VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Mountain Equipment Co-op is one of the Vancouver-based business closing its stores’ doors Friday as part of the global climate strike, but a campaign among MEC members is demanding the co-operative’s new CEO also give up a day’s pay to attend protests.
“We are passionate CO-OP members who are advocating for the welfare of the frontline staff and the value of transparency,” reads a Facebook post from Justin Ho, who started the Days Pay campaign.
“We have confirmed from MEC directly that their store staff – paid hourly, below living wage, often below poverty line – are given the option of ‘unpaid , vacation, or flextime’ leave to attend the protest. If MEC truly wants to put their money where their mouth is, they’d financially support their staff to go out there and protest…. most MEC Frontline staff nationwide can’t afford to take an unpaid day off, or would rather use that time for themselves.”
Ho says he is dismayed by what he calls an “ultimately hollow PR ploy” and a case of “greenwashing.”
“Once again we call on Phil Arrata, the new CEO, to donate a day’s worth of pay in solidarity with the frontline workers who will also be doing the same to attend the climate protests on September 27.”
Steven Jones, a candidate in MEC board elections in previous years, also believes the co-operative is straying from its roots.
“Obviously anything we can do to help with climate change is important but when I look at some of the recent record at Mountain Equipment Co-op, I was very concerned last year when they dropped out of the 1% For The Planet program, which was a commitment to donate one per cent of their sales revenue to environmental causes,” Jones tells NEWS 1130.
“I was also concerned that the co-operative failed to meet the carbon footprint target they had set for themselves last year. It was a very moderate target to reduce the carbon footprint by 1.8 per cent and they actually only achieved a one per cent reduction.”
Jones says he has concerns about hourly MEC employees not receiving their pay for cancelled shifts Friday.
“I think it is concerning the front line staff ,who are receiving very little pay relative to senior management or the CEO, are not going to receive any compensation as a part of going to this. I have since learned that head office staff were also being asked if they were going to attend and told that would need to take vacation pay, and that everyone from MEC who is going to participate in this event has been asked to not wear staff t-shirts or any part of their uniform,” he explains.
“It really begs the question, is Mountain Equipment Co-op actually empowering their employees to participate in this event on behalf of MEC, or is this really a situation where MEC is going to save a whole bunch of money on labour costs for the day. It’s unclear if the CEO is going to give up any of his compensation for the day so I think there are a lot of questions about what’s really going on here.”
Jones suggests the co-operative is trying to paint a positive picture of the public.
“The press release really makes it sound like MEC is empowering its employees and standing up for this event as an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of tackling climate change, but i think the reality is that the front line hourly staff who work in the stores are being asked to take on an bit of an unfair burden. The fact that MEC isn’t going to be empowering these employees to show up in their uniforms, for example, makes me wonder if we are actually standing behind the event or not as a co-operative.”
NEWS 1130 has requested an interview or statement from Mountain Equipment Co-op, but has yet to receive a response.
MEC joins other Vancouver-based business like Lush Cosmetics and publisher Greystone Books in closing stores and offices during Friday’s Climate Protest.
-With files from Ash Kelly