Grit NW - Built Union Strong

How Does That Work? - Union Meetings

February 10, 2021 Season 2 Episode 12
Grit NW - Built Union Strong
How Does That Work? - Union Meetings
Chapters
Grit NW - Built Union Strong
How Does That Work? - Union Meetings
Feb 10, 2021 Season 2 Episode 12
Transcript
Joe Cadwell:

Paul Richter, welcome to the show.

Paul Richter:

Hi, Joe. It is an honor. I'm honored to be here and an honor to talk to you Grit Northwest has has just surpassed anything I could have imagined. I'm amazed at your show, and I'm honored to be a part of it. Thank you for inviting me.

Joe Cadwell:

Well, thank you, Paul, for taking your time to be on the show. I really appreciate that. It's been a lot of fun, for sure. And I'm hoping to continue to provide some good content for our listeners for years to come. But as you know, Paul, I've asked you on to talk to the listeners about union meetings, and the importance of understanding how union meetings work. So where would we like to begin our conversation today, Paul?

Paul Richter:

You know, number one, what is the union meeting, Union meeting is the family dinner is where everybody gathers. To find out how everybody else is doing, and what direction you are headed in. That's what the union meeting is. We are a group of like minded people who joined the union, for whatever our personal reasons. And we have one thing in common, regardless of everything else in our lives, and that is that we are union carpenters. And once a month, we come together to talk about what we're doing, where we've been, where we're going, and how we're going to get there. The leadership of a local union relies on the members to tell the leadership, where to go and what to do. Our union is run by the members. And I think our members sometimes forget that. But your meeting is for you to tell your leadership, what you want done, and how you want it done. Every local union is required by the Constitution to have a meeting once a month, in a specific place at a specific time. That meeting must be that time date must be published. And the reason for that is the international wants all members to know where their meeting is when it is so that they can be there and be a part of it.

Joe Cadwell:

I never actually thought about a union meeting being like a family dinner. And that kind of explains it to me a little bit or puts it in context as to why when I first started going to Union meetings, I always felt like an awkward teenager. I didn't. I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know what to say I didn't know when to say anything. It just felt sort of out of place. So that kind of makes sense for people who walk into their union meeting or walk into their locals meeting for the first time it can kind of feel like an awkward experience for them. And why do you think that is Paul?

Paul Richter:

I think the local union buildings themselves are sometimes intimidating. And I think for new people into a union, there are a lot of traditions that seem intimidating. But those traditions serve two purposes one. over decades and decades, we have learned we union members have learned how to be as efficient as possible to get the business done. And that's part of our traditions. Also, we take pride in who we are and what we do. And that is part of our traditions. And I think that new members coming in who don't understand those traditions haven't witnessed them before, feel a little bit intimidated. And I would encourage every new member walking into a union meeting to introduce themselves. Now at our local we have a signing table, you can't come in the door unless you sign in at that table. And that is where our conductor and or Warden are seated, asking for your signature looking at your card. And they are happy and delighted with new members. That's a perfect place for a new member to start. Hi, I just joined I'm an apprentice. I was told I had to come to this meeting. Well good. sign these papers and we're gonna have you come up in front of the whole room later on. And we're going to have you read this obligation. Whether you ever stand in front of a room and raise your right hand and say it out loud or not. You are legally bound to keep that obligation. As long as you pay dues and work on a union job site. The words that are in that obligation are your contract.

Joe Cadwell:

And right there, Paul I appreciate that explanation. But right there, I picked up on so many key words that I think could really intimidate a lot of people to even come to a meeting when we talk about wardens and conductors and legally binding contracts and obligations. Man, it is no wonder to me that so many people want to stay away from a union meeting. And it's like, you know, you got to get frisked before, you know, sitting down at the family dinner. And that's not the case. I mean, it really when you get past all the pomp and circumstance and the pretense, it truly is a place that is very inviting, and one that is meant to be able to allow members to share information and feel part of a union are part of something greater than themselves. And but yeah, some of the terms the terminology, the vernacular that we use the Robert's Rules of Order, I can see that it is a bit intimidating for folks right off the bat. So how is a union meeting structured? You talked about traditions, once we get checked in? At the front door? What's the first thing that typically happens?

