ByLaw 2018-02 & 03 ARTICLE XII. CHAPTERS

FAIL (Y 76, N 226)

 

ARTICLE XII. CHAPTERS
Section 4. Chapter Dues

Chapters may assess reasonable dues but such dues are voluntary and optional, and do not replace national dues. Failure to pay Chapter dues may not be used to deny membership in a Chapter, or membership activities, to Full members for membership in the Chapter. A Chapter may set rules and guidelines for the waiver of Chapter dues. Dues must be structured so that no one is excluded from membership in the Chapter based on inability to pay.

 

 

Article XII, Chapters
Section 5. Not exclude Full members.

Chapters may not exclude Full members who live within their geographical area. If chapters elect to charge reasonable dues for membership this is not considered exclusionary.

 


Board does not support resolution

Board Reasoning:

Proposed 2018-02 Change proposed bylaw amendment conflicts with Article IV. Dues:

Additionally, the request of one chapter out of 140 to impose mandatory chapter dues on its members for the sake of fundraising risks an entry point for discriminatory practices, which conflicts with Article III, Section 4 of the bylaws.

Proposed 2018-03 proposed bylaw amendment conflicts with Article III, Section 4 of the by-laws which addresses potentially discriminatory practices.

Convention Vote:

Convention Video

Failed
7 Aye
40 Nay
4 Abstentions


Pros/Cons:

Pro:

Section 4 Rationale:

The proposed amendment essentially restores the language of Section 4. Chapter Dues to what it had been for many years prior to its being changed two years ago. It eliminates the language about dues being voluntary, a contradiction in terms. Dues are mandatory, donations are voluntary. It eliminates "optional" because it is redundant given that chapters may assess dues. They don't have to. The insertion of "reasonable" and the additional sentence pertaining to ability to pay are added to assure fairness and equity. Further, we maintain that chapter dues, as described here, have nothing to do with "excluding" National VFP members. (Please see related Article XII, Section 5 proposed amendment.)

The matter of chapter membership, dues and governance (election of officers) may not be important to small chapters that handle these things informally. But large chapters with many members, organizational requirements and significant fundraising obligations, such as Chapter 9, must take these matters seriously.

The membership of Chapter 9 is made up of both current and lapsed National VFP Veteran and Associate members. We also have veteran and associate members who, much as we encourage it, are not (yet) members of National VFP. Payment of annual dues is a requirement for membership in our chapter, the Smedley Butler Brigade.

We average about 85 paid up members per year, and the proceeds from dues constitute around one-third or more of our annual income depending on our success in soliciting donations. Since donations are voluntary, they are less predictable. Dues provide a floor for budgeting purposes. We are an active chapter with considerable expenses. We rely in part on Article XII, Section 9. Raise Funds. "Chapters shall have the power to raise funds as a (sic) necessary to their operations." Membership dues are a necessary component of our fundraising.

For a broader perspective this is what former VFP Board President, Barry Ladendorf, had to say in an August 21, 2016 email to the Board: " Our policy manual gives Chapters autonomous powers and authority. According to our Policy and Procedures Manual page 5. 'Chapters are the basic structural component for VFP and the foundation of the organization. All Chapters must adhere to a common set of guiding principles (our Statement of Purpose), but are authorized to operate autonomously.' (emphasis added)." In other words, any chapter that elects to assess dues as a condition of membership in the chapter has the authority to do so.

Lastly, the current Section 4 bylaw is an impediment to compliance with Section 6., Rules of Governance, which states in part that "chapters are encouraged to rely on elections for succession of officers and Chapter Directors. This section may be of little importance to small, more informal, chapters. But a large chapter such as Chapter 9 relies on its dues requirement to determine who is eligible to vote for officers and motions.

For both principled and practical reasons we believe VFP's bylaws and its Policy and Procedures Manual establish the right and the authority of chapters to assess reasonable dues, if they so choose.

Submitted by Jeff Brummer, Treasurer and
Executive Committee Member, VFP Chapter 9

Section 5 Rationale: 

The meaning and purpose of "exclusion" as it applies to VFP and its chapters needs elaboration and clarification. It's a term that has been misused by one occasional member of our chapter to sabotage our right to collect mandatory dues. (Please see our proposed amendment to Article XII, Section 4.) In another instance this same person tried, unsuccessfully, to use the term to deny our authority to expel a member from the chapter (not VFP) for cause. Our proposed amendment is an attempt to insert some clarity with respect to dues. We believe the Board as well VFP members in general should give serious consideration to further expanding the definition of what exactly constitutes exclusion.

