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Starting a comment period about carrying Eden Foods products

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John Drake
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Eden was defending itself from a NEW government mandate that violated their rights.  That's not political action, it's self defense.  Everyone agrees that women should have access to birth control, but not everyone agrees with the government mandate. Things like the morning after pill goes against the owners conscience (they believe it terminates a life... What is the exact moment that life begins?  Does science say?  Their view is not held by everyone but IS rational).  Consider their good intention.  Their conscience also led them to be leaders in protecting the environment and providing organic food, etc...  

All of the commenters on this page are also well intentioned... I can see it and hear it... you're commenting because you want to do good.  But, many on this page have NOT put themselves in Edens shoes and have NOT tried to understand their views.  If the government mandated something that violated the law, the constitution, and what we believe in, Willy Street can defend itself and that's not polticial activism... For example, if the govt could try to outlaw co-ops because they wanted to collect taxes on income... Willy Street could defend itself.  In contrast, Boycotting Eden Foods is political activism.  It's not centrist or non partisan.  I know that many owners of Willy Street would support it... But it's obvious that people of good will have different religious and political views, including Willy Street owners.

Brenda Morris
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I have read Eden's arguments and considered them thoughtfully. However, I do not believe that businesses/corporations have the same rights as individual human beings. I do not believe that employers have the right to determine how their employees spend their salary and use their benefits - once that compensation is in the employee's pocket, it's nobody's business how they spend it. I would like to see the Co-op boycott Eden foods for these reasons, and in hopes that we can act together to encourage Eden foods to protect their employees' rights to make PRIVATE health care decisions without the interference of their employers, not to mention discouraging the kind of slippery slope allowing Eden to behave this way could lead to. What happens when the employer is against consumption of alcohol? Purchase of certain books? Sorry, I just don't think employers should have that power over their employees.

In any case, I will continue to personally boycott Eden, so the Co-op can expect to lose some of my business if I have to go elsewhere to find comparable products. I will continue to support the Co-op in any other way I can.

John Drake
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No employer has the right to determine how its employees spend their salary or use their benefits. They can't tell you which books to buy or whether or not to buy birth control.  I would be DISGUSTED if an employer could tell an employee to not buy birth control!!  In this case, the ACA mandates that businesses provide specific benefits to its employees wtih no co-pay or cost to the employees.  This includes the morning after pill, which violates the owner's conscience.  Everyone wants women to have access to birth control, but the supreme court decided that the mandate went too far in certain cases (only for certain closely held companies).

Businesses aren't human beings, but they are owned and operated by human beings.  Some businesses are closely held, or even owned by a single person!  For example, you can start a business and operate it out of your house... it's YOUR business, owned and operated by you.  It's very important to have laws and regulations to protect employees, customers, and other stakeholders, but it's also important that they don't go too far or violate the rights of the owners.  In this case, the mandate violated the owner's religious freedom.  It's NOT correct that Eden is telling its employees what to buy or even dictating their views onto employees.  Eden would have no problem if its employees bought birth control.  It's the other way around (the govt is telling Eden what to buy). You said that people should be able to buy what they want and be free to purchase birth control, and this is exactly Eden's position as well!

I read the food and product selection philosphy.  Eden is a STRONG fit.  I know people are concerned about politics, but Willy Street should stick to the food and product selection philosophy, which is very well written.  I'm proud to be a part supporting a local co-op store with these ideals.  Willy Street is a great store which is exactly why I want to protec it from getting involved in religion and politics! 

Carol Heitzkey, P...
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Well said

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I don't think it's practical to vet the political views of all our suppliers, so the co-op shouldn't do this with Eden Foods. As individuals we can choose not to buy their products, but the co-op's decision to drop Eden Foods should be based on already-established criteria, not on politics. It's a difficult issue and passions are running high at the moment, but we can't demand ideological purity (even if we could define it) from every supplier.

Suzy Grindrod, Ed...
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Health care discrimination is not politics. Imagine for a moment that a company refused to cover treatment for Tay Sachs disease, or sickle cell anemia. A company should not be making health care decisions period, much less ones that single out one group of people. Despite what "Justice" Scalia says, women are entitled to equal protection under the law.

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Suzy, we agree that health care discrimination is wrong, whether it's politics or not. But I still think the co-op really needs to be very careful when deciding what suppliers to drop or boycott. The policy needs to be clear, fair, and consistently applied.

