By Laura Buttenbaum, Membership Administrator
April is always a very exciting month at the Co-op! Throughout the month, GreenStar celebrates two principles that reside at the very core of our existence: concern for the environment and local, democratic control. This month, we’ll celebrate a number of Earth Day events. As both Membership Department staff and Council member, I offer this article to discuss the second of the Seven Cooperative Principles: Local, Democratic Control.
Democratic control by owners is the bedrock of the cooperative principles.
The International Cooperative Alliance has this to say about the second of the Seven Cooperative Principles, Local Democratic Control:“Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.”
Your vote matters!
Voting is an important way for you to have a voice in the business you own. Every April, current owners can exercise their right (and responsibility!) to actively participate in decision making through our democratic voting process. This year, GreenStar owners can cast their vote in Council (GreenStar’s Board of Directors) elections, and on member-sponsored referendums. Unlike the corporations, in which the number of votes is based on how much money people invest, cooperative businesses like GreenStar hold the policy that one owner equals one vote. No one owner’s vote counts more than another’s; everyone’s vote is equally weighed.
Council is a distinct link in the chain of empowerment and accountability within the cooperative.
Council members are elected by Co-op owners to ensure that the financial and legal obligations of the organization are fulfilled. Council acts on behalf of owners by providing the vision, leadership, and guidance to ensure that the needs of our membership are being met. Through the use of Policy Governance, Council empowers and holds management accountable, delegating authority to management through Ends, while clarifying roles and responsibilities of the General Manager through Executive (GM) Limitations policies.
This year, eight Council seats can be filled by election, and seven qualified candidates are named on the ballot. Every year, Council elections will fill five seats for full three-year terms; this year, three additional seats are open because some Council members vacated their seats through resignation before their terms were completed. Though some vacated seats were filled by appointment, the term of an appointment lasts only through the end of the Council year, with the election serving to fill the remaining term of the vacated spots. Throughout its history, GreenStar’s Council has suffered regular Council resignations, a problem that is being addressed by a renewed focus on perpetuating Council’s leadership using ongoing education, robust recruitment, fair elections, and training. If you have any interest in joining Council at any point, see our Council recruitment post in the announcements section on page 13.
Another powerful means for owners to effect change on a policy level is through member-initiated referendums.
On this year’s ballot is an owner-sponsored referendum with two separate questions. The first seeks to ensure direct owner involvement in future logo design decisions, and includes a requirement that one logo option for consideration be a specific former logo design and full legal business name. The second question asks if there should be a binding owner vote on the selection of a long-term logo for GreenStar. These referendum questions bring attention to an interesting and challenging aspect of democratic control: where is the line between ensuring transparency and owner engagement and allowing our professional staff members to perform the jobs they are hired to do?
To empower our owners with as much information as possible so that we can make confident, informed choices, GreenStar published the GreenStar News, 2019 Spring Election Issue. It’s posted online, and copies are available at all of our stores and will be mailed out to all of our owners, either through the postal service or electronically. Only owners who already signed up for electronic voting by March 15 will receive the GreenStar News digitally. You must have signed up by then to be able to vote online. (Owners who have used online voting in past elections have raved about the ease and convenience of this user-friendly process.)
In addition to reading the GreenStar News, Co-op owners will have two opportunities to get to know our Council candidates and discuss the referendum. See our website for more information:
Member-Owner Forum: Thursday, April 11, 6:30 – 8:30 pm in The Classrooms @ GreenStar
Annual Member-Owner Meeting: Thursday, April 25, 5:30 – 8:00 pm in The Space @ GreenStar
Participation in the voting process is a tangible reminder that the GreenStar Food Co-op is more than just a great place to shop — it’s your great place to shop. Being an informed voter and casting your ballot truly represents the impact you can have as an owner of the Co-op!