Guest post by Mike Shue.
Mike Shue is a recently retired rural carrier.
Click below to see all of Mike Shue’s Guest Posts.
NATIONAL CONVENTIONS FOR BEGINNERS
The National Rural Letter Carriers Association's annual (at this time) national convention is this organization's meeting in which members come together to receive information and reports on the state of the association, discuss topics of interest as it relates to their workplace, propose, debate and vote on changes to the national constitution as well as resolutions, elect national officers for the coming year, and meet carriers from all over the country. It is a long 4 days of meetings, seminars, and workshops but also a time for some fun and perhaps a chance to see parts of the country you may have never seen before. The convention is open to all those interested in the rural craft although only duly elected delegates from each state get to vote on proposed constitution changes, resolutions and election of officers. This article will not debate the merits or politics of the convention, but merely to provide information for those of you who are considering going either as a delegate or just as an interested party. I will give you tips on getting elected, how to get around once you go, how to help save money, and what you can expect to take place. I have gone as a paid delegate every year since 1997 in Portland, Oregon with the exception of 2007 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I also attended in 1994 as a non-delegate when the convention was held in Greensboro, NC but I was working the whole time as a member of the host state. Finally, remember that what I tell you is only from my personal experiences and observations and not necessarily the official union position. And the procedures I include here may not apply to all states.
First, to become a paid delegate from your state, you have to be nominated. The process is simple. In each monthly issue of the NRLCA national magazine from February through May, there is a nominating ballot you can fill out and return. You can be nominated by yourself or someone else. Also on that page is the constitutional requirements for being a delegate. The main requirement is that you are a member in good standing, which means you pay your dues to the association. However, you may not have been a member of management or acted in any capacity of a manager since the end of the last convention to the beginning of the convention which you are seeking to be a delegate. That would include things like being a counter, helping with route inspections, etc. If there is anything you are not sure about, ask your DR. Second, your nominating ballot form has to be received at the address indicated on the page with the form no later than 40 days prior to the start of your state convention. As those dates vary, it is best to get it in as soon as possible. Once your nomination is received by your state secretary, they will send you a postcard stating your nomination has been received. That way you will know you're good to go. Finally, at least 20 days prior to the start of your state convention, you will receive a ballot with all those who have been nominated from your state wanting to be a national delegate. It has specific instructions on how many delegates you can vote for. Remember you can vote for up to the maximum allowed for your state, but you do not have to vote for that exact number. You may vote for anywhere from none up to the maximum. You will probably see some names you recognize, like your state officers and DRs, but you will probably see a lot you don't know too. Vote for the ones you feel comfortable voting for. But at least vote for yourself. Once you have finished marking your ballot, follow the instructions for mailing the completed ballot back in. There is a deadline for returning it so be aware of that.
So how many delegates are elected from your state? The national constitution states "one delegate for every 100 members or major fraction thereof plus a delegate-at-large. So what does that mean? For example, if your state has 5,000 members, 5,000 divided by 100 = 50 delegates plus the delegate-at-large = 51 delegates. If your state has 4,975 members, 4,975 divided by 100 = 49 delegates, but since you have a "major fraction" (you're over halfway to the next hundred members), you would get an extra delegate for 50 plus the delegate-at-large, so you would still have 51 delegates. When you vote, you will most likely vote for however many delegates your state had last year. However, your state may send more or less delegates as last year, depending on your state's membership numbers at the time of the national convention. So just because you voted for 50 doesn't mean your state will send just 50.
So what's the best way to receive enough votes to be elected? That's hard to say. Since labor law does not allow the ballot to contain anything other than your name (things like regular, RCA, retiree, your office, etc.), name recognition is probably the best way. Being nominated year after year, being a district or local officer, serving on a committee at your state convention, and introducing yourself to long-time delegates, especially if you are new to the craft, are excellent ways to become known. In many cases, it could take several years of submitting your name each year before enough people will vote for you to be elected.
What happens if you are not elected? First, don't give up. Keep plugging away. If you don't receive enough votes but are on the ballot, you will become an alternate delegate. Alternates are important because if an elected delegate cannot serve for some reason, alternates are upgraded to a regular position. It is done by upgrading the first alternate (the next vote-getter after the last regular delegate) and the ones below all move up a spot. Sometimes several delegates can't go for some reason or even have to leave the convention after getting there.
So how much does a delegate get paid to go? That varies from state to state. Some states pay their delegates the same as national-paid delegates. (The national office pays for a certain number of state delegates instead of the state.) Some also pay several of the alternates an amount. Check with your state if you want to know.
If you get elected
First, congratulations. You will now help direct this association for the coming year. Take your responsibility seriously, but have some fun at the same time. Some states read out those who made it as a national delegate at their state convention and/or have a printed list. Sometime in the week or two after the state convention you should receive a notification from your state secretary informing you of your election and with instructions on what you need to do. At one time, you received credentials you had to take with you to national, but now they are sent to the credentials committee at the national convention and you only have to show up and show a picture ID and you will receive your delegate badge.
Something very important to keep in mind. You have to take leave to attend, either AL or LWOP (even X days if you have any), but remember management has to let you off except in extreme emergency. It is contractual. Go ahead and submit your leave slip now, even before you get elected. You can always withdraw it. That way if they try to deny it, you have time to get your DR involved. It might even help to write in the remarks section "national delegate-union business".
Next month, I will continue with this series when I discuss the ends and outs of actually getting to the convention, where to stay (yes, there are options) and ways to save money.