Eric Schoville, M...
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While I agree that it would be impossible to vet all of the companies that the COOP carries, when one of those companies acts in a very public, political way, such as suing the government for a non-food related issue, it is well within the purvue of the COOP to decide if we should carry their products or not.  

Susan Frikken, De...
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Thanks for bringing this forward for discussion.  Please keep the products.  I expect the Co-op would have very little inventory of any kind if all of its suppliers were subjected to scrutiny, and there aren't many who can claim Eden's substantial contributions toward healthy, sustainable food.

Nick Kokoshis
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This is a good source for Eden Boycott activism on facebook! The campaign is heating up! Gay rights groups have withdrawn their support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because its broad exemption for religious groups will now be construed to mean businesses like Eden. 

https://www.facebook.com/BoycottEden

Eric Fleming
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As a member / owner of Willy Street Co-op, I don't agree with the Co-op's consideration to boycott Eden Foods.  I think Eden Foods is a good company and if an Eden employee doesn't like the companie's belief system and/or decision to not pay for specific provisions in the HHS mandate, they can excercise their right to leave the company and find employment elsewhere.  No-one is forcing them to work at Eden Foods.  These employees and/or ex-employees can also excercise their right to gather individuals and to boycott Eden Foods.  If individual members / owners of Willy Street Co-op decide to boycott Eden, they have every right to do that.  A melting pot of ideas, agreements, disagreements, beliefs, ethnicity, cultures, etc. is what makes America a truly great place to live.  I don't agree with many of my friends, neighbors, co-workers and even family on a variety of issues but in the end, we are all part of the human family.  To debate and challenge as individuals is magnificent and alive....to be indifferent, cookie-cutter, and uniform is uninspring and dead.  

Peace. 

Stephanie Turner
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So what you're saying is that employers have the right to discriminate and mistreat their employees, and if an employee doesn't like it, they can just go find another job. Maybe we should do away with ALL workplace laws that prohibit discrimination! And laws that protect employees from occupational health and safety risks, too! Let companies do whatever they want and if someone doesn't like it, they can always quit. Because jobs are so easy to find! Have you really applied any logic to what you're suggesting?

Nick Kokoshis
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This is exactly the same logic used by supporter of smoking in bars-- employees who don't want to get poisoned at work should just go elsewhere for work. Some people don't have a lot of choices on where they work. 

John Drake
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I am strongly in favor of keeping Eden Food's products and NOT boycotting this company!  Willy Street should be very selective with the foods that it purchases, and Edens Foods meets that high bar based on (1) the quality of the food, (2) their commitment to organic, natural and sustainable practices, and (3) their fair treatment of their workers, including a generous benefits package (they don't want to provide free birth control, but the benefits package overall is very generous). 

Willy Street shouldn't boycott companies based on conservative or liberal pollicial reasons because the owners have diverse views which should be respected.  It would be better for Willy Street to focus on having high quality products that meet high standards that we can all agree on (listed earlier).  If these standards are met, each owner can then choose how to spend their money in the store and whether to buy products such as Edens Foods or not.   I would not be happy about this boycott.

Kirsten Moore
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Thank you, John, for your comment. For all Owners commenting, I can safely say as a staff member you may rest assured that we will not be considering conservative or liberal poliical postiions regarding any of our products and whether to continue carrying them, as we are a nonpartisan organization. We put out the call for Owner commentary due to a very rare spike in Owner input favoring pulling and boycotting a particular product. We wanted to find out what our other Owners thought so that we can make an informed decision and to also help our Owners learn from each other about diverse Owner priorities, perspectives, and needs.

Nick Kokoshis
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So you are saying if Eden foods kills women or gay people based on its "deeply held religious beliefs" this would not be considered by the coop? Because that is what denial of health care rights does. There's no debate about it-- people who don't have access to health care die because they ignore illnesses at the early stages when they are treatable. This is what the modest reforms of the Affordable Care Act are about, and when a right wing extremist company like Eden Foods makes a decision that will have consequences far and wide, and deny women and gays access to health care, I sure hope you can sleep at night by not taking their conservative politics into consideration. 

Nick Kokoshis
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Eden does not treat their female employees fairly. And if they are far right wing Catholics (the source of their objection to birth control/supposed "abortion" although no scientist agrees wtih them), then the next logical step is to not provide health care to the spouses of gay employees. There is NOTHING fair about Eden's stance, that is why we are posturing right back at them in support of a boycott. 

