CONCERNED MEMBERS UNITED
Coalition of Concerned Members of NASW
NORTH CAROLINA CHAPTER PRESIDENT STATEMENT
Prepared for April 8, 2016 membership meeting before it was cancelled by National.
Spring Newsletter - May, June, July 2016
For the last two years, we on the board have been walking a fine line. We have supported our National association by engaging our National leadership in dialogues regarding plans for our association’s modernization efforts, while at the same time representing our membership’s democratic interests in their member driven association. As I reported in November, a coalition of concerned presidents expressed serious concerns regarding the modernization planning process initiated by the National Boards decision to undertake the reorganization. As a member of those coalitions, I have continued in those ongoing discussions and maintained an ongoing dialogue with our National office. While we have maintained a posture of open and sincere dialogue, it has become apparent the coalitions efforts were being seen as obstructionist rather than a genuine concern on behalf of our chapter members’ democratic rights.
In early February, Chapter offices received a communication from the National office warning that no NASW resources should be utilized to speak against the actions of the National Board’s decisions regarding modernization. National has determined that NASW resources include list-serves and websites. This memo effectively limits the Board’s ability to communicate, to you the member, what we have deemed to be relevant information in this modernization effort. We need to continue working in a way that is consistent with our code of ethics: advocating for truth, the right of self-determination, social justice and an adherence to the law.
I love being a part of NASW. I appreciate the value of this association for our profession as a whole. I have served on the NASW-NC board for 10 years. I have watched it grow and have served in good times and lean, weathering association changes and State legislated chaos. Throughout it all, I have been proud to be a member of NASW. I remain proud of the unique structure of our association. By paying one annual due, we effectively belong to two associations, one national and one local. Both associations serve unique and necessary functions. I am proud of our chapter’s ability to provide a higher level of service than other state chapters. Through board participation, I have come to understand what a feat this has been. Kathy Boyd, our Executive Director of 30 years, has grown this chapter from a shoestring budget with no staff, to 5 full-time staff addressing member’s needs. Our chapter provides mentoring internships, scholarships and awards to continue mentoring future social work leaders. We have a full time lobbyist, statewide LPU’s and the list goes on.
In fact, it can easily be said that our chapter’s most valuable benefit is our staff which enables a full time legislative watch, membership and participation in 20+ coalitions; allowing our Chapter to expand it’s relationships and impact legislative outcomes. Our staff continues to create and develop conferences and new CE opportunities. Therefore, it should not take much imagination for members to imagine my disappointment, that as I step off the board at the end of my term, I am leaving our state chapter in the midst of a dramatic reorganization of our professional association structure. These changes will impact our most valued resources: our staff. The implementation details are still being worked on, which is one of the primary concerns of the board and other concerned coalition members. Any actions that impact our ability to maintain staff in a secure employment situation will most certainly impact our ability to serve our membership. Moreover, this is only the initial change, a very small part of the larger picture still in development.
We are not now, nor have we ever been against the effort to modernize our association. Every organization needs to adapt and grow in order to stay relevant. We are in support of many changes our National office intends to implement. They are long overdue and potentially very powerful for our profession.
However, there are valid concerns by some leaders and concerned members that the National Board’s vote on modernization, may have overstepped it’s authority by making these drastic organizational changes without taking it to the Delegate Assembly. They did not provide the Delegate Assembly the ability to consider and vote on the proposed changes in dues structure via the new administrative fee, which has yet to be defined or capped. National has already proposed and solicited feedback regarding a new Charter to replace the present bylaws, which solidifies chapter functions and board functions. The National office is moving ahead with this plan despite the documented concerns. Each step becomes more difficult and costly to undo.
Concerned members have spoken out; have petitioned for a full membership meeting to allow for airing of concerns and a broader member base being involved. This was scheduled then canceled by the National office. It has not, as yet, been rescheduled. In response to member’s efforts to slow the process, the National office has restricted information sharing and made Chapter staff, under the National office the gatekeepers to any information, which may appear contrary to any National board announcements. As a board, we have no access to membership other than through chapter staff. This is not the way in which our founders envisioned our system. If your leadership is not allowed to inform and engage membership in dialogue and information sharing, how can we adequately represent the membership in matters of concern or disagreement?
Here is where it gets tricky for me. I stated before and I state again, I love our professional association and I love that we have a National and State chapter. We would not be where we are today without both. I do not want our members to waiver in their consideration of becoming or maintaining membership. We have a stronger voice when we speak as one. Speaking as one does not mean we all agree.
We are agents of change, we know the dynamics well and know the power of free and open dialogue. There is value in free and open dialogue. Growth can be uncomfortable and there will be painful moments in this process. It is in the difficult moments our true characters come through as individuals and as an association. Tough times may make it more difficult to abide by our values and ethics but they should not be discarded. It saddens me that our own professional association cannot trust the process to work, by honoring its own members with open and honest truths. As members, we need to remind them.
It does appear that modernization efforts will be initiated July 1, 2016. There are also ongoing efforts to intercede in those efforts on behalf of members to reinstitute the authorities of the Delegate Assembly. As a voting member, take time to educate yourself on this issue. For members wanting more information regarding the history of the Delegate Assembly process, its current relationship to the issue of modernization; and the ongoing efforts to slow the modernization process to allow for more meaningful member input, http://www.concernedmembersunited.com
It has been an honor to serve on this board and I am looking forward to new opportunities to give back to the profession that has so richly rewarded me.