Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Invisible Islamophobia?

It's not just anti-Jewish sentiment that has been stirred up by the Israeli products boycott - Islamophobia and Anti-Arab bigotry has appeared again and again in letters and online comments against the boycott.

Many thanks to the co-op member who pointed me to the CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) website. Check out their Islamophobia page.

Also take a look at the Arab American Institute Foundation's Notes on Anti-Arab Racism.

NEW Date & Time for Member Forum!

In order to include as many co-op members as possible, the Olympia Food Co-op’s Member Forum on the Israeli products boycott has been moved to Thursday, August 12th, from 6-8:30 at the Olympia Center. This date change allows us to secure a larger room for the Forum.

For more details about the Member Forum, stay tuned to this blog!

The Board of Directors of the Olympia Food Co-op recognizes that the decision to boycott Israeli products has put a strain on the organization, impacted staff, volunteers and the membership, and that they did not adequately prepare the staff or community for it. They are concerned by this impact on the community and dedicated to listening to member feedback. In addition to the Member Forum, members can direct comments to or call 360-357-1106 x13.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Anti-Semitism and Progressive Movements?

Unfortunately, anti-Semitic statements have abounded in a lot of the "support" that the co-op has received in regard to the Israeli-products' boycott. This pamphlet (downloadable, or available for reading online) is a good primer on what anti-Semitism looks like, especially in relation to pro-Palestinian work, and how we can include work against Jewish oppression in our movements for justice and peace.

The Past Didn't Go Anywhere: Making Resistance to Antisemitism Part of all of our Movements

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Press Release about Israeli Products Boycott

Olympia Food Co-op Joins Boycott of Israeli-Made Products

On Thursday July 15th 2010 the Board of Directors of the Olympia Food Co-op decided to boycott Israeli made products and divest from investments in Israeli companies. The decision to boycott was made based on the Co-op’s mission statement in accordance with our bylaws, and based on information from respected international sources.

Olympia, WA. (Olympia Food Co-op) July 21, 2010: The Olympia Food Co-op’s Board of Directors has decided to boycott Israeli-made products and divest from investment in Israeli companies.

The boycott of Israeli-made products is part of a long-history of social justice work carried out by the Co-op in accordance with their mission. In addition to “provid(ing) wholesome foods and other goods and services” the Co-op “strive(s) to make human effects on the earth and its inhabitants positive and renewing and to encourage economic and social justice.” The co-op also currently boycotts products made in China and Coca-Cola products, and has taken part in other boycotts in the past.

The decision to join the boycott of Israeli-products was based on credible information about human rights abuses from respected international groups such as the United Nations, Red Cross, and Amnesty International. The boycott asks that:

  1. Israel end its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantles the Wall;
  2. Israel recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;
  3. Israel respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

This decision does not represent any other opinions toward the nation of Israel nor does it indicate approval of violence used by either side of this conflict.

The Israeli-product boycott was presented to the co-op by co-op members who were also involved in the Olympia BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions) group. The boycott was in line with the Co-op’s stated boycott policy. The Board made the final decision after members of the staff collective were unable to reach full consensus on the boycott.

The boycott is a non-violent tool for social change with a long history, from the Indian “Swadeshi” boycott of British goods, to the Montgomery bus boycott in the 1950s, to the California grape boycott in the 1960s, and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign on apartheid South Africa.

About the Olympia Food Co-op: 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 volunteer-run.

Board of Directors' Statement to the Membership

Note: We are working on emailing this statement to all of our members.

July 23, 2010

At the July Board meeting, the OFC Board of Directors approved a boycott of Israeli products. Since then we have received both letters of support and disagreement. We have received strong support for this decision; in addition, we have had members resign their membership, ask for the decision to be rescinded and ask the Board to review their process and policies. We recognize that this decision has put a strain on our organization and impacted our staff, volunteers and membership and we did not adequately prepare the staff or community for it. We are concerned by this impact on the community and want to listen to your feedback about this issue.

The board has scheduled a forum for members on August 12 at 6 p.m. at the Olympia Center plus, please feel free to email us at or call and leave a message at 360-357-1106 Ext.13. Board members will also visit the stores to listen to members' opinions and concerns.


The Olympia Food Co-op Board of Directors

Olympia Food Co-op Boycott Policy

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.

