(This article appears in the July/August 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
Clint Burelson, Clerk Division Director
The upcoming APWU convention in Chicago will be an exciting opportunity to engage in hands-on democracy. Elected delegates from every local and state organization will gather together to make important decisions about the future of the Postal Service, our union, and therefore, the labor movement as a whole.
What we decide in Chicago matters.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to be a delegate from the Northwest Region. Like most locals and state organizations, our locals empowered delegates to vote as they see fit.
Occasionally there were suggestions that the interests of the local or region would be best served by voting as a bloc, but in the end, we usually decided that there is a long-term value for the union as a whole if all delegates have the power to vote their conscience. The more delegates that vote freely, the more likely the results will reflect the will of the majority of members.
Delegates have a responsibility to learn about and carefully consider the many facets of the issues they vote on. Over time, delegates have the opportunity to become experienced voters who know how to interpret information. A conscientious delegate commits himself or herself to listen carefully to new ideas and always considers the greatest good of the whole.
Another important element of our democratic union is respect for our sisters and brothers. The democratic rules of discussion are designed to respect each person’s views even if others disagree. The larger locals often get more practice in Roberts Rules of Order, which are the default rules for conducting democratic meetings, and are often a great help at conventions in making sure democratic rules are followed.
It is important to recognize that unions such as the APWU are among the few places where people engage in democratic decision-making – and we are better citizens for it.
Room for Improvement
Nevertheless, there is still plenty of opportunity to make our great union even more democratic and therefore stronger. For example, Robert’s Rules of Order recommends the preferential voting method for the election of officers conducted by mail because, “It makes possible a more representative result than under a rule that a plurality shall elect.”
This voting method, more commonly known as Instant Runoff Voting, prevents the possible adverse effects of a third candidate in a given race. It offers several benefits:
- No fear of “wasting” a vote on a likely loser.
- No vote spoils an election.
- All winners are elected with a majority.
- Voting focuses on the issues.
- Voters can vote for the candidates they like, without helping elect the candidates they don’t.
Many important issues are confronting us. At the National Convention, we will have the opportunity to put our brains together and make the best decisions we can for the greatest long-term good of our membership. It is an honor to be a member of a union where we consistently strive to bring out the best in each person and the group as a whole. It is exciting to be a part of a union where delegates work so hard to educate themselves fully about the issues, utilize democratic principles, and show respect toward each other and a wide variety of opinions.
I encourage all members to talk with their delegates about the issues we face. Make your concerns known and your voices heard.
There are many people working hard to make sure good information is available for postal workers and our allies. If you haven’t seen the resources listed at the end of this article or haven’t had the time to check out what’s new lately, I encourage you to do a little reading from these informative websites.
I am looking forward to an exciting and vibrant convention with my APWU brothers and sisters. What we do in Chicago in 2014 matters. It matters for all of us. It matters for the postal workers who will come behind us and it matters for the postal workers who came before us. They left us an impressive legacy, and it is our responsibility to continue it.
APWU – www.apwu.org
Save the Post Office – www.savethepostoffice.org
Roberts Rules of Order – www.robertsrules.com
Fair Voting Procedures – www.fairvote.org
Unions such as the APWU are among
the few places where people engage
in democratic decision-making –
and we are better citizens for it.