Against proposal for delegate democracy at IWW general assemblies

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woundedhobo
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Oct 23 2008 00:24
Against proposal for delegate democracy at IWW general assemblies

"The much-debated proposal to change the General Assembly into a Delegate
Convention was amended and sent to referendum, with two-thirds of the votes and
proxy ballots in favour. If approved by the members, this proposal would allow
the Delegate Convention to make union policy, if it is sustained by a referendum
vote. Currently, the General Assembly cannot make policy decisions; it can only
endorse a proposal and send it to referendum. The convention would be made up of
elected delegates elected by each chartered branch. Individual members who
attended the convention would be able to speak but not vote on motions.
Currently, any IWW member in good standing who has the means to attend Assembly
has vote and voice
."
http://www.ainfos.ca/en/ainfos21547.html

I am not against delegate democracy in all cases. But for a global union that wants to be democratic it does not make any sense. If this proposal is enacted the de facto outcome will be general membership branches in remote, poor areas of the world will not be able to participate in this process because they will not be able to afford to send a delegate to the assembly.

Also, what are the details? If a general membership branch votes 55-45 yes on a proposal (presumably the language of the proposal is concrete and not subject to change radically at the assembly) then the 45% is totally disenfranchised in that group even if they can afford to put someone on a plane. Folks in the United States, you know all about this. I am from Kansas-a very conservative state/province in the USA. As you know, this countrydoes not elect president by popular vote. Rather almost every state votes as a block based on what the majority in that state wants the president to be. Since 70% of Kansas is socially conservative and right-wing, why should the 30% left liberals and others even participate, even if they do believe in electing leaders?

I hope this proposal is shot down. One member, one vote is the way to go.

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robot
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Oct 23 2008 04:24

Reading the report at A-INFOS I hope, that the BIROC membership numbers aren't as exagerated as those of the GLAMROC. Since the GLAMROC lost it's only small group in a workplace earlier this year (a group of three work council members) it has not a single branch on the job floor. There activity is mainly writing for newspapers.

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madashell
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Oct 23 2008 09:41
woundedhobo wrote:
I am not against delegate democracy in all cases. But for a global union that wants to be democratic it does not make any sense. If this proposal is enacted the de facto outcome will be general membership branches in remote, poor areas of the world will not be able to participate in this process because they will not be able to afford to send a delegate to the assembly.

Surely that would be the case even if you didn't have a delegate system?

A delegate system does not necessarily mean one delgate=one vote, for instance, within the AF, delegates can take the votes of the other members of their group to an NDM (including those of a minority of the group). If anything this is more democratic, it allows those members who can't make the meeting to have a voice and a vote. Of course, there isn't so much detail in that report, I'm just suggesting that delegate democracy doesn't necessarily mean what you seem to think it does.

Also, it appears that a propsal would still need to win a referendum in order to become union policy anyway.

syndicalist
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Oct 23 2008 13:09

Question: A delegate ystem would be for Branches, etc. What about the large numbers of Wobs who are not affiliated to any Branch? They simply sit on their hands? I would suspect that probably 30% of the Wobs in the US are "footloose".

woundedhobo
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Oct 23 2008 13:52
Quote:
Also, it appears that a propsal would still need to win a referendum in order to become union policy anyway.

That is the way it is now as far as I know. This proposal would make it so that referendum is not needed.

Yes, most people cannot afford to go to a General assembly even if it is in their own country. But at least they can vote no or yes on whatever the assembly puts on the postal mail in ballot. And I believe measures can be put on the ballot if a general membership branch or some other local group has enough signatures, even if they cannot send someone to the assembly to hand deliver the petition.

And, this is another big point. Some well-intentioned people are in the habit of exaggerating, especially when they are passionate about whatever cause they are speaking of. For example, look at what Laure said about Workers Initiative in Poland..... So would there be a mechanism to verify that the delegate is being honest when he says that his membership branch of 1007 Mineworkers in Sierra Leone voted yes on the proposal and 23 voted no? In the late 1990s a IWW labor activist claimed that he had signed up thousands of workers in his country into the IWW. Then there was a civil war and he disappeared. But no one could verify that in fact the IWW was big time there.

In general, I think a delegate system would be a good thing on the county/district level where every subset can send a delegate, and especially in cases where they cannot afford electronic voting or paper ballot voting.
Also, the elected delegate needs to go with specific instructions on how to vote. If the question being voted on changes radically at the assembly then the local memberships instructions become meaningless, and a hierarchy is born.

ftony
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Oct 24 2008 10:35
syndicalist wrote:
Question: A delegate ystem would be for Branches, etc. What about the large numbers of Wobs who are not affiliated to any Branch? They simply sit on their hands? I would suspect that probably 30% of the Wobs in the US are "footloose".

under the proposals these members would be allowed to temporarily affiliate to their nearest branch. it's not ideal, but they still get the referendum like they always did anyway, so conditions of participation for them will not worsen because of the changes, and will be marginally better.

akai
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Oct 24 2008 10:42

A few comments:

If you have both individual members and branches, then one person, one vote in a referendum makes sense.

Has there been any concrete proposal of how to deal with this when moving to the system you described? If so, I'd be in intested in what that was.

In terms of money and going to meetings: obviously this is a problem everywhere. It's not only individual but a regional problem and the answer is that you have to create a fund to help people who come from poor regions to participate. It's so fuckin obvious.