Exceptions to this policy include:
A: Staple products that are being boycotted across the board or for which alternative brands or product lines or not available; or,
B: Dietary specialty products for which alternatives are not available.

In the event that we decide not to honor a boycott, we will make an effort to publicize the issues surrounding the boycott as well as why we are continuing to carry the product in question, to allow our members to make the most educated decisions possible.

When we become aware of a boycott of a product that we carry, we will gather as much of the following information as possible:
A: Who is calling the boycott;
B: How to contact them;
C: Basic outline of the issues involved;
D: Parameters of the boycott (what products are specifically involved); and,
E: What will end the boycott.
If a member informs us of a boycott, we will ask them to provide the above information.

A request to honor a boycott may come from anyone in the organization. The request will be referred to the Merchandising Coordinator (M.C.) to determine which products and departments are affected. The M.C. will delegate the boycott request to the manager(s) of the department which contains the largest number of boycotted products. The department manager will make a written recommendation to the staff who will decide by consensus whether or not to honor a boycott.

The recommendation should include:
A: Who’s calling the boycott and why
B: List of products we carry that would be affected
C: Information on availability of alternative products (including price)
D: Significant difficulties in honoring the boycott
E: Recommendations of other affected department managers
F: Exceptions to the recommendation (e.g. “I recommend we honor the boycott of Chinese products except for hemp twine, and here'’ why."”

The department manager will post a sign informing customers of the staff’s decision and reasoning regarding the boycott. If the staff decides to honor a boycott, the M.C. will notify the boycotted company or body of our decision.

The Co-op will not accept bulk orders for items produced by the target of a Co-op honored boycott. Bulk orders for items produced by targets of boycotts which the Co-op has not yet formally chosen to honor will be accepted.
Approved May, 1993

The Olympia Food Co-op Bylaws

1. NAME The name of the corporation is The Olympia Food Cooperative (hereinafter the Cooperative).

2. PURPOSES The cooperative has been formed under the Washington Nonprofit Corporations Act, R.C.W. 24.03. The purpose of the Cooperative is to contribute to the health and well-being of people by providing wholesome foods and other goods and services, accessible to all, through a locally-oriented, collectively managed, not-for-profit cooperative organization that relies on consensus decision making. We strive to make human effects on the earth and its inhabitants positive and renewing and to encourage economic and social justice. Our goals are to:

1. Provide information about food;
2. Make good food accessible to more people;
3. Support efforts to increase democratic process;
4. Support efforts to foster a socially and economically egalitarian society;
5. Provide information about collective process and consensus decision making;
6. Support local production;
7. See to the long-term health of the business;
8. Assist in the development of local community resources.

II. Membership

1. ELIGIBILITY Membership in the Cooperative is open to any person who meets all qualifications set forth in these bylaws and who pays a non-refundable lifetime membership fee. The amount of such fee shall be set by the Board. The Board may designate different classes of membership. The amount of the membership fee may vary for different classes of members. Any financial obligation of membership may be waived in whole or in part by the Board of Directors (hereinafter the Board).

2. NON-DISCRIMINATION The Cooperative strives to be egalitarian in all aspects of its business operations. The Cooperative works to serve a diverse population by incorporating procedures and practices that remove barriers to classes of people who are oppressed or are denied power and privilege in society generally. These classes of people include people who are discriminated against based on race, sex, religious creed, age, disability, size, sexual orientation, gender orientation, marital status and economic status.

3. MEMBER STATUS An active member maintains a current address on file and keeps current in their dues. An active member becomes an inactive member if they;

1. fail to pay dues; or
2. fail to maintain a current address on file for one year; or
3. fail to renew a low income membership
4. request inactive status.

4. CAPITAL ACCOUNT Members shall pay dues into a capital account. The Board may set the amount of dues. Upon becoming an inactive member, members may have all money they have paid into the capital account refunded, unless the member’s dues have been transferred from the capital account pursuant to paragraph II.5.

5. INACTIVE MEMBER DUES Inactive member dues may be transferred from the capital account to the Cooperative's accounts according to policies and procedures established by the Staff and approved by the Board.

6. ANNUAL MEETING An annual meeting of the membership shall be held each year. The place, day, and hour of the meeting shall be mailed to all active members at least 10, but not more than 50 days, prior to the meeting. In addition, notice of the meeting shall be posted at the Cooperative at least 10 days prior to the annual meeting.

