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Starting a comment period about carrying Eden Foods products

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Kirsten Moore
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Per the statement made by Brendon Smith, we are adding comments that come in via our Contact Us page and Customer Comment slips anonymously. Here is a comment that came in on 07/04/2014:

"Please stop carrying Eden products. They are chosing to deny their employees birth control."

Kirsten Moore
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Per the statement made by Brendon Smith, we are adding comments that come in via our Contact Us page and Customer Comment slips anonymously. Here is a comment that came in on 07/06/2014:

"Edensoy hates women. Drop them, please. Thank you."

Kirsten Moore
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Per the statement made by Brendon Smith, we are adding comments that come in via our Contact Us page and Customer Comment slips anonymously. Here is a comment that came in on 07/06/2014:

"GET RID OF EDEN! There's no discussion needed past their relegating women to second-class citizen status."

Kirsten Moore
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Removed due to duplication. 

Kirsten Moore
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Per the statement made by Brendon Smith, we are adding comments that come in via our Contact Us page and Customer Comment slips anonymously. Here is a comment that came in on 07/06/2014:

"If Eden Foods is going to follow in the footsteps of Hobby Lobby - please discontinue their products. Eventhough their food is completely amazing, it doesn't matter. Thank you."

Kirsten Moore
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Per the statement made by Brendon Smith, we are adding comments that come in via our Contact Us page and Customer Comment slips anonymously. Here is a comment that came in on 07/09/2014:

"Please do not carry Eden products anymore."

Kirsten Moore
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Per the statement made by Brendon Smith, we are adding comments that come in via our Contact Us page and Customer Comment slips anonymously. Here is a comment that came in on 07/06/2014:

"I would like to see the coop stop carrying Eden Organics due to the CEO's idiocy + lack of support for the ACA mandates. Please find another brand of equal quality - will will miss their products but not their politics."

Kirsten Moore
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Per the statement made by Brendon Smith, we are adding comments that come in via our Contact Us page and Customer Comment slips anonymously. Here is a comment that came in on 07/06/2014:

"Boycott Eden products."

Kirsten Moore
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Per the statement made by Brendon Smith, we are adding comments that come in via our Contact Us page and Customer Comment slips anonymously. Here is a comment that came in on 07/09/2014:

"I support boycotting Eden Foods. It is a difficult position for the Co-op to have to weigh human rights against food purity, but I think in this case human rights are more important. Potter's mysogynistic comments in support of his policy and lawsuit were the last straw for me. I don't think our Co-op shoudl show support for a corporation to inflict religious beliefs on its employees, especially not on the reproductive choices of women. Also, choosing not to reproduce is of great importance in a sustainable ecosystem. Uncontrolled population growth is a threat to our planet, and preventing women from choosing not to reproduce will not help us acheive a healthy balance in the ecosystem."

Kirsten Moore
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Per the statement made by Brendon Smith, we are adding comments that come in via our Contact Us page and Customer Comment slips anonymously. Here is a comment that came in on 07/07/2014:

"Please keep EDEN SALT. The only bulk salt is from the fucashima Pacific; radiated. If you decide not to continue EDEN products, PLEASE carry some bulk salt from the Atlantic or clean marshes."

Kirsten Moore
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Per the statement made by Brendon Smith, we are adding comments that come in via our Contact Us page and Customer Comment slips anonymously. Here is a comment that came in on 07/01/2014:

"Stop carrying Eden brand. They, along with Hobby Lobby, are a group of many now legally refusing birth control to women in their company health insurance."

Kirsten Moore
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Per the statement made by Brendon Smith, we are adding comments that come in via our Contact Us page and Customer Comment slips anonymously. Here is a comment that came in on 07/02/2014:

"Please stop carrying Eden Foods Inc. products. Their views on women's reproductive freedom are inconsistent with the progressive values held by most Co-op members and in light of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling - unbelievable. I would also encourage Willy St. to exert its influence on its sister coops here in the midwest to drop Eden Foods as well."

Kirsten Moore
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Per the statement made by Brendon Smith, we are adding comments that come in via our Contact Us page and Customer Comment slips anonymously. Here is a comment that came in on 07/06/2014:

"Please STOP carrying Eden Food Products! I will no longer purchase them, or want to support their company. Thanks!"

Anne Linkert
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Like using contraceptives, the decision to boycott should be a personal one based on known facts and a moral compass.  Please leave Eden products on the shelf.  If enough owners make the personal choice to boycott then sales will be down.  If sales slip far enough, the products will not be re-ordered. Just as Eden shouldn't impose religious beliefs or values on its employees, our co-op should not impose a boycott on all our owners.

