Convention strengthens Brotherhood

Newton B. Jones, International President

Structural changes prepare us for the future

NOTHING SHAPES OUR Brotherhood more dramatically and profoundly than our consolidated conventions. This has been true throughout our long history. Our conventions bring together the ideas, innovation, and ingenuity of our members — allowing us to develop workable solutions to the challenges we face.

In this regard, I believe the 32nd Consolidated Convention this past July will serve us especially well. One achievement in particular — realigning our union into construction and industrial sectors — will strengthen the Brotherhood’s operations substantially.

This realignment had been under consideration for some time. In 2007, the International Executive Council approved the basic concept and set it in motion. As the 2011 convention approached, the IEC developed resolutions to further refine the Brotherhood’s new structure. Convention committees and caucuses debated these refinements thoroughly and overwhelmingly endorsed them. On the convention floor, the realignment received the full consideration of the delegates, who further debated its merits before approving the Law Committee’s recommendations for adoption.

In essence what the restructuring accomplishes is to put our construction and industrial members on a more equitable and sustainable footing. The Construction Sector Operations Division has become the central provider of support and services not only to the Construction Division, but also to the National Transient Division and the Quality Control Council. The Industrial Sector Operations Division plays a similar role for our members employed in non-construction industries.

The restructuring puts our construction and industrial members on a more equitable and sustainable footing.

The key to making this new structure work for everyone is a mechanism to fund the expanded training and services on the industrial sector side. Without that funding, nonconstruction members would be limited in their ability to participate in a dedicated conference that offers information-sharing, access to expert advice, training, and networking. The new assessment of $1 per member per month is a reasonable investment. Industrial sector members who had already been paying divisional dues — railroad and CLGAW members — are not affected by the additional funding requirement.

Support for the new assessment was strong although not universal. I recognize that some members feel it is a hardship. In the broader and more long-term view of things, the assessment is critical to pay for the improvements our members need and deserve.

The industrial sector conferences we have held to date have yielded positive results. In fact, several delegates explained how new information gathered at the conferences helped save members far more money than they would have paid in $1 monthly assessments.

Delegates demonstrate commitment to look after their lodges

ONE OF THE great things about our conventions is the determination and commitment delegates show in carefully reviewing each resolution and questioning how proposed changes might impact their local lodges as well as the overall operation of our Brotherhood.

An example that stands out in my mind concerned Article 5.5, Issuance of Local Lodge Charters. Resolution #63 proposed a language change that stated, “The International President will have authority to issue or revoke Local Lodge charters.” The intent of the language change was to enable the International President to issue charters in situations where there are less than 35 members (the minimum number required by the Constitution) if it appears that a very small unit has a reasonable potential to expand its numbers.

However, the word “revoke” caught the attention of a number of delegates, since Article 5.5 deals with issuing charters, not removing them. After significant debate, the Law Committee held the matter in abeyance and later introduced another resolution that struck the term “revoke,” as a number of delegates had requested. Delegates approved the new language.

It is a testament to how serious delegates take their responsibilities that the inappropriate term was identified and nullified. I congratulate all of our delegates for giving their full attention to the difficult work of reaffirming our constitution and representing their members.

Banking initiative will be a plus for Brotherhood

ALTHOUGH IT DID not occupy much time on the convention floor, the IEC’s resolution to require our local lodges to use the Brotherhood Bank & Trust “where practicable,” was nonetheless an important step for our organization, and it was encouraging to see our delegates approve the measure. As a majority owner in the bank, our union benefits when the bank prospers, as it has done reliably since it was founded in 1924.

It just makes good sense to place our funds in an institution that we ourselves have established, and one that has served us so well for so long. More widespread participation in the bank by our local lodges is a positive thing for all parties involved. The Brotherhood Bank & Trust offers online banking and other services that make it attractive to customers even if they are located far from the physical bank itself.

Our bank has continued to thrive through the years and has proven to be a safe haven not only for union funds, but also for funds deposited or invested by the general public and businesses that place their trust in it.

Displays and videos remind us of our heritage

ONE IMPORTANT REMINDER that I hope all of us take from the 32nd Consolidated Convention is that we are all part of something greater than ourselves. That concept was expertly depicted in the videos produced by the Brotherhood History Preservation Department as well as the BHPD’s extraordinary historical exhibit.

The years-long effort by our union to capture and preserve our heritage — whether it takes the form of artifacts, photos, historical narrative, or interviews — was played out in a remarkable way throughout the convention. We have come a long way in a relatively short time in our efforts to safeguard and catalogue our historical imprint over the past 131 years. It is difficult not to feel your chest swell or your throat tighten when you watch “A History of Moving Forward” or one of the other videos that was produced for the convention.

We share the same vision, the same solidarity, and the same commitment to our members that guided our forefathers throughout our history.

We are moving forward, indeed. At each convention, we write another chapter of the Brotherhood. We continue our mission of “Unity, Progress, and Protection.” We take on the challenges of our time, secure in the knowledge that as we face today’s difficulties we are connected across time to our forefathers. We share the same vision, the same solidarity, and the same commitment to our members that guided them throughout our history.

Clearly, the 32nd Consolidated Convention has strengthened our great Brotherhood — by restructuring our operations for a higher level of service and by re-connecting us with our rich and inspirational heritage.