all staff members must consent for them to approve a boycott.
The trial court has stated this argument is incorrect for at least the following two reasons.
  • First, the Board did follow the boycott policy: they sent it to staff for consent. When staff consent failed, they took the issue up at the request of both a staff committee and Co-op members. Furthermore, when the Board approved the current boycott policy in 1993, the meeting notes stated that the “BOD can discuss if they take issue with any particular decision.” Boycott decisions were intended to be open to review by the Board.
  • The bylaws specifically give the Board the power to adopt policies in support of the Co-op’s mission, resolve staff disagreements, and oversee the entire operation of the store. The boycott policy is not part of our bylaws, and cannot override the Bylaws.
Regardless of how the Co-op is incorporated, the same standards apply for all types of organizations: the Board is answerable to the bylaws.
As a final note, there are many misconceptions about the Co-op’s legal status and whether or not we are a real co-op. To clarify: all consumer cooperatives in Washington are incorporated under nonprofit statutes. The only difference between the Olympia Food Co-op and newer cooperatives is that newer cooperatives are incorporated under a nonprofit statute that allows them to give patronage refunds.
As part of the Co-op’s Strategic Priorities, which were based on the 2012 Co-op Conversation, the Board has researched other ways to incorporate, and is embarking on a process to gather member feedback on the possibility of changing our incorporation. This was presented to members at the 2013 Annual Meeting; more feedback opportunities will be planned in 2014. Any decision to change our incorporation status would need to pass a member vote, per Co-op bylaws.

Is the Co-op seeking damages against the Plaintiffs?
Fees and statutory awards were granted to the defendants when the lawsuit was declared a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). These fees and awards are part of the SLAPP law itself.
Anti-SLAPP laws are meant to protect against frivolous lawsuits. One way that Washington’s law does so is by requiring people who file SLAPPs to pay fees, costs, and a statutory award. This is meant to deter people from filing such lawsuits. The law requires that when a lawsuit is deemed to be a SLAPP, the plaintiff has to pay a prevailing party $10,000. Because the plaintiffs sued sixteen people, the law required that they pay $10,000 per defendant, for a total of $160,000. The judge’s decision on this point was made based on precedent. The award of these statutory damages is mandatory, under the statute.
The SLAPP law also requires that plaintiffs pay the legal fees of the defendants, but unlike the $10,000 penalty, a specific amount is not set by the law. The amount awarded to the defendants’ lawyers (about $62,000) was set by the judge.

What is the Citizens United ruling, and why is it cited in the defense to this lawsuit? Does this mean that the Co-op endorses the Citizens United ruling?
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission “is a U.S. constitutional law case, in which the United States Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._Federal_Election_Commission). Or in other words, the court ruled that corporations and other organizations can give unlimited sums to political causes and campaigns.
The Citizen’s United decision was cited by the defendants’ legal team in court filings because it is the most recent Supreme Court decision upholding the right of organizations to free speech. Specifically, the citation in the Co-op lawsuit is a footnote that says, “First amendment protection extends to corporations and decisions made by a corporate board of directors.” The fact that it was cited in the case does not mean that the Co-op agrees with the ramifications of the Citizens United ruling for unlimited corporate election spending.
In the Co-op’s case, the right to free speech means that the Co-op can take a stand on topics ranging from organic standards and GMO foods to speaking out on social issues. Without the right to free speech, the government could theoretically regulate which issues the Co-op was “allowed” to make decisions about, and what the scope of our decisions could be. An organizational “right to free speech” also means that other groups that we tend to agree with (like labor unions, farmworker alliances, and anti-war groups) cannot have their speech rights taken away by the government.
Some people think that any legal framework in which organizations have a “right to free speech” is wrong. Others think that it is unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns that are the biggest problem. There are many complex and nuanced arguments about what is right; there may be better ways for organizations to be protected from government interference than considering them legal entities with free speech rights.
In our current system, these free speech rights allow the Co-op to take positions as an organization - that is why it is cited in the lawsuit. However, the Supreme Court’s decision (in Citizens United) that money is a type of speech, and that therefore no government can limit campaign contributions of corporations, is not one supported by the Co-op.
Lastly, Citizens United was one of more than 100 cases cited by the defendants’ legal team. It is possible that there are others that the Co-op itself, or individual defendants, disagree with. However, lawsuits are argued based on case law and legal precedent, and to refuse to use any cases which defendants did not wholly agree with would be impractical, as a matter of consensus, and prejudicial to the position being defended.

