Members of the Weavers Way Board of Directors held an open-discussion forum Wednesday evening at Summit Presbyterian Church in Mt. Airy in response to Co-op members’ growing concerns and requests to boycott organic food industry leader, Eden Foods.
The controversy was raised earlier this summer when a Supreme Court decision ruled in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby that “closely held” corporations could be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control mandate if that mandate came into conflict with the company owners’ “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The Hobby Lobby decision prompted the courts to reconsider Eden Foods CEO Michael Potter’s 2013 lawsuit in which he sued the U.S. Department of Health and Welfare over the ACA mandate. In the suit, Potter claimed that providing his employees with contraception as well as other “lifestyle” drugs including Viagra and even obesity medication was a violation of his religious freedoms.
In response to Potter’s lawsuit, co-ops across the country have been organizing boycotts of Eden Foods products, and for the past several months the question of whether or not Weavers Way should join in has held heavy inside the walls of the co-op.
“We have a broad and diverse base of members, who span the spectrum of political and religious beliefs. All sides and opinions need to be heard and respected,” said Weavers Way board president, Jeremy Thomas.
Weavers Way membership manager, Jonathan Leeds reminded members that “Eden’s food-policy advocacy — such as pushing for clear consumer labeling on foods — has earned the company high marks and a high profile in the cooperative food culture,” in a July article of the co-op’s publication, The Shuttle.
So in consideraton of Eden Food’s sincere dedication to high standards in quality food production, where does one draw the line between good and evil?
“This is a divisive issue, and more complex than it seems on the surface,” Weavers Way President Jeremy Thomas said. “We haven’t yet taken an official position either way, and want to avoid rushing to judgment. This meeting is the first step in creating a fruitful and educational dialogue.”
On last night’s agenda was both a discussion of the Eden Foods controversy as well as a general look at the philosophy behind the co-op’s product purchasing process, and how or if that should change.
Approximately 30 of the thousands of Weavers Way members were in attendance.
While some shouted claims that Eden Food’s CEO Michael Potter was a “political monster” and that there “were other forces in play” keeping the co-op from removing Eden products from the Weavers Way shelves, others such as Karen Rueda were there to defend their freedoms.
In a letter to the Co-op Rueda stated, “People with strong objections can stop purchasing [Eden products] if they want, just as I avoid purchasing products that offend my own beliefs. But please don’t make that decision on my behalf. And please don’t punish a company with high food quality standards for the owner’s religious beliefs.”
Members who feel strongly about the boycott can still organize to get the Eden Foods controversy put on the membership meeting agenda for the spring, or through a petition signed by at least one-tenth of the Co-op’s members, a “special meeting” can be called where-in a vote on the topic can be held.