Guest post by JOEL WEESE
Fellow rural carrier and retirees:
I am writing this out of genuine concern for our union, based on both personal experience, and on statements I have heard recently about events involving our National Board.
I'll describe my personal experience first. Several years ago, our State Association reinstated a Family Plan to provide funds to the Auxiliary. There was a long delay in implementing the flow of funds and the National Secretary/Treasurer determined that there was a "technical glitch" and would work to remedy the situation. He also explained that there was always a delay in seeing the effects of any dues change. A change that takes effect on July 1st will not actually be felt until September or October of that year. Later, I learned from both the National Auxiliary Secretary/Treasurer and our State Auxiliary Secretary/Treasurer that they received no funds for any time after July 1st of the year the Family Plan was voted out. There was no delay in the cutting off of funding. When I pointed that out to him, the Secretary/Treasurer did nothing to explain or correct the discrepancy, but instead said that I was calling him a liar (or lier, as he put it) and told me that any future contact on the subject would have to be with the President. I did contact the President twice on the matter but her only response was to the first contact, and it was "read this from this guy"
I spoke with several State Secretary/Treasurers about the incident to get their reaction to my experience and not one of them was the least bit surprised. One indicated that no one else seems to want the job of NRLCA Secretary/Treasurer and besides, he gets most of the big stuff right. High praise indeed! I even contacted the NLRB for guidance and their representative told me that according to the policy stated by our Secretary/Treasurer and the records of what actually happened to the funds for the Auxiliary, his view was that the Association stole from the Auxiliary. He wanted to help but the incident was over 6 months old and he was not allowed to intervene.
It was interesting to learn that at the National Convention last year, our board approached the Auxiliary to seek help in bringing new members into the Association. Cutting off funds prematurely and then asking for help later doesn't seem a very honorable way to conduct business. And to be fair, I really don't believe that any wrongdoing would have been instigated by our National Board against the Auxiliary. That most likely would have been done closer to home. But ignoring the situation and not fixing the problem is nothing to be proud of. Some members view the Auxiliary as a weakness and a distraction. I disagree with that opinion but I hope that those members will at least agree with me that honesty and character matter. I appreciate that our board members need to have political skills and cleverness. They need good contract knowledge and to possess a certain amount of toughness. But what I value more than anything is integrity. Give me real facts, not alternate ones. Mistakes will happen. If you admit them and try to make things right, trust and respect will be gained, not lost.
Here are a few things that I have heard lately that concern me. One subject is that there is some turmoil in the Steward System. The narrative I heard is that good people are being removed abruptly and arbitrarily, leaving the system short-handed and morale low. In our district, several experienced ADRs are no longer filling positions. I am told the reason for this is their unwillingness to work with the current DR. Recently, the ADR that many of us found easy to talk to and very helpful was removed from her job and we still don't know the reason. It causes one to question whether members are getting the representation they deserve or if the union is just going through the motions.
Another rumor that is troubling is that a junior board member actually issued an ultimatum to our Director of Labor Relations that if he didn't get in lock step with the rest of the group, someone would run against him and force him out. Like many members, I consider the current Director of Labor Relations to be the backbone of our union and I would encourage any person with the arrogance to make such threats to simply run against him for that office and see what the result is. It occurs to me that a hot air balloon ride for two from Maryland back to North Carolina would be lovely this time of year and there should be no shortage of fuel.
Should we be worried about the story of a board member going through bankruptcy on more than one occasion? Probably. You would have to wonder about someone paying attention to details and getting things right if they were that sloppy with personal finances.
Finally, there is the story that an embezzlement of union funds took place this year. The amount is reported to be substantial and the ease with which it was taken shameful. If the basic job of protecting union funds is neglected, should the incumbent be rewarded with another term in office?
I have often been puzzled by the animosity and occasional hostility shown to our National Board by some delegates at past National Conventions. I also have not understood the resistance to the concept of a biennial convention schedule. But I am starting to see where those attitudes might come from. If incumbents never face credible opposition though, does it really matter? We might as well just have National Conventions every 4 years. If our ability to represent members deteriorates and our funds disappear, we probably won't really need to worry about a convention schedule. I'm hoping that the delegates to the National Convention this year will have some high quality candidates to choose from for every office, and will have the courage to demand change where needed with their votes. This organization has potential that is still untapped and our future could be very bright.