How much does the lawsuit cost the Co-op?
In terms of money, the lawsuit costs the Co-op very little. However, it has hampered the Co-op’s ability to communicate freely, which is a different type of “cost”.
The Co-op’s bylaws provide that the Co-op will pay for the legal defense, fines, or other costs of Board members. The defendants worked hard to secure legal assistance that does not cost the Co-op money.
The defendants’ legal team includes members of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Davis Wright Tremaine, as well as the National Lawyer’s Guild. The legal team is not charging for their services, but some of the lawyers might receive court awarded fees. If fees are not awarded, the Co-op and defendants will owe nothing.
The lawsuit has, however, cost the Co-op in terms of our freedom of communication. Because the Co-op is involved in a lawsuit, we have not been able to undertake the additional dialogue within the community that we, and many others, feel is needed. This includes reconciliation processes and community dialogue (as recommended by the Co-op Conversation) as well as updating the Co-op’s boycott policy. There are several reasons that the Board has decided to pause this work:
  1. The lawsuit poses a financial risk to the Co-op. The plaintiffs have argued that, even if they lose the lawsuit, the Co-op should pay any fees or fines they incurred because they are suing on behalf of the Co-op. (Page 46 of their appeal, available at http://ccrjustice.org/files/Davisv.Cox_AppellantsBrief(02-22-2013).pdf). Conversely, if the plaintiffs win the lawsuit, the Co-op could be ordered to pay for the plaintiffs’ legal fees. Meanwhile, the Co-op’s bylaws provide that it will pay the expenses of Board members (e.g. the defendants). Until the lawsuit is resolved, the Co-op’s financial risk remains unclear.
  2. As long as the lawsuit is ongoing, individual member and community comments could be used by either the plaintiffs or defendants in the lawsuit. Open dialogue is not possible when it is only attended by those individuals who are willing to take the risk that their comments might become part of an ongoing lawsuit.
  3. Full participation in reconciliation processes is not possible when some parties cannot take part because they are named in an ongoing lawsuit. Regardless of whether an individual is in the right or in the wrong, the threat of their statements being used against them in court precludes open dialogue.
The Board is committed to continuing their work on the Co-op Conversation’s recommendations, and on the boycott policy review, as soon as the lawsuit is resolved.

What is going on with the lawsuit right now?
On April 7, 2014, attorneys for both parties were informed that the Washington State Court of Appeals had ruled in favor of the 16 defendants by upholding the Thurston County Superior Court ruling by Judge Thomas McPhee. The earlier ruling dismissed the lawsuit. The plaintiffs have the right to petition for review or reconsideration of the appeal, with a deadline of May 7th. For more information: http://bit.ly/Otzk8P


OFC Boycott Overview


OFC Boycott Overview
Final draft


The Olympia Food Co-op joined the boycott of Israeli products in support of Palestinian human rights in 2010. This document provides a brief overview of Co-op boycotts, how we came to join the boycott of products made in Israel, and what has happened in the years since it was enacted.
In addition to this overview, you may want to read our Boycott FAQs and Lawsuit FAQs.

Olympia Food Co-op: How we choose products
Product Selection
Co-op Boycotts
What is a boycott?
OFC’s Boycott Policy
History of Israeli product boycott
How the Co-op made the Boycott Decision
Community Response
After the Boycott
Member Forum
Next Steps
Elections
Revised boycott language
Staff and Community Education on Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia
The Co-op Conversation
The Lawsuit
Status of Lawsuit




Olympia Food Co-op: How we choose products
Product Selection
The Olympia Food Co-op makes decisions about which products to stock based on many factors, from food quality to social justice. Product decisions made by individual managers or department teams are governed by our Product Selection Guidelines. Some considerations in choosing products for the store include: whether the food is organically grown; environmental impact; food politics/boycotts (including GMO status); packaging considerations; whether the product is local, or created by a collective or cooperative business; economics; special dietary needs or desires as well as cultural considerations; whether additives and preservatives are used; and how meat or poultry is raised. You can read our Product Selection Guidelines athttp://olympiafood.coop/productselection.html.

