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Guest post by Mike Shue.
Mike Shue is a recently retired rural carrier.
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This is my final article on being a national delegate. If you've read the previous articles, you have made it to the point of the convention proceedings to begin. I will not go over every single item that takes place as things do change from year to year, but will try and hit the highlights.
And I will be using last year's program from Reno as a guide. One important item you will find in your ditty bag is the official program for that year. It gives you dates, times and locations of various seminars, programs, and the order of business of the convention.
The official convention begins Tuesday morning at 8AM with musical selections, usually by a local musical group. A brief memorial service will be held at 8:30 to remember all the association, auxiliary and junior members who have passed away in the past year. Names are not read as these would be a rather lengthy process, but each group as a whole is recognized and a candle lit in their memory. At 9AM, the joint session begins. All attendees, association, auxiliary, and juniors take part in this session. While many states try to sit as a group, you are free to sit anywhere in the convention hall for this session. Initially it is presided over by the host state convention chair.
The advancement of colors by the Armed Forces Veterans Club is first and then the Parade of State Flags. This is where your state president or their designee marches in with your state flag. It is very impressive. This is followed by the National Anthem and an invocation by the convention chaplain and Pledge of Allegiance.
Next will be talks by postal and union officials, something like welcome to the convention, have a good time, etc. The presidents of the auxiliary and juniors each gives a speech. Sometimes the Postmaster General will be present and give a keynote address. There is usually a congressional representative to give a talk.
Outstanding members from each state are recognized. Committee appointments are read. The president has the authority to vary the program as needed with a few exceptions. Sometimes guest speakers have to make last-minute changes in their schedule, so they will be brought on early or later than scheduled. This usually concludes the morning session and then there is a lunch break.
Here's where early arrival pays off so you will have an idea of where you want to go for lunch. In recent years, the convention hotel will set up a serving line of quick items to eat; sandwiches, salads, pizza, snacks, drinks, etc. It is usually close to the convention hall to make it where you won't have far to go.
Sometimes these lines are open on Monday so you can check it out ahead of time. One more thing to remember- the national vice-president always makes announcements prior to the adjournment of each session. Be sure to listen up as these may be pertinent to you.
Tuesday afternoon, the auxiliary and juniors meet on their own so it will just be association members in the main convention hall. This is where states sit together. Your state will have a stanchion with a state emblem on it to make it easier to locate your state. Plus many of the chairs in your section will have chairbacks, covers with your state name, motto, shape, etc. States are allowed enough chairs to accomodate each state delegate plus about 10 extra. You will be sitting in the same location for the remainder of the convention.
The host state has the middle section in front of the stage reserved for them. Tuesday afternoon is a lot of report presentations and awards. One important item of business is the adoption of the standing rules, a copy of which will be in your ditty bag. These set the rules as to how long delegates may speak on a subject, how business is conducted, etc. These are presented, amended, debated, and voted on. Also in your ditty bag is your voting card. You use this to vote on each constitution change, resolution, and any other issue that may come up for a vote. It is green on one side with the word "Yea" and red on the other side with the word "Nay". Election of officers is by secret ballot.
Wednesday morning (each session begins at 8:30AM) there are more speeches given and nominations for national office are made. Nominations cannot begin before 10AM. In most cases, someone will nominate a candidate and then the candidate will be given an opportunity to speak. After this initial nomination time, they are left open until Friday morning. However, a nomination can be made at any time prior to that.
Wednesday afternoon is when the real business begins, the reports of the Constitution and Resolutions Committees. You will be given a copy of each report in advance so you can look over it. The Constitution Committee goes first. These are changes to the national constitution submitted by each state. This could be something as minor as cleaning up language or as major as, what has been popular the past several years, changing to a biennial national convention. Delegates pro and con on each change have a chance to speak to the change, alternately. Amendents may be offered which must be voted on. There is a time limit for debate which may be extended by a vote of the delegates. Once debate is ended, a vote is taken.