Paul Richter:

Oh, well, first, let me have just a moment, Joe to say. I talk a lot about the Constitution. And I use a lot of the words from the constitution because I absolutely love it. I love knowing what the rules to the game are. And for me, that's my focus. But the union meeting, I don't want anyone to feel intimidated. Every union meeting that I've ever attended, and I've attended out of town meetings. When I've worked out of town, I've gone to the local union meetings. And I've always been welcomed. Because I have one thing in common with every single person there. I'm a union carpenter. And we are a brotherhood. If you are a union carpenter, you are welcome at any Hall anywhere in this country. And union, carpenters recognize each other, we respect each other, and we love meeting each other. So you are welcome. Everyone is welcome. And I think to it, there's a camaraderie. It's like a huge party in some ways until we get to the business. It is like a huge party. It's a way to gather together with like interests. And people get excited to gather together, it's like having a getting together at lunch on the job site. That's, that's a moment to share and to say, Hey, what do you do? What do you do when you're not working? And where are you working? And are you working? And are you looking for work? That's a biggie with meetings to quite a few of us get our jobs from going to meetings. Where's everyone working? what jobs are you on? It's where we get a chance to see people that we worked with years ago that we haven't worked with for two or three years, all of a sudden, as I remember that guy? That's that? Yeah. Well, boy, we had a great time working on that together. So there's a lot of camaraderie and friendship and gathering that comes with the union meeting, too. And if I gave the impression that it's all business, I do apologize to the listeners.

Joe Cadwell:

No worries. I I agree. Ever since I became the Council President a few years ago, and I've had the ability to drop in on different local meetings. I I can agree that each one has their own sort of flavor and vibe that goes on and and yeah, it's some are quite quite festive. One of my favorite locals to drop in on the local one for six. This is all prior to COVID, mind you. But yeah, the 146 really did have a very, very inviting very fun and family environment associated with it. So getting back to the question, though, I walk into the meeting, I get checked in and I know that one of the first things that we like to do is go over the the minutes of the prior meeting, and what can you tell us about minutes from a prior meeting,

Paul Richter:

Every meeting minutes are taken by the recording secretary. The minutes reflect the people that were there, what they discussed, and the decisions that were made at that meeting. The decisions that were made are the motions. And at a monthly meeting, the motions that are made, cannot take effect until the following meeting where the members get to approve the minutes. When you approve the minutes. You're approving those decisions for a second time. In the minutes are the decisions that were made before. And you are going to vote on those minutes. Again so that you get as a member you're voting on those decisions made twice now the election decorative Committee, which is made up of the officers of the local president, vice president, Warden, conductor, treasurer, financial secretary and trustees. They are the officers of the local, they will meet once a month separate from the members. And the purpose for that is to get into the details of some of the operation of the local minute details that most of the members don't want to spend time dealing with. The Executive Committee will go through those details and make decisions that will be in the minutes of their meeting. And it's important for the members to read the minutes of the executive committee look at those decisions. And the officers during the meeting will ask here is the executive committee minutes. What is your pleasure? Well, we want to discuss item 32. Or we want to discuss the fact that you're going to buy a new maintenance contract for our website. Why are we spending that money? Okay, we will pull that out and we will discuss it. Now we approve the minutes later on in the meeting under old business. Whatever was questioned about the minutes, whatever a member looked at the minutes and said I don't understand why are we Why are we having another giveaway for swag certificates? What is a swag certificate? I'm not sure I approved that. I'm not sure I agree with that, under old business that will be pulled out and discussed as emotion. Now if the members agree, they will they will vote on it again. And they will agree or disagree with that decision. With that motion. My Local recently asked for the executive committee to upgrade our maintenance contract on our website by a couple $100 a month when our members met, they pulled that out of the minutes and said why are we doing that? We we don't need to do that we have a committee that does our website, we were able to explain to the members, yes, but we have to have professionals do that for us. And the professionals under the old contract were paid for hours a month. But our website is changing every single week because we keep adding to it, they need more money. So we're adding a couple $100 more to it. As soon as the members got the full details and the explanation. They were all in favor of it. And under old business, they made a motion to approve that decision. Everything that a local does everything an officer does must be approved by the members. And quite frankly, Joe that was one of the things that scared me the most during our COVID pandemic last year was that our executive committee had to keep the local functioning, we had to keep making decisions. But we had no way for our members to approve those decisions. And that brought us to our our zoom webinar meetings that our local is having now it gives our members a chance to look at the meeting meeting minutes to talk to the officers back and forth to raise their literally raise their hand and question what their officers are doing. And then vote on the minutes and vote on the decisions made by our officers. As an officer and I've been an officer and a local for over 20 years now. I realized that my responsibility is just to do what the members say. It's very important for me to know what the members want. And to know that I'm not out there working alone. It's why I joined the union. I don't like working alone. I like working part of a team. And I like knowing that my brothers and sisters have my back. Well, that's what the members do at a meeting. When they come to a meeting and they approve the minutes. They are saying yes we agree with you, officers and we have your back.

