Minnesota Feminists Speak Out!

The unofficial blog of Minnesota NOW


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I’m with Hillary

by Beth Anderson, MN NOW Treasurer

I’m With Hillary. Always have been. She’s a woman who has been in public life for as long as I can remember. Her issues have been my issues over the years; women’s rights, healthcare, international affairs. And now she is seeking to be the first woman President of the United States.

As a feminist and a woman in a predominantly male field, I can identify with the sexism both subtle and overt that comes with that territory. The first women who dared to enter the fields of science and engineering were punished for their ambition and interests. For many of them their work was stolen, they were under-employed and underpaid, and they faced sexual harassment in the workplace. I can tell you that some things haven’t changed that much over the last 200 years. My electrical engineering class at North Dakota State University graduated under a dozen women in 1983. Most of us have gone on to have successful careers, but we have all faced obstacles rooted in sexism. Some drop out, some change jobs, some challenge the sexism head on. It has been a struggle, though not as bad as it was a generation ago. And the reason for that is the many brave women who went before me, opening doors, demanding rights, and mentoring the next generation.

So when I see a woman actually leading us into new political territory in this country, I can’t help but smile! Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination by a major political party to be the next President of the United States fills me with pride. It has taken a long time, 240 years from that first Independence Day in 1776, to get this far.

However, you can still see the sexism at work. Hillary Clinton is one of the most qualified candidates running for President––ever. Yet she is vilified, made fun of, and scorned by so many. I sometimes think the worst sexism is the more subtle sexism that permeates our society, the damning by faint praise. We hear people say, “Well, she wasn’t my first choice, but I’ll probably vote for her because the alternative is worse.” Really? Why not “Yay! We have a qualified, woman candidate who has worked hard for our issues over the last 25 years and I can’t wait to vote for her in the next election!” If either party had produced a male candidate with Clinton’s credentials he would have been crowned nominee early in the process. That is sexism at work.

I’m not one to say that Hillary Clinton has never made a mistake. Nor will I vote for her just because she is a woman. But I do think she should be judged by the same standards you would a male candidate.

People criticize Clinton for being “dishonest.” Yet PolitiFact, a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims of politicians, has rated her the most truthful presidential candidate running in either party in 2016. If you check out her ratings compared to those of her opponent, there is no question which candidate is the more truthful in their statements. Clinton is held to a different standard; that is sexism at work.

People criticize her for being paid for her speeches, particularly those given to potential constituent groups. As a person who has attended several professional conferences, I can tell you that this is normal. Celebrities, politicians, and experts in their field give speeches to all kinds of groups and are generally paid for their time. For example, in the last several years, both President Bill Clinton and Justice Antonin Scalia spoke at separate National Conferences for the DRI, an organization of Defense Attorneys. I attended both speeches and they couldn’t have been more different. I’m sure they were both paid for their time and for giving those speeches. And yet, I doubt if either Justice Scalia or President Clinton felt beholden to the members of the DRI because they received those speaking fees. Hillary Clinton is held to a different standard; that is sexism at work.

And of course there are the “scandals.” Clinton has been criticized for everything from her lack of interest in cookie baking to her use of a private email server when she was Secretary of State. Yet in investigation after investigation she has been cleared of wrong doing. She has been grilled by journalists, congressional members, and the FBI about everything from her relationship with her husband to her financial practices. Why does Hillary Clinton continue to be the target of scandal after scandal when there has been no evidence of wrong doing on her part? That is sexism at work.

Hillary Clinton has answered to the Senate, to Congress, and to the President of the United States. She has been a role model for women who face extra hurdles competing in a male dominated field. She conducts herself with integrity and never gives up. With all the criticism and challenges that Hillary Clinton has faced over her career, one could forgive her for quitting the field. Yet she has not.

Hillary Clinton is pushing the envelope. She has faced the challenges of sexism head on and won. She has opened doors for the next generation. Hillary Clinton is challenging the status quo and our image of what a President looks like, just like Barack Obama did. It is a privilege in our current time to have this kind of choice. For these reasons and many others, I’m with Hillary. She will forever change what is true and real for our daughters and our next generation of politicians.


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Women of Color Opportunities Act is a Good Investment

This piece was written by our treasurer, Beth Anderson, and published on the Savage Pacer website on April 25, 2016.

Minnesota’s 2016 legislative session is well underway in St. Paul and our Legislature is discussing difficult issues like transportation funding and the copper/nickel mining prospects up north. But I want to draw your attention to a lesser-known series of bills introduced by Representative Rena Moran in the House and Senator Sandy Pappas in the Senate, addressing the educational and economic disparities of women of color in our state. Known as the Women of Color Opportunities Act (WOCOA), this legislation is designed to develop programs for women and girls of color in order to increase their economic success in our state.

