Hello Co-op Owners!
Tomorrow, you will receive an email from the co-op inviting you to participate in the co-op’s annual election. This year, the co-op board is pleased to propose a set of bylaw changes aimed at creating space for more and new voices in co-op leadership.
Our co-op has experienced enormous growth in recent years. Our expansion to Hertel Ave helped to grow the co-op from 13,000 to more than 17,000 owners. This has increased our impact and has given more people the opportunity to have a natural foods grocer in their neighborhood.
With growth comes added responsibility and the need to adapt and change. In a unanimous vote, the board voted to propose amending our bylaws to expand the Board of Directors from nine to 11 members, adding a new member in each of 2021 and 2022.
Given the co-op’s sensitivity to the times in which we live, expanding the board creates space and an opportunity to diversify its makeup. Our workforce is 52.5 percent female, and 21 percent people of color, reflecting well the demographics of our area, although we still have opportunity to improve. Co-op board leadership for years included similar gender diversity, but its racial makeup did not reflect employee or member diversity.
Our owners are looking for us to do more. It is time for the board to formally adopt industry-standard practices that will ensure a more open and inclusive process to welcome new board members to the table. Thus in a second recent vote, by 7-2 the board also decided to set 3 three-year terms as appropriate service parameters. The provision allows a former board member to seek re-election after one year off the board.
Together these two measures – which must be ratified by the membership – are designed to inject new ideas and approaches to board governance and leadership, as well as provide fresh opportunities for members to involve themselves in guiding this cherished cooperative. Our primary goal for these decisions is to increase representation on the board from our member-owners and includes increasing our board members’ racial and ethnic diversity.
An analysis of past board elections shows the vast advantage that incumbents have to be re-elected. Until recently, there was no chance to elect a new board member unless an incumbent member willingly gave up their seat during their term, or did not run for another term. Boards benefit from having well-established and experienced members, and the board acknowledged that value in deciding to add new seats gradually, and cycling board members off the board who served for nine years.
It’s clear to the board that many talented prospective candidates will not be elected without these changes. In the past decade no candidates of color have been elected. Our co-op needs to do better in creating space for people of color to serve on our board.
If you have questions regarding these proposed amendments, please reach out. You can email email@example.com or click on the links below to register for an information session.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, I encourage you vote “yes” on these amendments in the coming election and help us create a board that is more reflective of all of us. This is an important first step in what is a continuing effort to increase diversity and equity at our community-owned business.
Marissa Pace, Board President
We will be holding two information sessions about these bylaws changes via Zoom. Click register to join us!
- October 6, 7-8pm
- October 14, 7-8pm
Correction: A previous version of this letter stated “We have had only two board candidates of color in the past decade and neither were elected.” This information was incorrectly reported.