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In the August, 1997 issue of its newsletter, Maine Merged Branch 92 President Michael Fox, in his front page article, informed the readers that Branch 92 would submit a proposed change to the NALC Constitution that would eliminate state associations of the NALC and create 54 "One-Branch States", including the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
Claiming that the change would strengthen the National Association of Letter Carriers, Brother Fox seeks to convince the general membership of the NALC of the viability of this drastic change in the structure of our Union.
At first glance, the proposal may seem to have merit. After all, we believe in "strength in numbers", solidarity, and brotherhood or else we would not have a Union, at all.
But, is this proposal really good for the NALC or is it just a means to an end for a Branch President whose goal is to merge with every other Branch in Maine, with Branch 92 being the surviving Branch?
Branch 92's effort to create a one-branch state in Maine has been going on for at least the 11 years in which I have been a letter carrier; with Branch 92 currently consisting of 45 installations that stretch approximately 250 or more miles from east to west, 2 of which jumped the geographical boundaries of Branch 391 by a distance of up to 125 miles.
The current situation is that there are only slightly more than half-a-dozen Branches left in the entire State of Maine, with Branch 92 having 61% of the state membership in its ranks. None of the remaining Branches have any intention of merging with Branch 92 at this time, as far as I know. Branch 92's leadership, however, is determined to effect the absorption of these Branches even if it means the destruction of thousands of
NALC Branches across the country to accomplish this goal.
As far as I can tell, the growth of Branch 92 to its present size has resulted in a detrimental lack of participation on the part of its members. Part of this is because of the sheer size of Branch 92 in terms of distance; who is regularly going to travel hundreds of miles to attend Branch meetings or training? Not many. I don't remember even one of the Branch 92 newsletters citing more than a couple dozen members attending a regular meeting, usually only about a dozen; in a Branch with a membership of approximately 750.
The same participation problem exists, to a lesser extent, in my own Branch 391, which is comprised of 18 installations in a 125 square-mile area. It's 2 hours from Calais to Bangor - 4.5 hours from Calais to Portland, where Branch 92 is headquartered.
For the Aroostook County carriers in Northern Maine, it could be up to 9 hours or more to get to a meeting in Branch 92 - will that increase participation or discourage it?
"Local" is a time-honored word in the Union lexicon. There's a good reason for that.
While merging is sometimes the proper thing to do, it should not take place when the result would be detrimental to the memberships of the Branches involved.
I cannot support Brother Fox's proposal. Can you? Feel free to email a response to DParker317@aol.com.
Darryl Parker is an 11 year veteran of the letter carrier craft. First served as Health Benefits Representative of Br. 391 for several years, then as VP for 2 years until becoming the branch president in 1995. Also serves as a steward in the Bangor, ME post office.