October 17, 2016 at 7:51 pm #1534Shauna LynnParticipant
I have a few questions I’m considering asking Wednesday, at the Board meeting, but thought it would save time at meeting – and be awesome – to get them answered in the new member forum online, so others can know answers too, if possible.
Merchandise Policy draft – It was my understanding that last October the board tasked to GM to get staff and member feedback within six months to a year. Its now a year and I have not been aware of the Merch Policy draft being presented to members for feedback – The board did not change the vote for this in Dec when a reconsideration was requested, so should this not be completed by now? What is happening with it?
ShaunaNovember 17, 2016 at 4:38 pm #1711Shauna LynnParticipant
It was my impression that this forum was an opportunity to have open discussions with members, staff and board of the co-op – ask questions and get them answered in a space where all can see the answers. To that end if would be fantastic if someone from the co-op who knows the answers, could explain to anyone who reads this, what is going on with the Merchandise Policy draft feedback collection – The board meeting where this board decision was reconsidered had many member-owners present who were interested in GMO Policy being developed, and we were left with the impression that within 6 to 12 months from Oct 2015 we would be given the chance to voice that the merchandise policy draft as it stands is not providing sufficient GMO Policy. Currently we have signs that say our guidelines for prepared food, which say we use organic oils in order to avoid GMOs in our food, but then we still have GMOs in the food. The other day I saw sugar and soy oil listed in a main hot bar chicken dish at GFM and they did not have asterisks to indicate they were organic. I asked and Steve Snow-Cobb, a main cook in our prepared food department, explained that those are ingredients in canned curry sauce that they used in the dish which is not organic. Also we have been serving hot soup from JUST SOUP with all the four main GMOs at McCuskers, right next to a sign that says we will use organic for those ingredients. We need POLICY so that these guidelines cannot be bent whenever staff sees fit to do so. Customers are never warned that any of the main four GMOs crops (corn, soy canola and sugar) are in the Co-op’s prepared food, and they are trusting that the sign means they will be kept out, but they aren’t. We currently serve hot soup at McCuskers that is from Kettle Cuisine and I asked why none of the ingredients are marked with asterisks and was told that none of the ingredients are organic. One of the ingredients that day was CORN OIL – right next to a sign that says we will use organic corn oil in our prepared foods. We need policy to prevent customers from being fed GMOs when they are being assured otherwise.November 20, 2016 at 6:21 pm #1745George TouloumtzisParticipant
Reasonable questions about the process & timing of progress toward a Board Merchandise policy, following last October’s & December’s Board meeting votes. I know that you and I have checked-in personally about this, but I’ll again respond here for the sake of other forum users.
GM John Williams has been updating the Board that the gathering of feedback from member-owners & staff has been delayed as compared to the original 6-12 month time frame. He has incorporated this matter into the broader Multi-Year Planning process, for which the Planning Council took longer to create than anticipated.
At this point, there are plans in place and being further developed for a dense process of seeking member-owner input over the next few months. The first in-person forum is Nov. 30th on the subject of growth/expansion. Specific to the issue raised here, the in-person forum planned for mid-January is to get input re the Merchandise policy you’re asking about (as well as the issue of Food Justice).
In between these two events, in mid-December, there’s a in-person forum planned with the broader focus of updating our Ends policies, an additional opportunity to offer input re the overall emphasis and balance embodied in our organizational statement of purpose.
FCC Board PresidentFebruary 8, 2017 at 3:59 pm #2209Gloria KegelesParticipant
We the members have been clamoring for a Merchandise Policy for years now. It may soon be realized. We have also been clamoring for a member meeting during which we would hammer out a consensus on what we want in a Merchandise Policy.
When we founded health food coops in the 60’s and 70’s, in order to establish an alternative to unhealthy food sold in supermarkets, members decided what healthy food we wanted to buy, and purchased it in bulk to reduce cost. Health food coops are a niche market; they were not designed to feed the whole community, but rather those leading a healthy lifestyle, open to all who wanted to “join in” but not to be catered to by offering unhealthy food.
Our health food coops have survived well, but now face a crisis in that members are no longer making the decisions about what food we want to buy and eat, and we have lost the ability or the will, to recognize what foods on our shelves and offered by our suppliers, contain harmful chemicals.