The legislation consists of five bills that develop programs in key areas of education and employment and economic development. These bills are common sense ideas and programs that promote the tools that all of our young people need to succeed in our city and state. Yet these same tools have been disproportionally unavailable to women and girls of color. Here is a brief summary of the bills proposed:

  • Increase academic success by decreasing the school suspension rate for girls of color, increasing on-time high school graduation rates, and encouraging girls of color to pursue post-secondary education. (HF 3031/SF 2885)
  • Educate women and girls of color in financial literacy to lay the groundwork for an economically secure future. (HF 3032/SF 2865)
  • Encourage girls of color to explore and pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers by funding competitive grants to community-based, STEM-affiliated organizations experienced in serving girls of color. (HF 3033/SF 2916)
  • Increase the number of women of color in high-wage, high-demand, nontraditional jobs through job skills training and apprenticeships. (HF 3098/SF 3056)
  • Provide small business loans and technical assistance to businesses owned by women of color. (HF 3099/SF 2931)

Here in Savage, with an 82 percent white population, you might ask, “Why should Savage care about the Women of Color Opportunities Act?” My answer is several-fold.

Increasingly our business community relies on a diverse, skilled, and educated workforce. If we hope to attract world-class businesses to Savage and the surrounding communities, we have to be able to provide a workforce that is well-trained and ready to produce. This may mean an apprenticeship in a skilled trade, it may mean a two-year college degree, or it may require an accredited four-year college degree. Any way you slice it, high school drop-outs and illiterate citizens do not cut it in today’s work force.

Our community is changing. In 2000, the city of Savage was 10 percent non-white, in 2010 we were 18 percent non-white, and 2013 estimated statistics showed Savage to be 20 percent non-white. These numbers are pretty typical at state levels, too. As our population ages, more diverse communities are following. According to the Minnesota State Demographic Center, younger Minnesotans are more racially diverse than older Minnesotans. There are three counties in Minnesota where the children under 5 are over 50 percent children of color. More people of color are living in Savage than ever before. This brings diversity and vibrant cultures into our local melting pot. It’s a good thing. But we in Savage must make sure that the necessary components for a successful education and successful employment are also available for this growing community.

Making sure that all of our children have the opportunity to succeed in school and at work benefits all of us. There is a bigger tax base when we are all gainfully employed and there is less reliance on government services. Statistically we have heard a lot in Minnesota about the documented employment gap between white Minnesotans and black Minnesotans — a 2013 study found that blacks were three times as likely to be unemployed as whites. And we have heard a lot about the education disparity between whites and blacks — in 2003, white Minnesotan eighth-graders topped the charts on national math tests while black Minnesotan eighth-graders came in 22nd of the 50 states. This achievement gap has been well-documented and discussed. What has not been clear is how to fix it.

Achievement gaps are often attributed to income level and home environment. Low-income families often have few educational resources. Recent immigrants don’t always have the English language skills needed to keep pace in school or the financial literacy that leads to good economic decisions. The Women of Color Opportunities Act attempts to address these resource gaps head on.

Making sure our women and girls of color graduate from high school, increase their financial literacy, pursue post-secondary education, obtain high-paying jobs, and have the tools available to start their own businesses will go a long way towards ending these disparities and making our communities a better place to live.

The bills introduced in the Women of Color Opportunities Act are administered by two departments: the Department of Education and the Department of Employment and Economic Development. The bills ask for a nominal amount of funding for pilot programs and grants to local community groups to achieve the goals of the bill. In this way, local groups who work with girls and women in the community receive the funds they need to make a difference. Reporting and oversight is at the state level and the pilot programs must be developed so they can be transferred and used throughout the state.

According to the bill’s authors, the estimated cost of this set of bills is about $4.9 million. The Minnesota Management and Budget Office is projecting a $900 million surplus in 2016. It seems to me that this small expenditure — 0.5 percent of our projected surplus — is well worth the investment in our future Minnesotans. You can ask Representative Drew Christensen and Senator Dan Hall for their support at rep.drew.christensen@house.mn andsen.dan.hall@senate.mn.


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Gender Roles: What, Why, and How

This post was written by Colleen, a high school student and new Minnesota NOW volunteer.

Gender roles, defined as “a set of societal norms dictating what types of behaviors are generally considered acceptable, appropriate or desirable for a person based on their actual or perceived sex,” can be found anywhere and everywhere. The concept of gender roles has been around for a loooooong time, beginning with anthropological data of cavemen/women sticking to their pre-ordained duties – hunting for men, housekeeping for women. Fast forward a bit to the Middle Ages when girls prepared to be married off to much older men knowing that the rest of their (most likely short) lives would be dedicated to giving birth, hopefully to sons. Then, of course, the lovely “cult of domesticity” ideal developed in the 1800s, followed by the push against women working outside of the home (because who, then, would cook and clean? M-men?! GASP!).

In today’s society, many people think that feminism is no longer necessary and that gender roles are either a) a thing of the past or b) something rather inconsequential. Gender roles are ubiquitous, widely accepted by many people, and can be detrimental. Gender roles promote heteronormativity (assuming everyone identifies as heterosexual or “straight”) and cisnormativity (assuming everyone identifies with their biologically-assigned sex). Promoting these ideas may seem inconsequential on the surface, but they strengthen institutionalized homogeneity that creates feelings of dissonance in those who identify outside of what is considered “normal.” This leads to an undermining of diversity in all areas that is costly for both the individual and society.

One example of gender roles in action happened just the other day. A few girls in my physics class were discussing Polly Pocket toys they played with in their youth and my teacher asked what those toys were, claiming ignorance because “I’m a boy- I don’t play with dolls.” I was shocked– here was a grown man, using the “I’m a boy” excuse.

