Saturday, April 27, 2013

@MEC slides from #democracy to #oligarchy -- AGM report

Mountain Equipment Corporation Cooperative held its 2013 Annual General Meeting on April 25. Unfortunately, the outreach efforts of us 600 MEC Members for a Democratic Co-op were not enough to counter the MEC board's control of information flowing to members. The board's resolution on rule changes passed by a vote of 91% to 9%. For an overview of how the vote was biased, see my article in the Vancouver Observer: "We want our co-ops back"

So in addition to last year's new power to reject director candidates from standing for election, the board can now reject any member resolution for any reason, without submitting it to member vote. The new rule changes reduce the board's accountability to members in several other ways detailed in my March 14 blog post.

Many members were shocked to see how quickly the board took advantage of its new power by rejecting 2013 director election nominee Anders Ourom. His qualifications include:
  • MEC Director (1981-1986, 1988-1992)
  • MEC Board Chair (1989-1991)
  • President, Climbers' Access Society of B.C. (1995-2004)
  • Lawyer, Advising Societies and Co-operatives (1995 - present)
  • Legal Advisor, MEC Rules Revision Projects (1997-1998, 2001-2002)
Apparently the board decided that MEC members needed to be benevolently protected from having the option to vote for Anders this year. In the AGM's Reports Q&A section, I stepped up to the mike and asked this question:
"Do you think that the MEC members who voted for the board's rule change resolution last year, understood that you could and would use that power to prevent someone as well qualified as Anders Ourom from running in the board election this year?"

=> Board Chair Bill Gibson replied that yes, he thinks they understood. [I don't have a full transcript of Bill's reply -- MEC does not allow recording by attendees.]
MEC voter turnout dropped 30% in the past year alone, from 30,673 in 2012 to just 21,514 in 2013. Only 0.55% of members voted this year. Among the possible factors causing this decline, we can include:
  • lack of open competition in the election -- members can only choose among candidates screened by board and its appointed committee;
  • lack of an election candidate forum -- only a constrained one-to-one email process;
  • lack of convenient access to independent voter information sources -- a permanent online member forum would help with this.
So in the AGM's last Q&A section, I asked:
"I'd like to ask the board if you have any response to us 600 MEC members who signed this open letter on the website We are asking for member democracy, including a year-round online member forum. It's good that you created an online forum on this year's resolutions. But the forum only started when voting started, which is too late for adequate discussion."

=> Chief Governance Officer Shona McGlashan replied something like they are reviewing how the resolution forum went, and will consider whether and what kind(s) of online forum(s) to have in future.
We members concerned about MEC's lack of democratic member control (Co-op Principle #2) will continue to reach out to our fellow members who may be unaware of this problem and its consequences.


Anonymous said...

I recall you asked the board chair person, Bill Gibson, if the 91% of the members who voted in favor of the Resolution #1 knew what they were voting for. Mr. Gibson said something like: "I don't know, as I haven't polled each and every single one of them. I do have faith in the intelligence of our members to make the right decision."

In reality, the comments MEC provided to support the resolution mentioned only a small fraction of about 100 changes, and there was no comparable opportunity for expression of why the changes might not be a good idea. There has YET to be a competent analysis independent of the board, of the real effects of the changes. Yet Mr. Gibson feels MEC's members are so intelligent they can figure out all this for themselves. Surely he can't be serious.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it looked like a duck and it talked like a duck, but now we know it's a duck. You cleared up any doubt that this is a run-away entrenched board here:

"Apparently the board decided that MEC members needed to be benevolently protected from having the option to vote for Anders this year."

I can't believe they've already used that provision from last year! I mean preventing the membership from choosing who challenges them is a power a board doesn't have. If they claim they *really* need it because they're so threatened (which is precisely what they claimed), then it should only be used in conjunction with such a massive takeover attempt. But this was no threat at all. I'm really disgusted. How Soviet of them.

And now *more* sneaky sugarcoated special resolutions this year? Like they need more unilateral powers?