SUSPS and Democracy in the Sierra Club 1998 Election
on the Immigration Ballot Question
Too many political deals cut in Washington have torn the Club's soul
away from protecting our precious natural resources.
Sierra Club has chosen to ignore the difficult issue of population
because it conflicts with the current Board's political strategy.
believe a comprehensive population policy for our country is essential.
Environmentalists have long recognized that population growth is the one
environmental issue that underlies all others. The Club understood this
at one time. But in 1996 the Club has lost its direction and issued a mandate that the immigration component of U.S. population growth can not be included as Club policy. (See our History section).
The Club has changed course in recent years to suit the wishes of
so-called allies who are not environmentalists - they are people who
care more about their own political agenda than about protecting our
planet. In 1997, the Club even appointed individuals who had no conservation or
population background to serve on the national Population Committee - individuals who
joined the Club only so they could be on that committee.
In response, thousands of grassroots Sierra Club members, signed a
petition to put a referendum on the Club ballot. We wanted to get the Club
back on track on the population issue, and back to protecting the environment.
The referendum called for "an end to U.S. population growth at the
earliest possible time through reduction in natural increase... [and]
reduction in net immigration."
Club Leadership Feared Democracy
The Board deliberately confused the ballot question. Sierra Club
Bylaw 11.3 states that ballots shall allow "the members to express
approval or disapproval of each resolution." Bylaw 11.4 says,
"A majority of all the ballots cast on each question shall decide the
question... " But instead of allowing members a simple Yes or No vote on
the grassroots petition, the Board placed alternative "B" on the ballot
to deliberately confuse the membership. They had to decide for either "A" (the petitioners'
referendum) or "B."
(See the ballot questions).
Further, the Board added extraneous,
motherhood-and-apple-pie language to cloud the meaning of alternative B. "B" called for "maternal
and reproductive health care, empowerment and equity of women, human
rights and environmentally responsible consumption."
Ironically, nothing in "A" alternative would have prevented those pursuits.
The Board tried to make it look like "A" would prevent the Club from
working on global population issues. Nothing was further from the
truth. Indeed, the Club's efforts on global population
issues had been too weak and needed to be strengthened. Alternative "A"
complemented those efforts.
Unfortunately, in the opinion of many including the Club's Election Inspectors, the 1998 election was rigged by Club management with an "A" vs. "B" vote, violating Club bylaws.
Even so, 40% of the voters agreed with the SUSPS "A" position. Quite simply, the Sierra Club choked on population.
Also see election results and analysis our democracy section for questionable actions of the Sierra Club Board in other elections.