David Deavers, Ca...
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Please add our family to the list. We would love the co op to stop carrying eden brand foods. They have the right 

to do what they did , we have the right not to buy them or shop at places that sell them. Please stop selling eden foods.....

Richard Slone, Sa...
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Since WSGC is likely a fairly significant customer of Eden foods, I'm wondering if there's a way to talk or work with them regarding changing their policy. Might there be an association of Cooperatives that could agree to do the same? I would support a boycott if Eden is unbending in their position. However I also think their contribution to organic standards, excellent product line and hardships a boycott would place on staff attempting to come up with alternatives deserves to be looked at. I'm wondering if the threat of a broad based boycott might be enough to incent them to reconsider their sexist policies and positions. 

Richard (Sich)

Steven Wundrock, ...
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I would like to say that my wife and I have been frequent consumers of Eden products in the past, but we will not continue purchasing those products going forward. We would also like to add our voices to the group of individuals asking the Co-Op to discontinue stocking Eden brand products.

Steven Wundrock, ...
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I would like to say that my wife and I have been frequent consumers of Eden products in the past, but we will not continue purchasing those products going forward. We would also like to add our voices to the group of individuals asking the Co-Op to discontinue stocking Eden brand products.

Vassil Peytchev
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I support a boycott of Eden Foods products. I agree with others that this is not a political issue, but rather a human rights issue.

Russell Jungwirth...
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We strongly support a boycott of Eden Foods products, and look forward to a replacement brand. Like others, I have already stopped buying their hate beans! ~Miriam

Ali Trevino-murph...
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I strongly support the coop boycotting Eden Foods. Institutional boycotts are far more effective than individual boycotts, and the owners of Willy St Coop have the power to make real impact here through collective action.

Jack Hamilton
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I used to live in Ann Arbor, where Eden began. It did not have a good reputation as an employer then (mid '70s - early '80s). Around 1980 they moved out of town, to Chelsea, if I remember right, and nearby Clinton, likely for tax reasons. They also had a fire. When this situation arose about the health care act I was slightly surprised, but it is not out of character. American soy is bad for you anyway, so I support a boycott. I haven't bought any Eden products since the '90s.

One of the nice things about Willy St. Coop is that new products appear all the time, and entrepreneurs are innovating constantly to provide quality food, supplements, and related goods and services. Eden would be a better fit for the other two "natural foods" stores in Madison. Especially the one known as Whole Paycheck.

It is worth mentioning that Willy St. Coop is a national leader in the alternative grocery industry in a number of ways. Removing products from a regressive employer is another way for the coop to stand for civilization. When Willy St. leads, others will follow. More employers will be inspired to offer full health insurance.

Another thing worth mentioning is that using religion as an excuse to constrain health benefits is likely a grandstand play of some kind, similar to what the CEO of Whole Paycheck did. In other words, it's fake. People of a certain persuasion for some reason cannot abide the Affordable Care Act, a moderate effort in making health care more affordable. The worst employers hate paying their employees anything, and fight tooth-and-nail when any "government" requirement or regulation comes their way. They show their true colors when a case like this appears, and it is a perfect opportunity to say to them "So long, it's been good to know ya."

Jerrold Moors
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Yes, I support a full boycott of all Eden products.  Regardless of what Willy Street does my boycott starts now as I will be sure not to buy anything sold by them that is currently in our stores. Thanks for asking. Jerry

Gillian Van Dien
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Hi Kristen:  yes, I am fully aware of the breadth of Eden's/Potter's discriminatory, and frankly nonsensical, positions.  Potter likened use of contraception by women to drinking Jack Daniels.  He's made a number of comments that defy logic and science.  Daily Kos is a good source of info. about those.  That is why this really is primarily about establishing consequences for Potter's misogyny, in my opinion, and why rehab of his attitude or actions isn't likely an option.  Thanks for pointing that out, in case others weren't aware.  Best, Gillian

Gillian Van Dien
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Hi Kristen:  yes, I am fully aware of the breadth of Eden's/Potter's discriminatory, and frankly nonsensical, positions.  Potter likened use of contraception by women to drinking Jack Daniels.  He's made a number of comments that defy logic and science.  Daily Kos is a good source of info. about those.  That is why this really is primarily about establishing consequences for Potter's misogyny, in my opinion, and why rehab of his attitude or actions isn't likely an option.  Thanks for pointing that out, in case others weren't aware.  Best, Gillian

Norm Littlejohn
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I’m seeing a lot of people post more than once; I don’t know what the process is here, but I hope that if there’s some kind of vote counting going on, that it’s posters who are counted, not posts. I also think it would be more helpful, and more honest, if all posters posted under their own names.

