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July 1998
Vol.1 No. 10 Page 9

Freedom For Small Branches

By Darryl Parker

Unbeknownst to the majority of NALC members across the nation, there has been fermenting in Maine for the last 10 years or so a dangerous movement to reduce the National Association of Letter Carriers, first in Maine, and now nationally, to an organization which enriches only those who wield the political power to get themselves reelected to those positions in which they can control the moneys paid by the rank-and-file to the Union.

This movement began innocuously enough with an amendment to the constitution of the Maine State Association of Letter Carriers that raised the per capital. The delegates to that MSALC convention of 10 years past were asked to approve an increase from $.50 per capita to $1.50 per capita in State Association dues. In return, we were to receive increased educational training and off year rap sessions. Naturally, we approved that amendment and looked forward to the promised educational events and rap sessions.

The promises were not kept. Instead, the Branch 92-dominated State Association has, during those 10 or so years, provided only 3 training sessions; 2 that I remember for all the branches in Maine and 1 training session that pertained to route inspections for my own Branch 391.

No off-year rap sessions occurred, that I can remember.

In addition, the Branch 92-dominated MSALC deigned to provide each branch with $200.00 toward the purchase of a fax machine.

The price paid by Branch 391 for this has been 15-16% of our member's dues, in the neighborhood of $5,500.00 per year, for the last 10 years.

Where then has the money gone?

Branch 92 President Mike Fox and his fellow 1-Branch State advocates have, under the guise of traveling the State of Maine for State Association purposes, used it to navigate the State of Maine and negotiate mergers with several branches, until Branch 92 reached its current level of 61% of the total NALC membership in Maine.

At the May 1995 MSALC convention in Presque Isle, ME, MSALC President and Branch 92 member John Gorham announced at the Sunday business session that the MSALC Executive Board had met on the previous Friday evening and voted to use unit-rule or block-voting for the election of State officers. (Branch 92, a 750-member branch, could only muster about 25 delegates and was in danger of losing control of the State Association.) After a hotly contested business session, the Branch 92-dominated slate of officers was elected and installed. Also, Brother Adam Knoblach, Br. 241, Lewiston, ME and myself filed appeals, which were sustained by the Committee on Appeals, which held that it was improper for the Executive Board to dictate the method of vote.

Unfortunately, the rerun election mandated by the Committee's decision was run by unit-rule and Branch 92 dominated once again, despite having fewer delegates voting.

In May 1997, at the latest MSALC convention, Branch 92 only had 11 elected delegates to the convention. Just prior to the Sunday business session, I informed the Credentials Committee of this. Branch 92 was vastly outnumbered by the other branch delegates. MSALC President John Gorham, however, ruled that Branch 92 President Mike Fox acted properly when he stood behind the Credentials Committee and passed out delegate cards to 56 unallocated "delegates" that he salted the convention with, giving Branch 92 67 "delegates."

Once again, they dominated the convention and democracy was crucified. Also once again, Brother Adam Knoblach appealed to the Committee on Appeals. This time he was denied, with the Committee on Appeals ruling that unit-rule or block voting was the appropriate method for electing State officers, despite the fact that the Constitution states that each delegate shall have one voice and one vote in the business of the association, including the election of officers.

In effect, the minority branches in the State of Maine are now enslaved to Branch 92, which can raise state association dues at will, henceforth.

So, how does this affect the other branches across the nation?

Well, having reached the point where they have alienated the rest of the branches in the State of Maine, Branch 92's leadership cannot realistically achieve its goal of a 1-branch state. In fact, my own Branch 391, the 2d largest branch in the state, passed a resolution last year which instituted a 5-year moratorium on the consideration any merger with Branch 92.

So, Branch 92 can now only achieve a 1-branch state by forcing the other, minority, branches to merge. And the only way that they can do that is to amend the NALC constitution. So, 750-member Branch 92, it's 9 attending members voting unanimously, proposes 54 constitutional amendments to the NALC constitution, all aimed at increasing the revenue of Branch 92 and, therefore, its officers.

They are willing to destroy thousands of small independent branches in order to achieve their goals. They have even proposed to impoverish the Union at the national level by reducing the percentage of dues retained by National (coincidentally increasing Branch 92's revenues) to 25%. They, no doubt, believe that this will appeal to the branches in attendance at the convention such that it will pass.

The 7 remaining branches in the State of Maine are unable to free themselves from the clutches of Branch 92 without the help of the branches attending the convention.

Article 10, Charters, of the NALC Constitution provides that State Association may be created in states with more than 2 branches. The reason that more than 2 are required is that in a 2-branch state, one branch would become the slave of the other. In Maine, there are 7 branches in the position of the one branch contemplated by that requirement to have 3 or more branches. But, as of now, there is no mechanism in the Constitution to allow us to free ourselves.

That is where we need your help, NALC! Vote for Freedom for Small Branches! Free us and keep yourselves free!

Please vote to pass the Branch 391-sponsored amendments to the NALC Constitution that will allow membership in State Associations (in which any one branch has a 51% or larger majority) to be at the branch's option.

Please give us back our Freedom!

Darryl Parker is an 11 year veteran of the letter carrier craft. He first served as Health Benefits Representative of Branch 391 for several years, then as VP for 2 years. In 1995 Darryl became the President of NALC Branch 391, which represents letter carriers in 18 offices in Maine. He also serves as Steward in the Bangor, ME post office.
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