Letters to the editor, July – August 2018

This article was originally published in July 2018

Letters must be 250 words or fewer and include a name, address and daytime phone number. We reserve the right to edit. Please email letters to editor@pccmarkets.com.

Co-op values

Thank you for the article, “Creating a cooperative economy” (May). The Sound Consumer always has been an excellent source of information on natural and organic foods and farming, but coverage of the cooperative movement, which we are part of, largely has been absent. As the largest consumer food co-op in the U.S., PCC has an important part to play.

I hope this will mark the beginning of more regular coverage of efforts toward “Creating a cooperative economy,” including the ways where PCC may contribute by engaging with other co-ops and with regional and national organizations of cooperatives. We are not just Whole Foods under a different name. Let’s talk about why.

— Bill T.

PCC replies: Thank you for letting us know co-op stories are valued! You’re correct that we aren’t like other grocers with a different name. We are different and we’re grateful shoppers like you want more people to know why!

We have published numerous articles about the co-op business model over the years and they’re still online, on our website. You’ll see why co-ops are a better business model, how they’re part of “the quiet economy,” why it’s important to choose a co-op for shopping, and why they’re important for a strong, stable economy. We also advocate policies to encourage co-op businesses, including rural development cooperative grants. You can expect to see more articles about the co-op economy, including PCC’s role in supporting co-ops nationwide, in future editions of Sound Consumer.

Animal welfare

I am so delighted and relieved to know that PCC is leading the charge for humane treatment of all animals.

Truly, I am a carnivore who always has had painful guilt about killing creatures for food. (On the other hand, if I weren’t eating them, they wouldn’t exist at all.) So, I am so, so happy to hear that PCC demands that animals receive a decent lifestyle — and particularly how they are slaughtered (ugly word).

In fact, I was considering giving up meat, chicken and particularly milk. But your standards change the equation for me. While I still harbor some mixed feelings, I can continue to buy PCC meat and milk with some assurance that I’m not participating in cruelty.

PCC is larger than a food store. PCC has become my moral equivalent of right living in an otherwise corrupt world.

— Tom Lever

Thank you for your Newsbite (June Sound Consumer) about fish welfare for farmed fish. We also should be concerned about wild fish.

I assume you’ve read the May Washington Post report, “Fish feel pain, scientists say. What does that mean for commercial fishing?” An equally important question is what can be done for the fish? If we’re going to be ethically conscious about farmed fish, then we need to exercise that same conscience for wild fish. Can you inform us more about this issue and what PCC is doing about it?

— Croil Anderson

PCC replies: This is an emerging concern and we’re tracking some novel efforts to address it. Typically, the most humane methods require handling fish carefully to reduce stress and keeping them in water until they’re stunned and killed quickly. Animal welfare advocate Temple Grandin says she expects that stunning fish is going to become a regular practice. It’s certainly an area we will be focusing on more with the seafood industry.

Pollinators

I just read “Gardens for the bees,” written by Sarah Cassidy of Oxbow Farm (Sound Consumer, April). Wow. How informative and mind blowing about how we don’t appreciate our pollinators! Thank you for printing this! It should be required reading for all families!

The way we don’t assist nature’s pollinators is overlooked.

— Philip Saracino

Board elections

In the May Sound Consumer, there’s a startling contrast between the articles about the PCC board election and the article about cooperatives.

The cooperative article lists seven co-op principles. Democratic member control is the second principle and is referenced in two other principles.

The way PCC Community Markets conducts its elections to the Nominating Committee and board of trustees does not conform to these principles. The election process does not present members with any realistic choices. There are two people running for two positions on the Nominating Committee and three people for three positions on the board. Member choices are to vote “for” a candidate or “withhold” our vote. As long as a candidate gets more “for” votes than the “withheld” votes, she/he is elected.

This is not democratic control by the members. There is no choice among candidates, and it is difficult to imagine how the outcome could be anything other than a rubber stamp of the choices made by the Nominating Committee. This allows the board and Nominating Committee to be self-perpetuating without any meaningful involvement of the members.