Joe Cadwell:

So Paul, when these decisions need to be made and the members actually do have a chance to vote on an item, how is that done?

Paul Richter:

It's done by a motion and a member will make a motion the another member will second the motion And the President will allow the room to discuss the motion to express their opinions, then the President will call for a vote, all in favor all against and majority rules. And that's how the motion has been made, that will be then recorded in the minutes.

Joe Cadwell:

And those minutes will then be reviewed the following month at the next meeting by the members?

Paul Richter:

Absolutely, absolutely. Because every decision made by the union needs to be approved by the members, and in most cases, approved twice.

Joe Cadwell:

So moving past the approving of the previous meetings, minutes, what else happens at a local meeting?

Paul Richter:

Well, you have a roll call of your officers, which gives everybody an opportunity to know who those officers are. And you will see a lot of your officers up in the front of the room, but you don't always see your delegates. Who are the delegates? Well, that's a whole nother long topic that I'd love to get into, because I'm fascinated by it. But they are also the leaders of your local, they have a lot of information. And they are important people to know, because they're important people to ask questions of by doing the roll call, they stand up, and you get to see who they are. And you can question them after the meeting or take them outside and talk to them during the meeting. We have communications and bills. Now that's very important. What letters communications letters, emails have come into the local, from the International from the Regional Council, from outside sources? And what kind of response does the local has the local sent back? The members get to hear all that? What are the bills, how many bills and what bills did the local pay, some locals will read those off item by item, some locals will publish them. And members can look at them and question anything they see there. We have reports of accidents, sickness and death. Now we are a group we are a tight knit group we are union, we want to hear about our brothers and sisters that are in trouble. Maybe one of our members got hurt on a job. We want to hear about that. We want to hear about that. Because we want to support that member. And also because we want to learn from that accident. How do we not do that ourselves and death? Well, death is part of life. We want to know what members we've lost. And we want to be able to mourn those members. So that's an important part of our meeting. The reports of officers, delegates and committees. Throughout the month, committees have met and discussed in detail and depth for hours, topics and decisions that might be made or need to be made. That will come out during the committee reports. They will talk about what they've been doing what they think the union needs to be doing, what direction the local should go. Some of those committees will then make recommendations. Now this is kind of an important part, a committee makes a recommendation will is that a motion? Not until the president calls for it, then it becomes up to the local up to the members. Do we want to do that? Yes or no? Let's make a motion to support that committee's recommendation. And then the members will decide. And the committee will have during the discussions and back and forth. But it's those committees reports that allow the members to know what's happening within the local. They don't have to hear all the details. They don't want to. But they do want to hear that somebody is working on certain topics.

Joe Cadwell:

So it definitely sounds like union meetings are a great place to go to keep yourself informed about the state of the union, about the different committees as you talked about and the decisions that they have proposed to be voted on. And a lot of business takes place. And for members that don't go to a meeting, do they have a chance to voice their opinion, or have a say in the outcome of these decisions?

Paul Richter:

Well, if you are not at the meeting, you're not there to vote on these decisions. So I guess the short answer is no. If you do not attend your meetings, you're not part of making the decisions. When I was an apprentice, and I first joined the union, it was very important to me to go to my local union because at that time, I looked at how much I paid in dues and said this is my money. Money. I want to know who's spending it and how they're spending it. And I went to my local with that attitude, hey, is my money, how's it being spent at those local meetings is where I found out how the money's being spent. And I got to have a say in how it's bad. The other point of the meeting is the is any member out of work? in the constitution on page 95, is an outline of the order of business. And it details every single line of business that must be done at a local meeting in the order that it happens. Well, one of the items on that list is any member out of work. That's where our representatives will get up and give a report and talk about these are the jobs right here by us? These are the jobs coming up. These are the jobs that are looking for workers. And quite often, if you're out of work, come see me after the meeting, I got a place for you. If members have been perhaps right next to your house, a building is being built and you're wondering is that union I walked over and tried to talk to some guys, but you know, hey, I'm a carpenter. I was a little nervous. I wasn't all that comfortable walking on that jobsite talking to people. So I'm going to go to my union meeting and find out. Hey, while you're giving your report, what about this building next door to my house? And the representatives will tell you all about that building all about that construction? Yeah, they they're not. They're very comfortable walking on that job site, saying, Are you union. And they'll give you the details about that. They'll, quite often our staff, we'll get information from the members, because they, they're there, people just like us, they can't drive everywhere all the time. So it's up to us members to be driving around in our normal lives in question, construction sites that are coming up, bring that to our reps, and our reps will go get the details. If it's not union, maybe we'll try and make it union, if it is union, and we're going to try and get our local folks working on it.