   You say that the Willie Street coop shouldn't boycott based on "conservative or liberal political reason." Pardon me? It's only the conservatives that are against expanding health care rights to the sick and poor, against expanding marriage rights to gay couples, against the Equal Right Amendment in the 80s, against the Voting Rights Act to protect minorites, in favor of corporations being labeled "people" that can flood our elections with outside money in the name of "free speech," and discriminate against women and minorities in any way they can get away with, etc. 

John Drake
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Nick, I'm glad you're fighting for what you believe in and I appreciate your heart for women, minorities, the poor, etc...  But some of your comments are debatable.  We are proof that the owners of Willie Street have diverse views.  However, I think there's a lot we can agree on:  Edens provides high quality organic food, uses sustainable practicies that is good for the environment, is a small private business, and provides fair compensation to its employeees.  I disagree with a boycott.

Nick Kokoshis
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Eden Foods also will happily kill women, and I'm sure gay people will be next, on the basis of its "deeply held religious beliefs." That's what this argument is about-- will the coop support companies that are so bigoted against women and gays that they will harm people based on superstitions. People cannot make health care decisions unless they have the finances to make those decisions in the first place. Eden Foods denies them the finances. I support the boycott and uphold the rights of women and minorities to make their own choices free from employer interference.

Suzy Grindrod, Ed...
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Eden Organics could do all of those good things … and be nondiscriminatory in what kinds of health care they'll cover. A boycott is not to punish the company. It is a tool that might help leverage a better decision from Eden's management.

I'm sick of the argument that "They're a good company in all these other ways." And you know what? As a woman it feels really rotten to have men (in particular) say that.

Eric Caldera, Cel...
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I agree with this sentiment. I would like us to boycott this company and any other company that tries to act as a doctor. This is not a political issue, it's healthcare. As the brillant Ginsburg wrote, we "ventured into a minefield." What if a company did not allow anti-depressants, vaccines, certain types of medicine because of THEIR, not the employees, belief. How would it feel then to some of the owners saying that religious belief should be protected? A boycott is not a ban, maybe then Eden Foods would realize that "their beliefs" are just that... their beliefs... And should not be pushed on others. 

Eric Caldera, Cel...
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Please remove from comment board

Eric Caldera, Cel...
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i apolgize for hitting save too many times. Please remove

Eric Caldera, Cel...
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please remove

Eric Caldera, Cel...
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please remove

Nick Kokoshis
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It is NOT fair to compensate women with inferior health care. This decision, written by five men who think birth control is immoral, is unique for singling out women for descrimination in health care at the whims of their employer. It's mysogyny, pure and simple. And you KNOW that businesses are already filing lawsuits with the courts now to block implimentation of laws protecting gay civil rights (and by extension marriage rights) based on deeply held bigoted religious beliefs, "sorry, I'm not providing health care for your marriage partner because they are gay". This is NO way to run a civil society based on equality, it is the way to run a hateful superstitious church. The real diversity here is that I believe in treating people equally in regard to health care and marriage rights, and prejudiced people do not. 

Nick Kokoshis
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.

Wayne Pferdehirt
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I agree strongly with the position clearly stated by Caleb Haugen.

Individually we can choose to ourchase any vendor's products ... or not.  If we dig deep enough we can probably find policies, pratices and impacts related to any vendor that a vocal majority of members would find objectionable. 

The Coop should support a stance that accepts and affirms diversity, even when we differ with others' beliefs and object to the consequences of those beliefs. 

Select or discontinue vendors on the quality of the products and services they offer.

I strongly support continuing to offer Eden Foods products. 

A boycott of this company and its products would disappoint me in the Coop's commitment to diversity, and would lead me to seriously consider ending my membership in the Coop.

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Wayne, I question why you need to state to the coop staff that you will end your membership if they don't abide by your stated wishes. It's counterproductive in a situation like this. Take some time to read through the rest of the comments by other owners and you'll see creativity and diversity in action. I see this coop staff bending over backwards and sideways to make accomodations for us to have our voices heard. Go to the websites of trader joes, whole foods, Copp's, HyVee or any other grocer in the area and you will not see any kind of forum like this where customers can voice their opinion on a forum that is put together, organized and maintained by the staff or executives of these companies. Please acknowledge the sensitivity and extreme effort the coop is putting into gathering input and listening to each and every owner's voices and concerns.

John Drake
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Wayne, this is very well said.  Thank you.

