This is now one of the most important workers' rights and women's rights issues in the country. Frankly, I don't understand the point of having a progressive co-op if it does not boycott in cases like this.
As an owner, I'd suggest the co-op consider suspemnding further orders (so as not to get stuck with inventory that is no longer desired) and then monitor how sales continue. When stock runs out, post a card at the shelf that briefly explains the out-of-stock reason, and suggest a brief visit to the service desk to simply register interest in re-ordering. In other words, let this be a market experiment. If there really is a boycott, I don't want the co-op stuck with product it can't sell. If there really isn't much support for a boycott, we'll know when owners and other customers express their opinions about restocking. Yes, this will mean a little more work for the service desk, but a simple clip board tally should suffice. Those who want to comment more can be directed to this or another comment page.
I keep thinking I've said my piece, but there are so many sides to this issue...
There was mention that Eden's policy is basically a reduction in employee benefits, but health care should not be an employment benefit in the first place--health care is considered a HUMAN RIGHT in most countries, but in the US it is considered a for-profit industry. And, yes, people pay taxes toward their health care in other countries, but we also expect to pay taxes to fund education, law enforcement, infrastructure, etc. Many of us do not have the luxury of employer-provided health care--maybe our employer is exempt because of size, or we do not work enough hours to qualify--this is what is inherently wrong. We are then driven to the health care marketplace--and good luck! There is little there that is "affordable" and coverage is not mandated for basic needs such as vision benefits, dental care for adults, home health care or support for end-of-life choices. While the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, I am grateful that it exists, but I also view it as an evolving piece of legislation. I think we would better serve society as whole if we put our energies into working toward improved legislation rather than boycotting and jeopardizing one of the few independent, trustworthy organic food companies still around.
This may seem off-topic, but it is a piece of the whole to be considered.
I’m in favor of the Willy Street Co-op doing three things about Eden Foods: 1) let Eden know that we’re having this discussion, and that it might lead to the Co-op no longer carrying their products; 2) communicate with other Co-ops to let them know the same and see how (or whether) they’re dealing with this issue; 3) drop all Eden products from the Co-op’s shelves if a majority of owner/members who comment have called for that in the comment period, and if Eden doesn’t change its policy.
I favor the boycott of Eden Foods, and I think the Willy Street Co-op should drop all Eden products; if and when Eden changes its policy, the Co-op should consider getting those products back on its shelves. If a boycott is intended to change the behavior of a company, then a change in that behavior should have some impact on the boycott.
One essential aspect that’s mostly been missing from this discussion is that the employer doesn’t “own” the health insurance provided to the employees; it’s part of the compensation to the employees. Wouldn’t we be pretty concerned if an employer asserted the right to determine how an employee can spend her wages? We’d be pretty clear, immediately, that the employer has no right whatsoever to dictate that, so why is there confusion about the employer trying to dictate the employee’s use of insurance paid for by the employer? It’s part of the pay package, and decisions about using it should be 100% up to the employee. The employer’s religious freedom isn’t a factor, any more than it is if the employee donates part of her wages to a church other than the employer’s.
The Co-op should draw a clear line here.
Hi Norm (I'm on staff),
I wanted to provide an update that Eden Foods is aware of our comment process, and that other co-ops are aware of our process. As we are all different and meet the needs of different Owner bases, the reaction varies depending on the co-op. Some co-ops are preparing to offer simmilar comment formats for their Owners. Many are adopting language and talking points to address why they will continue to keep Eden Foods on their shelves. Some are recommending that their Owners continue to vote with their dollars (we suggest that Owners do that in addition to commenting as well). Some are forwarding all Owner commentary directly to Eden Foods. Some co-ops have not actually received any Owner commentary at all.
Tim Ruddy here.. (Jaime's view may differ) Staff person and owner.
My initial knee jerk reaction is easy. Dump Eden Foods. Personally, I object to a for profit business in the US denying women elements of healthcare based on religious beliefs. Seems simple…
However, the very religious morality that steer Eden away from contraception coverage, have most likely helped motivate them to become a pioneer in Organic foods. They were fighting GMOs in the early 90s, and have provided BPA free cans since 99. In an industry rapidly being bought out by corporate giants, Eden remains private. They have been, and look like they will continue to be, a huge ally in one of the co-op's most important missions.
To me they are still doing more far right than wrong, and I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet.
I propose a compromise. The co-op continue to carry Eden products, but raise prices on all of their products by $0.10 each for as long as Eden continues to not offer contraceptive coverage, donating that “tax” from each sale to Planned Parenthood.
