Dear Goodwill Gail,
My problem is our unit makes decisions for members without even telling them of the change. For example, our unit treasurer was replaced – without asking or notifying her – because she lost her husband and the unit president thought she wouldn’t want to continue her duties as treasurer. The unit president might have been trying to be proactive, but this actually caused the former treasurer to almost leave our unit because she feels she can no longer contribute to the ALA. As a result, she is no longer an active member. This has also happened to a few other positions within our unit. Is this allowed in the ALA? And what can we do to prevent this from happening in the future?
Looking for a Resolution
Dear Looking for a Resolution,
In the example you gave, I appreciate your unit president’s desire to be proactive, but, in short, neither she nor anyone else can simply remove officers or chairmen from positions without following the unit’s bylaws and basic rules of parliamentary procedure. Each entity of the American Legion Auxiliary has its own set of constitution and bylaws to help guide the organization in cases such as this.
All members serving in positions of leadership, either as officers or program chairmen, are wise to become familiar with the governing documents of their unit. Keep in mind that a unit’s constitution and bylaws cannot be in conflict with the department or national bylaws. Simply put, if a member is elected to a position, then your unit’s bylaws must be followed regarding proper procedures for removing a member from said elected position. And, if the proper procedure is not being followed, please seek assistance from your district or department officers.
With that said, I would suggest that someone neutral to the situation (perhaps another unit officer like the secretary or historian) act as a mediator and approach the unit president in private to advise her of what your unit’s constitution and bylaws state. It sounds like your unit president was trying to be helpful and allow the treasurer to grieve, so have the mediator thank her for her concern, but let her know that, ultimately, the decision to step down is not the president’s decision to make (if that’s what is directed in your bylaws). Additionally, let the unit president know she might be inadvertently causing hard feelings when she doesn’t speak to the person directly. Sometimes, when we’re trying to do the best at our job, we forget to consider what it feels like to be on the receiving end of our actions. A little courtesy and one-on-one conversation goes a long way.
In the Spirit of Service Not Self,
Goodwill Gail is an advice column that helps ALA members deal with conflict within the Auxiliary in support of Goal 2 of the ALA’s 5-Year Centennial Strategic Plan: Create an Internal Culture of Goodwill. Need some advice on how to approach conflict within the American Legion Auxiliary? Send your questions to pr@ALAforVeterans.org with the subject line “Goodwill Gail.” We’ll create a pen name for you so that you remain anonymous. Talk soon!