Taking Part in Membership Meetings


The local union meeting serves to acquaint the members with:

  • Actions of officers and the Executive Board
  • Activities of Staff Representatives
  • Problems facing the Local
  • And plans for the future. 

It allows for democratic discussion and vote on where the local is going and the action it needs to take. The meeting gives the local a sense of unity and purpose which is then communicated both to other members and to management. One element of a successful meeting is orderly consideration of business. This requires some rules. The following will give you the basic rules you need to know to "Take Part in Membership Meetings."


You can speak at meetings just like everyone else, but you have to get recognized by the chair. Raise your hand to signal the chair that you want to speak. Then wait until the chair recognizes you, by calling your name or pointing to you. Only the person recognized by the chair may speak, everyone else must wait his or her turn. By having only one person talking, we get a chance to hear what he or she has to say. 

When you speak, keep to the subject being discussed. If the group is talking about raising money for P.E.O.P.L.E., you talk about the same thing. Stay on the issue, or the chair will call you out of order.

You may be asking "But how do I get my idea discussed?". You can do this by making a motion!


Want something done? Make a motion! The motion is the most important tool you have at a meeting to get your ideas considered. Motions can cover a wide range of actions, from routine business matters at a meeting to major new activities by the Local. If major action is required, a good idea is not enough. Big changes require time, effort and often money, so that you will have to convince other people that your idea is really a good one. Before bringing up your motion, in fact before the meeting, talk to your fellow workers and officers of the Local to get their suggestions. 

At the meeting, to make a motion, raise your hand and get recognized by the chair, then say: "I move that we..." and tell the chair person what you want done. For example, you might say, "I move that we set up an education committee" or "that the local stewards have regular monthly meetings" or whatever you want to have done. Before the motion is taken up, there must be a second. Some other person will have to be recognized and say "I second the motion". A second to the motion shows that at least two people are interested. Unless there is a second, the meeting will go on to other business. The chair will ask: "Is there any discussion?" Then you or anyone else can speak, but only on the motion.


Heard enough? Want to stop the discussion? Get recognized by the chair and say, "I move we close debate?" Sometimes people will say, "I move the previous question" or "I call for the previous question". It all means the same thing, "Let's End Debate". Then there will have to be a second to your motion by someone else. Next the chair will ask the people to vote on whether or not they want to end debate. The vote must be carried by two-thirds of the meeting. Remember, this is not a vote on the main motion, but only a vote on ending debate. 

After debate stops there is a vote on the main motion: "It has been moved and seconded that we..." Then the chairperson will say: "Those in favor say 'Aye' (pause), those opposed say 'Nay'. " Here the majority rules. The motion is either carried or defeated.


Sometimes a motion isn't clear and you might want to add or change part of it. You can do this by an amendment to the motion. Again, get recognized by the chair, then say: "I move we amend the motion to" (add, strikeout, substitute, etc.) For example: If there was a motion to have a regular monthly steward's meeting, an amendment to that motion might be to have the meeting two hours prior to each regular membership meeting. 

The job of the amendment is to make the main motion better, not to change it entirely. If you don't like a motion, the best thing to do is defeat it and then make another motion. Don't try to do this by amending the motion, or the chair will tell you the amendment is out of order. 

When it comes to voting, the amendment is voted on first. If it passes, you vote on the motion which now includes the amendment. If the amendment is not passed, then the motion is voted on without the amendment. Very rarely, there is an amendment to the amendment that changes or adds to the amendment and the motion. However, this can be very confusing. When there is an amendment to an amendment, the chair might suggest a substitute, if everyone agrees, just to put it all into a single motion. But don't worry about amendments to amendments - you can go for years without using one.


Sometimes you don't want to decide yes or no. You need more time to get information, or you don't have enough votes and want to avoid defeat. There are two ways you can delay a decision:

  • You can move to table the motion. After being recognized by the chair, say "I move we table the motion. " If there is a second, the chair will call for a vote without further debate. When a motion to table passes, the main motion is put aside. No action is taken and the meeting goes on to other business.

  • You can delay a decision by referring the motion to a committee. Get recognized and then say "I move we refer the motion to the committee" You can refer it to education, stewards, political action or any other committee of the Local, including the Executive Board.


Sometimes you get confused at a meeting. It can happen to anyone. You suddenly are not sure of what is happening. You don't have to just sit there and remain confused. Get up and ask the chair "I rise for information". The chair will ask you what you want, then tell the chair your question. 

A more serious issue occurs when, for example, there is a motion on the floor under discussion, and you feel that the member who has just been recognized is not speaking on that particular motion. In these kinds of cases, you can stand up and say, "I rise on a point of order". The chair will ask for you point and once you have explained "the brother/sister is not speaking on the motion....", the chair must make a ruling. 

Another problem may occur if the chair has made a ruling which you feel was clearly wrong. If you are convinced that the error was in fact serious enough to justify some action, you may appeal. You must rise and say, "I appeal the ruling of the chair". The question of whether to uphold your appeal or to agree with the ruling of the chair is then put to a vote by the members. Here, the members make the final decision.