There’ve been some interesting comments, and some real red herrings: 1) it’s irrelevant that Eden started as a co-op if it no longer is a co-op; 2) this debate is not about Eden’s (or Eden’s management’s) political views — it’s about the company’s actions in regard to its female employees, and only its female employees. That’s rank discrimination, and I won’t buy their products unless and until they change that behavior.

I’ve already “voted,” but I’ll repeat that the Willy Street Co-op should uphold its supplier standards and drop all Eden products.

Kirsten Moore
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Hi Norm,

A comment period is not a vote. It is an opportunity to give our staff Owner feedback to make a decision. That said, we will take all comments into consideration and we will also take note when multiple comments come from the same person.

All those posting on this forum are Owners, and our online Owner accounts are set up so that the name of the Owner (on in household accounts, Owners), is listed alongside the comment. Name changes must be made in writing by the Primary Owner on their FairShare account, and there are no options for nicknames. 

I mentioned that Eden used to be a co-op to an Owner who said they wished that Eden was a co-op. My intention was to inform the Owner, not to influence the discussion. 

Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services

Susan Hessel
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I would oppose an all out boycott. Rather let's notify members that there is an issue and direct them to real information, not just lumping Eden in with the general media response to the Hobby Lobby lawsuit. I support women's reproductive rights which are clearly a pillar in the foundation of any just society. AND I read Eden's Food statement, read about their policies and history in general, and read this Ann Arbor News interview: http://www.annarbor.com/business-review/eden-foods-ceo-michael-potter-explains-his-decision-to-sue-obama-administration-over-contraceptives/

and then it isn't so clear.

So I don't agree with everything about Eden. I would love if they were a cooperative! They do seem to be the kind of company that, in the absence of real goverment regulation, tries to provide the highest standard of safe food to their customers. Eden statements express support for women's reproductive freedoms.

In the context of universal single payer health care, would we even be discussing this? So the best universal health care plan is supplanted with something that is easy to attack from every angle and the we all fight amongst ourselves over stupid details instead of further uniting to pass the best universal health care plan. 

I am upset by the Hobby Lobby decision and I hope congress can make the promised changes to correct the situation without undermining women's reproductive rights...

...I just hope we can refrain from knee-jerk reactions. Let's put a light on it. Let's tell Eden we think they have entered a grey area. Let's find out, through dialogue, at least with folks who have clearly been our friends for years, if we can find a ground we can agree on, one that meets all our needs, and can work together to bring such a plan into being.

Kirsten Moore
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Thank you Susan. I am the Director of Cooperative Services for the Co-op. I just wanted to point out for you and other Owners commenting that Eden Foods was a cooperative at one point in time. 

http://www.edenfoods.com/about/ 

Gillian Van Dien
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Boycotts are, arguably, punitive, and there isn't anything wrong with that; anyone harming millions of other people is opening themselves to that consequence.  It's not necessary, or anyone's responsibility, to attempt to rehabilitate Michael Potter (who is arguably not a good candidate for that enterprise), only to financially dissociate from the perpetuation of his harm to women and communicate to entities like the SCOTUS that exercise of their political biases may have unintended consequences when they make decisions this harmful and reprehensible.

Suzy Grindrod, Ed...
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I would like to offer the reminder that a boycott is not punishment. It is a tool -- often a very effective tool -- for leveraging change.  A number of commenters are pointing out the ways that Eden Organics is a good company. Let's use this tool to encourage them to be a good company in one more way.

Suzy Grindrod, Ed...
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I would like to offer the reminder that a boycott is not punishment. It is a tool -- often a very effective tool -- for leveraging change.  A number of commenters are pointing out the ways that Eden Organics is a good company. Let's use this tool to encourage them to be a good company in one more way.

Gillian Van Dien
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I strongly urge a complete boycott of all Eden Foods products due to their blatant gender discrimination against women (as evidenced by their lawsuit in pursuit of an exemption to ACA-mandated contraceptive coverage for women), and thus their failure to compensate female employees equally; benefits are compensation and they're not denying their male employees any medical services based on gender.  In addition to the fact that women are unable to exercise other constitutional rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness among them) if we're not able to control our reproductive capacities, many women require these treatments medically (unrelated to contraception).  Since the corporation is NOT a person, "it" doesn't legally have a right to a religious belief.  To those who speak about supporting/tolerating a diversity of opinions/positions, would you support the coop carrying products produced by a company that discriminated against people on the basis of race or sexual orientation?  This is no different.  Their products are replaceable, and if someone really needs something that isn't, they can purchase directly from the company if they wish to.  They still have access.  I also support the suggestion that WSC organize w/other coops to coordinate a boycott.  The only thing corporations understand is experiencing the financial, bottom-line consequences of their actions.

