Three years ago, at a meeting that only boycott supporters attended, the Olympia Food Co-op’s board decided to boycott Israeli products.
There was no public notification to members that the issue was pending. The co-op’s official policy, that boycotts are to be adopted through staff consensus, was ignored.
After many months of futile efforts to re-open the process, a lawsuit was brought by five co-op members challenging the way the boycott was adopted. The fallout from this has been a tarnishing of cooperative principles in the name of social justice.
Was the co-op’s board supporting free speech when it failed to include anti-boycott voices in its decision-making meeting and when it discouraged concerned staff from attending? Was the Board democratic when it asserted that any vote to rescind would need to go through the member-initiated process where a super-majority 60 percent vote would be required? Was the board kind when it retaliated against the members who brought the lawsuit with a countersuit for substantial monetary damages?
And is the co-op a community-building organization when it continues, three years after its decision, to avoid open discussion and a reconsideration of the boycott?
As for me, I now go out of my way to shop at the Madison Street Co-op in Seattle. It’s friendly, clean, and has what I want to buy.