The purpose of the annual meeting is to provide an opportunity for the Board and members to discuss the activities of the Cooperative. The Board shall establish the agenda for the annual meeting in a manner that allows for members to propose agenda items.

7. MEMBER VOTING In all instances of member voting, ballots may be received at the Cooperative, by mail, or at a meeting of members. No proxies are allowed and each active member shall have one vote. Unless otherwise specified in these bylaws, or by law, a simple majority vote is required for elections and other membership actions. The Board may prescribe additional rules and procedures for elections as appropriate. The Board shall take steps to encourage maximum participation by the membership.

8. MEMBER-INITIATED BALLOT Any member may initiate a ballot for vote by the general membership by following the Member-Initiated Ballot Procedure and Petition Requirements that are prescribed by the Board. All petitions for initiating a ballot must be signed by 1/2 of the average number of voting members from the previous three annual elections, or 300, whichever is greater. Unless otherwise specified by State law, a 60% majority is required for a member-initiated ballot to pass.

9. QUORUM An election must meet a quorum of 100 active members to be considered valid.

10. SPECIAL MEETING 300 Active members or ½ of the average number of voting members from the previous three elections, whichever is greater, may petition for a special meeting of the membership to take place within 90 days from the filing of the petition with the Board. The petition shall state the business to be discussed at the special meeting and the meeting shall be limited to such business. The Board may also call special meetings. Notice of special meetings shall be mailed to all active members at least 10, but not more than 50 days prior to the time of the meeting. The notice shall contain the time, place, and agenda of the special meeting.

11. MARKUPS Members shall pay markups on goods purchased from the Cooperative which shall be less than those paid by non-members. Volunteer Working Members are eligible to pay markups on goods purchased from the Cooperative which shall be less than those paid by non-volunteers. The Board shall determine the procedure and amount of special membership category discounts and non-member mark-ups.

12. MEMBER INDEMNITY Members are not liable for the debts of the Cooperative.

13. COMMUNICATION Members shall maintain free-flowing communication with the Board, Staff, and other members.

III. Board of Directors

1. GENERAL RESPONSIBILITIES The affairs of the cooperative shall be managed by a Board of Directors.

2. NUMBER, AND TERM The Board shall consist of a minimum of six directors and a maximum of ten directors. The exact number of directors shall be fixed by resolution of the Board. No reduction in the membership of the Board shall serve to shorten the term of any director then elected and serving. At least one Director shall be a member of the staff. Directors elected by the membership shall serve two year terms. No Director elected by the membership shall serve more than four consecutive years.

3. ELIGIBILITY Any active member is eligible to serve as a Director of the Cooperative.

4. ELECTION OF BOARD MEMBERS Board members shall be elected by the membership, except for the Staff representative, who shall be appointed by the Staff. The Board may prescribe the manner and procedures for membership elections, except that elections shall be held annually.

5. VACANCIES In the event of a vacancy on the Board of Directors, the remaining Board members may appoint a new Director. The appointed Director shall serve until the next Board election. Any Board appointed Director is eligible to run for an elected term at the next election.

6. DECISION MAKING Board Decisions are made by consensus.

7. QUORUM For purposes of Board action, unless otherwise specified or required by law, a quorum shall be a majority of the Board.

8. CONTRACTS FOR PROFIT Except for fair compensation for services actually rendered, a director shall not during her/his term of office be a party to a contract for profit with the Cooperative differing in any way from the business relations accorded members generally or upon terms differing from those generally current among members.

9. CONFLICT OF INTEREST Directors shall be under an affirmative duty to disclose an actual or potential conflict of interest in any matter under consideration by the Board. Directors having such an interest may not participate in the discussion or decision of the matter unless otherwise determined by the Board.

10. REIMBURSEMENT The Cooperative may, if authorized by a general Board resolution, reimburse individual Directors for reasonable expenses required to attend Board and committee meetings. To be eligible for reimbursement the Director must be present for the entire Board meeting.

11. REMOVAL Any Director may be removed from the Board whenever the Board determines that such removal will be in the best interest of the Cooperative. Before a Director is removed, that Director shall be given reasonable prior notice and a reasonable opportunity to speak before the Board at a regular meeting. Removal shall require a consensus minus-one vote of the Board. The membership may also remove a director through the member-initiated ballot process.