Another more global example of gender roles can be seen walking down the toy aisle at your local big box store. The boys’ toys are generally constructed with materials in more masculine colors like blues, reds, and blacks, and showcase “tough” toys like construction trucks, swords, and war-simulating board games. The girls’ options are often pink, sparkly, and affiliated with either princesses or domestic tasks (i.e. play stoves/ovens, baby dolls with fake bottles and diaper kits, etc.). The gender roles reflected in kids’ toys are only the beginning, though – the packaging and advertising of products for adults often reflect stereotypical gender roles as well.

Gender roles are reflected in the common assumption that women will be the ones to quit their jobs upon having a child(ren), in Father’s Day commercials promoting grills and toolboxes, and in the gender-based labeling of myriads of products.  They’re reflected in decisions about who pays for dinner on a date and what boys and girls say they want to be when they grow up. For example, a study done by Dr. Janet Shibley Hyde at UW-Madison showed that when the participants were told that their sex wouldn’t be identified, women exhibited more aggression than men. This shows that gender roles are not innate or pre-programmed; they are taught and conditioned by society. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, girls loving to bake and plays with dolls boys playing with trucks are not bad things. Neither is a guy treating his date to dinner or a woman choosing to stay home with her kids.  What makes gender roles an issue is when they become rigid– which they so often do. It’s detrimental to stop a boy from making cookies with an Easy-Bake Oven “because he’s a boy” or to tell a girl not to play kickball with the boys because its “unladylike.” Women should of course stay at home with their children if that is what they want to do– but not because they feel pressured to do so. One of my best friends was raised by a stay-at-home dad while her mother is a high-level and very successful businesswoman; conversely, my mom chose to be a homemaker and has dedicated the past 30 years to raising four kids while my father worked. Both of these choices are valid– because they are choices and reflect personal fulfillment rather than compliance with societal-designated norms.

Gender roles confine and assume. The roles which should be promoted are those that promote the individual pursuit of happiness, not related to one’s gender/sexuality but to one’s personal passions and vocations. Define your own roles – let the boy wear pink shoes and the girl play football; promote people roles instead. Yay inclusivity!🙂


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Reflecting on 2015, Looking Ahead to 2016

As we ring in the new year let’s take some time to reflect on the great things we did in 2015 and look ahead to 2016.

In January, MN NOW activists attended the Women’s Economic Security Summit. The Summit was a great opportunity to learn more about the advocacy and public policy work that remains to be done following the passage of the Women’s Economic Security Act in 2014.

In March, ERAMN, including several MN NOW activists, lobbied at the state capitol in support of efforts to finally pass the ERA. By the end of the legislative session a resolution asking Congress to remove the ERA ratification deadline was passed by the Senate. Victory!

We held our annual State Conference at St. Cloud State University in April. Attendees worked on feminism-inspired collages, heard from some fantastic speakers, and bid on some great silent auction items. We recognized a few of our awesome Minnesota NOW activists for their efforts and elected new officers to the board. MN Valley NOW hosted a screening of Paycheck to Paycheck in April and MN NOW had a presence at Planned Parenthood’s annual solidarity rally.

A few of our athletically-inclined members ran in NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota’s “Run for Your Rights” 5K in May.

In June we tabled at the Pride Festival in Loring Park. We handed out some snazzy fans made by a MN NOW member that included pictures and info about some amazing LGBT activists. The Cackle of Rads trivia team, featuring MN NOW members, took home their third straight first place trophy at the Minnesota Women’s Consortium’s Trivia Perusal.

We celebrated Women’s Equality Day in August, with a happy hour at Honey in Minneapolis. Senator Sandy Pappas and Representative Rena Moran talked what inspired them to get involved in the fight for constitutional equality and discussed next steps we can take in Minnesota to make it a reality. We also recruited a few new activists at our Activist Open House.

MN NOW participated in the annual SlutWalk event in October. The speakers were powerful, the performers were great, and the solidarity among the marchers was inspiring. We held the first meeting of our feminist discussion group, Feminist Forum, at the end of October. We’d like to continue this group in 2016 – if you’re interested in hosting a discussion let us know!

In November we participated in Give to the Max Day and raised over $1,200 for the MN NOW Foundation. We also held another Activist Open House and set our priorities for the coming year at our board meeting.

Looking ahead to 2016, we’ve got another great state conference in the works. We’ll continue to host our Activist Open Houses and table at events like the Pride Festival. We’re hopeful that we can accomplish more legislative victories on our core issues this year, including passage of the ERA legislation that ERAMN is supporting, a special session to address racial inequalities in Minnesota, and changes to sexual assault and domestic violence policies.


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Consider Equal Rights Amendment this Women’s Equality Day

This piece was written by our treasurer, Beth Anderson, and published on the Savage Pacer website on August 17, 2015.

By proclamation of the president, Aug. 26 is Women’s Equality Day, the day we commemorate the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote. This year marks 95 years since women were first written into the Constitution and 43 years since the second attempt was made in the form of an Equal Rights Amendment.

Women’s Equality Day was established by a resolution passed by Congress in 1971.

The full text is as follows:

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled to the full rights of privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex,

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and

WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26 of each year is designated “Women’s Equality Day,” and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.

