StandWithUs is thrilled to share the news that on May 28, 2015 the Washington State Supreme Court held, by a vote of 9-0 that a lawsuit can proceed against Olympia Food Co-op board members, challenging their 2011 decision to boycott Israeli products.
StandWithUs helped the plaintiffs, five long-term dedicated members of the Olympia Food Co-op, find counsel to take legal action after they’d exhausted all other opportunities to get the Olympia Food Co-op board to follow its own boycott policy and bylaws and to reconsider the boycott decision.
When the trial court ruled against the plaintiffs, it assessed $232,000 in fees and penalties, an amount that would have been an overwhelming burden to the plaintiffs.
To appeal the case, the plaintiffs would need to post a bond for more than that amount – over $400,000 – extremely difficult for the five middle class Olympia plaintiffs.
StandWithUs saw the situation the plaintiffs were in simply because they stood up for fair treatment of Israel and demanded that their co-op board follow its own rules and bylaws. So, it stepped in and borrowed the money to post the bond for the full amount so that the plaintiffs could challenge the lower court decisions.
Now that the Washington State Supreme Court has completely rejected the Olympia Food Co-op board members’ argument and sent the case back to the trial court, StandWithUs is looking forward to the plaintiffs having their day in court – a real trial on the issues they first presented: The Olympia Food Co-op board’s violation of the co-op’s own rules and boycott policy when, without any public notice or debate, the co-op board voted to boycott Israeli products.
StandWithUs congratulates the plaintiffs and their counsel, the Seattle law firm of McNaul Ebel Nawrot & Helgren, on their important victory.
The Olympia Food Co-op is the only commercial establishment in the U.S. to officially vote to boycott Israeli products. The anti-Israel BDS vote at the Olympia Food Co-op passed because the Olympia Food Co-op board gave its community no notice or opportunity to debate before voting. The co-op board decided to vote on the boycott resolution at a regularly scheduled co-op board meeting, with no mention of a possible vote on the agenda, in a room filled with organized BDS supporters, with no one in opposition present. And in violation of specific requirements of its own board-adopted boycott policy, the Olympia food co-op board voted on the BDS boycott proposal.
In every other case, where co-ops have faced anti-Israel BDS boycott resolutions, the co-ops notified their members and allowed for open debate before voting. And in each case where the community debated, BDS lost.
After the plaintiffs filed their case, the co-op board members, the defendants, moved to dismiss the case claiming that it was groundless and was only filed to intimidate the co-op into canceling the boycott. They argued that it was a “SLAPP” lawsuit – strategic litigation against public policy.
The trial court agreed, and under Washington State’s anti-SLAPP statute, the court awarded the defendants attorneys fees and fined the pro-Israel plaintiffs penalties, leaving the plaintiffs facing nearly $232,000 in fees and penalties.
In Washington State, you cannot appeal the decision of a court unless you can post a bond in the amount of any fees and penalties assessed against you.
Without StandWithUs posting the required bond, the plaintiffs would have lost their case and been hurt financially. Instead, today the plaintiffs are celebrating this overwhelming victory over the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.