STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 5, Number 4

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24 STiR coffee and tea / Issue 4, 2016 (August/September) By Jenny Neill and Dan Bolton MEMBERS VOTED Voted No Vote FINAL RESULTS Yes No 44% 56% 38% 62% n August members of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) voted 62% to 38% in favor of merging with the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE). The decision follows a May vote of approval by SCAE members and begins a process of plan- ning and preparations toward unification in the New Year. In an open letter SCAA's board thanked mem- bers: "Ultimately, it is you, the members, who have ushered in the next phase of specialty cof- fee advocacy and innovation. Thank you for your passion, your dedication, your questions, and your time... participating in all the important conversa- tions that have taken place over the last year." SCAA reported that 56% of its 2,067 voting members cast 1,162 ballots making the vote in fa- vor 725 to 437. What's next? "We will continue to be two separate organizations through the remainder of the year as much focus is put on infrastructure and planning for a shared future," writes the SCAA board which spelled out the following immediate goals: • Combine the education programs into a sin- gle, harmonious, global education program. • New research to better understand coffee sci- ence and consumer preferences. • Advancements in sustainability efforts. • New opportunities for member engagement. • Multi-cultural leadership and opportunities for development. • Updates to structure to deliver better value. The same suite of SCAA Events will continue with opportunities for innovation, partnership, and networking across the US and beyond. SCAA-SCAE Merge Before the vote In discussions at SCAA's April convention in At- lanta board members and key staff were confident the unification proposal would be approved. But SCAE had yet to vote in favor of unifica- tion, the citizens of the United Kingdom had not yet voted in favor of leaving the European Union, and 10 of SCAA's past presidents had yet to sign their names to a letter opposing unification. Each of these events set the stage for the final vote. Letters, emails, and online comments urging a "no" vote began circulating days before the Aug. 8 voting deadline. Opponents cited several concerns including the simple fact that with unification SCAA's vot- ing members number only half that of SCAE. There were fears that the late-breaking campaign against unification could change what in May seemed be the inevitable outcome of the SCAA vote. As of June, SCAA had 4,142 total dues-paying members which includes SCAA members and BGA and Roasters Guild individual members. How ever, of those, only 2,067 are members with voting privi- leges. Slightly more than half fall into non-voting member categories that include 1,349 Barista Guild of America and 726 Roasters Guild members. The fact that more about half of dues-paying members are not able to vote under the current by- laws and membership rules is one of the concerns raised by the "No" campaign. Now that unification is approved, non-voting members will have voting rights under the new unified organization. Why was there not already a "one member, one vote" rule at SCAA? The bylaws have for many years limited balloting to association mem- bers that hold "primary memberships." Primary (voting) members include "producers/exporters; importers/green; brokers; roasters; roaster/retail- ers; retailers; and allied." Along with the Roasters Guild and the Baris- tas Guild of America members, associate mem- bers were not permitted to participate in elections. ("Associate" is a catch-all-the-rest-in-the-trade category that permits press, trade, and non-profit associations to become members of SCAA.) Signs pointed toward "Yes" Survey responses solicited from all members of SCAA and SCAE reflected a mainly positive at- titude towards unification. Only 8% of the SCAA respondents were pessimistic and an even fewer (6%) of SCAE respondents felt the same. That's why it was no real surprise that the SCAE voted in favor of proceeding with unification. It was a clear and decisive vote with 86% of those in favor of unification and a transfer of membership to the Association of Specialty Coffee. Only 1% voted against becoming members of the newly com- bined organization. The world's two largest specialty coffee associations agree to become one. In the New Year a new era begins. I

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