Co-op Boycotts
The Co-op’s boycott policy states that “whenever possible, the Olympia Food Co-op will honor nationally recognized boycotts which are called for reasons that are compatible with our goals and mission statement.” You can read the full boycott policy at http://olympiafood.coop/boycott.
The Co-op has a long history of taking part in boycotts called against individual companies, states, or countries. Currently, the Co-op boycotts:
  • products made in China, in support of Tibetan human rights;
  • products made in Israel, in support of Palestinian human rights;
  • Coca Cola products, due to union busting activities, particularly in South America.
The Co-op has also joined many boycotts in the past, including:
  • Colorado, due to anti-gay legislation passed in the early 90s;
  • Norway, due to its decision to resume commercial whaling;
  • IAMS pet food, due to its sponsorship of the Iditarod sled race;
  • The Nature Conserve, due to inhumane animal trapping by the organization that its proceeds supported.

What is a boycott?
A boycott is an act of voluntarily abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with a person, organization, or country as an expression of protest, usually for social or political reasons” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boycott 1/5/2014).
Although the idea and practice of boycotting has existed for a long time, the term “boycott” wasn’t coined until 1880, in Ireland. At that time, Irish tenant farmers organized against the feudal management of Irish land by absentee landlords. In County Mayo, a group of tenants demanding lower rents and an end to evictions instituted a form of social shunning against the absentee landlord's local agent, Captain Charles Boycott.
Since then, innumerable boycotts have been called across the globe. Boycotts are aimed at individuals, companies, organizations, municipalities and nations. Some notable boycotts include:
  • The American boycott of British goods during the American Revolution
  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott during the Civil Rights movement
  • The United Farm Workers’ grape and lettuce boycotts
  • The Indian boycott of British goods led by Mohandas Gandhi
  • The boycott of South African products and investments to protest apartheid

OFC’s Boycott Policy
You can read the Co-op’s current boycott policy at http://olympiafood.coop/boycott.

History of Israeli product boycott:
In 2005, a coalition of Palestinian civil society groups (ranging from lawyers’ associations to childcare centers, farmers, and others) called for a boycott of Israeli products, divestment from Israeli companies, and sanctions. Their call stated that:
These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:
  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”
A growing number of organizations and individuals have joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Some notable supporters have included Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Alice Walker, Steven Hawking, and Howard Zinn, as well as organizations such as the American Studies Association, Pax Christi, and Jewish Voice for Peace. More information about the movement and its supporters can be found at www.bdsmovement.net.