The nationwide demonstration referenced is the Women’s Strike for Equality that occurred on Aug. 26, 1970. It focused primarily on equal opportunity for women in the workforce. At the time, women were earning 59 cents to the male dollar.

Every president from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama has since issued a proclamation declaring Aug. 26 Women’s Equality Day. The proclamations are interesting reading. At first they focused primarily on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that was passed by Congress in 1972. Thirty-five states ratified the amendment, but 38 are required to make it part of the U.S. Constitution. Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter expressed their full support of the ERA and urged ratification by the states.

Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama’s proclamations acknowledge and honor the perseverance of women in their fight for equal rights, discuss legislation that has improved conditions for women, and urge us to dedicate ourselves to the cause of equal rights for all. Yet none of these presidents after Jimmy Carter specifically mention the Equal Rights Amendment.

Women’s Equality Day was born out of a national movement recognizing that women should be guaranteed equal rights in the Constitution. It continues to be proclaimed by presidents across the political spectrum, with varying emphasis, but without a doubt endorsing the underlying sentiment of equal rights for women. Americans agree. Polling data indicates that 96 percent of Americans think women should have equal rights and 88 percent of Americans think we should have an ERA added to our constitution.

So why don’t we have one? Is there no political will on the part of politicians? Are we satisfied with the progress women have made since 1970 in closing the wage gap to 80 cents on the male dollar? Are there better tools in the equal rights tool box than legal ones?

Maybe all of these things play a role, but I think the underlying reason we don’t have an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is that we, as citizens, haven’t demanded it. There hasn’t yet been enough talk, enough urgency, enough stories both of successes — such as Minnesota’s Equal Pay Legislation, and setbacks — such as the U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming it was OK for UPS to fire a pregnant woman rather than modify her job duties for the last months of her pregnancy. The issue of an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution isn’t forefront in our public discourse. Until the legal discrimination happens to you or someone you know, it’s not discussed or acknowledged. And even then, it may be easy to suggest this one act of discrimination is just an isolated case.

I don’t know that an ERA would change these experiences without the accompanying changes in our collective expectations of how women should be treated in the workplace, but it does give foundation to protest that treatment and enforce equal rights.

If President Obama again issues a proclamation celebrating Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26, take a minute to discuss what an Equal Rights Amendment might mean for you, or your daughter, or your grandmother. Another tool in the tool box to ensure equal pay, equal opportunity, and equal rights for all, per our Constitution.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Richard Nixon’s 1973 proclamation to that captures these sentiments:

“While we are making great strides to eliminate outright job discrimination because of sex in the federal government, we must recognize that people’s attitudes cannot be changed by laws alone. There still exist elusive prejudices born of mores and customs that stand in the way of progress for women. We must do all that we can to overcome these barriers against what is fair and right.

“Because I firmly believe that women should not be denied equal protection of the laws of this nation and equal opportunity to participate fully in our national life, I reaffirm again my support for the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment can represent a giant step forward in achieving full equality for opportunity for all Americans as we approach the 200th birthday of our nation. I hope it will be speedily ratified.”

Me too.


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Moving Our Feminism Forward: NOW’s Revised Bylaws

At the National Conference in June, activists from around the country came together to decide on revisions to NOW’s bylaws. Some highlights include an updated (finally!!!) statement of purpose, a few changes in the process for electing national board members, and use of undelegated voting at the national conference. You can read the full revised bylaws below.

NOW Bylaws

The name of this national membership organization of women and men is “National Organization for Women, Inc.” (NOW).

ARTICLE II.  STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

NOW’s  purpose is to take action through intersectional grassroots activism to promote feminist ideals, lead societal change, eliminate discrimination, and achieve and protect the equal rights of all women and girls in all aspects of social, political, and economic life.

ARTICLE III. MEMBERSHIP

Any person who subscribes to NOW’s purpose shall be eligible to become a member of NOW and upon payment of national dues shall be enrolled as a member, with all rights, privileges, and responsibilities thereof. All members of subunits of NOW must be members of the national organization. No person who subscribes to NOW’s purpose shall be excluded from membership, segregated, or otherwise discriminated against within the organization.

Article IV.  SUBUNITS

Section 1. Chapters

A. Members residing or working in a given state, county, municipality, or a regional or metropolitan area shall be encouraged to form a chapter, or members may join or form virtual chapters that are not tied to a geographic region. A chapter shall consist of no fewer than ten members, formulate bylaws consistent with these bylaws, convene and operate for the stated purpose of NOW, and elect its officers. Chapters shall be chartered by the national organization upon meeting these requirements.

B. The policies and programs of each chapter shall be defined by its members so long as such policies and programs are not contrary to those enacted by the national bylaws, National Conference or National Board.

C. Membership in a chapter and voting privileges in the election of chapter officers shall be open to all NOW members who meet the chapter dues and length-of-membership requirements, if any; provided however that members may be voting members of only one chapter. All persons elected to leadership positions in the chapter must be members of NOW.

