The lawsuit against the Olympia Food Co-op is anything but frivolous. It was not brought by hostile outside agents, but came from within the co-op itself. After more than a year trying to convince the board to drop the boycott and return the issue to the co-op’s staff as the bylaws require, five members sued. This is an in-house conflict.
The current board can stop the lawsuit now. They do not need to judge the 2010 board’s action. They can steward an open process using channels outlined in bylaws. They can avoid expense, upheaval, and further damage to parties on both sides, all of whom are members.
An open process would create frank and educational discussions about how to be a business that both represents the broad interests of its membership and works toward social justice. It would foster democratic engagement in keeping with the co-op’s mission statement, which is read aloud at every board meeting. Its words are empty unless they are enacted during challenging times like these.
The 2010 board did not know what their decision would yield. The current board does know. Since the anti-SLAPP law was struck down, the co-op is on the defensive without the free speech argument on its side. No one knows how the court will find.
Some boycott supporters may object to an open discussion and an inclusive process. That’s because values that created this boycott and those in the co-op’s governing principles are in conflict with each other.