Kirsten Moore
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Hi Gillian, thank you for your comment. As the Director of Cooperative Services for the Co-op I just wanted to point out for you and other Owners commenting that Eden Foods objects to more than just covering contraception for women. To quote from their April 25, 2013 statement:

"Eden employee benefits include health, dental, vision, life, and a fifty percent 401k match. The benefits have not funded "lifestyle drugs," an insurance industry drug classification that includes contraceptives, Viagra, smoking cessation, weight-loss, infertility, impotency, etc."

http://www.edenfoods.com/articles/view.php?articles_id=219

Mark Lindquist
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Please add my name to those would like all Eden Products removed from Willy St. shelves.  Thanks

Patrick Heck, Tom...
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Boycott. I'd much rather eat organic or non-organic chickpeas of another brand than consume their religion- and mysogyny-tainted canned goods.

Pamela Penzey
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Eden Foods feel strongly women aren't entitled to full health care, they are certainly not being quiet about that, so I do not wish to ever purchase one of their products again. To equivocate in the "well, but they are one of us" way, sort of waffle on the woman thing just this once, well, I don't agree. Please discontinue their products.

Stephanie Turner
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To the people who think the co-op should continue carrying Eden products, ask yourself if you would want your employer to restrict your access to medication in this way. If the answer is "no" please do not be a hypocrite by supporting a company that does this to its employees just to save a few bucks on your groceries.

I support the co-op discontinuing Eden products because the company blatantly discriminates against women and other employees in their health coverage. No company has the right to impose their religious values onto other people and deny them access to appropriate healthcare. We have the opportunity to send a strong message to Eden and companies that would discriminate in such a way that it will not be tolerated. If enough co-ops and corporations like Whole Foods stop carrying Eden's products, Eden will be forced to change their policies if they intend to survive. If a boycott had a significant impact in this way, it would send a strong message to other companies about the financial risks associated with health coverage discrimination. And perhaps it would put an end to such policies. We can sit back and do nothing, but that will only make the situation worse. Today Eden won't cover birth control; tomorrow maybe they won't cover maternity leave to unmarried women. Who knows how far our courts will allow companies to go in imposting their "values" on our bodies.

Jessica Moran
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I strongly support a boycott of Eden Foods.  Health care coverage is offered to workers as part of their overall compensation package.  Limiting the specific drugs and procedures that are covered by employee-provided healthcare (based on faulty science and religious beliefs), is just as unethical and unconstitutional as requiring that your paycheck not be used for items or activities the company deems immoral.  The Supreme Court may think they have a right to do that, but we also have a right to boycott their products.  And the fact that they also restrict viagra does not make this any less descriminatory.  Viagra is not an essential health resource for half the world's population.  Birth control is.  And only a woman and her doctor should have the ability to determine which method is right for her.  Also, Eden Foods is not a church.  It is a for-profit business, and it has no right to impose its religious views on its employees.  I'm sure members would not want to stock their products if they were refusing to provide AIDS drugs.  Birth control is essential health care, period.   

Jason Riley, Sara...
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Please stop carrying Eden Foods products.

Vicki Berenson, S...
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Vicki here. My first reaction was yes, stop carrying Eden foods. But then I thought some more and decided no, keep carrying their products.

I was a member of the board (long ago, back in the '80s) when many shoppers urged the co-op to stop carrying bananas due to mistreatment of workers. The co-op was much smaller then and bananas were a huge portion of total sales. I don't think we were terribly worried about the loss of sales, but did we want to lose customers who might benefit in so many ways by continuing to shop at the co-op? Ultimately we kept carrying bananas, and used it as an opportunity to educate folks - big signs, articles in the newsletter, flyers explaining the issue. AND we added a surcharge to bananas (maybe 3 cents/lb) and donated the money to United Farm Workers. People could choose to boycott bananas on their own if they wished.

I'm guessing that a boycott is not going to change Eden. It's a very complicated issue. I think it would be more beneficial to make a concerted effort to educate folks about aspects of the issue and let them make their own decision. Perhaps donate some of the proceeds from Eden products to an organization that promotes a better healthcare reform system (single-payer, anyone?).

From what I have read, it appears that the owner of Eden is principled in many ways, including his opposition to large corporations controlling the National Organic Standards Board and to allowing questionable ingredients to be included in foods with the organic" label. (http://www.edenfoods.com/articles/view.php?articles_id=229) And he is not opposed to a woman's right to choose; only to being forced to include birth control, among other things, in the company's health plan - which is provided to employees along with dental, vision and life insurance and contributions to a retirement plan. Not a bad way to treat employees.