I think this is superior to just dropping the products as it actively creates a positive out of a negative. I also think it has the possibility of creating far more beneficial PR than just simply dropping them. Imagine if the idea spread. Edens choice to not provide contraception coverage to a few employees, could end up financing the same coverage for hundreds or thousands…
That said, I wonder if this (or any boycott of Eden based on this issue) doesn't fall well outside our boycott policy. These are turbulent waters we are dipping our toes in.
Thank you to everyone who has posted, and for keeping it so civil and intelligent!
Tim, you've articulated some of my points far more clearly than I--thank you. I like the idea of a "surcharge" that be donated to Planned Parenthood as a means of opposition. It could even be donated to the PP clinics located near Eden's facilities so that it had a more direct connection.
WSGC has always avoided becoming enmeshed in politics--this is a political issue and yes, maybe it is outside the parameters of the boycott policy.
My opinion: None of us are the ones who made it political. Eden's owner made it political when he decided that his personal feelings about contraception were more important than his female workers' right to make their own decisions about their health care, and sued the government over it. The question for the rest of us is whether the way he is using his company for political action is consistent with what we want the Co-op's values to be.
It is true, the management interpreted the boycott policy loosely due to the high volume of comments we were receiving about one particular brand. We have been looking at the boycott policy for awhile now, and we're narrowing in on some ways that we would like to change it so that a higher threshold of Owners petitioning could create a comment period, rather the boycotts organized by other organizations sparking the discussion. So often Owners will ask why we carry a product and we will give an answer. That's probably not going to change for the majority of concerns, however, when a large volume of Owners ask about the same brand and the same issue, it would be healthier to have a format for the Owners to have that discussion. When a lot of people came forward with concerns about Eden Foods, we thought this was a chance to see how that format might work.
I agree with Tim, we have an impressively thoughtful and polite Ownership here, and this discussion is allowing that to show.
I urge Willy Street Co-op NOT to boycott Eden Foods.
I also urge you to provide the "minority" side a fair consideration. According to Eden Foods' President Michael Potter: "This lawsuit does not block, or intend to block, anyone's access to health care or reproductive management. This lawsuit is about protecting religious freedom and stopping the government from forcing citizens to violate their conscience."
Does anyone else see the colossal irony in this? We shop at Willy Street for natural, organic products from corporations with a conscience. Yet, there is virulent opposition against Eden Foods' actions because they are asserting conscience (abeit unpopular) by their refusal to pay for artifical birth control. Their action is in line with the products they produce.
Do not replace Eden Food products with Muir Glen. Eden Foods is an independent company. Muir Glen is owned by General Mills.
No this is about corporations thrusting their beliefs on their employees. It has gone so far now, that corporations now have the right to dictate health care choices to their employee. This is why we need to take this stand with our only vote left, our purchasing power. I rather have the Devil i Know (Muir Glen/General Mils) , then the Devil in Sheeps clothing, Eden Foods......
Suzy here. What is "artificial birth control"? They have no business dictating this, it has nothing to do with the food they produce.
"Artificial birth control"?! I'll make my own decisions about my contraception in consultation with my doctor, thanks, and I would like for Eden's employees to be able to do the same.
All sides will receive fair consideration, and sales will also receive fair consideration. We appreciate all input.
In the interest of transparency, we would not be replacing Eden Foods with Muir Glen. We carry Muir Glen currently.
Agree absolutely Mike!
Whether or not the Coop boycotts Eden, I’d like to see the Coop focus its efforts on long-term education about food. The Coop actually carries a number of brands that have violated worker and human rights. For example, Honest Tea is owned by the Coca Cola company, which has been sued several times by labor organizations for violently repressing labor unions in Central and South America.
Education is the answer here (education and a concerted effort on the Coop’s part to find better sources). Honest Tea, for example, doesn't have the words "Coca Cola" anywhere on the bottle; the same goes for a number of corporate-owned “natural” brands. Clearly, we can’t boycott all of these brands, and if we think globally (of how workers outside the US, who may not have any health coverage, are treated) it's hard to say whether Eden’s reprehensible stance on healthcare for women is worse than actions taken by Nestle, Unilever, General Mills, or any of the other big ag companies whose products are found at the Coop.
Please use this opportunity to return to the Coop’s roots and help owners make “informed choices about food, agricultural practices, environmentally sound practices." Let owners know where our food is coming from: post a big chart showing who owns what brands carried by the Coop, post signs that identify independent food sellers, and so on. If you need help getting this info out to owners, ask the owners for ideas. Any store can boycott a brand when it winds up in the news, but the Coop could--and should--do more than that.