D. The local, grassroots chapters are the building blocks of NOW, serving as the focus of feminist action.

Section 2. States

A. Each state and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (hereinafter referred to as a state) which does not now have an existing state organization may apply to convene a state organization with the approval of a majority of the chapters or members of that state. States shall be convened and chartered upon meeting requirements set by the National Board or National Conference. States must continue to meet such requirements to maintain their state status, subject to the removal of their state charters in accordance with the procedures set forth in Article XIII, Section 2. State organizations shall convene chapters within their state, with the exception of virtual chapters, which shall be convened with the authorization of a national officer. If a state organization fails to approve or disapprove a convening request within 60 days, the national organization may convene the chapter.  State organizations may convene and support local networks or task forces within the state which are not independent entities.

B. The policies and programs of each state organization shall be defined by its members and chapters so long as such policies and programs are not contrary to those established by the national bylaws, National Conference or National Board.

C. Membership in state organizations and voting privileges in the election of state officers shall be open to all NOW members who meet the state dues and length-of-membership requirements, if any; provided however that members may be voting members of only one state organization. All persons elected to leadership positions in the state organization must be members of NOW.

D. In states without a state organization, that region’s Regional Director, in consultation with the regional Board members, may appoint a State Coordinator/President to serve until elections are held, not to exceed one year.

Section 3. Electoral Districts

A. There shall be electoral districts, each of which shall elect National Board members (hereinafter referred to as Board members or, collectively, the Board or National Board).

B. Membership in an electoral district and voting privileges in the election of National Board members shall be open to all NOW members who meet the length-of-membership requirements set forth in Article VII, Section 5 hereof; provided however that members may be voting members of only one electoral district. National Board members from each electoral district shall be elected in accordance with Article VII, Section 5 hereof, and such other requirements as may be proposed by the National Board and adopted by the National Conference.

Section 4.  Affirmative Action

Subunits shall have an affirmative action plan aimed at increasing diversity of participation at all levels of NOW.

ARTICLE V.  INTERNATIONAL AFFILIATES

The national organization may establish affiliates or may affiliate with existing organizations in other countries to promote feminism worldwide.

ARTICLE VI.  OFFICERS

The national officers may delegate such duties as may be necessary to allow them to implement the performance of their office, but they may not delegate their responsibility. The officers shall constitute the Executive Committee and be responsible at all times to the full National Board and to the members.

Section 1. Titles and Duties

A. President. There shall be a President who shall be salaried and shall be a voting member of the National Board. The President shall be the principal spokesperson and chief executive and financial officer of the organization, shall call the meetings of the Board, the Executive Committee, and the National Conference and shall preside at these meetings. The President shall also serve as the Chair of the NOW PAC.

B. Vice President. There shall be a Vice President who shall be salaried and shall be a voting member of the National Board. The Vice President shall preside at all meetings in the absence of the President, keep the minutes of the meetings of the Board, the Executive Committee and National Conference, be custodian of the records, and perform such other duties as may be delegated by the President and Board. For corporate purposes, the Vice President shall be designated Secretary/Treasurer. The Vice President shall serve as the Treasurer of the NOW PAC.

C. Upon a three-fifths (3/5) vote of the National Board at least 180 days before a national conference at which officers are elected, the Board may, after taking into account the organization’s projected 4-year budget and other factors it deems relevant, establish one or more additional Vice President positions, which may be salaried and which shall have the responsibilities and duties as determined by the Board.

Section 2. Qualifications and Terms of Office

A. All national officers shall have been members of NOW for at least four years immediately prior to election and shall have served at least one year as a chapter or state officer or National Board member. Each term of office shall be four years and shall begin 30 days following the election at the National Conference.  Each officer shall serve no more than two consecutive terms.

B. In the case of officers elected to fill a vacancy under Article XII, their partial terms shall not be considered in determining the term limitation.

Section 3. Executive Committee

The Executive Committee shall be composed of the national officers. Where action is necessary between meetings of the Board, the Executive Committee may act on behalf of the Board, provided that the action is consistent with existing NOW policy. The Executive Committee shall report all of its actions and decisions to the Board. A meeting of the Executive Committee shall be held only after adequate notice to all officers. The Executive Committee may meet by any means, such as a conference telephone call, which will allow the officers to confer as a body.

Section 4. Nominations

Nominations for officers tickets shall be submitted to the Nominating Committee in writing at least 90 days before the election Conference, provided that nothing in this shall be interpreted to require tickets for the election of national Board members in the electoral districts. Each officer ticket submitted to the Committee must contain a nomination for every officer position. Nominations shall not be taken from the floor.

Section 5. Elections

One of the proposed officer tickets shall be elected by a majority vote of the eligible members present whose preferences are counted in the final tally at the National Conference. If there are more than two officer tickets nominated preferential voting shall be used, and balloting shall be conducted according to the parliamentary authority prescribed in these bylaws.

Section 6. Salaries and Fees

A. The Board shall set the salaries of the paid officers for the next term, except that officers may not vote on matters of officers’ salaries.

B. All officers who receive honoraria as a result of their elected position shall remit to the NOW general fund one hundred percent of the said honoraria minus expenses.

ARTICLE VII.  THE NATIONAL BOARD

Section 1. Composition

The National Board shall be composed of the national officers and the Board members elected by members of the electoral districts.

Section 2. Duties and Powers

A. Administrative

The Board shall manage the affairs and control the funds and property of the organization; approve all appointments; and adopt necessary rules and regulations, provided that none of the Board s actions shall conflict with or modify the actions or directives of the national Conference or be inconsistent with the purpose of the organization.