When the bylaws were amended two years ago to prohibit chapters from charging mandatory dues it was asserted by the person referenced above that payment of National's annual dues automatically satisfies any dues requirement of a local chapter, and, therefore, mandatory dues for chapter membership are prohibited because they "exclude" those VFP members who refuse to pay. First of all, prior to two years ago, there was nothing in VFP's bylaws stating that payment of National's dues had anything to do with chapter dues. The change prohibiting mandatory dues was sold using an entirely false premise. Moreover, dues related "exclusion" is absurd on its face because chapter dues are, or should be, structured such no one is excluded from membership based on inability to pay.

Equally important is the matter of fairness and equity. When members pay National's dues they receive certain tangible benefits along with voting and other rights. That's fair – value received. What chapters provide their members by way of benefits is quite different. Along with camaraderie, organizing efforts at the local level confer power and meaning in the daily lives of chapter members. It's also where we meet prospective new members. Especially active chapters, such as ours, pour a lot of resources, financial and otherwise, into these organizing efforts. Mandatory dues help cover a significant portion of the expenses involved. It is not fair that National's bylaws deprive us of this source of income based on a tortured definition of exclusion. And in terms of equity, doing so is akin to the recent Supreme Court decision that permits freeloading by forbidding unions from collecting mandatory dues. Our members recognize the value received and do not object to paying chapter dues (except for one member). National's bylaws should not stand in the way.

Submitted by Jeff Brummer, Treasurer
and Executive Committee Member, VFP Chapter 9

 

Con: These two bylaw change go against the spirit of national membership and organizing members in chapters. A person is a member after paying national dues. Chapters can ask for dues but should not exclude a member from the chapter if they do not pay. If chapter leadership cannot convince local members that the chapter projects are worthy of additional monetary support, the local chapter should not be able to penalize members by not allowing the them to fully participate in VFP as a member.

Michael T. McPhearson Chapter 61, Saint Louis, MO

Comments:

Several years ago I chose not to pay local Chapter 9 dues – my reasons are private.  I am a multiple lifetime Full member and a past member of the Board and national Treasurer.  Yet I was prevented from being on a chapter email list and prevented from voting on motions and for officers and was told I was not a member of the chapter.  This violated Article XII, Section 5 which reads “Chapters may not exclude Full members who live within their geographical area.”  Yet I was being excluded.  Two years ago I proposed a change in Section 4 to the current language, which says that local dues are optional and voluntary and that failure to pay local dues cannot be used to deny membership or membership activities to a Full member of Veterans For Peace.  The vote to adopt this change as the current bylaw was overwhelming two years ago — 200+ to about 20.  To bring up undoing this change year after year is an abuse of the bylaw amendment process.  Yet here we are, with Chapter 9 de facto admitting that for the past two years it has violated VFP bylaws by requiring local dues for membership activities.  It makes one wonder if Chapter 9 will follow VFP bylaws if these proposed changes fail.  The rationale for Bylaw 2018-02 says that Chapter 9 encourages people to pay national dues, and yet a few members of their Executive Committee have neverpaid national dues, and hence are not even members of Veterans For Peace as defined by the Bylaws and the Board.
 
Chapter 9 again clearly wants to make local dues mandatory to take part in chapter functions like email lists, voting on motions, and voting for officers.  The rationale for the change in Section 4 makes this clear by saying “Chapter 9 relies on its dues requirement to determine who is eligible to vote for officers and motions.”  Chapter 9 receives a national roster and knows who is a Full member in their chapter, so they do not need mandatory dues to figure out who can vote.  Local dues paying people and Full members who don’t pay local dues should be eligible to vote.  Full members who choose not to pay local dues could be excluded from these activities if these bylaw changes pass.  This was part of the reason for the change two years ago.
 
The economic rationale for dues in Section 4 and Section 5 is disingenuous.  Chapter 9 has not been affected economically at all by the bylaw change two years ago.  For years people paid local dues and continue to do so.  The existing bylaw does not “deprive us of this source of income” at all.
 
I believe the intent of Section 5, passed many years ago, was to make clear to a chapter that they cannot exclude Full members in their area.  These changes could be used exclude Full members who choose, for whatever reason, not to pay local dues.  So despite the language of the proposed change to Section 5, mandating local dues for membership and activities in a chapter is exclusionary to Full members in the area.
 
I urge that Bylaw proposals 2018-02 and 2018-03 be rejected by the membership.  The convention, hearing the arguments, overwhelmingly rejected these proposed changes.
 
Nate Goldshlag
Chapter 9, Eastern MA, Former Coordinator
Former Board member and Treasurer
nateg@pobox.com
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