Couldn't have said it better, Clara. It is all too easy to assauge one's conscience with a knee-jerk reaction (like a boycott) to one particular company's admittedly reprehensible policies on one particular issue while ignoring the host of products the Co-op carries from other companies with equally reprehensible policies. If we were to vet every company whose products we carry with the same rigor, we'd have nearly empty grocery shelves.
The unfortunate reality is that if you are going to participate in a globalized food distribution system you are going to get your hands dirty. Only localized economies are at least potentially transparent enough to avoid such guilt by association. Simply shopping at the co-op doesn't make your dollars immune to supporting companies with whose policies you might disagree. We as conscientious shoppers desperately want it to be so but what cost are we willing to pay? How many of us are willing to invest the time and energy required to research every company whose products we buy? How many of us are willing to forgo a convenient and affordable product (e.g. canned beans) altogether if we discover that all the brands available come from companies with questionable policies? To pay higher prices for goods from local vendors we can actually trust to support their workers, their communities, and the environment? We'd love to have our cake and eat it too, but often that's just not realistic.
I would love for the co-op to dedicate more energy to ongoing research on the brands it carries and to make that information accessible to owners. Investing in long term efforts like that will have far more impact than any reactionary boycott ever will.
I agree with Clara. I think that the Co-op could play a pivotal role in helping educate owners. The Co-op has always been a great place to exchange ideas with both staff and other patrons surrounding food quality, safety, as well as animal and human rights. As owners, we trust the Co-op to help us make better choices. I think, at the very least, owners should be informed when issues like this exist. It is ultimately up to us whether we want to purchase these products. It would be powerful, if we, as a community, make sure that brands who claim to live up to certain standards- respect the rights of their own workers. Bottom line: we care about where our food comes from and how it got there. I think we can all agree on that.
I agree with Clara and Sally...the real Co-op related issue here is food and its producers. As a former staff member I know there are--or should be--concerns about many products carried, much more could be done in terms of educating Co-op owners and the wider community so that each individual could make informed choices that best serve their own needs and beliefs.
If the Co-op is going to carry products produced/owned by ConAgra, Cargill, General Mills, Pepsi and Coca-Cola, et al, then I think Eden should also be retained. These other huge corporations do far more to change the course of clean food--and politics-- than most people realize.
This is a uniquely symbolic moment where choices about whether to carry Eden (and other brands suing to deny their workers contraceptive health care) can influence a national conversation about workers' rights. For the Co-op (of all places!) to continue to carry Eden at this moment, when the specter of a boycott has been raised, effectively asserts that reproductive health care is a discardable side issue to workers' rights.
I think it is misleading to subsume that under general issues about many other companies also violating workers' rights.
Please stop carrying Eden products. The Co-op stands for more than just food. Their products can be replaced.
Please stop carrying Eden products. The Co-op stands for more than just food. Their products can be replaced.
I agree that Willy St. should stop carrying Eden Foods products and/or put pressure on the company to revise its policies. Thanks for being responsive to owner feedback - this is such an important topic!
I am concerned that if Willy Street Co-op, as well as other co-ops around the country, discontinues Eden Foods we will lose another independent organic provider. I choose Eden over other brands in large part because they have not sold out to a mega-corporation and I think it is very important to keep as many independent companies in this industry as possible--if all organic ends up being owned by the likes of ConAgra, General Mills, Cargill, etc. then organic standards are eventually going to be completely sacrificed for the sake of higher profits. And I am far more concerned about the business practices of many of the huge conglomerates than I am about Eden's politics. Eden is quite transparent; ConAgra--not so much! Many of Eden's ingredients are sourced in North America, whereas other companies do not disclose country of origin. Eden's sourcing policy supports farmers and employment across this country, and products are free of contaminants that may be found in imports. Fossil fuel is saved because of shorter shipping distances; emissions are reduced. In addition to using BPA-free cans Eden also packages in glass, providing another important choice for those of us who try to avoid plastics. We are talking about many more items in the store than just canned beans vs dried--for many of these items the quality and flavor of other brands is often less than Eden's in my opinion.
While I do not agree with Eden's politics, I feel it is my choice whether or not I purchase their products. If another person chooses to switch to a different brand, that is their choice and their business. I agree that WSGC should band with other co-ops and send a strongly worded message to Eden Foods, but by removing their products from the co-op, aren't we limiting/denying the freedom of choice to every Co-op owner? If I want a store to decide what I am eating I can go to Copps and choose between Roundys, Kraft or more Roundys--no thanks! And how much will our boycott really impact Eden? Yes, I can go to another store or order direct, but I prefer to support my co-op and choose to spend my food dollars in a store that supports local, regional and independent producers and provides a great standard of living for Co-op staff. If Co-op owners shift our purchases to other sources and reduce revenue to the Co-op we impact the lives of our staff and the profitability of the store.