B. Action

The Board shall develop and plan the action agenda and submit it to the National Conference for approval, implement conference resolutions, and facilitate national actions and the exchange of information.

C. National Board members shall be responsible to present the concerns (including actions and programs) of the states and chapters within their regions to the National Board and to report National Board decisions to the states and chapters within their regions. Further duties of National Board members within their regions may be defined by their region’s bylaws and policies.

D. At the beginning of each Board term, each Board member shall declare their personal commitment to give or get contributions and/or NOW memberships, taking into consideration the Board member’s resources, including contacts, geographic location, existing responsibilities and other relevant factors.

Section 3. Meetings

The Board shall meet at least three times each calendar year at the call of the President or at the request of one-fourth of the Board members. At least thirty days’ notice shall be given for regular meetings of the Board. At least seven days’ notice shall be given for special meetings.

Section 4. District Election of Board Members

A.  There shall be six electoral districts which shall be drawn every ten years, following publication of the U.S. Census information, by the National Board with the approval of the National Conference.  The electoral districts shall have roughly equal numbers of NOW members and such other characteristics as the Board and Conference may approve.  The first such districts shall be:

1.    Pacific – Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington;

2.    Western – Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Utah, Texas

3.    Heartland – Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin;

4.    Southern – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee;

5.    Eastern – Delaware, District of Columbia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia;

6.    Northern – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont.

B. Each electoral district shall have no fewer than two (2) members elected to the National Board.  Any electoral district with a delegation that includes a person of color shall be entitled to three (3) members elected to the National Board.  No more than one (1) National Board member shall be elected from any one state.

Section 5.  Procedures and Standards for Elections

A. Any NOW member who has been a member in good standing for at least two years immediately prior to the date of election shall be eligible to serve on the National Board. Board members must remain residents of the electoral district from which elected in order to remain on the Board.

B. All National Board members shall be elected at district caucuses held during NOW’s annual national conference in even-numbered years or at a district conference held in March, April or May of even-numbered years.  All members of the electoral district in good standing whose dues are received by the national organization or its appropriate subunits at least ninety days prior to the national, district in-person, or online district conference and who are present may vote.  Minimum procedures shall be:

1.    The National Board members must be elected by a majority of the votes cast.  Preferential or cumulative voting is permissible.  In preferential voting, Board members must be elected by a majority of preferences counted in the final tally.

2.    At least sixty days’ notice in an every-member NOW publication must be given of elections for National Board members.

3.    Electronic voting in accordance with procedures adopted by the national Board and approved by the National Conference is permitted, provided that it must be conducted in a secure, affordable and accessible manner.

4.    The procedure for nominating National Board members in the electoral districts shall be the same as that for nominating officers of the national organization.  The State Coordinators in each electoral district or their designees shall serve as the nominating committee for that district.

5.    Districts must notify the National Action Center no later than January 1of an election year that the election will be held at a district conference.  The State Coordinators and National Board members in each district who are not running for election or re-election shall select the site for a district election conference.

Section 6. Term of Office

A. National Board members elected in the electoral districts shall hold office for a term of two years or until their successors are elected.

B. Board members shall take office at the close of the National Conference in the year in which they are elected.

C. No Board members shall be eligible to serve more than two consecutive terms. In the case of Board members elected to fill a vacancy under Article XII, their partial term shall not be considered in determining the term limitation.

D. Any National Board member who is absent from three consecutive National Board meetings for which reimbursement is provided shall be automatically removed from the National Board without recourse to Article XIII, Section 2, Removals.

Section 7. District Directors

One National Board member from each electoral district may be designated by the district to serve as the District Director of the district.

ARTICLE VIII.  MEMBERSHIP MEETINGS

Section 1. National Conference

A. There shall be an annual meeting of the membership (hereinafter referred to as the National Conference or the Conference) which shall rotate through the regions, with separate rotations for election and non-election conferences, and shall be held for the purpose of transacting the business of the organization.

B. The National Conference shall be the supreme governing body of NOW.

C. The Conference shall be held in the month of June or July, and at such other times as the membership may decide by written petition of ten percent of the membership or a majority vote of the National Board. The Board shall fix the exact date and place of the national Conference and give at least sixty days’ advance notice thereof in an every-member NOW publication. It shall make arrangements for hotel and meeting place accommodations and determine the Conference agenda.

D. In the even-numbered years, the National Conference shall include a special issue or constituency summit in the event that NOW Foundation does not sponsor such a summit.

E. No membership meeting at any level of NOW shall require NOW members in good standing to pay a registration fee or any other fee in order to participate in the business events or activities of said meeting. No distinction of any kind shall be drawn by the Conference or the Committee between those able to pay fees over and above basic dues and those unable to pay such fees.

Section 2. Voting Privileges

A. Only members in good standing whose dues are received by the national organization or its appropriate subunits at least ninety (90) days prior to the Conference and who are duly registered and in attendance shall be eligible to vote at the Conference. Each member in attendance shall have one vote.

B. Use of the unit rule is prohibited. There shall be no proxy voting.

C. A quorum shall be twenty-five percent of those members registered and eligible to vote and shall include one officer and two other National Board members.

Section 3.  Participation in Conference

The National Conference shall be open to all NOW members, who shall be entitled to speak whether or not eligible to vote.

