How Branch business works
Democracy in motion
IF YOU WANT to ask London Freelance Branch meeting to donate money and/or send a message of solidarity to a campaign or organisation, here are some simple guidelines to maximize your chances of your request being favourably received by your fellow members.
Make your request in plenty of time. Agendas for the Monday branch meetings are printed early on Monday morning, so if possible have your motion with the Secretary by Sunday night. The Secretary's email address is listed in the LFB contacts page. If your motion arrives before that, the Secretary can help you put it "in order" (sub-edit it into the terminology that gives it a better chance of succeeding.)
Note that motions that propose donating any sum of money to any body external to the National Union of Journalists must be supplied to the Freelance editors ten days before the Branch meeting, so that Branch members can be notified in the monthly email. Email email@example.com with Subject line "Branch motion". Where possible, please send all motions to the editors to appear in the paper edition ahead of the next meeting. See the red box in the meetings column on the back page of the printed Freelance for deadline details.
See www.londonfreelance.org/lfb/meetings.html#motions for motions notified for the next meeting. You'll usually be able to find somebody at the meeting who can help you by giving your motion a more suitable turn of phrase. This is partly about dealing with jargon and the union and branch rules where necessary, and partly just constructively ensuring the motion ends up saying exactly what you mean.
Do your homework. Research the background and the group you want the branch to donate money to. Be ready to speak in favour of your motion. Stand up and face the audience. Keep your speech short and to the point. Bear in mind that many in your audience have been bombarded by PR propaganda press releases all day and will be hoping for something more substantial from an NUJ meeting.
Be prepared to answer awkward questions. In the event that your motion passes, be ready to give the contact name and address to the secretary or chair if it's a letter you're after, and bank details, sort code, IBAN number, etc. to the treasurer if it's regarding a donation. See www.londonfreelance.org/fl/0702bacs.html
One sponsor of a successful motion suggests photocopying your motion and bringing copies to the meeting, arriving early to put one copy on each chair. (Attendance at a meeting can be 40-50 some nights.)
Don't be too pushy about leafleting, though. You can leave flyers at the desk at the front, but the branch asks its members not to leaflet chairs (other than with the text of motions) nor put up posters in its meetings.
Branch members may suggest amendments or deleting bits of your motion.
The proceedings go in this order:
- the Chair asks whether anyone is prepared to "second" the motion - if not, it falls; otherwise:
- you speak for no more than 3 minutes in favour - your seconder may then speak for two minutes in favour or, quite commonly, reserve their speech for later
- members speak for or against for 2 minutes and propose amendments if they desire
- when the Chair deems discussion is complete, you are asked which amendments you accept; where you don't accept an amendment the chair will ask whether it has a seconder and, if it does, the amendment will be debated
- you may speak for 1 minute against each amendment that you oppose
- if the Chair decides that disagreement is such that we need to vote, we vote first on each of the amendments, in the order they were proposed
- then you, and your seconder if they have not already spoken, get 2 minutes to sum up on the motion as it is now amended
- then we vote on the motion as amended.
It's not always that formal, especially if it's clear the meeting is in agreement - but it helps to know the procedure we're relaxing even when we are.
Stay the course. Come and put your motion in person, or if you can't make it in person, find someone and fully brief them so that they can put the motion in person on your behalf. The agenda at branch meetings is often full, so be prepared for the meeting to run out of time (we usually have to be finished and out of the building by 9pm and cannot, under the rules, extend the meeting beyond 9:30). If that happens your motion will have to come back at the following month's meeting, when it will be nearer the top of the agenda.