We have entered an era in which agribusiness corporations monopolize America’s food supply, where conventional (not organic) food is loaded with pesticides and additives which cause illness and death. If we wish to continue accessing healthy food not containing these dangerous chemicals, we the members have to take a stand and determine how to go about realizing that goal. If that is our goal, we need our Board of Directors (BoD) and Manager to work with us to put our wishes into effect. We would need to reverse the current top down policy putting the bottom line above all else, resulting in most consumers assuming everything sold in a health food store is healthy, while we knowingly continue to sell unlabeled carcinogenic/liver-kidney-damaging/leaky-gut-causing/immune-system-destroying/endocrine-disrupting glyphosate.
A Merchandise Policy has been drafted by the General Manager, although he was only tasked by the BoD with surveying the members and staff, not drafting a policy. A Merchandise Policy should be voted on by the BoD directly reflecting the wishes of the members, not drafted by or influenced by the opinions/wishes of the Manager and not with the insufficient information he has collected about members’ wishes without any annual members’ meetings held to discuss the topic.
In order to truly establish the wishes of the members, the members need to discuss this matter at our large annual meeting face to face, without leading questions, insufficient multiple choice answers, or input limited to brief phrases, or position along a continuum. The Merchandise Policy governs the Manager — thus he should not be the one to draft the very policy that he would be governed by.
These are dangerous political times. Our democracy is threatened across the nation. This should give us all the more impetus to run this coop that we the members own, in the DEMOCRATIC manner in which our principles state that the coop operates and was founded under.
One Hundred Twenty-Nine coop members signed a petition in a short time over a year ago, requesting a member meeting to vote on a Merchandise Policy addressing the issues of GMOs and pesticides in the coop. The Board of Directors did not allow the meeting; nor was the issue put on last year’s annual Member Meeting agenda although it could have been; some members did not attend because it was not on the agenda. It was sidetracked to a committee of members/BoD members, and much of the committee’s suggested policy was deleted by the BoD.
It is now time for us to meet and discuss what we have been waiting to talk with each other about for quite some time. Is anyone afraid for members to talk openly about how to provide the food we want for ourselves and our families? Wasn’t that the argument favoring national GMO labeling, which Monsanto and its corporate friends squelched? Before we jump into a large expansion, we have the right to decide what we want to provide in our stores and consume, and how much room we need in order to produce and shelve the food we wish to provide ourselves.
THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE! NO MORE EXCUSES PREVENTING US FROM USING OUR MEMBER MEETINGS TO DISCUSS WHAT WE WANT TO DISCUSS AND DECIDE FOR OURSELVES! These recent forums were poorly attended; the surveys were not designed to educate and reveal some of the most important considerations concerning the safety of our food that directly affects our health.
The MEMBER MEETING IS COMING RIGHT UP and it’s imperative to have an intense discussion and decision-making about the health of our food and ourselves! That means open, back-and-forth face-to-face consensus discussion, not limited discussion and rules designed to avoid group decisions. The MEMBERS NEED TO RUN OUR MEETINGS AND HAVE SERIOUS DECISION-MAKING RIGHTS! That’s how we started. Let’s go back to the democracy we intended at our founding.
Member, Non-GMO Committee
FCC Member 25 yearsFebruary 14, 2017 at 1:04 pm #2235George TouloumtzisParticipant
Please forgive the delayed response. A lot of other co-op stuff going on, I wanted to re-familiarize myself with relevant background info to fully respond to your thorough message, and there have been a lot of sidewalks to shovel (pedestrian/disability access being another cause I’m passionate about).
Building on your reference to the wave of health food co-ops in the 60s & 70s: The striving to get access to healthier, unadulterated food actually goes back much further: This was one of the driving motivations when — in 1844 — the Rochdale Pioneers opened the first consumer co-op in England, giving us the birth of a movement and the legacy of the cooperative principles.
And I totally agree with you that the current oppressive, elitist, dishonest (choose an adjective) administration in DC re-emphasizes the need to glory in and actively participate in all of our local democratic options, including our collectively owned cooperative, with its blend of representative and participatory democracy.
