My previous editorial “The Union Membership” raised some hackles. Good, that is exactly what I wanted it to do. Sometimes we have to instigate people to think about things from a different perspective. If we are only surrounded by those with the exact same opinion, then we might not ever be challenged to look at things in a different way.
I am a union supporter. I always have been. But that does not mean I support the way they do all things. I believe my dues buy me the right to criticize actions of my union. I support them monetarily and that gives me a right to have a say in the any debate that comes along.
Now the debate is the National Convention and here are my two cents.
Our elected delegates convened in St. Louis MO this past week to do the business of the union. The Delegates are those we have elected to represent us at the National level. Our officers have also been elected to represent us at the National and State level. They are our eyes and ears at the National Convention.
I often criticize the actions of our National union. You will not hear me criticizing the working rural carriers who go to the convention to do the business of OUR union. There are many that go because they care about OUR union. There are a lot of really long days sitting and listening to people talk and argue. There are a lot of politics involved at a Convention. It really is not very different from American politics in general. They have caucuses where the candidates for national office ask for their votes and tell them how they would do things differently. Elected delegates do get paid to go to conventions by their states, which means YOU and I are paying them to go through our dues, but I would also make a strong bet that what they get paid is not enough to cover all of their expenses. They also willingly give up annual days to go. Most states also have a provision that Delegates must be in attendance in order to receive their delegate pay.
My point is that the Delegates are not just going to the National Convention for a vacation. It is NOT much of a vacation when you take a week of leave, sit in a room listening to people argue and talk all day, and end up having to spend money out of your pocket be there. Yes, there are extra curricular activities after the union business, but most are not out golfing while they should be in the convention hall.
And yes, there are a lot of retirees that get elected as delegates. In my state it is not for lack of other candidates running for delegate. There are always plenty of people who want to be a delegate. But a lot of retirees get elected on name recognition. While I do not believe all Retirees should be barred from being delegates, I do believe after a certain time out of the workforce, their votes can not really be relevant to our working lives. I know some of you will not like my ideas on retirees as voting delegates. That is ok because there are some informed retirees out there, but I would venture a guess that most of them have no idea what FSS, IMB, DUO, or the Post plan is. And these are important issues facing our craft today.
How many of you even voted when you received your Delegate ballot in the mail? Did you just throw it away? Did you just vote because you had heard a name before? Retirees got elected because YOU did not take the time to vote. Most have probably heard that our dues got increased. Is that important to you? If you did not return your delegate ballot, that means your lack of voting sent people to the convention that voted FOR that dues increase. Maybe someone YOU voted for would have voted differently… We cannot all be delegates, but we all CAN be voters. Why would anyone throw their voice away? Do you think it does NOT affect you? I guess it does now that your paycheck will be even less because your dues have gone up.
So now you want to quit the union because your dues went up? Can you really criticize a process you decided not to participate in? You have seen me speak out about the lack of information coming from the NRLCA and I still stand by every word, but what happens at a Convention is no ones fault but our own.
We all have reasons why we can not make the convention. That is fine. And, everyone CANNOT be a delegate.. I think we all understand that, but YOU do have a voice on who goes to vote on your behalf. If you choose not to use your voice, that is nobody’s fault but your own. I have been fighting forever to give a voice to the 76% of rural carriers who cannot actively participate in the formal activities of the union, but if you will not use the voice you have to vote for delegates then what are we fighting for?
I do not know how else to convince you that what goes on in this union directly affects YOU and ME! I had a voice in who I sent to the convention.. Did you?
And to end, I want to thank all the Delegates that went to the National convention on the behalf of all of us. It really is a thankless job, and you take a lot of flak when it’s all over. So from me to you, THANK YOU!