Scot Herrick, Joa...
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We are very much in favor of the removal of all Eden Foods products from the Co-op. We believe that supporting businesses who support our ideals benefits the community and society at large. Understanding that quality, price, and selection are at stake, we favor the potential for short-term inconvenience in exchange for the opportunity to locate other suppliers who, when incented to do so by virtue of our support, also take frontline positions on solid food production and packaging standards.

Thank you for putting this question to the owners, and thank you to the owners who started the conversation in the first place.

Nick Kokoshis
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.The co-op should undoubtedly remove all of Eden Foods products from their shelves. The idea that companies should ration health care based on their "deeply held religious beliefs" is going to end up with businesses refusing to pay for spousal health insurance if the spouse is a member of the same gender. Is that the kind of people you want to do business with?  What if your employers only believe in faith healing? The Coops are the places where this movement should begin, and then it should spread to the coops in Milwaukee, which would dramatically decrease Eden Foods business in Wisconsin. Hopefully this movement will radiate out from the heartland to the coasts. If we allow this travesty of justice, then we are complicit in helping them. Boycott Eden foods, the sooner the better. 

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We support boycotting Eden Foods because of its actions to deny women access to basic reproductive healthcare. We also encourage the Co-op to try to unite with other co-ops in this boycott and to formally inform Eden of our discussion/decision.

Monica Davis, Bri...
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FYI to owner/members: I've written a couple of respectful emails to Eden Foods over the last couple weeks outlining my objections to Mr. Potter's policies and public comments. Eden Foods doesn't bother to respond to consumer emails regarding this issue. Eden Foods is ignoring respectful and well reasoned comments and arguments against its policies. So, everyone whom is putting forward arguments here that we should cut Eden Foods some slack and tread carefully ought to know that Eden Foods will not engage the public in anykind of intelligent discussion of Mr. Potter's legal or personal ideology.

Elizabeth Wrigley...
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Thank you for taking the time to write to them.

Carl Zimm
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The COOP should not carry any Eden foods products. We should take this action as soon as possible, and make sure the action is well publicized.

We should have nothing to do with a corporation that wants to abuse its employees in the manner that Eden Foods has done. 

Judith Skog, Kenn...
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Thanks you for the opportunity to weigh in on this.  It is a very sticky problem.  On the one hand Eden Foods is imposing it religious beliefs on its employees and the public.  On the other hand, Eden Foods has done a lot of things right in the organic realm (as has been mentioned already).

This move should be taken in conjunction with other coops, for the maximum bang for our buck.  Willie St Coop is big enough to have a lot of clout in the coop realm, but it would be good to have others on board.  And Eden Foods might be more likely to notice, and maybe make some changes.

In the world of share-holder activism, the goal is to threaten to take an issue to vote at a share-holders meeting, with the hope that it will prompt the company to engage in dialogue/change.  Perhaps we can do the same.

I am 55% to 45% in favor of boycotting them.

Kirsten Moore
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Thanks, Judith. I just wanted to let you and other Owners commenting know that if, after the comment period, the Co-op were to pull Eden products and formally boycott the product, we do not have plans to organize a boycott with other co-ops. That is not to say that other co-ops would not engage in a simmilar process with their Owners, however, we plan to keep focused strictly on our Owner's commentary. 

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I hope that collectively we decide to boycott Eden Foods. My partner and I vote to drop Eden Foods. 

A consumers’ co-operative firm, such as Willy Street Cooperative, is structurally different from a capitalist firm. Owners are first and foremost community members, not proprietors who reap a profit on the labor of others (However, we could treat our co-op's workers better, but that's a different rant for a different time). Secondly, owners are stakeholders before consumers. We collectively determine the trajectory of our co-operative. We don't do so through our dollars, but through our collective power. How many farmers do we support in the US and the Global South (via Equal Exchange, etc.)? A "vote with your dollars" plan wouldn't make this possible. Indeed, this would completely destroy the point of a consumers' co-operative. We are shaping economic and social development.

 

So, I want to note that this debate is about social development. This debate is about how we want to be involved in the reproduction of gender, sexual, and economic relations. Do we want to reproduce these relations or do we want to transform them? By voting to drop Eden Foods, we are voting against the reproduction of these oppressive relations. 

 

We must address this. 

 

We need to institutionalize justice, not just shop for justice. We must institutionalize our commitment to justice, for without doing so the subjectivities, caprices, and desires of everyday life will render such temporary, unnoticeable, and inconsequential.

