In 2003, OPEA changed the structure of the organization and representation on the Board of Directors from a geographical-based to agency-based composition. What seemed to be a great idea at the time has caused some serious problems in the operations of the association. OPEA leaders are asking the members to review the following information about the organizational structure asking yourself if the structure helps accomplish our mission.
Mission: “OPEA unites public employees in Oklahoma to improve the quality of state employment.”
Challenges of the Agency-Based Structure
Leadership is agency-based: Because they are elected to represent a certain agency or group of agencies, the Board tends to specialize and concentrate on their own personal agency’s issues, not the entire workforce.
Members must travel to Oklahoma City to participate: In the current agency council based structure, members who want to be involved in their organization are forced to travel to a central location for meetings. State employees don’t want to give up a Saturday to attend council meetings. Currently, only a few dedicated members attend council meetings and often the participation will vary from month to month.
No local structure for legislative influence: Under the former geographical-based organizational structure, local legislators knew their regional council OPEA leaders and interacted with them continually. With the current structure, OPEA has no local activities and leadership in which legislators can be involved.
Platform has no grassroots structure: The current Platform Committee determines the viability of proposals. Previously, proposals were debated and improved at the regional level before even reaching the state office.
No leadership opportunities at the local level: Previously, OPEA developed leaders at the local level through regional councils. Currently, the leadership of the organization is centrally located and few can participate.
Members do not know their leadership: Because the leadership is centralized, members cannot become acquainted with their leaders. A corrections or human services leader cannot visit all the facilities and offices to meet members and better represent them. Board members and council leaders are elected at convention and few participate. With a geographical based organization, leaders can visit with members in their region and learn their issues.
No other independent association is organized by agency: OPEA has researched the organizational structure of other state employee associations. All have a geographical organizational structure with varying numbers of regions.
The Members Speak
OPEA asked the members in a recent survey: “What would you change about OPEA?
Examples of Comments
• “More meetings on the local level
• “Be more supportive on a local level”
• “More interaction of local agencies”
• “More meetings in NE Oklahoma”
• “Need more local activity”
• “Local level information exchange”
A Model to Restore the Grassroots
• Geographical representation promotes unity: In a geographical model, Board members will represent all state agencies in their district. State employees attending meetings with workers from other agencies will learn about challenges and issues of all agencies.
• Members will be more connected to their OPEA leaders: A regional director will have more opportunity to interact with members and understand their issues, when they represent a regional area instead of an entire agency statewide.
• Members have leadership opportunities in their geographic area: With a geographical structure, members can be involved at the local level and don’t have to travel to statewide meetings to make a difference.
• Grassroots in legislative districts: With a geographical structure, the organization’s composition will mirror that of the legislature providing more interaction with and opportunities to influence legislators.
• Platform would be more member driven: Platform meetings can be held at the regional level allowing more members to be involved and debate ideas.
• Best practices: If OPEA was organized in geographic districts, the association’s structure would mirror best practices in other states.
OPEA could be comprised of 11 geographical regions. Every two years, a board member would be elected by the region’s membership, similar to the legislative process. The candidates would interact with members and discuss issues at OPEA meetings before the election, which would be by mail with each member voting. Each region would have a council, which would meet quarterly to plan events and discuss issues in the region.
Please give us your input on this important issue.