How the Co-op made the Boycott Decision
In March of 2009, a volunteer at the Olympia Food Co-op suggested that the Co-op consider joining the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement by boycotting products made in Israel. Over the next year, other suggestion forms were received that also urged the Co-op to join the boycott.
The original suggestion made its way to the Front End/Member Services group at the Co-op (this group includes staff members who work as cashiers, in customer service, and in various administrative roles). From this group, it made its way to the Merchandising team, the group responsible for considering boycott recommendations and proposing boycotts to the rest of the staff.
The Co-op’s boycott policy (http://olympiafood.coop/boycott) states that,“Whenever possible, the Olympia Food Co-op will honor nationally recognized boycotts which are called for reasons that are compatible with our goals and mission statement.” It also states that “the staff… will decide by consensus whether or not to honor a boycott.”
In May of 2010, the Merchandising team reported to the Board that they could not come to a decision about whether to propose the boycott to the staff collective and asked the Board to take up the issue. The Merchandising team recommended a membership forum, followed by a membership vote.
At the Board’s May 20th2010 meeting, the Merchandising team’s recommendation was considered. A small group of Co-op members attended the meeting and urged the Board to approve the boycott. Instead, the Board determined that staff should attempt to obtain consensus, as the boycott policy stated.
The matter was sent to staff, where several staff members indicated their intent to block the boycott. (For information on what “blocking” and “consent” means at the Co-op, see “What does “block” or“consent” mean at the Co-op?).  The staff representative to the Board and another staff member attended the next all-staff meetings; they let staff know that the Board planned to consider the issue at their next meeting and they gathered staff feedback to be shared with the Board.
Staff opinions on the boycott were wide-ranging: some staff members strongly supported the boycott, some strongly opposed it, and some fell in the middle or expressed uncertainty.
At the July 2010 meeting, Board members received this staff feedback and heard comments from about thirty people who attended the meeting to urge the Co-op to join the boycott. After robust discussion, the Board came to consensus to enact the boycott of Israeli products. The decision was based on the evidence presented as well as the Co-op’s mission, bylaws, and boycott policy.
The Staff Representative stood aside from the decision, because staff members held differing opinions. The Board immediately set a date for a member forum to discuss the decision, and noted that if members strongly disagreed with the decision, the Co-op’s Member Initiated Ballot process remained an option. (The Member Initiated Ballot Process can be found at http://olympiafood.coop/MIBProcedurePetitionReqs.pdf).

Member and Community Response
Community response to the adoption of the boycott was mixed. Some members strongly supported the boycott; other members strongly opposed the boycott. Members who supported or opposed the boycott did so for a variety of reasons. Many members either did not have an opinion or didn’t feel that they knew enough to form an opinion.
The group It’s Our Co-op formed to urge the Co-op to end the boycott. Meanwhile, Olympia BDS rallied support around the decision. Members of both of these groups protested (or showed their support) outside of the stores in the first few weeks after the decision was made. Many other organizations and groups in the community worked together to host speakers and other educational events which expressed nuanced and varied views on Israel and Palestine.
After a national group, Stand With Us, made contacting the Co-op about our boycott decision their “action of the week”, thousands of emails and phone calls flooded the Co-op. Staff and Board were overwhelmed, and it became nearly impossible to determine which of the emails were from actual Co-op members, and which were from people in other states or even other countries.
Although Stand With Us’ suggested messages were polite, many of the telephone calls that staff received were abusive, with callers cursing and threatening whoever picked up the phone. Caller ID showed that these calls were arriving from as far as the East coast, and abroad.
The response was far broader than the Board had originally anticipated; it was a challenging time for staff and Board, and also for the community.

After the Boycott
The Co-op took steps to reach out to Co-op members after the boycott was announced, and committed to making changes based on member feedback.
Member Forum
The member forum on the boycott decision was held in August of 2010. During the event, more than 300 people packed the room, and members gave passionate testimony about the boycott. Opinion was mixed, with some strongly opposing, and others strongly supporting the boycott. Every member who wanted to speak was given a chance to do so; the Board of Directors and members listened to testimony for three hours.
Next Steps
In September, following the member forum and other meetings with community members, the Board reported back to the community on the next steps. They pledged to create a Boycott Policy Committee to propose long-term changes to the Co-op’s current policy. They also reported that the Board had considered rescinding the boycott, but did not reach consensus to do so.
Elections
From October 15 – November 15, 2010, the Co-op held its annual elections for the Board of directors. The boycott decision dominated the election, with most candidates expressing strong opinions about the topic. The Olympia BDS group endorsed five candidates, and signed up to distribute information on their endorsements in front of the stores.All groups were welcome to table in front of the stores, but Olympia BDS was the only one who chose to do so.It’s Our Co-op held an open forum to which all candidates were invited to speak and answer questions; they provided Co-op ballots via their website, but did not endorse particular candidates.
A record number of votes (1093) were cast in the 2010 election. Candidates endorsed by Olympia BDS won by a large margin; the five BDS-endorsed candidates received between 545-693 votes each, while the next runner up received 315, and the lowest vote-receiving candidate received 132. You can read all of the vote totals on the Co-op’s blog athttp://olympiafoodcoop.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html.
Revised boycott language
The Board held meetings with various groups in the community, including members of the synagogue and It’s Our Co-op, members of the local mosque, and members of Olympia BDS. In February of 2011, the Board consented to new language as to “what will end the boycott”. The change was based on complaints that the original language was too broad and could lend itself to a variety of interpretations; that it precluded a two-state solution; and that language around Palestinian refugees returning to their homes precluded the option of accepting compensation in lieu of a return to the original property.
The old and new language is as follows:
Original version
What will end the boycott.

