Thursday, May 26, 2016

Southern electric cooperatives lack diversity among their elected directors, critics say

Rural electrical cooperatives in the South lack diversity among their elected directors, says a study by the Rural Power Project, a joint project of Labor Neighbor Research and Training Center and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. ACORN founder Wade Rathke writes for the Daily Yonder that the study, which looked at 313 cooperatives in the South, found that of the 3,051 democratically elected members, 2,754—or 90.3 percent—are men, with only 297 elected female members. Women make up 51.1 percent of the South's population.

The study also found that 95.3 percent of directors are white, 4.4 percent black and 0.3 percent Hispanic, Rathke writes. The study report says "Many cooperatives do not have a way for regular members to gain access to the ballot by signatures, petitions, or floor nomination."

Jeffrey Connor, interim CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, told The Rural Blog in an email: "Electric cooperatives, under the cooperative business model, rely on open and transparent governance and the positive involvement of the communities they serve.  We are member-owned and not-for-profit.  Electric cooperatives bear a unique responsibility to meet the needs of their member-owners with safe, reliable and affordable power, as well as the cooperative principle of concern for community."

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