In terms of people "representing" others, there are several considerations and options. Obviously the thing to avoid is allowing delegates, representatives or individuals to make decisions without the consent and concrete instructions of the group. Encouraging a democratic culture in general can help this out. There are obviously many methods: the membership lists should be available to view in some closed data base, with contacts to people; all issues should be openly discussed as much as possible before the voting period using as many means as needed (not only internet but maybe mailings, meetings); when possible, statements on decisions made should be sent in writing (these can be confirmed); if anythings are discussed by delegates and amendments to the original idea are made, it should go for referendum, etc. etc.

The big thing is just not to allow delegates to all go with open mandates and make decisions. I would also say that any ratifying process should be through a referendum.

How to check if people really have the vote of others, etc? This becomes more difficult with size and distance of course, but ultimately it's also a matter of the democratic culture. Simply put, if somebody says that they have 100 people in the branch, you should be able to see their names and contacts, be able to randomly verify and, hopefully, see some evidence of their activity. In unions where people are passive members, this may be harder, but people should be able to see a disonance. Of course there will probably always be a few people a little on the sidelines but still members, but radical exaggerations should be seen. And if they are on the other side of the globe and you're not sure, you just have to go and check it out. And not be naive.

ftony
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Oct 24 2008 10:52
woundedhobo wrote:
I am not against delegate democracy in all cases. But for a global union that wants to be democratic it does not make any sense. If this proposal is enacted the de facto outcome will be general membership branches in remote, poor areas of the world will not be able to participate in this process because they will not be able to afford to send a delegate to the assembly.

branches that can't afford to send delegates can ask another branch to carry their opinions and votes.

Quote:
Also, what are the details? If a general membership branch votes 55-45 yes on a proposal (presumably the language of the proposal is concrete and not subject to change radically at the assembly) then the 45% is totally disenfranchised in that group even if they can afford to put someone on a plane.

no. it is up to the branch to decide how to work out how it relates to the convention, on issues like
a) deciding on their 'stance' on issues
b) deciding how this decision is made (consensus? voting? etc)
and c) deciding the extent and force of their mandate

so if a branch is split like you say, and it is entitled to two delegates, then it could feasibly decide to send one delegate to represent the 'pro' group and one delegate to represent the 'anti' group, if they so wish. they could also mandate their delegate(s) to read/distribute minority reports or some other way to do things. so the branch has a lot of flexibility as to how it uses its delegates, tailored according to the local conditions of the branch, like in your example.

Quote:
One member, one vote is the way to go.

but it is still in place. the referendum is still there, which is based on each individual member having the final say. end of story.

basically, the delegate convention proposal simply stops the current GA from being a talking shop for a small elite group of member-activists who have the time and money to attend and therefore significnatly influence the policies and structures of the union. the convention proposal is designed to ensure that there is maximum power resting with the grassroots members. it will also help ensure that proposals are discussed seriously and responsibly at branch level, rather than individuals making up their own minds without this serious debate and turning a union into a rabble of individual self-interests. what's more (in my geographer's hat), it signifiantly reduces the bias towards memebrs in the locality of where the convention is being held. under the GA arrangements we have now, the local branch could pack the hall to the rafters and outweigh the opinions of potentially far larger and better organised branches elsewhere.

sure, it might not be perfect, but it is a hell of a lot better than the rag-tag free-for-all that we have currently.

in other words, convention = win

ftony
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Oct 24 2008 10:56

laureakai, these are sensible comments - i'll respond on just a couple...

laureakai wrote:
Has there been any concrete proposal of how to deal with this when moving to the system you described? If so, I'd be in intested in what that was.

[...]

The big thing is just not to allow delegates to all go with open mandates and make decisions. I would also say that any ratifying process should be through a referendum.

the proposal includes precisely this. the ratification of the proposals made at a convention would all rest in a referendum of the whole membership.

Quote:
How to check if people really have the vote of others, etc? This becomes more difficult with size and distance of course, but ultimately it's also a matter of the democratic culture. Simply put, if somebody says that they have 100 people in the branch, you should be able to see their names and contacts, be able to randomly verify and, hopefully, see some evidence of their activity. In unions where people are passive members, this may be harder, but people should be able to see a disonance. Of course there will probably always be a few people a little on the sidelines but still members, but radical exaggerations should be seen. And if they are on the other side of the globe and you're not sure, you just have to go and check it out. And not be naive.

yes, there are fairly detailed records held at the IWW HQ that would be able to confirm or deny claims over membership, activity and so on.

john
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Joined: 9-07-06
Oct 24 2008 11:33
woundedhobo wrote:
If this proposal is enacted the de facto outcome will be general membership branches in remote, poor areas of the world will not be able to participate in this process because they will not be able to afford to send a delegate to the assembly.

it is slightly ironic that this seems to be the main objection.

obviously the delegate proposal will help resolve this problem, not make it worse

woundedhobo
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Joined: 16-02-04
Oct 24 2008 14:42

okay, I reread the proposal and it sounds like the only change is that only elected delegates would have the ability to vote on putting issues to referendum. Non-elected attendee members would not have a vote.

and if the general assembly cannot change a proposal submitted by a group, it can only vote up or down on putting closed mandates to a referendum ,then that sounds like it would shift power away from the host country and to the general membership.

hopefully there can be a lot of electronic discussion across branches so that a group can submit fixed proposals that are popular and not waste people's time at the convention and during the union wide voting process.

does someone have the original language that will appear on mail-in ballots?

ftony
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Oct 27 2008 09:54
woundedhobo wrote:
does someone have the original language that will appear on mail-in ballots?

i believe it'll be in the GOB that either was just mailed last week or is about to be mailed this week... don't have the actual wording myself, i'm afraid.