Constitutional changes take a 2/3 majority to enact. Sometimes the Constitution Committee report takes all afternoon and continues on into Thursday morning. Once this committee is finished, then the Resolution Committee makes their presentation. There will be binding and non-binding resolutions. Binding are ones that the national board has full authority to enact without consulting the Postal Service, for example, changing the national magazine from a monthly to a weekly publication. Non-binding resolutions are things the association would like to see incorpated into the contract, but must be agreed to by the Postal Service. The usual procedure is for the Committee chair to read the resolution and if no one objects, the gavel is sounded and the resolution is passed with no further action. If however, an objection is heard, it will be debated and voted on after the entire list of resolutions are read. The Resolutions report will continue on until it is completed, usually sometime Friday afternoon.
Friday morning, election of officers will be held. Once nominations are closed for each office, a secret ballot is taken if there are 2 or more candidates. If not, the lone candidate is declared the winner. Write-in candidates are not allowed. While the ballots are being counted for a contested position (it usually takes about 30 minutes once the Teller's Committee leaves the convention hall), the Resolutions Committee continues with its report. Once all elections and the Resolution Committee report is finished, there are several recognitions of past national officers and attendees. The Appeals Committee makes their report and the body votes to accept or reject their findings. Unfinished and new business is brought forward. New business is where resolutions and constitution changes not submitted through the committees are presented. Once these are finished, the new national board is installed, colors are retired and the convention is adjourned.
Here are a few tips that I picked up from going to 17 national conventions.
You will notice several microphones stationed around the convention hall, located in the aisles. These are for delegates to address the convention and the chair on any matter. Do not be afraid to go to the microphone if you wish to speak on a matter. There is a procedure in the standing rules about how to be recognized. Watch others do it and learn. It's not hard. Located next to each microphone is a sargent-at-arms in an orange vest. They have a yellow card which they can use to interrupt a speaker or the chair for an urgent matter. Also, Robert's Rules of Order allow certain matters to take priority. Sometimes it's a point of order, inquiry, personal privledge and occasionally there are emergencies.
Final adjournment on Friday is very variable and flexible. A lot depends on how long the Appeals Committee report takes, how many resolutions are left over from Thursday, and how much new business is brought forth. But the biggest factor is how many ballots there will be for national officers. I have seen us adjourn as early as 2PM and as late as7:30PM. I know you will be anxious to get back to home sweet home, but if you are flying, it is very hard to make reservations based on when we adjourn. Unless you are flying into an airport where flights are limited, I would suggest not leaving until Saturday if at all possible.
If you are not informed beforehand, be sure to check with one of your state officers to see what your attendance requirements are. Some states are strict, some are lienient. But do check so you are not possibly docked some of your delegate pay.
Caucus night on Thursday night usually begins at 6PM and the afternoon session many times does not adjourn until5:30, so that leaves you little time to grab something to eat. Sometimes there are concessions available close by and sometimes your caucus will obtain food for you to have. You may want to have some snacks available in case time is short. But if you can't, don't worry. The candidate's campaign team will pass amongst you as they enter the room where your caucus is and many pass out various snacks and there is always lots of chocolate. If you have a cocoa addiction, you will get your fix.
Don't be afraid to explore the local area and sample the local cuisine. You might be surprised at what you find.
Before I close, I promised in my last article to tell you about two very important persons you will see who are not even rural carriers but are very important.
First is Jim Slaughter who serves as the convention parliamentarian. We operate, as do many organizations, under Robert's Rules of Order. This allows for timely and proper procedure of the convention business. It can get very confusing with motions, amendments, objections, points or order, inquiry, personal privlege, etc. Jim is an authority in this area and keeps things going.
Second is TimiAnne Bourell who is our court reporter. She takes down every word spoken in our official proceedings. If you have been an NRLCA member for some time, you probably got a big thick copy of the national magazine entitled Official Proceedings. What is printed there from the opening on Tuesday to adjournment on Friday is recorded by TimiAnne word for word. And there are a lot of words spoken. Speak to these two if you get a chance. They are very pleasant folks to talk with.