The Palestinian Civil Society call for Boycott, Divest and Sanction of Israel outlines the following conditions for ending the boycott.

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
New version:

The Olympia Food Co-op's participation in the boycott will end when the following conditions are met:

1A. Israel ends its occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. These lands have been identified as occupied by organizations and agencies as diverse as the United Nations Security Council, the U.S. State Department, the International Court of Justice, International Committee of the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

1B. Israel dismantles the Wall in accordance with the 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice.

2. Israel recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.

3. Israel agrees to a plan to allow Palestinian “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours” to do so, or to receive just compensation for their losses.

Staff and Community Education on Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia
Because speaking out about Israel and Palestine also requires taking a stand against the anti-Semitism that surrounds the issue, the Co-op published blog posts with information on “Anti-Semitism and Progressive Movements” as well as “Islamophobia”.
In June of 2011, the Co-op sponsored two free trainings for Co-op staff and for community members on “Interrupting Anti-Semitism and Anti-Arab Racism: a hands-on workshop from Jewish and Arab perspectives”.

The Co-op Conversation
In early 2012, the Co-op engaged in a multi-month process to engage members in conversations about the future of the Co-op. The boycott of Israeli products was one topic within this conversation. The final Co-op Conversation report (http://coopconversation.org/2012/10/01/co-op-conversation-board-report-2/) included the following recommendations on the boycott.


Recommendations:
  1. Establish a task force to create a structure for reconciliation with clearly defined goals with a timeline for completing the process.
  2. Use an outside facilitator trained in conflict resolution.
  3. Determine when this process ends and the co-op moves forward. There must be a conclusion.
  4. Develop a transparent, thorough and participatory process for decision-making about future boycotts.

The Co-op plans to pursue these recommendations once the boycott-related lawsuit is resolved.

The Lawsuit
In early June 2011, fifteen current and former Board members received a letter threatening a lawsuit if the boycott decision was not rescinded. The letter, from five Co-op members, alleged procedural violations and gave recipients thirty days in which to rescind the boycott. The recipients of the letter included:
  • Board members who began their terms in January of 2011, and who were not on the Board when the decision was made
  • Board members who were on the Board when the decision was made but whose terms ended in December 2010 and who were no longer on the Board
  • Two staff members, including the former staff representative to the Board and a staff member who had served as the fill-in staff representative to the Board for a few months
If you do what we demand,” the letter stated, “this situation may be resolved amicably and efficiently. If not, we will bring legal action against you, and this process will become considerably more complicated, burdensome, and expensive than it has already.” The full text of the letter is available as Exhibit A of the following document:http://ccrjustice.org/files/Johnson%20Decl%20in%20Support%20of%20Defs'%20Opposition.pdf.
The Board responded, stating that although the members had broadly alleged procedural violations, they had not stated how the Board had violated the bylaws or mission of the organization. The Board requested that they provide more specific allegations for them to respond to. Finally, the Board reminded them that the Member Initiated ballot process was still a viable option to change the boycott decision. The full text of the response is available on page 132 (Exhibit X) of the following documenthttp://ccrjustice.org/files/Levine_Declaration_in_Supp_of_Defs'_Motion_to_Strike.pdf.
In July 2011, sixteen current and former Board members(including all former letter recipients, plus the current staff representative to the Board) received a letter from a lawyer on behalf of the five members. The letter stated that the Board should already know what the procedural violations were; that it was the Board’s responsibility to take action rather than the members’; and that since the Board had not rescinded the boycott, they would “proceed accordingly.” The full text of the response is available on page 134 (Exhibit Y) of the following document http://ccrjustice.org/files/Levine_Declaration_in_Supp_of_Defs'_Motion_to_Strike.pdf.
The five members filed their lawsuit in early September 2011. Filings from the defendants and the plaintiffs can be found on the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page: http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/davis-v-cox.