I do not agree with Eden's stand on the ACA and cringe at every piece of resistance and the whittling away of what could have been great health care reform. But I do understand it. And it seems that Eden Foods is contributing much that is positive to good food and to the workforce.

Jennifer Bruce, T...
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When considering a boycott of Eden Foods, I think we need to make sure that we're protesting the right issue and the right party. In my mind, there are two issues to be considered here: Eden not wanting to provide contraceptives to its employees, and Eden's legal action challenging the ACA mandate that forces them to provide contraceptives.

When we look solely at Eden's fundamental resistance to provide contraceptives, we need to remember that before the ACA, they weren't providing them either. An April 2013 Eden statement states that under their previous health care provider, they did not fund "lifestyle drugs," which included "contraceptives, Viagra, smoking cessation, weight-loss, infertility, impotency, etc." They're only speaking up about it now because the ACA law forces them to START covering them. While this should probably lead to a bigger question - Should the Willy Street Co-op support ANY company that doesn't provide contraceptives? - as for Eden, if we weren't willing to boycott them before, maybe we shouldn't boycott them now. And if we are, we should do our research and apply that decision store-wide, not just target them because they're in the news.

As for the second issue, Eden's legal action resisting the ACA, I see them exercising their legal right to question a law which they found faulty. Personally, I absolutely think that companies should not be able to dictate what health care options are available to their employees and I was glad to see it included in the ACA - it's an issue of both access and privacy - but that's my opinion, and I respect their right to disagree. That's why we have courts. But I'm not blaming Eden for utilizing the new exemption, or even blaming Hobby Lobby - I hold the Supreme Court responsible for allowing the religious exemption in the first place. Eden was just using the legal system the way it's supposed to be used, in the same way it's been used previously to protest issues I heartily support protesting. If we're really upset about the creation of the exemption itself, then it's not Eden that we need to boycott, it's the Supreme Court.

I know it's hard to sit back and not take action when someone wants to limit a right that we believe is fundamental, but as a Co-op, we need to make responsible and consistently applied decisions.

Suzy Grindrod, Ed...
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I find the fact that they call contraceptives a "lifestyle drug" offensive in and of itself, both before and after the Supreme Court decision.

Suzy Grindrod, Ed...
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I find the fact that they call contraceptives a "lifestyle drug" offensive in and of itself, both before and after the Supreme Court decision.

Timothy Ruddy, Ja...
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Excellent Post.  Thank you!

Carol Heitzkey, P...
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Very well said!

Carol Heitzkey, P...
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This is Paul (not Carol) - We proudly joined the co-op (and ponied up for a lifetime membership) so we could buy high-quality healthy food products and support an organization that we assumed had likeminded owners regarding high-quality healthy food.  If the Willy-Street Co-op decides to boycott the oldest natural and organic food company in America (that ironically started as a co-op), knowing their impecable history and commendable ongoing efforts (Read their ABOUT PAGE for crying out loud - http://www.edenfoods.com/about), it would make Willy-Street Co-op the most hypocritical organization imaginable.  Technically - Anybody who supports Willy-Street Co-op and wants to boycott Eden Foods is an uninformed self-righteous hypocrite and should honestly have no voice regarding the long-term direction of any food based organization like Willy-Street Co-op.  It dramatically benefits everyone to keep non-food related political agenda's personal, as it creates a more welcoming environment for everyone, which ultimately brings in more people to support the co-op.

Unfortunately, we would likely stop supporting the co-op if Eden Foods is boycotted.

Suzy Grindrod, Ed...
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Thanks for the name-calling. Glad to know what I am.

Carol Heitzkey, P...
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What else would you call a person who believes their personal political views should place priority over supporting an organization that does everything Willy-Street is based on?  It's not name calling , and I'm sorry you feel that way, but they are called appropriate describing words.  People are entitled to their opinions, but this is a pathetic attempt to use Willy- Street for political games.  Eden Foods is not going to change their stance...it's a part of their core identity and they will sell to a corporate giant before they change their stance.  Oh wait, that would be a good thing...right?  Let's shut down privately held companies that are fighting the good fight in the food and environmental responsibility world, who have done nothing illegal, are going through due process to defend a stance they have always maintained.  This will have a negative impact on Willy-Street and Eden Foods...so congratulations on such an honorable goal.

Eric Schoville, M...
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Eden Foods chose to take political action on a non-food related issue.  It is ironic that you call boycott supporters hypocrites, and then enjoin us to keep our political agendas to ourselves.