Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lessons Learned: Grassroots I-522 Debrief & What’s Next Meeting Summary

Grassroots I-522 Debrief & What’s Next Meeting Summary for Dec. 4th

What worked?

i. The grassroots is better organized now than before 522 started. We were able to organize volunteers, did our own outreach, formed our own actions, raised our own funds for materials, etc.

ii. The grassroots was able to mobilize for events, rallies, movie showings, organizing a statewide tour with Pamm Larry & Howard Vlieger, driving the fishy cars, etc.

iii. Farmers & Friends of I-522 – Tom Stahl’s PAC – The grassroots volunteers were able to utilize this PAC for fundraising for materials.

iv. Food & Water Watch Green Corp workers came to the state to organize groups in January after the signatures were gathered. Several groups were in place a few months prior to the official campaign.

v. The first March Against Monsanto was a big success and brought national attention to some of the issues. Seattle had about 3000+ at the May march.

vi. Despite the loss, thousands are more aware of GMOs than prior to 522.

vii. Some counties won 522 with little money spent from the Yes on 522 campaign, such as San Juan, Jefferson, Kitsap & Clallam. Look at how they succeeded using education, enlisting support of local food stores, letters to the editor, etc.

What didn’t work or needs improving?

i. There were some major differences between the grassroots base and the official Yes on 522 campaign, especially in regards to the messaging. The official campaign wanted to stick to the “Right to Know” message and not discuss safety, health or environmental issues. The grassroots focus was to expand that message and give people a reason why they had a right to know and why labeling is important.

ii. The official campaign limited the demographics they focused on and treated 522 as a political issue rather than a people issue. They didn’t target seniors or conservatives, and focused on the liberal-base, which many felt was a big mistake.

iii. Most grassroots volunteers felt the campaign did not support the grassroots efforts enough. One example is the grassroots had to raise their own funds for yard signs, buttons and bumper stickers and was denied funding for these items when requested from the campaign. Other examples include not supporting grassroots organized educational events, movie showings, fundraisers, debates, actions, etc.

iv. Though some thought enough education was done about GMOs, the majority of people felt more education was and is still needed. This is a deep and complicated issue and a 30-second commercial is not going to communicate why people should be concerned about GMOs and our current food system.

v. Campaign had many endorsements, including up to 500,000 labor votes, and didn’t use the labor force to help with the campaign. Many Democratic districts supported 522, but they weren’t organized either. There needs to be more connection to groups who support the cause.

vi. The campaign was difficult to contact and didn’t respond to messages, emails, etc. It was also mentioned the campaign was constricted in their approach and didn’t organized volunteers as they came in, and in some cases alienated volunteers. They could have worked with the grassroots to funnel the volunteers to their region for a variety of campaigning duties, such as more door-to-door canvassing, community meetings, organizing events, etc.

vii. Many felt the campaign ran this like a “candidate” campaign, but this is not a political issue and needs to be handled differently.

viii. Campaign felt the grassroots didn’t stay on message enough and primarily avoided working with us for this reason. They may be looking at options on how to deal with the grassroots and keep us more focused on the campaign message and strategy.

Other ideas for future campaigns & ongoing actions

i. We need to realize this is a broader issue in regards to corporate power versus human rights and need to appeal to people on a different level. One of compassion and love, to care about what’s going on in the world and how we can work together in a non-violent way to change the current system. It’s an affinity of the people.

ii. Need to expose the biotech-funded science as junk/tobacco science. We need to demand independent testing and call out studies funded by industry.

iii. More non-violent actions, flash mobs, organized earned media, etc.

iv. R74 succeeded incrementally, step-by-step and worked with groups; maybe a similar strategy would work on this issue.

v. The volunteers & campaign people need to be up-to-date on latest info on GMO and have access to information, the science, etc. to combat the “No” side lies, such as costs.

vi. Draw attention to universities & call out the funding by industry supported studies & research.

vii. Nurture natural/organic organizations & teach people to vote with their dollars. Encourage more people to grow their own food.

viii. Focus needs to stay on the WA Attorney General’s against the GMA – What’s going to be the outcome? How does it effect the outcome of the election?

ix. The grassroots could look at getting their own funding, i.e. set up a PAC, corporate or business backing, non-profit status, etc.

