For the past two weeks PSN supporters have been emailing the 10 candidates running for the Mountain Equipment Co-op board of directors to ask their position on ending MEC sourcing from Israeli companies, in line with the Palestinian-led call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). We believe that having progressive candidates who are willing to consider ending MEC’s “partnerships” on the board is one important element in the Canada-wide campaign to get MEC to stop supporting occupation and apartheid by sourcing products from Israel.
We received responses from all 10 candidates, although numerous candidates used cut-and-paste responses, some of which were identical to those they used last year. Suggested voting and voting instructions are below.
PSN endorses and encourages you to vote only for candidate Dru Oja Jay.
One of Oja Jay’s planks specifically addresses the issue of social justice and MEC’s purchasing policy. We strongly encourage you to read the entire plank, but his own summary of his position is:
1. An ethical purchasing policy worthy of its name should not consider companies that benefit from war and occupation as ethical suppliers. I will work to change MEC’s policies to reflect this.
2. For member participation to be meaningful, it has to be based on informed, open debate accessible to all members.
In his plank, Dru states, “I propose that you can benefit from war and occupation, or you can be considered an ethical supplier, but not both.”
His position on the process in making the decision is as follows:
Speaking as a candidate for the board, I don’t believe that it is the role of board members to change MEC’s policy with regard to a single country. That kind of decision needs, minimally, the support of a plurality of the co-op’s three million members.
I also believe that it is entirely legitimate for co-op members to make political decisions of this type. Few disagree with boycotts of the deposed racist regime in South Africa today, but the anti-apartheid struggle at the time was hotly contested in a great many venues. (MEC’s minutes from the 1980s are not available, but it would be interesting to learn the history, particularly given the role of the international sports community in the boycott of Apartheid South Africa.)
As a board member, I would see it as my duty to ensure that the differing perspectives in the debate were accessible to all members, with a view to facilitating an informed decision in the event of a vote.
I do, however, believe that the board has a mandate from the membership to set high ethical standards for selecting suppliers.
We are also impressed by Oja Jay’s stated commitment to encouraging democratic participation of the membership of MEC. You can read his position on other issues on his campaign website.
PSN does not think any other candidate has a sufficiently strong position on the issue of sourcing from Israel, but short summaries of the other candidate responses are as follows:
Gail Sullivan stated in her answer that “MEC must continue to actively research sources for MEC production that meets our members standards and share our corporate values” while admitting she needs more information on the issue.
Anders Ourum in his response stated “A policy that excluded products made in Israel or by Israeli companies, simply because they are Israeli, would make no sense.” He did say that “if elected, all I can say is that I’d be willing to support a look at this, and some informed discussion.”
Dominique Levesque responded “I will not take position on that kind of subject for now.”
Candidates Jonathan Gallo, Shauna Sylvestre, Shawn Mitchell, Blair Hammond, Bill Gibson and Morrie Schniderman all indicated they support MEC’s current sourcing policy.
You can vote until March 31, 2011 (noon Pacific Time).
All MEC members 16 years of age or older who joined the Co-op on or before January 5, 2011 can vote for up to three candidates to fill vacancies on the board, but you can vote for less than three. We suggest you vote only for Dru Oja Jay.
Complete instructions are on the MEC election website.
You will need your membership number and a PIN, which you can get online.
You can vote online or by phone. Instructions on voting by phone are available here. Mail ballots are no longer available.