With October being National Cooperative Month, it is a good time to explore one of the Seven Cooperative Principles. Cooperative principle No. 2 is “Democratic Member Control.” This principle states in part that “cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.” The principle of democratic member control is applied to individual cooperatives through articles of incorporation and bylaws.
Like most electric cooperatives across the country, Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative’s bylaws vest overall control of the cooperative to its members in two significant ways. First, each member gets one vote on all matters that go to a vote of the membership. The bylaws direct voting to be accomplished by mailed or electronic ballot. Normal voting for CCEC is done in conjunction with our annual membership meeting each June. Ballots are sent out ahead so results can be announced at the membership meeting.
Second, members vote to elect representatives from the membership to serve on the board of directors. CCEC presently has seven directors. The board is responsible for setting policies, making decisions and hiring the general manager/CEO on behalf of the membership.
Director terms are three years. Candidates are nominated by petition from within the district where they live to get on the ballot, except for two at-large positions.
All members vote for a candidate from each district where the seat is up for election, so each director is elected by the entire membership’s vote. Each member can influence policy and decision making by communicating with the entire board or individual directors.
While the bylaws vest democratic control of the cooperative with its members, they also put protections in place to maintain integrity of the democratic structure. One example is ensuring a small minority of members cannot make decisions affecting CCEC without the knowledge and input of all members. Members can call a special membership meeting, apart from the annual meeting, but it requires a petition signed by 10% of the membership. If a special membership meeting is called by petition and the quorum requirement of 50 members in attendance is met, that small group still cannot make binding decisions for CCEC. Binding decisions are made in one of two ways: 1) majority vote of the board at appropriately called board meetings, or 2) by majority vote of the entire membership through mail or electronic ballot when a member vote is directed by the board, bylaws, articles of incorporation or law.
Our nearby neighbors served by PacifiCorp or Pacific Gas and Electric—both investorowned utilities—have no local democratic control over the electric services they receive. Local democratic member control is built into CCEC’s cooperative structure established more than 83 years ago.
Brent Bischoff General Manager and CEO firstname.lastname@example.org