During today’s assembly meeting, it became clear that PASSHE coaches, who are part of our bargaining unit, aren’t able to vote in this year’s statewide officer elections because this weekend is the peak of their recruiting season.
Coaches have been in the bargaining unit for two contracts now (I think). I don’t know a whole lot about how those negotiations have gone. What I do know is that each delegation to the assembly is allotted coach delegates proportionally, just like we’re allotted faculty delegates. It’s rare that coach delegates attend, which is an issue we need to fix.
The debate today, introduced as a social justice issue by our delegate and chair of the statewide Social Justice Committee, Lisa Millhous, should have focused on ways to make sure coaches are involved in elections; that was Lisa’s goal. Instead, unsurprisingly but appalling nonetheless, our parliamentarian found any number of ways to ensure that coaches can’t vote. I realize he’s doing his job, interpreting the rules and bylaws as best he can, but the tenor of the conversation clearly established that the assembly isn’t interested in rethinking our process to be as inclusive as possible.
I could have lived with the parliamentarian being stuck in the mud had it not been for the argument made by another delegate (who I won’t name–if you were there you know who I’m talking about). Her claim is that it’s the coaches’ fault they hadn’t worked out a way to be represented; everybody knows when the vote is, and if they wanted to vote they could have been here. And she’s right, technically; they probably could have worked out a way to be represented.
However, this argument misses the point. We’re a union. Yes, unions work better when members participate. In this case, a slight bending of the rules could have made a powerful statement of goodwill: “You’re part of our organization, and we need to know what you think.” If the leadership is frustrated by coaches’ lack of participation, telling them they can’t vote isn’t going to solve that. We missed a golden opportunity to mobilize a substantial segment of our membership with a simple gesture.
I believe we could have engaged the substantive issues I’m raising here had we not spent an hour arguing about the procedures. The delegates, including myself, got really annoyed by the lengthy delays as the parliamentarian and rules/bylaws chair discussed the situation, letting those rules dictate the discussion instead of the issue.
If I weren’t a pacifist, I’d be first in line to take Robert (and his rules) out to the woodshed and whip the bastard.