ARTICLE IX.  COMMITTEES

Section 1. Nominating Committee for the Election of Officers

A. Election.  The members of the Nominating Committee shall be elected in their electoral districts. There shall be one member from each district. The committee shall designate the chair from among its members.

B. Duties.  The Nominating Committee shall not endorse an individual officer ticket and each member shall maintain strict neutrality regarding all tickets.  The Nominating Committee shall:

1.    Publicize and distribute in an every-member NOW publication information on the deadlines for submission officer ticket information. These deadlines shall be set by the National Board.

2.    Accept officer ticket nominations from members.

3.    Determine each nominee meets the qualifications as described in these bylaws.

4.    Provide uniform information sheets to be submitted by the officer tickets.

5.    Assume responsibility for the distribution of information on all eligible officer tickets.

6.    Publish and distribute officer ticket information in an every-member NOW publication at least thirty days before the Conference.

Section 2. Standing Committees of the National Board

A. The Board shall organize itself into committees so as to best accomplish its work.  Committees may include but are not limited to:

Membership

Action and Programs

Structure and Process

Fundraising

Finance and Budget

B. The members of the standing committees shall serve for the duration of the term of the administration under which they serve.

C. The standing committees shall report to the Board at regular intervals and to the membership at the annual Conference or through an every-member NOW publication.

D. The President shall designate the chair of each committee subject to the approval of the National Board.

E. The chair of a standing committee shall be any NOW member unless otherwise provided for in these bylaws.

F. The members of the standing committees shall be appointed by the Board.

G. The functions and duties of the standing committees shall be designated by the Board.

Section 3. Advisory Committee

There may be a National Advisory Committee appointed by the Board which shall consist of a chair appointed by the Board and not more than one-hundred NOW members who shall serve two years. The Advisory Committee shall be available to the Board for advice and consultation as requested and for assistance in fundraising. The chair shall be a non-voting member of the Board and shall serve for a term of two years, the completion of the term to be at the close of the National Conference in odd-numbered years.  The Advisory Committee shall assist in the identification and cultivation of potential major donors to NOW.  At the beginning of every Board term, each Advisory Committee mameber will declare their personal fundraising commitment for NOW, taking into consideration the Advisory Committee member’s resources, including contracts, geographic location existing responsibilities and other relevant factors.

Section 4. Special Committees of the National Board

There shall be other committees which do not have the authority of the Board for management of the corporation, but which may advise the Board, officers, and membership-at-large, or may perform such other duties as the Board, National Conference, or President may wish to assign. This will include a permanent task force of young feminists aged 30 or under to be appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the board to advise the Board of Directors and National Conference on matters of agenda, leadership recruitment and issue prioritization regarding young feminists in NOW, and a permanent task force on racial justice to be appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Board to advise the Board and National Conference on matters of agenda, leadership recruitment and issue prioritization regarding feminists of color in NOW.

Section 5. Committees to Implement Conference Resolutions

There shall be committees to implement Conference resolutions. Such committees can be established and their membership and direction be determined by the National Conference, the President, or the Board. Chairs of such committees shall be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Board.

Section 6. Composition

Although a committee or task force may allow participation by non-NOW members in its activities, all positions of responsibility or decision making authority shall be held by current NOW members.

ARTICLE X.  FINANCE

Section 1. Fiscal Year

The fiscal year shall begin January 1 and end December 31.

Section 2.  Dues

A.  Annual dues shall be paid on the anniversary date of the day on which the member joined. The amount of dues shall be set by a two-thirds vote of the Board, which shall establish regular and hardship dues. Any member whose dues are in arrears for one hundred and eighty (180) days following the anniversary date on which the membership was first recorded in the national records shall be dropped from membership rolls one month after the mailing of a warning notice that the membership has become delinquent.

B.  NOW members shall pay annual dues to National NOW, which shall be responsible for forwarding state and chapter portions (rebates) to the appropriate units.  Rebates shall be sent at least monthly.

D. The membership of persons who remit national dues during a National Conference shall take effect upon adjournment of the Conference.

Section 3. National Budget

The Finance and Budget Committee shall prepare a proposed line-item budget for the fiscal year by October 1 of the prior year. The budget, after having been published in a NOW leadership mailing, shall be approved by a majority vote of the members of the Board present and voting at a meeting preceding the commencement of the fiscal year on January 1. After the budget is adopted, an abbreviated version will be printed in an every-member NOW publication. Review and revision of the budget may occur at any regular or special meeting of the Board by a majority vote of those present and voting, with subsequent notification to the membership indicating a summary of the revision and current financial experience to date.

Section 4. Audit

The results of every audit shall be available to the members upon request.

ARTICLE XI.  GRIEVANCES

Grievance procedures shall be determined by the National Board.

ARTICLE XII.  VACANCIES

Section 1. President

In the event of a vacancy in the office of President, the Vice President-Executive shall immediately assume the office and duties of President.

Section 2. Other Officers

In the event of a vacancy in any other national office, the Board shall appoint any member of NOW who meets the criteria for elective office in the national organization. Officers so appointed shall take office within thirty days of the appointment.

