Tuesday, September 11, 2007


"Petitioners want food co-op to boycott Israeli products."

September 10, 2007

On the Web at:

What some people mistakenly viewed as an Ann Arbor co-op's plan to boycott Israeli-made products is actually the action of a small group of People's Food Co-op members to force a vote to have the items removed from the shelves.

"The co-op as a whole is not calling for this," said Kevin Sharp, the co-op's director of marketing and member services. "We have just under 6,000 owners and only a small group of members have initiated this petition drive."

Sharp said, "In our bylaws is the allowance for members to bring forth a referendum."

Because the co-op's bylaws do not specify what can and can't be highlighted in a referendum, issues that are not agreed upon by most members may be presented.

"So when co-op members who are also members of Boycott Israeli Goods came to the board asking for support of a boycott of Israeli items, they were told that in accordance with our bylaws, if they could gather signatures of 7 percent of the membership of the co-op on a petition, a vote on the issue would be forced."

Of the 1,000 signatures the group obtained, Sharp said less than half were from valid co-op members and the others were not counted. But the number of valid signatures was enough to force a vote.

A ballot box, placed in the store on Sept. 1, will remain for the entire month to collect votes. Only co-op members can vote. To be a valid referendum, 10 percent of members must participate, and a majority of those voting will determine whether there's a boycott, Sharp said.

"The co-op board has officially remained neutral on this," Sharp said. "And we are not in communication with this group at all."

The co-op has supported two boycotts in the past, with members voting overwhelmingly to support the United Farm Workers of America table grape boycott and to boycott non-dolphin safe tuna.

"These decisions went to a vote of our membership without petitions, because they were in alignment with our values," Sharp said.

Voting on the current boycott issue is open only to co-op members who joined before the end of July, to assure that individuals do not join for the purpose of voting - either for or against the boycott.


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