Co-op members sing for democracy

From the Sacramento Co-Op Owners for Democracy and Human Rights: Over 50 members of the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op serenaded shoppers on the public sidewalk next to the Co-op on Friday afternoon, June 3, with back-up guitar, base and tambourines.

Holding colorful balloons and signs, members sang, “This is my coop; This is your Co-op” to the tune of “This Land is Your Land”. Several shoppers stopped and joined in: “We”re member owners, Our voices m-a-t-t-er, This co-op belongs to you and me.”

The group also sang “Co-op Democracy” to the tune of “Personality”. Both songs are expected to be posted on YouTube soon (check for an update.)

Rally organizers, part of Sacramento Co-op Owners for Democracy and Free Speech, chose the theme, “Lifting the Spirit of Humanity through Free Speech and Democracy” to coincide with the Co-op”s monthly Anti-Depression Friday.

“We”re here because we care about our Co-op, our community, and our democracy,” said Susan Bush, a Co-op Member since the 1980s. “The Co-op Board claims it supports democracy but it is refusing to let members vote on qualified initiatives as required in the Bylaws. We encourage Co-op members to read the Bylaws and demand that the Board follow them. The Board is trying to censor discussion and take away our right to vote. That”s autocratic, not democratic.”

Co-op Bylaws Section 10.06 mandates the Board to place measures on the ballot once two procedural requirements are met, gathering signatures and proposing the requested action at a Board or Member meeting. Co-op Members met these requirements for the Human Rights initiative in February and the Restore Co-op Democracy initiative in May. The Board has refused to put the Human Rights initiative on the ballot and will address the Restore Co-op Democracy initiative at its June 7, 6pm meeting at 1914 Alhambra. More information at

Joining the rally was Israeli activist Dalit Baum, who addressed the proposed Human Rights Initiative that would allow members to vote on whether they want the store to support Palestinian human rights by not carrying Israeli products until Israel stops violating those rights.

“People all over the world, including Jews, Christians, and Muslims, are trying to pressure Israel to obey international laws, protect human rights and be a real democracy,” said Baum. “It is heartening to see you here in Sacramento be part of that effort. Boycott and divestment helped South Africa to end apartheid and move to becoming a real democracy. These non-violent strategies can do the same for Israel/Palestine.”

The Co-op”s General Manager, Paul Cultrera, is allowing a group that opposes the initiatives to table in front of the store, but has prohibited initiative supporters from doing so since the end of January. With the Board”s support, Cultrera has banned any group from tabling in support of Palestinian human rights, including Veterans for Peace.

The Co-op asked the police department to station an officer, presumably paid for by the Co-op, near the front door. Rally organizers were unclear why the Co-op had requested an officer since they had been out on the sidewalk two weeks prior with signs and balloons and had no problems. Organizers chatted with the officer who kindly said he was enjoying the singing. He declined an invitation to join them however, as did a bystander who said she did not sing as a service to the public.

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