Status of Lawsuit
In February 2012, the superior court judge ruled in the defendants’ (current and former Board members) favor, agreeing that the lawsuit was a “SLAPP” or “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” A SLAPP is a meritless lawsuit in which the real purpose is to chill free speech, even if it purports to address other topics.
In February 2013, the plaintiffs appealed the SLAPP ruling to the Washington State Supreme Court. As part of their appeal, plaintiffs urged the court to declare Washington State’s anti-SLAPP law unconstitutional.
In August 2013, the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, and sent the appeal to the State Appeals Court.
Oral argument in the Appellate court was heard February 24, 2014. Attorneys for the co-defendants were informed on April 7th that the court had once again found in their favor, upholding the original judgment.
On May 7, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a petition for discretionary review of the ruling. The Washington State Supreme Court will make the decision whether or not to grant the review.
The lawsuit continues to place reconciliation efforts (such as those recommended by the Co-op Conversation report), Co-op sponsored community dialogue, and work on modifying the Co-op’s boycott policy on hold. The Board is committed to taking further steps when the lawsuit has been resolved and no community members need fear that their comments might be used against them in court.



Links to incorporate in final version:
Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions http://www.bdsmovement.net/call

Center for Constitutional Rights Case Page http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/davis-v-cox

Friday, May 30, 2014

Summer Co-op Conversation!

Join the Co-op Conversation!

Wednesday, June 4th 6pm-8pm, at the Olympia Center, rm 101.

Come join Board members, Staff members, and Working members for a casual conversation about some improvements to the Co-op's systems.  See you there!

This is the first of two planned conversations this year.  Look for the next one this Fall


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Announcing the Grand Opening of the New Garden Center!

We're excited to invite you to the Grand Opening of our New Garden Center!

Come celebrate our latest Expansion project on June 7th and 8th: The Grand Opening Celebration main events will begin in the early afternoon (1pm) on Saturday, and until the evening (7pm) will include live musical entertainment, refreshments, raffle with prizes, and plant-start giveaways.  

Help us get off to a great start! Take home a six pack of flowers with your $5 purchase at the Garden Center all weekend while supplies last.  Our organic starts are locally grown without any chemical fertilizers and pesticides. We have a wide selection of soil amendments, compost, canning supplies, chicken and bird feed, bird houses, hand tools.  Look forward to continued classes and demos to help you enhance your home grown food. 

On the Grand Opening Weekend, come talk with other garden enthusiasts, local vendors, staff members, and board members at this fun event! 


More info:

In 2010 the Co-op purchased adjoining property of its two locations as part of its overall Expansion Plan.  After working with the City of Olympia, the Co-op obtained permits and began construction early this year on Westside Garden Center, the latest of the Co-op Expansion projects to come to fruition.    

The Co-op's Westside Garden Center will serve many functions.  The Garden Center will be a gathering space and resource staffed with experienced urban gardeners.  It will provide a dedicated retail area offering seeds, plant-starts, and general provisions for gardening and chicken-keeping.  The Garden Center also will offer food preservation supplies, and food processing tools to preserve the local bounty for the off season.  

The Garden Center will also serve as an additional classroom for the Co-op Community Classes, (http://www.olympiafood.coop/classes) expanding our efforts to work with other local organizations in order to coordinate class offerings in the community.  Future plans include offering bee-keeping supplies, and working with the Produce department to bulk order fruits and vegetables from local farms.

Making good food accessible to more people for over 37 years.  Empowering our members and community towards sustainability in food production is part of the Olympia Food Co-op’s mission.



The Olympia Food Co-op is a member-based, not-for-profit, natural foods grocery store with two locations in Olympia, WA. The Olympia Food Co-op has provided healthy, organic and local food to the Olympia area since 1977, with an emphasis on promoting social and environmental responsibility. The stores are collectively managed and largely supported by the contributions of working members. Visit www.olympiafood.coop for more details.