This is not intended to be a criticism of how PCC is managed, nor of any of the individual candidates. It is a call to the PCC community for a discussion of whether this is a healthy way for the co-op to be governed. The potential for abuse is present in this approach to elections. It calls into question whether PCC is adhering to co-op principles. It clearly is not “democratic control” by the membership when the members are not presented with any choice other than to withhold a vote.

— John Russell

Tammy Lazzara, Executive Assistant to the CEO and Board Administrator, replies: Thank you for sharing your concern about the level of democratic member control in the election process. Here’s some information about the process.

We solicit candidates for the board of trustees by posting notices in the October, November and December issues of the Sound Consumer, on our website, and by advertising in the Puget Sound Business Journal. PCC’s Nominating Committee then evaluates candidate applications and conducts interviews and reference checks before presenting a final slate to the board and co-op members. The committee considers skills, competencies and experience in selecting candidates they believe will provide a highly qualified, diverse board that can operate effectively to guide our growing and complex cooperative business. A similar process is used by the board’s Governance and Membership Committee to create the Nominating Committee slate of candidates that members vote on in the annual election.

The answer to your question about why there are only three trustee candidates in this year’s election is that the number of candidates depends on the number and experience of the applicants. The bylaws provide the Nominating Committee with the flexibility to choose a slate of candidates from available applicants based upon the anticipated needs of the board and PCC. The committee must nominate at least three candidates but is free to nominate more when appropriate. Future slates could include four or more candidates. In this instance, the committee determined that three candidates, coincidentally all incumbents, clearly stood out as best qualified to serve on the 2018-2019 PCC Board. We do recognize the importance of having a strong pool of qualified candidates and this topic, along with your concern about the level of member participation in the election process, will be discussed amongst the board of trustees as it plans for next year’s election.

We also believe that democracy in our co-op is more than voting in elections. It can be a driving force that enables people to understand the strategic intent of co-ops and how they can contribute to PCC’s goals for both their own and the common good. We continually seek to find opportunities for members to engage in the strategic intent of our co-op and understand how they can contribute to its goals in many ways, and to be motivated and inspired by seeing how their participation contributes to PCC’s success.

Plastic free?

Watch “A Plastic Ocean” on Netflix. We have to move away from single use quickly. You can start by taking away the plastic containers at the hot bar, salad bar, and deli and put them in cardboard containers, like the ones for soup. Silverware should be made from paper products as well.

Instead of having the ready-made food visible with plastic wrap over each one, do one sample one in plastic on display and all the rest wrapped in a paper product. Look at all the single-use grab-and-go plastic bottles in that section.

Can’t we switch to a bulk option for drinks, too? People can buy a PCC “forever” cup, fill up and pay, and wash it at home. This is the way things are going. PCC could steal lots of customers from other retailers if it was more environmentally friendly.

— Jordie Ruggles

PCC replies: Innovations in packaging are happening and we regularly review the options available and make improvements when possible. We have set a zero waste goal for our stores and we already have transitioned much of our deli packaging and all our serveware to compostable options to reduce the waste stream to landfills. We’re also using compostable produce bags at Burien as a pilot, to ensure they pass customer muster and, so far, we have heard no complaints. Fingers crossed, if all continues to go well, we could roll them out at other PCC stores, too. Many of our specialty pastries no longer are sold in plastic in some stores and we encourage vendors to reduce their plastic packaging. Yet we agree, there’s still room to improve and we are committed to push every day to reduce the plastic load.

Also in this issue

Getting to know PCC Cooks

PCC’s long-standing culinary education program is a community resource for informative cooking classes that bring together passionate instructors, food-lovers, and aspiring chefs of all ages and levels of experience.

Summer food drive

Did you know that about 12 percent of King County households are experiencing food insecurity? You can help your neighbors in need by contributing to PCC's summer food drive.

USDA proposal for GE food labeling

Thank you to our PCC Advocates who took time before the July 3 deadline to comment on the nation’s first draft proposal for labeling genetically engineered (GE) foods.