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Proposed Changes to By-Laws and Seniority Rules - PART 2
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Post Proposed Changes to By-Laws and Seniority Rules - PART 2 Posted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 10:06 pm
tony battisti

BY-LAWS AND THE BRA: What power does the BRA have.

An argument has been made that Beach Representative Assembly (BRA) has the authority to amend the Seniority Rules. The proponents of that argument say that the BRA gave themselves that power: that is, the BRA actually took a vote on whether it had the power to amend the Seniority Rules; and everyone who voted, voted yes.

There are problems with that argument:

First, is that no representative body can unilaterally empower itself. The BRA exists at the will of the General Membership. The BRA is there to represent the General Membership. And the BRA only has the powers that the General Membership gave it – it can’t give itself more power. Think about it: who wouldn’t give themselves more power? The BRA is no different. This is simple checks-and-balances stuff that we learned in junior high.

Second, in order for the BRA to have the power to amend the Seniority Rules, there must be specific “enabling language” in the rules giving the BRA the power to make amendments. It is not there.

Section VII of the Seniority Rules reads as follows:

VII. Custodian of seniority
a. The union shall maintain the seniority list of all Jones Beach Lifeguard Corps members and shall update the list at the end of each season.
b. The director of Water Safety shall be given a copy of such list prior to the draft date each season.
c. The director of the draft shall have a copy of such list available at the draft.
d. The union shall, upon one-week notice, be given access to all lifeguard employment records held by the state.
e. The union shall have ultimate responsibility of all matters pertaining to seniority.

I have highlighted subsection “e”. It specifically says the UNION shall have ultimate responsibility of all matters pertaining to seniority. Not the Executive Board, not the BRA, not the Custodian of Seniority, not WSO – but the UNION. The General Membership is the UNION.

Additionally, Section X of the Seniority Rules, says:

X. Seniority Committee
a. The Executive Board shall establish and maintain a seniority committee to review and update all matters pertaining to seniority, transfer and promotion.
b. This committee shall consist of:
1. The custodian of seniority, who is the chairperson.
2. Two Executive Board members
3. Two members of the Corps.
c. The committee is responsible for gathering concerns of the Jones Beach Lifeguard Corps, meeting to discuss these concerns and making recommendations to the Executive Board.
d. The Executive Board will review these recommendations and present to the Corps as a whole as is necessary.
e. Any circumstances not addressed by the seniority rules of the Jones Beach Lifeguard Corps will be reviewed by the seniority committee.
f. The seniority committee will be present at the draft.

Subsection “d” says that the Executive board will review recommendations and present them to the Corps as a whole – read: General Membship. The Executive Board answers to the General Membership on Seniority.

The JBLC has historically left any change to the Seniority Rules to the General Membership. The power to change the Seniority Rules has never been delegated to any of our representative bodies – neither the Executive Board nor the BRA. That power is not found in the rules and cannot be self-created by BRA amendments to the By-Laws and Seniority Rules. The reason is obvious: if the BRA could change the Seniority Rules by an Article 9 amendment, the rules would be subject to change every month – that was never intended.

The General Membership has always maintained control over Seniority; and, only the General Membership can change seniority. Any vote purporting to give the BRA the power to change the Seniority Rules was without authority and was void.

THE IN-HOUSE RULE: The vote that added the 5-year requirement.

A counter argument has emerged to the argument that the General Membership ratified the In-House rule when it voted to add the 5-year requirement. That argument is, that only a small number of lifeguards actually showed up to vote on the 5-year requirement, when the vote was taken.

This argument seems to attempt to undermine the validity of that vote in order to somehow nullify the ratification of the In-House Rule – i.e. “hey, only a few people voted, so that vote was no good, which means the rule was never really ratified.”

That argument has no merit. First-off, it concedes the premise that changes to the Seniority Rules have to go to a Gen. Membership vote.

Secondly, the vote to add the 5-year requirement was no less a General Membership vote because only a small number of people showed up. Everyone was notified when and where to go to vote – some people showed up and voted, they knew where to go. If the rest of the General Membership chose to throw away their vote by abstaining, they can’t complain about that now. It was a publicized vote; people voted – the vote stands and the rule stands.


Another argument seems to be that BUMPING was never really proposed and the whole issue has been misconstrued.

Bumping came up in December and January and was proposed as a real change to the Seniority Rules. It was so real that all the Beach Reps and Executive Board agreed that before it could happen there had to be a General Membership vote. Dave Spence, Stu Kaplan and I accepted the task of drafting the language of that proposal along with all of the pros and cons.

Bumping was not something that Management threatened. This was something that was proposed as a remedy for some lifeguards who were from displaced fields that were closed by the State in 2009.

If the Board was re-drafted there is no telling what would happen. To say that everyone would wind up back at their beaches is speculation and wishful thinking.

FAIRNESS: The In-house rule is not fair.

Some are arguing that the In-House rule is not fair. Some say they were never for it. The rules are the rules; and, the In-House rule is something that we are bound by. We can change it. But it has to be done with a General Membership vote. The BRA cannot sit as the arbiter of fairness.

Past Administrations:

A lot of people begin their arguments with “the Captains did this”; and the “Lt.s did that”; and, this administration did this or that, in an effort to justify their position now. That type of school-yard logic will never helped. We could go on until Labor Day citing specific instance after specific instance of, seemingly, arbitrary decisions – that won’t help us deal with the current issues:

1: Do we abolish the In-House Rule?
2: Do we allow the Seniority Rules to be made part of the By-Laws?
3: And, do we have a Displaced Draft.


Tony Battisti - EBHO
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