Joe Cadwell:

So Paul, what's the purpose of good at the order?

Paul Richter:

Now good as the order is some folks favorite part of the meeting. That's where every member of the family gets to get up and and say whatever they like, say their opinions say they're happy to share the joy. Or share the sadness. We have both were members were people and we have good things in our lives. And we have not so good things go to the orders where we get to share that is where we as members get to get up and say, Hey, I just want everyone here to know that I passed my final apprenticeship hurdle. I am as of today, a journeyman carpenter, and everybody in that room gets to share the joy of that. That's an accomplishment. And as a as a group, we want to share that accomplishment. Or maybe a member gets to get up and say, Hey, you know, I just bought a new truck. And I'm going to get rid of my old truck. If there is an apprentice here, I can make you a heck of a deal. So see me after the meeting. Maybe someone wants to, to talk about a wonderful idea that they have. But it's not something they want to make as a motion because they're not really sure about it. So under good of the order, they'll get up and say, Hey, you know, I have this really wonderful idea, and I'm not sure what to do with it. Maybe some of you guys can talk to me after the meeting, and we can put something together. Good. The order is an opportunity for every member in the room to express what's happening for them right now. And because we're a talkative group, go to the order always has time limits, typically two minutes, three minutes, and also a time limit for the meeting itself. Because we're carpenters. We love to talk we'd go on forever. But go to the order is that opportunity to get up and mention anything that is member related, Carpenter related, local related. If it's happening in your life, it's related to all of us, and we'd love to hear it.

Joe Cadwell:

The President has a kind of a significant role to oversee these meetings. And how does the President or for that matter? How does he board members and even the delegates How do they get into those positions,

Paul Richter:

all of those positions are elected by the members. Members will vote for their officers. presidents job is to run the meeting. The President's job is to keep the meeting moving smoothly and quickly. No one wants to go to a meeting at six o'clock during the week, and be there until midnight when they have to be at work at 6am. So we have to do the business, we want to do the business, we want to gather we want to get together and shake hands. But we also want to get out of there early enough to be able to go home and get a good night's sleep before work the next day. So it's the President's job to make that meeting, move along. But also give everyone the opportunity to speak their mind. It's a tough job being president, it's not an easy task, which is partly why President has a vice president, right beside them, working with them to keep that meeting moving to keep the efficiency going into backup The President, as the meeting progresses, the other officers each have a specific task, mostly built around protecting the members interests.

Joe Cadwell:

Again, these roles are voted in by the members that actually show up to the meeting. So that again, is it seems so clear, and important that you really want to make sure you attend these meetings so that you see the people that are representing everyone's best interest fulfilling those roles. And it just seems like a really solid way to go about business. Paul, if a member someone's listening right now, maybe they've only been to one meeting, or maybe they've never been to a meeting before what are say two of the two or three of the top things that this person could do to prepare themselves or get ready to attend their first meeting,

Unknown:

The first thing I would say is get a copy of the Constitution. And read the rolls on read the officers who they are, what they do. And at the very back of the Constitution, on page 90 is the rules. Those are some of the rules, Robert's Rules of Order that the locals use most often read through that that will help you understand some of the terminology and some of the things you see happening at your local meeting. And then, most importantly, check in with the folks you're working with, check in with some of the guys that got you into the union and talk to them about the meeting. And where you get a copy of your minutes. Where Where can you see your minutes, you can always every member can contact their local, and asked for a copy of their minutes to be mailed to them. Nowadays, it can be emailed to you. A lot of members don't realize that. But if you call your local and request a copy of your minutes, they're obligated to get a copy of the minutes to you. You most a lot of locals have it on their website, we do we have our minutes on our website so our members can get it there. If you go to your local few can physically go to the building, you can look at the minutes reading the minutes, lets you know what was decided on last month, and you get to voice your opinion on it this month.

Joe Cadwell:

So to surmise, the first thing I'd have to say is make sure you go to your meeting. The second thing would be to be familiar with the Constitution, maybe understand a little bit more about Robert's Rules. And I would like to add, try to go with a friend try to go with someone who you trust that has been to meetings before they can kind of help you through the process and getting you comfortable and familiar with how the business is conducted. And before you know it, you're just going to be in the swing of things. Paul, this has been a really great conversation. I appreciate you taking your time. And I'd love to thought of having you back in the future to talk more in depth on Robert's Rules of Order, and for sure the different roles and responsibilities of all our elected delegates. Thank you again so much for being on the show.

Paul Richter:

Thank you, Joe. This has been a pleasure and an honor and I really appreciate what you're doing with this. I am grateful as a union member to your efforts and I thank you I thank you for inviting me and I thank you for keeping up this good work.