To clarify the current process and timeline:
GM John Williams is not drafting the Merchandise policy proposal; this is a draft Board policy. A bit of background…
When the Board created the Policy & Bylaw Revision Committee in mid-2015, their first Board-assigned task was to collaborate with the owner-created Non-GMO Committee to come up with a draft Merchandise policy.
This draft was presented at the October 2015 Board meeting. After deciding to remove the more specific sub-policies, there was a motion and vote “to send this draft policy to John to secure input from members and staff and bring it back to the Board in 6-12 months”.
There was a member petition as per our bylaws to reconsider this vote, which happened at the December 2015 Board meeting. A large number of members attended that meeting. There was lengthy discussion of the reconsideration of that October vote; everyone had a chance to speak at length to the issue, with no time limit and the option of speaking more than once. Ultimately the same motion from the October meeting passed with 23 in favor, 8 opposed and 2 abstentions (the Board vote was 10-0-0).
John has communicated at intervening Board meetings that he was incorporating gathering input on the draft Merchandise policy into the larger Multi-Year Plan process going on over this past year. John also updated that due to delays in that process, his report back to the Board would be a bit beyond the 12-month timeline.
John has indicated that he is now prepared to report back about the owner/staff input he has gathered.
John’s report providing this input on the draft Merchandise policy is on the agenda for the Feb. 23rd Board meeting. This is an additional Board meeting to allow for John to present the Multi-Year Plan to the Board prior to the Annual Meeting on March 5th. Please note that this is a Thursday (not the usual Wednesday); the meeting will start as usual at 6:30; the meeting will be held at 170 Main St.
After John’s presentation, the Board would then decide how to proceed: to vote on the policy at that time; to amend it; to table further deliberation until the next meeting; or to send it back to the P&BRC for further consideration. As per our bylaws, owners can participate in the meeting and the voting process.
You state that “a Merchandise Policy should be voted on by the BoD directly reflecting the wishes of the members” — such a statement is essentially a self-evident truth, since the Board job description in our policies is to “represent” member-owners, “educate itself regarding the values held by the members”, and “act as a link” to “the cooperative business they own”. You further assert that “we the members” have been clamoring for a Merchandise policy to be finalized at a full member meeting. Certainly a petition reflecting this sentiment signed by 129 owners is significant and important for the Board to listen to. It’s also important to recognize that our co-op community is not monolithic — within our shared values there is a range of diverse opinion amongst our 2700+ owners — and the Board is obliged to hear and weigh all owner input. At that December 2015 meeting, the non-Board owners present voted 13 in favor with 8 opposed to the process leading to John’s report back to the Board on 2/23 of owner/staff input he has gathered. Prior to that Dec. 2015 meeting, the Board received a number of e-mails from owners unable to attend — some were adamant about eliminating GMOs from our shelves, and some were equally adamant about not so restricting product choice.
At the March 2015 Annual Meeting, “GMOs” was one of the four small group topics on the agenda. Having just re-read the detailed notes of those rich discussions, it is clear that there is broad owner concern about GMOs specifically, and even greater consensus on the importance of informed choice via increased product labeling.
The current draft Merchandise policy — that will be considered on 2/23 in the context of the owner/staff input that will be presented — includes a sub-policy directing the GM to “label, present and market merchandise as clearly, completely and honestly as possible”, and to prioritize products that are “organic”, “non-GMO verified”, and “free of synthetic pesticides”. At the recent in-person member forum regarding the Merchandise policy, John presented materials stating that “We will label products clearly so that it’s easy to see what’s organic, nonGMO, gluten-free, vegan, and local. (We are not able to label products as nonorganic, GMO, or not local.)” John has also indicated that increased labeling and product tracking are being incorporated into the Multi-Year Plan that he’s presenting at the 2/16 member forum, the 2/23 Board meeting, and as the centerpiece of the 3/5 Annual Meeting.
Lastly, Gloria, I want to respectfully challenge your characterization of “the current top down policy putting the bottom line above all else”. In the last couple of years, John has indeed led a process that has resulted in more profitable operations toward our precious organization being able to sustain itself well into the future. At the same time, he has reported high prioritiztion of and adherence to our organization’s underlying values and principles, embodied most recently in his rich Ends report accepted at the last Board meeting on Feb. 8th.
Hope this is helpful.
FCC Board President
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