From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
November/December 2007 Edition
By Joe Twarog
Associate Director, Labor Education & Training
Regularly scheduled Union meetings are a sign of a vibrant, democratic and organized union. The union meeting has many purposes. It provides members the opportunity to regularly: meet as a group, learn about the union, exchange ideas, meet the leaders and fellow members, debate and make decisions, air gripes and argue, make proposals and have input, get updated on events, socialize, etc. Yet, the most common refrain that is heard is “no one comes.” The regularly scheduled meeting establishes that the union as an organization exists and has structure. And, as with any democracy, it allows the members to attend and participate or not to attend.
Union meetings need to be planned in advance by the officers. It is preferable to have a set agenda that allows for the free flow of information. Also, meetings need to be advertised well in advance so that members know about them, and can schedule to attend. People are less inclined to come to a gathering where they will be “preached to” with no input of their own. Formal agendas are helpful so that all in attendance are aware of what to expect.
The frequency and dates of the membership meetings are usually established and set forth in the bargaining unit’s bylaws. But, regularity indicates stability. It projects a firm and positive message about the organization. Employers often like to think that the union, if pushed hard enough, will simply go away. Regular meetings help to establish the opposite, as well as providing a regular and dependable forum for the membership. It is another indicator of permanence.
The location of union meetings is also an issue to carefully consider. There are numerous options available, all with differing pros and cons. Options include meeting at: the worksite, a nearby location (library or church hall), at the MNA Regional Council’s office, at another union’s hall, at a paid facility (hotel or conference center) and at a club (VFW, Elks, YWCA).
Finally, meetings should always be kept as positive as possible. Participation should be encouraged. The meetings must stay focused, orderly, efficient and short.
Union meeting: typical agenda
Some sample bylaw provisions from MNA bargaining units
Article VII. Meetings.
— Cambridge Hospital Professional Nurses Unit
Article VIII. Meetings.
Article VII: Meetings.
—Professional Chapter of Franklin Medical Center Registered Nurses