12. RESIGNATION A director may resign by submitting a written resignation to the Board with thirty days notice. Absence from three (3) Board meetings in a Board members term without providing prior notification shall constitute resignation from the Board. Exceptions to this policy may be made by consensus of the Board.

13. BOARD DUTIES Except as to matters reserved to membership by law or by these bylaws, the business and affairs of the Cooperative shall be directed by the Board of Directors. The major duties of the Board are to:

1. employ Staff, approve the make-up of the hiring committee, approve job descriptions, and approve a hiring policy;
2. select officers, and fill Board vacancies as needed;
3. approve an operating budget annually;
4. monitor the financial health of the Cooperative;
5. appoint standing and special committees as needed;
6. authorize appropriate agents to sign contracts, leases, or other obligations on behalf of the Cooperative;
7. adopt, review, and revise Cooperative plans;
8. approve major capital projects;
9. adopt major policy changes;
10. adopt policies to foster member involvement;
11. authorize major debt obligations of the Cooperative;
12. ensure compliance with all corporate obligations, including the keeping of corporate records and filing all necessary documents;
13. ensure adequate audits of Cooperative finances;
14. maintain free-flowing communication between the Board, Staff, committees, and the membership;
15. adopt policies which promote achievement of the mission statement and goals of the Cooperative.
16. resolve organizational conflicts after all other avenues of resolution have been exhausted;
17. establish and review the Cooperative's goals and objectives.
18. provide an annual report to the members to include a financial report, committee reports, and a summary of other significant events held and actions taken by the Cooperative during the year.

14. DISPOSAL OF ASSETS The Board may not dispose of all or substantially all of the Cooperative's assets without prior approval of two-thirds of the active members.

15. SUPREMACY The Board shall not exercise any power under these bylaws which is in conflict with the articles of incorporation or applicable state or federal law.

16. MEETINGS The Board shall meet at least twelve times a year. Board meetings shall normally be open to the membership. The Board may close meetings at its discretion to discuss personnel matters, legal matters, or other items which require private discussion. Extra or special meetings may be called at the discretion of the Board or by petition of 25 active members, provided that the petition specifies the business to be conducted at the meeting.

17. ACTION WITHOUT MEETING The Board may act without meeting if all Directors consent. The action shall be recorded in writing at the time it is made and included in the minutes of the next Board meeting. Any action taken under this procedure shall be fully effective.

18. INDEMNIFICATION To the full extent permitted by the Washington Non-Profit Corporation Act the cooperative shall indemnify any person who was or is a party or is threatened to be a party to any civil, criminal, administrative, or investigative action, suit, or proceeding by reason of the fact that the person was or is a Director or officer of the cooperative against expenses (including attorney's fees), judgements, fines, and liabilities reasonably incurred or imposed upon them in connection with or resulting from any claim, action, suit, or proceeding, provided that they acted in good faith and in a manner they reasonably believed to be in or not opposed to the best interests of the cooperative. The termination of any action, suit, or proceeding by judgement, order, settlement, or conviction or upon a plea of nolo contendere or its equivalent shall not create a presumption that the person did not act in good faith and in a manner which they reasonably believed to be in or not opposed to the best interests of the cooperative. The Board of Directors may obtain insurance on behalf of any person who is or was a Director, officer, employee, or agent against any liability arising out of their status as such, whether or not the cooperative would have power to indemnify her/him against such liability. The Board of Directors may, at any time, approve indemnification under the Washington Non-Profit Corporation Act of any person which the cooperative has the power to indemnify. The indemnification provided by this section shall not be deemed exclusive of any other rights to which a person may be entitled as a matter of law or contract.

IV. Staff

MAJOR RESPONSIBILITIES The major responsibilities of the Staff are to:

A. keep the store functioning and open regular hours.

B. present comprehensive financial statements to the Board quarterly or as requested;

C. keep accounting records in accord with generally accepted accounting principles;

D. maintain accurate and up-to-date corporate records, articles, Bylaws, Board meeting minutes, membership meeting minutes, staff meeting minutes, and required reports; and make these documents accessible to members.