What’s Next & Possible Future Projects

Statewide GMO Education Campaign

i. Organize seminars, speaking tours, movie nights, etc.

ii. Develop curriculum & handouts, flyers – include solutions and concrete ideas for what people can do

iii. Need to connect with people on a more personal and human level with positive messaging and to encourage change.

iv. Stress the quality of food as a primary issue, as well as access to food and affordability, which include health care and environmental costs.

v. Need to focus on ALL demographics, including

1. Seniors
2. College/young people
3. Conservatives
4. Faith based groups/churches, etc.
5. Mother, parents, grandparents, etc.

vi. Enlist the support of local food businesses & co-ops to spread knowledge and encourage to support transparency & sustainability in our food system.

vii. Letters to Editor & pressure on press to cover the issue more accurately and completely

viii. Continue social media push & create new blogs

ix. Need to raise funds for materials, etc.
1. Use Farmers & Friends PAC – ?
2. Create our own PAC - ?

WAmend – Washington Coalition to Amend the Constitution

i. Basically this initiative states Corporations are NOT People and Money is NOT Speech. This is an attempt to reign in control of corporate control of our government, get the money out of politics and restore a quality of democracy to the people. Working with groups like Move to Amend, etc. Also will be pressuring Congress to amend the constitution.

ii. This citizen initiative that will be on the ballot in November 2014. This will be a grassroots/volunteer/people powered campaign and no signature gatherers will be paid. Signatures will be gathered from January – June 2014 and 360,000 need to be collected. This will hopefully be on the ballot in November 2014.

iii. WAmend is currently looking for a campaign manager and as many volunteers as possible to gather signatures starting in January. They will be hosting training sessions for those interested in helping.

iv. The WAmend handout is attached.

Help Other States Pass Labeling

i. Oregon & Colorado will be working on labeling initiatives for November 2014

ii. Many volunteers have expressed helping other states with their labeling efforts.

iii. There is going to be a conference call with some of the Oregon grassroots and steering committee people and some of the WA state grassroots organizers to discuss 522 and provide feedback from our experience.

TPP – Trans-Pacific Partnership

i. The TPP is a trade agreement being negotiated in secret and the president is trying to Fast Track it to bypass any real scrutiny. This agreement was written primarily to give corporations more control and to circumvent sovereign rights. Please see the attached information sheet for more info on the TPP and keep yourself informed on this important agreement that could strip away many of our rights and create unsafe products & food.

GMO Free Restaurant Project

i. Some people are interested in creating a GMO Free Restaurant Guide for Seattle and around the state. More to come.


i. Boycotts of specific brands, such as the companies represented by the GMA (Grocery Manufacturer’s Association), including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kelloggs, Nestle, etc. GMO Free USA & Food Revolution are organizing boycotts right not on these companies. People think they can trust brands, so these brands who are fighting labeling need to be called out.

ii. KCTS PBS station airing Next Meal: Engineering Food several times right before the election, which is skewed in favor of the biotech companies and does not give a complete picture about GMOs.

Keeping the Grassroots Connected

a. There was discussion on how to keep the grassroots connected, including having regular meetings locally and then all the local groups or representatives come together either bi-monthly or quarterly. Different regions could host the bi-monthly/quarterly meetings.

Conference calls can be another way the various areas keep connected. Currently some of the grassroots leaders/organizers around the state are holding regular conference calls, but many areas aren’t represented yet.

We need to make sure all parts of the state and every county has a volunteer base we can build on. Leaders/organizers need to be identified/recruited and offer continued support, especially in the more remote areas.

We need to also create strategies to recruit more volunteers and have concrete ideas and actions for people we can plug them into and keep them engaged.


There were several issues the grassroots had working with official Yes on 522 campaign and vice verse, but many also felt we took some steps forward on the labeling issue. Overall, the campaign made choices based on numbers, while the grassroots wanted to focus on a stronger message and GMO education. There is a lot to learn from the experience that can be shared with other states that are try for labeling. The big take away was that the majority felt more public education is needed on GMOs. The Yes on 522 campaign steering committee will be trying again in 2016.

The main topics of interest for those in attendance included: Continue working on the GMO & labeling issues, locally and nationally and a statewide GMO education campaign, was the biggest interest of the group. WAmend was also of interest to many. This initiative will focus on the bigger umbrella issue of corporate control over our political process and an important step in helping restore democracy to the people. Another important issue of interest and to pay attention to is the TPP and working on preventing Fast Track. Other issues briefly discussed included, the GMO Free Restaurant Guide, boycotting GMA & the companies they represent and boycotting KCTV for airing Next Meal before the election. Someone has mentioned SMART meters in an email, but we didn’t have time to discuss that particular issue.

c. Overall the big message from the meeting is all of the issues discussed are connected, such as food & labeling, the TPP, WAmend, etc. It’s about corporate control and that the people need to create a structure to help overcome this through organization, creating some clear messages, education and finding solutions to the problems people can embrace. Ultimately, the people have the real power and we just need to take some control and work toward a more balanced system.

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