Maralyn's Blog

Maralyn's Blog

maralyn2I post a lot of short messages on Facebook and Twitter. So I encourage you to follow me on those social networks for all of the latest news. However, there isn't enough room on Facebook or Twitter to go into detail on the complex challenges we are facing in Olympia. Since the “Devil is almost always in the Details,” I will post my longer articles here where I can have as much space to devote to a topic as is needed. As always, if you have any questions or comments on any of these articles, feel free to click on the “Contact Us” menu item above, or email me or call or visit us at our offices in Shoreline or Olympia.  I look forward to talking with you. 
I co-wrote this article with Jeremy Siefert in the Fall of 2013. I have submitted many bills in Olympia trying to protect the right of all humans to know what is in the food they are eating and I was honored to be a Co-Chair of the Food Labeling Initiative 522:


When people first hear about just the basic facts concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs or Genetically Engineered Foods) – the DNA of seeds altered with genes from other organisms like bacteria so food crops can withstand herbicides that will kill all other plants, patented by giant chemical companies and found in 80% of processed foods – the standard response is “Oh, my God.” For some, it’s just an exclamation, but for others, I imagine, it’s the beginnings of a prayer. There’s a mixture of horror and disbelief, as if finding out we’re living inside a very strange sci-fi novel. Beyond that, it’s the sting of humiliation from being ignorant about something so big, mixed with the anger that comes from feeling like you’ve been duped.

Even without understanding what a GMO is or why it matters, most of us believe as citizens of a supposedly free and democratic society that we have the right to know if GMOs are in the food we eat. The fact we don’t know, and that our right to know has been taken away by corporate greed and government collusion, should upset and mobilize people. When all the food and seed and water and air is owned and patented by giant multinational corporations, will we even protest? Do we have the wakefulness and willpower to take that first step and stand up for this basic right?

That central question is why a tiny story from Haiti impacted me so deeply and inspired me to make a film about this hidden takeover of our food and the world’s seeds. Months after the horrific earthquake that leveled Port-au-Prince, ten thousand rural farmers marched in the streets against Monsanto. In the midst of their hardships, these farmers rejected seeds donated to Haiti by the giant agrochemical company, crying out “Down with Monsanto!” They symbolically burned Monsanto’s seeds which represented slavery, debt and the extinction of their own seeds and way of life. They stood unified in their fight for food sovereignty and native seeds as a common inheritance of all humanity.

Sometime in the time period of 2014/15, the executives of Group Health Cooperative (GHC) made the decision to put GHC for sale. On December 3, 2015, GHC made a public announcement that Kaiser Permanente (KP) (headquartered in Oakland California) and GHC signed an Acquisition Agreement on December 2, 2015, whereby KP would acquire GHC for $1.8 billion. GHC called a Special meeting of GHC members for January 30, 2016 to review and conduct an advisory vote on the proposed transaction. The calling of a Special Meeting just fifty-eight (58) days after the announcement is a key element in the GHC plan to obtain membership approval.

The campaign by GHC to “sell” the proposed acquisition of GHC to GHC members is characterized by several questionable actions by GHC leadership which are:

GHC was founded in 1947 to provide affordable quality health care to members under the principles of self-governance by the members – i.e. operate in a democratic form of organization wherein the members have a strong voice in the operation of the cooperative, in selecting executive leadership, for the benefit of the members. The sale of GHC to KP will result in one member (KP) making all decisions and eliminating all member voice in the operation of the organization. GHC would become the eighth region within the KP organization. GHC did recognize the loss of governance as the one major negative aspect of their proposal.

The Acquisition Agreement with its one hundred thirty two (132) pages of “legalese” was only available to members on the GHC website, and at a date after the announced acquisition. This document with its paragraph references and counter references, paragraph by paragraph and its “whereas statements,” challenges most attorneys, let alone average members.

GHC initially withheld a professional financial evaluation of the fairness of the price of GHC from the members. (See reference to Evercore Group L.L.C. evaluation in Board of Trustees Resolution No. 2015-08). The GHC Board of Trustees engaged “Evercore” on June 1, 2015 to evaluate the financial strategic alternatives available for GHC going forward. (See also note on June 30, 2015 unaudited financial statement for GHC.) Members cannot judge the effect on themselves or the fairness of the transaction without this information. GHC did release to the members at a later time, the opinion letter from Evercore. More about Evercore later in this paper.

Members might approve the acquisition if they understood the details of the transaction and had the information to judge for themselves the effect and fairness of the transaction on their interests.

GHC leadership announced the proposal on December 3, 2105 and set the meeting date as January 30, 2016, fifty-eight (58) days later; disenfranchising the vast majority of GHC members. GHC leadership manipulated the dates of presenting the proposal to members and all subsequent events as to exclude about ninety-two percent (92%) of GHC members (352,000-27,000/352,000) to be eligible to vote on the proposal.

Paragraphs 2.8 of GHC By-Laws stipulate a waiting period of sixty (60) days after member registration before a member is eligible to vote. By setting the membership meeting date inside the sixty day waiting period, GHC limited the number of voting members. This tactic gives GHC a significant advantage in obtaining a two-thirds majority of members who vote, which is required to pass the proposed acquisition transaction.

GHC has “encouraged” employee members (about 6,000 persons) and other members to vote for the proposal by using the “stick and carrot” method of motivation. If you do vote for the proposal, you should expect continued employment and a monetary bonus if you are a doctor, and continued availability of affordable health care if you are a member. Assuming only about half of voting members actually vote, the six thousand (6,000) employee members who have been “encouraged to vote for the proposal,” constitute nearly sixty-seven percent (67%) of the votes needed to approve the proposal. (27,000 voting members, with 13,500 actually voting and 2/3 of those voting <9,000> needed to approve the proposal.)

Considering the membership Special Meeting held January 30, 2016, one thousand six hundred one (1,601) voting members participated. This represents 5.9% of the voting members and 0.45% of total membership. A significant number of those at this meeting were employee members evidenced by their wearing shirts indicating their employment at GHC.

GHC leadership could have set the meeting date as they desired and could have set the date to allow members to register and vote on this fundamental event of dissolving the Cooperative; i.e. set the date in late February or March.

This post is an article I co-wrote with seven other Senators on June 15 2015 explaining why high stakes tests often do more harm than good and therefore should be reduced to the minimum number required by federal law:

The more than 60,000 high school seniors who graduate here in Washington state this month are to be commended for 12 years of successfully completing dozens of courses. Thousands other high school seniors will not graduate with their classmates, however, even though they successfully completed the same courses as the students who are graduating. These thousands of seniors will not be allowed to graduate solely because they failed one or more state-required, high-stakes tests.

This is neither fair nor sensible. Some students are simply not very good at taking high-stakes tests — even when they know the material and did well in their courses. There are students who earn A’s in courses only to freeze up and forget on the day of a high-stakes test. This is not a test of knowledge; it’s a test of who tests well.


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