October 20, 2021

The Queens County Citizen

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MEC members outraged over Co-op’s ‘gutless’ sale to US company

MEC members outraged over Co-op's 'gutless' sale to US company

Some longtime members and former employees of Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), the largest cooperative in Canada, said they need to be made aware of cooperative finance issues before signing an acquisition agreement.

Earlier this week, the CBC reported that the MEC had a board of directors Unanimously approved a private US investor agreement to acquire MEC’s ​​assets.

The MEC said the acquisition was necessary to ensure the future for retailers, as it intensified its economic struggles by disrupting the COVID-19 epidemic. Since the news, the petition, which aired online, has garnered nearly 80,000 signatures, calling on the MEC’s ​​board of directors to suspend the deal.

“At first it was a complete shock, it’s hard to imagine Co-op being sold,” member and former employee Elliott Hegel told CBC Radio. All in a day Wednesday.

“And then it’s a definite regret.”

‘Cold, heartless transaction’

Vancouver-based customer support has 22 stores across the country and more than five million members across Canada, and Ottawa members like Hegel say the decision has betrayed and frustrated them.

For Hegel, his relationship with MEC dates back many years.

When he was 10 years old, he remembered getting his first allowance – five dollars. MEC was his first stop to buy his membership.

He said he was particularly disappointed not only to hear about the pending acquisition, but also to learn about it on the news, not directly from the MEC.

“I have high expectations from them, especially in their communication with their members,” Hegel said. “Members are owners, we are shareholders. And if the economy is as bad as they say, why not give us information?”

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We are talking to a former employee with questions about what it means to sell an open brand pending to a US investment firm for personal information of customers. 11:54

Hegel said he never considered membership as a way to buy MEC’s ​​products, but was committed to “leading Canada’s largest collaboration”.

But now, it is clear that the board has not seen it.

“It was just a heartfelt transaction,” he said. “It’s, ‘they’re going to buy more of our stuff.'”

Malia Robin, another former employee who has been a member of the MEC for 25 years, was also disappointed by the board’s decision.

“I think the cooperative model is a good solution to many of the problems we have in inequality and social environmental justice,” Robin told CBC. Ottawa morning Wednesday.

Mountain Equipment Co-op says it will be sold to an American investment group. We heard from cooperative members who were disappointed with this decision. 10:04

‘Reckless movement’

Robin and Dave Stebbie, who have been members for over 30 years, said they were attracted to the collaboration because of its culture and core values.

“It advocates for environmental issues, for different groups in the open industry,” Stibbe said. “It’s a reckless act by the board of directors. It’s sad.”

Stibbe, who has worked in both Ottawa and Vancouver, said he was “disappointed” that the collaboration eventually changed its priorities and became a teacher.

As for Hegel, as the board said in its statement, he said he did not think the board had really explored all of its options.

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“They never contacted members,” he said. “They never asked what we thought was the next step.”