 

 

Sarah Busse, Reed...
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I vote drop Eden. Bring them back when they change their stance on birth control for their employees. I shop at Willy because I trust the food and product lines are not only healthy and sustainable on my table, but ethical and just for their workers as well. 

Daniel Olivares
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Please do not boycott Eden Organics. 

Carl Sack
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Please boycott Eden Foods. Health care is a human right, and carrying those suppliers who discriminate (or seek to discriminate) women in employment benefits and practices should be an absolute non-starter.

Suzy Grindrod, Ed...
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I wonder how the CEO of Eden foods feels about government overreach (or religious beliefs for that matter) when it comes to pesky things like OSHA rules and sprinkler systems. After all, aren't slipped discs and lightning strikes acts of god that government shouldn't be involved in regulating?

Margy Lambert
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It saddens me that Eden Foods would take such an awful position against women. In the past, Eden Foods has taken some courageous stands such as being pro-GMO labeling. Bottom line: I urge Willy St. to boycott Eden Foods. Their behaviour is just unacceptable!

Steve Rankin, Jud...
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I will not be buying Eden Foods products. I would like the coop to provide thorough information (including the fact that Mr Potter is on record as saying he has no particular religious belief against contraception or the funding of contraception by insurance. His belief is a political one, which he identifies as "government overreach".) He is welcome to object to the federal government and to federal regulations. We are welcome to cease buying his products. I hope that owners, when provided with sufficient information, will choose to stop buying his products, and that the coop will cease to provide them due to lack of a market. Further, I would like to see the coop actively work toward eliminating that market, by immediately providing alternatives to all Eden Foods products and by relegating Eden products to poorer shelf allocations (smaller facings, away from eye level).  - Steve

Erin Boyle, Stace...
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I would definitely like the coop to boycott all Eden Foods products.

Aaron Bakken, Sar...
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Seems Eden Food's CEO hasn't been able to actually pinpoint which part of his religious principals this contraceptive coverage actually conflicts with. Sounds like it's as much a small minded religious issue as it is just being cheap. Meanwhile, Hobby Lobby (and I wouldn't be surprised if Eden Foods does too) will still cover Viagra/Cialis and vascectomies. The hypocracy is amazing.

I for one will never buy an Eden Foods product moving forward. As a Co-Op that I'm quite sure employs a number of women and LGBT citizens, it seems anethma to Willy Street's business charter to support vendors that discriminate so openly. I realize it will take time to find replacement products, and that they may cost more. But I have not, and I would imagine a lot of my co-owner/members do as well, chosen to shop at the Co-Op because it has cheap prices. I shop there for the quality products, dignified wages these products pay for and the environmental stewardship that's implied through the selection offered.

So, I say screw Eden Foods and the close mindedness/intolerance they represent.

Kirsten Moore
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Thanks, Aaron. Since you brought up the issue of Viagra coverage, here's what Eden Foods' says about their healthcare coverage objections:

"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

Ann Schroeder
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Please stop carrying Eden Foods

I have already decided to personally boycott Eden Foods products (along with Hobby Lobby stores).  I would like it if Willy Street no longer carried Eden's products.  The assault on the ability of women to have access to and make their own healthcare choices is just too offensive.  This topic is so upsetting to me I'm not even sure I can make a coherent argument.  Many others have done a fine job here.  I just wanted to register my comment.  Thanks.

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This is Randi (not Josh).  And don't ask me why my name is spelled phonetically in my co-op membership -- I have no idea!

I have read everyone else's comments and thought about this long and hard. Eden is a forward-thinking company in many ways, and I don't think we should make the decision to boycott them lightly.  But the attacks on the reproductive rights of women are not something to be taken lightly either.  If Eden had decided that they didn't want to have their health coverage pay for cancer drugs because cancer is God's will, I doubt the Supreme Court would have agreed.  There is an effort in this country to to limit the welfare and freedom of women, though their arguments are cloaked in talk of freedom and opposing government mandates. By filing their lawsuit, Eden has decided to be part of that effort. Employers shouldn't be able to claim that they are morally obligated to NOT pay for important aspects of women's sexual health care and then turn around and willingly pay for men's sexual health care (such as Viagra).  That is why I think the co-op should boycott Eden.  I strongly doubt that boycotts like ours could put Eden in any financial jeopardy.  At best we will make a small dent in their profits.  But perhaps by boycotting, we will make them think about what they are doing and who it hurts.