“Democratic Member Control” is Number Two on the list of Seven Cooperative Principles developed by our movement’s pioneers, which guide the Davis Food Co-op and thousands of other co-operatives worldwide. The International Co-operative Alliance defines it: “Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Member/Owners serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership with members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote).”
But what good is a lofty principle we subscribe to when it’s not practiced by most members? It’s no secret that participation in DFC elections has been weakening for years – this year’s election garnered votes from only 7.9% of our owners. We know that our members still care about the direction our co-op is taking – so what’s wrong?
Perhaps part of the problem is our lengthy and arcane bylaws and policies regarding elections – which specify (among other things) that only paper ballots may be used, submitted in person or mailed to the store. In the 21st century many Davisites live in an all-digital world – so the Board has proposed replacing these long and restrictive bylaws (and the corresponding policies) with more open & flexible ones which retain our most important values & practices (e.g. fair & open elections at least annually, “one member, one vote” and abiding by all laws regarding co-op elections) while allowing staff to find procedures and technologies which maximize transparency and participation while minimizing costs and hassles.
At the same time, our bylaws specify an odd, moving target for the start of our Fiscal Year. This has made it hard for staff to make external and internal comparisons – analysis we need to measure and improve our productivity. So the board is proposing to replace that bylaw with one that lets the board and staff set a Fiscal Year which makes sense for our business.
These two Propositions were placed on the ballot for a Special Election – and unanimously endorsed by the Board – in the hope of making our 2017 election more democratic (Principle 2) and our store more competitive; they were posted in the store and on the website as required and no arguments against either proposition were received from members by the deadline.
Changing these bylaws requires a majority vote from a quorum of members, so please read the pamphlet mailed to you last month (more information is available on the DFC website and on the Governance Board in the store), ask questions, discuss the outcomes and cast your vote! Voting opened on October 17 and closes on November 18, so hurry in – remember, this time you must submit a paper ballot in person or by mail to be counted.