E. maintain accurate and up-to-date membership records including names, addresses, fee records, and dues records;

F. maintain accurate and up-to-date records of the names and addresses of all creditors;

G. maintain adequate insurance and bonding;

H. regularly propose to the Board updated personnel policies and employee benefit programs;

I. maintain systems for control of all operations;

J. maintain adequate channels for taking and responding to member suggestions, commendations, and complaints;

K. maintain all facilities in good repair and in sanitary and safe condition;

L. provide effective and consistent programs for consumer and cooperative information;

M. maintain free-flowing communication between Staff, Board, committees, and the membership;

N. carry out Board decisions and/or membership decisions made in compliance with these bylaws;

O. carry out all activities and act in accordance with applicable law, the articles of incorporation, and the bylaws of the cooperative.

V. Financial Information

1. FISCAL YEAR The fiscal year ends December 31.

2. AUDIT COMMITTEE The Board shall name an audit committee or select an experienced accountant to conduct an audit every three (3) years. Members of the audit committee or the accountant may not be employees, or officers of the cooperative or their immediate families; Board members may be on the audit committee, but the committee may not be composed entirely of Board members. The audit committee or accountant shall report their findings to the Board in writing and in a timely fashion.

3. REPORTS The financial coordinator or a member of the Finance committee shall report to the members at the annual meeting and in the Cooperative's newsletter. The Finance committee will also report to the Board as required.

4. BONDING The Board may require bonding of employees.

VI. Dissolution

1. BOARD ACTION In order to voluntarily dissolve the Cooperative, the Board of Directors must adopt a resolution recommending dissolution and direct that the question of dissolution be submitted to a vote of the membership.

2. NOTICE Appropriate notice of the vote must be provided as required by R.C.W.24.03.220.

3. VOTE NEEDED The Cooperative may be dissolved by a 2/3 vote of the active membership. No other business may be transacted at a special meeting called for the purpose of dissolving the Cooperative or on a ballot issued for the purpose of dissolving the Cooperative.

4. PROCEDURE Upon dissolution of the Cooperative the Board shall supervise the winding up of business, the paying of debts, and the distribution of assets.

VII. Amendment

These bylaws may be amended through a board or member-initiated ballot that remains open at least 30 days. Copies of the proposed bylaws changes shall be available at all locations of the Cooperative at least 30 days prior to the beginning of any vote to amend these bylaws.

Approved by the membership November 2005

Friday, July 23, 2010

Olympia's Schools Raise Green Thumbs

This article in our August/September Co-op News highlights a few local programs by the Olympia School District that contribute to the nations growing school garden movement:

  • The Madison-Avanti Giving Garden
  • Roosevelt Elementary School Student Garden
  • Lincoln Elementary School Garden

Learn about the educational, and fruitful efforts of these students and teachers in this article by our Co-op News team.  The August/September issue of the Co-op News arrives in the stores and on our website in early August.

Sixth Annual Harvest Party!

Join the Celebration!

The Co-op’s Sixth Annual HARVEST PARTY is Sunday, September 12!
All members of the Co-op community are encouraged to join in the fun of celebrating the bounty of our local foods at the Harvest Party Potluck, Sunday, September 12, at Lions Park in Olympia, from 2 to 6 pm.

This party is a casual gathering of everyone who helps make the Co-op and local production possible: local business owners and farmers, Co-op staff and working members, and all the members who have loyally shopped at the Co-op for more than 30 years.

We’ll be having a big potluck with as much local food and drink as we can come up with- and it’s usually quite a lot! Offerings from your home gardens and kitchens are a welcome addition to the feast. There will be live music, samples, a raffle, and games for all ages. You can find your creative side with the apple painting contest or try your aim with our second attempt at a composting produce toss! Volunteer help is always appreciated with this event; please contact a working member coordinator at either store if you’re interested in volunteering, either at the party or in advance.

Mark your calendar: the 6th Annual Harvest Party will be at Lions Park (Southeast Olympia at Wilson and 7th), Sunday, September 12, from 2 to 6 pm.

Save Money, Fight waste, Build Community: GLEAN!

Learn about the practice and art of gleaning, local food systems, and the Thurston County Food Bank in the upcoming Aug/Sept Co-op News.  From the article:

Gleaning is an ages-old practice. For hundreds of years,
farmers have invited gleaners into their fields after
the harvest is complete to pick leftover produce and
grains for their own families. 
From May 2009 to May 2010, I had the privilege of building
and coordinating a gleaning program through the Thurston
County Food Bank. During that year, I worked with groups
of volunteers to glean from local farms, residential gardens
and fruit trees all around the greater Olympia area.

 The August/September issue of the Co-op News arrives in the stores and on our website in early August.