There is much more at stake here than Eden's response to the evolution of American health care or questionable decisions by the Supreme Court. My bottom line is to communicate with Eden Foods on an individual level and at the Co-op level, but to retain the product line and let each Co-op owner exercise their personal right to choose.
Absolutely it's your choice. If the Co-op discontinues Eden products, that's not the same as forbidding people to buy them. For example, I like Oreos so I buy them at a different store because the Co-op doesn't carry that particular product.
Perhaps Willy St., in cooperation with other like-minded stores who represent a significant portion of Eden's customer base could put some pressure on the decision makers over there to rethink their policy. It's already been observed that Eden makes a lot of really good products and has been supplying the Co-op for many years. They didn't just become evil overnight; the management just had to make a decision that they hadn't faced before. And they made it wrong.
I join with others in asking that the co-op stop carrying all Eden Foods products. We all know the reasons why.
To those who can't stop buying their beans, do consider how easy it really is to cook your own beans from dry beans. Once you start doing it, you realize it is very little trouble. For a very easy tutorial, Google "How to cook dried beans to freeze". The author estimates this only costs her the equivalent of 50 cents a can.
Thank you so much for opening up this forum. I realize that most companies, if scrutinized closely enough, would conflict with anyone's beliefs at some point. But there has to be a line. Eden has crossed that line. I find their suit, their policies and their statements to be wholly immoral and counter to the interests of people and workers everywhere. I will not be purchasing thier porducts, will advise and educate others and respectfully request that my coop discontinue carrying their products.
My personal views will lead me to boycott Eden Foods products regardless of whether the Co-op chooses to carry them or not. The person who raised the point that the co-op is nonpartisan has a point, and this is perhaps not an issue that falls within the boycott policy. However, another thing to consider is what will be the economic impact on the organization if it does not pull the products from its shelves and the result is that a large majority its customer base refuses to buy them?
Eden Foods' company policies do not affect my decision to buy their products when I have chosen a particular product for compelling reasons. In the case of Eden's beans, unless I find another company with organic beans in BPA-free cans, I will continue to buy their beans. I hope the co-op chooses to continue to carry the brand but if not, I do appreciate that the co-op chose to poll their owners before making a decision. I think if we dug deeply enough into every company from which we buy, we would likely find negative things we didn't know.
As our co-op is indeed committed to a diverse and tolerant world, I ask the board and members to consider the actions of Eden Foods. Eden foods has not taken any action to prevent its staff, distributors, or consumers from accessing contraceptive care, nor has it challenged the rights of self determination. Eden foods has simply sought to be free of a mandate which infringed the rights of its owners.
Just as no one has any right to determine what each of us do with our own bodies, we as a society should not require them to provide something that is contrary to their own beliefs. If the actions of Eden Foods cross the line of actually agressing against another's rights I would say boycott. But, as they have only attempted to protect their own right to not participate in activities contrary to their beliefs I say:
We must be tolerant of their convictions; I recommend we continue to stock Eden Foods.
I would be cautious in use of the word "tolerance" in this regard. If it were contrary to Mr Potter's beliefs to employ people of non-European descent, should we let him be "free of a mandate that infringed the rights of its owners"? After all, he would not be "agressing against another person's rights", he would merely be inviting them to work for any of the many other companies in this country that don't hold that belief. What are "their convictions"? According to the owner, it is to be free of government regulations with which he disagrees. If I (as a manufacturer) liked lead solder in my cans because it worked well for me and was inexpensive, should I be allowed to continue to use lead in contact with food? It wouldn't infringe on your rights - you'd be free to buy from another company. Others have raised the issue of religious conviction against blood transfusion, mental health treatment, and vaccination and the question of whether a corporation would be within its rights to refuse insurance coverage for those. It is a slippery slope you lead us down - as is the slope the Supreme Court has chosen.
Steve you bring up great points which I have not ignored.
First I think that this discussion within our membership is an exceptional example of how we can address your concerns by use of market forces. I do not support a boycott in this case, but I believe it is the proper way to send a message to producers of our values.
