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Proxies & Past Precedent

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We are a union and our constitution does not mention anything regarding Porxies. We have accepted proxies for the past 10 plus years, we now have an issue with a committee who is interpreting Roberts Rules of Order as we can not use proxy voting while others believes that they are accptable because of past precedents. Who is correct? Also if we want to not accept proxies, do we need a vote by the committee with a quarum or can the chair person of that committee send out an email letting the members know that proxies will no longer be accepted?

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We are a union and our constitution does not mention anything regarding Porxies. We have accepted proxies for the past 10 plus years, we now have an issue with a committee who is interpreting Roberts Rules of Order as we can not use proxy voting while others believes that they are accptable because of past precedents. Who is correct?

The committee is correct based solely on the facts presented. The "others" are not correct. Firstly, I suspect they are confusing "precedent" and "custom." A custom is simply the way the society has done something in the past. A precedent is an interpretation of the society's rules created by a ruling of the chair and any subsequent appeal... but either way, it is not sufficient to authorize proxy voting. Proxy voting is not permitted unless authorized by the organization's Constitution or Bylaws or required by applicable law.

Also if we want to not accept proxies, do we need a vote by the committee with a quarum or can the chair person of that committee send out an email letting the members know that proxies will no longer be accepted?

Based on RONR, neither. An e-mail would be purely advisory, and a vote by the committee would be as well (unless your rules grant an unusual degree of authority to this committee).

The correct procedure to decide the issue is that when the issue of proxies comes up again, a member may raise a Point of Order that the proxies are not valid. The chair will rule on the point and the members may Appeal the ruling, which will place it in the hands of the assembly. A majority vote is required to overturn the chair's ruling.

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I have a question concerning the past customary practice of the use of proxy votes. I understand completely that they are not allowed under Robert's Rules, however, since proxies have been allowed by an assembly for years, isn't the ruling of a chairperson to not allow them any longer unfair because there has been no notice given that they will no longer be allowed and if voting members had known of the change in that past practice they might have made arrangements to be at the meeting in order to vote in person? This situation is analogous to an employer not enforcing the policy that all employees sign in when they arrive at work and every employee knows that it is not enforced and, therefore, it's not necessary to sign in. Then one day the boss decides to enforce the policy and issues a written reprimand to several employees for not signing in. That would be unfair because no notice was given that the past practice will no longer be acceptable.

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I have a question concerning the past customary practice of the use of proxy votes. I understand completely that they are not allowed under Robert's Rules, however, since proxies have been allowed by an assembly for years, isn't the ruling of a chairperson to not allow them any longer unfair because there has been no notice given that they will no longer be allowed and if voting members had known of the change in that past practice they might have made arrangements to be at the meeting in order to vote in person? This situation is analogous to an employer not enforcing the policy that all employees sign in when they arrive at work and every employee knows that it is not enforced and, therefore, it's not necessary to sign in. Then one day the boss decides to enforce the policy and issues a written reprimand to several employees for not signing in. That would be unfair because no notice was given that the past practice will no longer be acceptable.

No.

You should read RONR (11th ed.), p. 19 "Custom"

*edit to address the bolded part.* If a motion was adopted, it might be possible for members to come to the next meeting to rescind or amend it. RONR (11th ed.), p. 305ff. If a motion was made that was defeated, the members can show up at the next meeting and make it again. RONR (11th ed.), p. 336ff.

Edited by George Mervosh

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Guest Edgar

That would be unfair because no notice was given that the past practice will no longer be acceptable.

The next time you're given a ticket for speeding, tell the cop that you've been speeding on that stretch of road for years and you've never gotten a ticket before.

Failure to properly enforce a rule doesn't invalidate the rule.

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The next time you're given a ticket for speeding, tell the cop that you've been speeding on that stretch of road for years and you've never gotten a ticket before.

Failure to properly enforce a rule doesn't invalidate the rule.

Your analogy of the speeding ticket is not the same. Drivers know that speeding is enforced and can be enforced at any time on any stretch of road. The rules and procedures of an organization that are commonly known by all as unenforced cannot capriciously be enforced due to the concept of customary past practices. This is a an unfair labor practice and has been upheld by the courts. The organization in the above questions is a labor union.

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Your analogy of the speeding ticket is not the same. Drivers know that speeding is enforced and can be enforced at any time on any stretch of road. The rules and procedures of an organization that are commonly known by all as unenforced cannot capriciously be enforced due to the concept of customary past practices. This is a an unfair labor practice and has been upheld by the courts. The organization in the above questions is a labor union.

If the matter is settled, why ask us what Robert's Rules has to say?

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The matter is not completely settled in that the first question and my subsequent question concerned how the incorrect past practice should be properly stopped under Robert's Rules.

A customary practice that conflicts with a written rule is properly stopped by a point of order, as indicated it the cited passage on p. 19. (See post 4)

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Guest Edgar

The rules and procedures of an organization that are commonly known by all as unenforced cannot capriciously be enforced due to the concept of customary past practices.

I'm afraid that concept is foreign to RONR.

"Because that's the way we've always done it" is a pretty weak argument when confronting a clearly written rule that says otherwise.

Anyway, as to what to do now, raise a point of order at the next meeting.

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The matter is not completely settled in that the first question and my subsequent question concerned how the incorrect past practice should be properly stopped under Robert's Rules.

Agreeing that e-mails are advisory and have no binding force on the Committee or Union I think that if the President/Chair of the Union were to send out an email to all of the Union members stating that proxy voting is not permitted since the Constitution doesn't specifically provide for it (citing RONR pp. 423-424 and p. 428 ll. 30-34 and p. 251[d]) and he was going to formally rule so at the next meeting the members would be put on notice. Then they know if they want to have a vote they need to show up to the meetings.

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Agreeing that e-mails are advisory and have no binding force on the Committee or Union I think that if the President/Chair of the Union were to send out an email to all of the Union members stating that proxy voting is not permitted since the Constitution doesn't specifically provide for it (citing RONR pp. 423-424 and p. 428 ll. 30-34 and p. 251[d]) and he was going to formally rule so at the next meeting the members would be put on notice. Then they know if they want to have a vote they need to show up to the meetings.

Thank you

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Agreeing that e-mails are advisory and have no binding force on the Committee or Union I think that if the President/Chair of the Union were to send out an email to all of the Union members stating that proxy voting is not permitted since the Constitution doesn't specifically provide for it (citing RONR pp. 423-424 and p. 428 ll. 30-34 and p. 251[d]) and he was going to formally rule so at the next meeting the members would be put on notice. Then they know if they want to have a vote they need to show up to the meetings.

I agree. RONR provides formal mechanisms for enforcing the rules. It doesn't provide that one must be a jerk in the manner of employing those mechanisms. :)

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This all assumes that your constitution specifies that RONR must be followed. If they do not, then RONR is not an authoritative source, and is only persuasive. More persuasive than 10 years of custom? I don't know. It depends a lot on the specifics of your union.

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