MNA Board of Directors takes position opposing specific bylaw changes
From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
July/August 2010 Edition
At its June meeting, the MNA Board of Directors voted to take a position in opposition to a few specific bylaw proposals put forward for debate and a vote at this year’s annual business meeting. While any number of proposals may come forward from structural units, the Board feels it is important for the membership to be aware of proposals assessed by the Board to be potentially harmful.
Members, all the proposed bylaw changes can be found here by logging in to your myMNA account. The Board firmly opposes amendment 5 which contains a number of provisions that would alter voting procedures, how the MNA determines and implements positions, and the scope of the authority of the Board of Directors. The Board believes the changes to our bylaws will severely limit the ability to respond to any number of serious issues our members may face, particularly in the current turbulent health care climate. We also believe the proposed changes will unnecessarily add to the cost of doing the MNA business, at a time when our resources will be better spent responding to challenges confronting the members.
The changes proposed in amendment 5 will further limit the ability of well-informed and committed MNA members to develop policies and directives for the Board of Directors, by enforcing costly requirements for a mail ballot referendum by the entire membership on any and all issues considered at the business meeting.
The MNA business meeting provides for a decision-making process to formulate and pass bylaw changes and policy positions to the Board of Directors in a democratic assembly. It is characterized by an open member convention structure that enables a broad range of opinions by providing member participation in both the crafting of positions and the decisionmaking process itself.
Bylaw amendment 5 would not only undermine the deliberative process on the issues before the members, it carries the potential to decrease member involvement in the direction and focus of the Association, by encouraging members to vote in a ballot process in lieu of actively engaging in the debate among members and crafting the final outcome on the basis of that participatory process. Under this proposal, the membership attending the business meeting assembly, who are active leaders of your bargaining units—having debated and deliberated over a sound position to address an important issue at the business meeting—will have their decisions delayed and put at risk of being overturned by a vote of members who did not participate in the debate, nor fully understand the arguments for the position, and/or the compromise position finally agreed upon by the members.
Ultimately the bylaw proposed is an ineffective method to move the work of the Association, weakening the Association while our members’ nursing practice and contracts are under assault in this environment. The current MNA structure features an open and transparent election process that allows all members to select their own leadership, nearly all of whom come from the ranks of the local bargaining units. The MNA Board is reflective of the membership. Board members work in the bargaining units as union leaders and activists. The MNA bylaws have been crafted to ensure that on the state and regional levels, active, direct-care nurses—chosen by the members— can make decisions on a real-time basis in order to meet your needs.
The issues confronted by our membership are complex and time sensitive, and they require a process that provides for the opportunity for well-reasoned deliberation and engagement by a membership fully invested in the issues. Given our experience in walking through the bargaining units every day, we are validated that the efforts and direction taken by the Board reflect the goals of the members.
Another major problem with changes called for under amendment 5 is that the amendment seeks to put into the bylaws what is currently handled under Board policy. Again, the assumption behind the current structure is that the membership elects members to serve on the Board to make policies and take positions in their best interests providing the ability to respond to rapidly changing conditions. If there is strong disagreement about a specific position or policy of the Board, the membership has the ability to pass a motion at convention to direct the Board on a particular matter and/or elect representatives who support a different position.
However, if the proposed changes are adopted, and policies and positions are set as part of the bylaw process, it would then require a two-thirds majority vote by the membership at the annual meeting to change course. Micromanaging through bylaws lessens the ability of the leadership elected by the members to function and meet the needs of the very membership that elected them. Certainly, MNA bargaining units cannot be expected to function this way, nor can the MNA.
Finally, with regard to the proposal that the convention’s business meetings be held on a Saturday, many of you may be familiar that when the MNA held a Saturday business meeting for disaffiliation from ANA in 2001, it resulted in a lawsuit for discrimination by a small group of members. While discrimination certainly was not the intent of the prior Board, we are nonetheless circumspect with regard to this issue going forward. Additionally, feedback from members in the current environment indicates that nearly one-half of the membership would be excluded due to weekend work schedules.
It is our belief the proposed bylaw changes, specifically those proposed under amendment 5, are unnecessary, and would severely limit our organization’s ability to be timely and responsive to your needs. We encourage you to study these issues, to call us to discuss your thoughts and concerns, and most important of all, to attend the MNA annual business meeting on Oct. 14 in Worcester and participate in this debate.