The issue of poor business practices including toxic and discriminatory choices is real. There is some value in legal action, but as many have expressed here, neither the courts, legislators, or even the constitution adequately represent all our values all the time. I am in favor of legal freedom of association and therefore discrimination should be legal. But, legal does not equate right, and social action will do much more than a law ever can to change social opinion and practice. As a victim of discrimination myself I would do as so many here have done and advocate for boycotts, not just locally but nation- and world-wide for any company choosing to treat any group unfavorably based on race, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual preference, etc.
Again, I disagree that Eden Foods has done anything wrong. But, I support this co-op having this discussion, and if we as a body decide to boycott I will support the co- op's choice to peacefully voice its values In this way.
I respectfully ask the Coop to please remove all Eden Organic products from the store until Eden Organics restores birth control coverage to their policies. Can you send ALL their products back to them so they have a tangible look at how this boycott will affect them? Perhaps some Coop Members would contribute to shipping costs. i would!
I believe that the coop should not carry Eden Foods products. Not only do they not offer important health care coverage but they actively fight against the rights of others. I think this is a productive way of showing them that we will not accept that.
I respectfully ask that the Co-op stop selling Eden Organics products. I am mindful that not all issues require the outright dropping of a product or company, but I find the comments from the Eden CEO so disdainful and arrogant. Way beyond any religious beliefs that he professes to have, he seems to be spouting an extreme Libertarian, anti-government screed -- with EXTREME being the operative word. The forces at work in the United States today are extreme and immoral. They cloak themselves in words like "freedom", "rights" and "tolerance" while taking rights away from people as fast as they can. I am a firm believer in the idea of every dollar being a vote, but this goes beyond the individual shopper. I would be so grateful to see my Co-op take a stand against the extreme anti-woman agenda in our country that is more and more resembling the Taliban in Afghanistan than the United States.
One more thought: I do not know what kind of network of communication we have with other co-ops across the country, but I would also like to see Willy St. advocate for other food co-ops to discontinue carrying Eden products. This is not just a Madison issue, a liberal issue, or a women's issue. Eden Organics rode on the coattails of the more prominent Hobby Lobby v. Sibelius Supreme Court ruling which immediately opened the floodgates for all manner of discrimination.
Thanks, Brendan, for initiating this conversation.
I am the Director of Cooperative Services for the Co-op. Other co-ops are aware of our process, and while we have been communicating, no Co-ops have been advocating for one approach to the topic or another, and we have no plans to take that approach with each other. As we are all different and meet the needs of different Owner bases, the response depends on the co-op. Some co-ops are preparing to offer simmilar comment formats for their Owners. Many are adopting language and talking points to address why they will continue to keep Eden Foods on their shelves. Some are recommending that their Owners continue to vote with their dollars (we suggest that Owners do that in addition to commenting as well). Some are forwarding all Owner commentary directly to Eden Foods. Some co-ops have not actually received any Owner commentary at all.
As an employee and owner, I am so glad we have put this topic up for discussion. I used to love Eden for their BPA-free cans and commitment to organics, but I cannot support their decision to leave the women/individuals who work for them unsupported. I have stopped buying Eden and cringe when people bring it through the checkout. I would love for us to stop carrying them, who knows, maybe if enough of us boycott Eden they will see how important women's health really is.
Companies that actively seek to discriminate against clientele and workers do not deserve my dollars, particularly when I have the ability to make more ethical shopping choices. I would love to see the co-op stop selling products from EdenFoods and instead carry products by more ethical companies that try to enhance the lives of their employees. We can speak our minds individually with our shopping selection, but I think it sends a louder message when those individual actions are combined in to a group action.
Maybe Eden will never learn their mistake and will continue fighting for the right to discriminate against women. Maybe a boycott will mot change their stance. Even if those things happen, I would feel much better knowing the co-op as a whole decided together to stop helping that company fund their crusade to interfere with women's healthcare.
Brendon, I just logged on to start a thread on this topic - so glad you beat me to it. I've appreciated and enjoyed Eden Foods products over the past 15+ years and was saddened (okay - pissed)
to hear of their agenda with regard to contraceptive coverage for their employees
as it left a very foul taste in my mouth. I'm easily going to NOT purchase their products any longer and I would be equally dismayed if Willy Street chooses not to pull their products from the shelves.
Willy Street is a community and this is not who we are, right? Discrimination is a weapon - if we don't respond to it in an effective manner, well, then we may as well sell guns and ammo, too and invite the republicans for tea.
Respectfully, I request Eden Food
products be removed from our stores.
Thanks for opening the conversation up.
Thank you for responding, Colleen.
As a reminder to all who comment, the Co-op is a nonpartisan organization. There are many reasons for the Co-op to decide or not decide to carry a product, but Democrat/Republican is not one of them.