CONCERNED MEMBERS UNITED
"Democracy may be messy, but is worth the work."
Statement by Cynthia Schendel, President of KS Chapter
Prepared for April 8, 2016 membership meeting before it was cancelled by National.
My name is Cynthia Schendel. I am a Clinical Social Worker currently serving as President of the KS chapter. I became a Social Worker because Social Work values were closely aligned with my own. Values like the inherent worth of all people, the right of self determination, the importance of supporting the weakest voices to insure they are heard. In seeking change, Social Workers learn to meet clients where they are and engage them in the process, helping them to define the change they want and then to take the steps necessary to achieve it. We are change agents, and we know as Social Workers that forcing change on others is rarely effective. We believe in democracy, allowing the members of any group to consider the goals and governance of the group individually, express their opinions by voting, and then implementing the change. Unfortunately, that is not at all how the Modernization plan was created and advanced to the point it is now, despite claims to the contrary. While there is much in the Mod plan that I could support on its face, I cannot support the manner in which it has been forced upon us without the members having a voice. We should not have had to petition for this meeting, it should have been the starting point for the whole process.
To review, a column in the NASW NEWS date reported that Mod plan changes were recommended by an outside consultant as far back as 2001. However, elected state leadership was not informed that sweeping organizational changes were being considered until the fall of 2014, when we were presented with a fully developed Modernization plan and instructed not to share it with the membership because it would be likely to change before finalized. Just prior to informing us of this, National had worked hard to get us to vote the Delegate Assembly out of existence at its August meeting. Fortunately that didn't happen, because that body is the representative, democratically elected body that should consider any plan to overhaul the entire governance structure of our Association and I am requesting that the march towards implementation of this plan be halted until it can be duly and lawfully considered. Should the Delegate Assembly approve the plan, I will most certainly support its advancement even though I do not personally agree with all of its provisions.
I know that National heard the great outcry of protest by the elected leadership when they announced the Mod plan, because they agreed to our request that the entire focus of last year's ALM be on the plan. I wish that you all could have been there to see the reams of excellent ideas that large group of accomplished Social Workers generated. We solve problems all day long, and we came up with many alternatives to the various provisions in the plan. If that had happened in the beginning there would have been a much more robust plan that we all could have embraced. Instead, a 6 week study of the plan was quickly launched which included only one President and one ED, after which the Board voted in June to adopt the plan with very little change. For example, having a choice about what we call our state boards is window dressing next to the fact that they are being stripped of their power. Not having control over who our ED is, or whether we share one, matters way more than having the option to single or double slate elections. The shrinking of the National Board to only 15 means that only 5 people – a majority of the quorum of 8 – will have the power to make decisions affecting the entire Association. There is not one single elected state leader on any of the implementation committees; we were not given the opportunity to volunteer. That is not representative government, that is a power grab.
Democracy is messy, it's slow, it's aggravating. Making sure all voices are heard and everyone is given enough information to make an informed decision is a hassle. But it's who we have always been as Social Workers. Several of my colleagues are Marriage and Family Therapists and their National Association has also looked at Modernization. However, they sent out extensive information about their plan to the entire membership and then they all voted. It's a sad day when a newer profession without the extensive history Social Work has in supporting equality and democracy, conducts their Association in greater alignment with our historical values than we do. Please join me in calling for a pause in implementation until the Delegate Assembly can appropriately consider and vote on the Modernization Plan.