Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Blake Whitson: Why I am voting yes on the upcoming SEIU Corporate Status Vote

Many of our readers are public employees and members of SEIU Local 503. The following will be of interest to them and speaks to a struggle going on in SEIU Local 503 for many years now. We invite constructive discussion of the issues raised here.

Why I am voting yes on the upcoming SEIU Corporate Status Vote:

As a member of the SEIU 503 Board of Directors it was not a decision that was reached lightly to ask the members to vote on changing our unions Corporate Status. Nor was it taken lightly to recommend to the members that they vote yes on this change. But when weighing all of the facts it is clear that this the right choice and it is the only responsible choice to make.

Our union was founded in 1945 as the Oregon Public Employees Association and incorporated as a mutual benefit association. Since that time both our union and that statute have seen many changes. But our corporate status has never been changed to reflect the changes in our union as we became a full fledged union in the 70's and expanded to include home care and other private sector members. This has since become problematic for many reasons.

One of the most pronounced is that under the mutual benefit association statute we are required to give a copy of the private contact information for every member of the association to any other member who asks for it. Even if we know that member intends to hand that information over to other organizations actively working against our union. To be clear this goes beyond members exercising their right to debate issues or disagree with the direction or leadership of our union. This is handing over the private information of every single member of our union to organizations who seek to dismantle our union, our right to collectively bargain, and our right to organize. This is also an issue of safety for some of our members whose jobs put them at increased risk of retaliation from individuals they have interacted with in the course of their official duties.

The other issue is that the way we are incorporated also limits the Democratic control our members have over their union. The courts have ruled that in instances where our By-Laws or Administrative Policies and Procedures, which are written debated and passed by our members at general council, then the statute we are incorporated under supersedes our what our members have decided. By voting no on changing our corporate status it is not preserving our members democratic rights. It is continuing to limit their power. And to address concerns from members about the ability to organize and contact other members about issues, this change will do nothing to effect that. Our union already has communications guidelines passed by the general council to allow for members to contact other members. And if our members do chose, they can bring another resolution to general council further defining who has access to member information and by what means they do.

In conclusion I am voting yes. I am voting yes to ensure the privacy and safety of our members. I am voting yes to ensure our members, and not a statute, have the ultimate control over our union. And I am voting yes to hell defend our union and ensure our legal governance structure aligns with our governing documents. I hope you will join me as well I'm voting yes.

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