MNA Board opposes bylaw for secret mail ballot for proposed dues increases
From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
July/August 2008 Edition
Region 4 of the MNA has submitted a proposed change to MNA Bylaws that would change the process by which an increase in dues would be initiated (see “Proposed Amendment Relating to Dues” on Page 8). At its meeting on June 19 the Board cast a vote in opposition to the proposed bylaw. The vote was unanimous by those in attendance.
The MNA Board of Directors strongly opposes the proposed bylaw change to Article II, Section 5, which would replace the current process for membership approval of a dues increase at the annual MNA business meeting with a secret mail ballot. We believe this change threatens members’ ability to make informed and deliberative decisions regarding the future of the organization and could stifle attempts to improve services to members to meet future challenges, particularly at the bargaining unit level.
For more than 100 years the organization has functioned successfully under the current system, where all key decisions concerning the direction and viability of the organization—including the determination of MNA dues—are made by the membership in person, by means of thorough debate and analysis of issues at the annual business meeting.
Setting a dues structure to support the mission and goals of the membership is a serious matter requiring careful consideration. The current structure allows for a full debate and discussion of any proposed change in dues. More importantly, the process allows for members to modify and amend the proposal yet still move forward with implementation to assure the organization can effectively address the needs of the membership. In fact, this is what happened during the last dues proposal. The membership met, engaged in a long debate and discussion following which amendments were proposed and passed by the membership to reduce the dues proposal, and to change the timing of its implementation. The process worked; the MNA has been able to move forward with the resources and a five-year action plan that has resulted in stronger bargaining units, new and improved services for members, and increased power and strength as a profession.
If the current proposal was adopted, there would be no opportunity for deliberation and debate over any proposed increase in dues or the chance to amend or modify the proposal based on informed debate and discussion among those engaging in the vote. Instead, those voting would do so absent of an informed decision regarding the reasons for the proposed dues increase and the subsequent consequences to the organization and all members were it not to pass.
Moving to a secret mail ballot would diminish the organization’s ability to react or seize upon opportunities or address the needs of the membership in an expedient manner. This action could have a paralyzing effect, preventing the organization from responding to changing needs of the membership, and resulting in cuts in the services and resources members have clearly identified as necessary for their protection and professional development.
The MNA Board of Directors takes great pride in the organization’s work and its open democratic structure. Board members are all frontline staff nurses who live and work in the same world as every other member. We take our role seriously and have based every decision we make on the needs of our membership, at the bargaining unit level.
In proposing the last dues increase, we engaged in an extended process of surveying and meeting with the membership to determine what was wanted and needed to be successful. We then engaged in a lengthy process of building a concrete five-year business plan for the organization that would accomplish what you said you needed from your union.
We then built a dues structure to accomplish the goals set forth in that plan. We are in the midst of that five-year plan, and by all accounts, it, supported by the dues structure approved by the membership in 2004, is working—with strong backing from the membership. We have significantly expanded staff support, education and other resources to assist local bargaining units, resulting in stronger local unions and their ability to negotiate better contract settlements more efficiently.
Our union members have gained great power and stronger contracts since the implementation of the five-year plan, regardless of the size or make up of the bargaining unit. We have seen unprecedented pay increases and salaries that top $50 per hour in all corners of the state. A number of units now have retiree health benefits—a major goal of the membership. Moreover, we have addressed one of the primary threats facing our membership and all organized nursing through “Kentucky River” language. When bargaining units enter into contentious battles for their issues, the new print shop allows us the ability to create and produce powerful and compelling flyers, lawn signs, ads and bargaining unit newsletters to mobilize the membership and communities to achieve successful resolution.
Our grassroots community organizers play a role in supporting bargaining units by enlisting the backing of local community organizations and public officials. When the city of Taunton wanted to lay off school nurses, our MNA Region 3 community organizer and MNA’s media specialist worked with the nurses on a campaign to protect their jobs. Not only was the layoff prevented, the process resulted in the Taunton School Committee adding a nursing position.
Thousands of members have benefited from the expanded MNA CE programs, which are now free to members, held throughout all regions of the state, and include programs customized for presentation to local bargaining units. Moreover, our Occupational Health and Safety Division leads the nation in educating members and bargaining units on strategies to protect nurses from injury and harm.
On the political front, the MNA has become a powerful force and is on the verge of passing the long-awaited safe staffing bill. We are also close to winning passage of our legislation to prevent workplace violence and to provide for safe patient handling practices to prevent injuries.
The strength of this MNA is the engagement of the members in the debate and in the decisions that result from that debate. As our members well know from efforts at the bargaining unit level—the proposals that are most valuable and difficult to achieve cannot be accomplished without active engagement in the process. If all you do is check off a box on a pre-negotiation survey and show up to ratify, chances are that little of what was on your survey will end up in the ratified document. The same is true for providing the organization’s resources. Checking off a box “yes” or “no” won’t bring about the goals or the necessary resources to win the issues we confront. It’s your involvement and commitment to the debate, the strategy and the decisions on a real time basis that has and will bring continued success.
We urge you to sustain the very process that has made us one of the most respected and vibrant nurses’ unions in the country.