NTEU CONVENTION BEGINS THIS WEEK BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
While the NTEU convention does not start officially until August 9, its Resolutions Committee meets this week behind doors closed to delegates and members. Under its Constitution, the NTEU National President appoints a little more than a half-dozen local leaders to the Convention Resolution Committee to prepare a recommendation on each proposed Constitutional amendment for the delegates who will vote on them next week. Even though the committee could finish its work as early as Wednesday, the delegates will not see the recommendations until the night before the convention begins next Monday, when they must start voting on them. A copy is never posted for members or even those who proposed the amendment. In addition to their closed door summit, the committee members’ identities are not shared with the approximately 250 local union leaders until the convention starts. That ensures that these seven to nine committee members are not lobbied by the NTEU local leaders and members spread across over 30 agencies. Even the people proposing amendments cannot get to them. Although the committee has before it the proposed resolutions and a short rationale from the person proposing the change, only the National President can lobby the Committee to move in a certain direction. Typically, this is done by giving them a draft report with the President’s recommendations on what they should do with each proposed change. The President also places staff in the committee room to monitor their deliberations. This is not shared with delegates at any time. But not all unions have such tight, centralized control over their conventions.
For example, AFGE has a “Constitution and Internal Policy” committee that meets the first two days of the convention to prepare recommendations on proposed Constitutional and Bylaw amendments. Their meeting is open to any delegate to observe, lobby and even address the Committee members before they vote. (See Appendix C of its Constitution.) Obviously, delegates are free during those two days to lobby one another about any proposed changes, given that this is the only time they are all together before the vote.
NATCA not only gives delegates more time to consider the wisdom of proposed amendments along with the Committee’s recommendation, but it shares that information with members. Article XIV of its Constitution reads as follows:
All proposed amendments to the National Constitution shall be submitted to the National Constitution Committee through the Executive Vice President one-hundred and twenty (120) days prior to the Convention. All proposed amendments shall be reported out of committee, shall be submitted to the membership at least sixty (60) days prior to the Convention, and shall be considered at the National Convention.
Other unions has similarly open convention preparation processes that give members and delegates time to consider all sides of an issue before they are required to vote. Broad, pre-decisional discussions and involvement of all delegates and members need only meet the loose requirements of federal regulations which are–
458.2 Bill of rights of members of labor organizations. (a)(1) Equal rights. Every member of a labor organization shall have equal rights and privileges… to attend membership meetings and to participate in the deliberations and voting upon the business of such meetings, subject to reasonable rules and regulations in such organization’s constitution and bylaws.
Unions have room to design a process that fits the culture and values of their organization.
NTEU’s Resolution Committee will develop recommendations on how delegates should vote on issues such as:
- will the union require that it have an independent elected officer to perform the functions of a treasurer or continue to let the National President have sole day-to-day authority over how dues money is spent,
- will the union insist that the National President get a support from a majority of the locals before s/he spends any funds to organize DOD employees,
- will those elected to an local office automatically lose the right any other member has to also serve on the national executive board or will voters be allowed to decide who the best board candidates are,
- will immediate action be taken against local’s that fail to timely file federally required reports with the IRS and DOL.
- will the National President continue to have sole and unilateral control over investment decisions concerning NTEU’s approximately $35 million nest egg.
A lot has changed since NTEU adopted a Constitution in the late 60s that turned it into a union. Rather than struggling financially and otherwise to survive just within IRS as it was then, today NTEU represents employees in 30 agencies, has well over 200 elected local presidents with substantial union leadership experience, the technology to involve local leaders within minutes in decisions, the potential to automate key services, and about $70 million a year at the disposal of its National President. Despite past success, it also is dealing with a red hot AFGE that has recruited enough new members in the last decade to post a net membership gain of over 100,000, a political heavyweight in NATCA that is the model for all other unions, and a rejuvenated Internal Federation of Professional and Technical Employees (IFPTE) that is scooping up federal employee units in high-profile agencies like NASA, GAO, SSA Administrative Law Judges, the Congressional Research Service as well as the Departments of the Interior and Department of Energy.