Section 3. National Board Members Elected from the Electoral Districts

A. Vacancies in electoral district National Board positions shall be filled by any member of that district who meets the criteria for national office and is elected by a vote of two-thirds of the State Coordinators and the remaining Board member(s) of that district.

B. The existence of a vacancy shall be consistent with the provision of Article VII, Section 4, B.

ARTICLE XIII.  RECALL AND REMOVAL

Section 1. Recall

A. National Board Members Elected in Districts.

A petition signed by ten percent of the membership of the region shall initiate the recall of a National Board member elected from that region. The petition shall designate either a Conference vote or a postal ballot as the method of recall. The National Board has the responsibility to carry out the mandate of the petition. In the case of a postal ballot, the voting procedures shall be in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised.

B. Officers

1. A petition signed by ten percent of the NOW membership from each region shall be necessary to initiate the recall of a national officer. Recall charges shall be filed with the Vice President-Membership. Time for collecting signatures shall be no more than 120 days from the date of publication of charges in an every-member NOW publication. Petition signatures shall be filed with or mailed to the Vice President-Membership. Mailed petitions shall be postmarked no later than midnight of the 120th day.

2. Grounds for recall must be stated in writing and submitted to the Vice President-Membership. Stated grounds for recall must appear on each individual petition. Petitions shall be limited to no more than thirty signatures per page.

3. A petition containing the required number of signatures, after having been filed with the Vice President-Membership, shall be certified by the VP-Membership within fourteen calendar days. Both the officer subject to recall and the person(s) filing the signatures shall be notified in writing of the status of the recall petition by the Vice President-Membership within three days of the date of certification or failure thereof. The required number of signatures shall be determined by the total national membership at the time of the National Conference prior to the date of the filing of recall charges with the Vice President-Membership. After certification, recall notice must be published in the next every-member NOW publication.

4. The original filing of charges and each petition shall designate a postal ballot as the method of recall so long as the recall vote shall be in accordance with the procedures for election. In case of a postal ballot, voting procedures shall be in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised. The National Board has the responsibility to carry out the mandate of the petition.

5. The postal ballot shall be mailed to all delegates elected to attend the prior national Conference. The recall vote shall be approved by an absolute majority of delegates. The time for delegates to return ballots shall be no more than seventeen calendar days.

6. Under no circumstances shall the time for recall extend beyond ninety days after the date the recall signatures have been certified by the Vice President-Membership.

Section 2. Removals

After notice and opportunity for a hearing, the National Board, by a two-thirds vote of its actual membership, may remove any officer, Board member, chapter charter, or membership if the Board determines the actions in question are contrary to the purposes of NOW and injurious to the organization.

ARTICLE XIV.  AMENDMENTS

Section 1. National Conference

These bylaws may be amended by a three-fifths vote at the national Conference, provided that:

A. The amendment is proposed by either a majority vote of the National Board, 500 members, two state organizations, or fifty chapters.

B. The proposed amendment is submitted to the Board at least 120 days in advance of the national Conference for publication in an every-member NOW publication.

C. The existent bylaw plus the proposed amendment is published in an every-member NOW publication at least sixty days prior to the meeting of the National Conference.

Section 2. Postal Ballot

These Bylaws may be amended by a referendum of postal ballots in which a majority of the valid returned ballots show approval of the change, provided that:

A. The amendment has been proposed by either a majority vote of the National Conference, the majority of the Board, 2,000 members, seventeen state organizations, or one hundred-fifty chapters.

B. At least sixty days before the mailing of the ballots, an announcement is made in an every-member NOW publication, including the existent bylaw, the proposed amendment, and pro and con arguments written by representatives of opposing sides.

C. The above announcement is repeated in the ballot mailing.

Section 3. Publication of Amendments

The National Board shall print in an every-member NOW publication announcements of all amendments submitted to it within proper deadlines by proper bodies as defined in Sections 1 and 2 above.

ARTICLE XV.  PARLIAMENTARY AUTHORITY

Except as herein provided, all proceedings of NOW shall be governed by Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised.

ARTICLE XVI.  DISSOLUTION
Section 1. Method

The corporation may be dissolved in the following manner: A petition for dissolution signed by ten percent of the members of each of a minimum of fifteen chapters spread across at least three electoral districts shall be submitted to the National Board. Upon the certification of the signatures on the petition a postal ballot to dissolve the organization shall be sent to all members and shall require a two-thirds vote of those valid returned ballots to uphold the petition to dissolve.  Costs for this are to be covered by those chapters that are petitioning.

Section 2. Disposition of Assets

Upon the dissolution of the organization, the National Board shall, after paying or making provisions for payment of all liabilities of the corporation, dispose of all the assets in a manner appropriate to that purpose or to such organization or organizations as shall at the time qualify as devoted to the purpose of NOW.


1 Comment

A Letter from the President-What Will the New Year Bring?

Today marks the first day of the 2015 Minnesota Legislative session, and Minnesota NOW would like to accomplish so many things, including:

  • Pass the CHEER (Contraceptive Health Equity and Employee Rights) Act. The CHEER Act will prevent companies in Minnesota from discriminating against their female employees by denying them preventive health care;
  • Pass science-based and sex-positive sex education legislation;
  • Defund Crisis Pregnancy Clinics, who provide misleading, incomplete, and inaccurate information to pregnant women in need;
  • Pass Sick and Safe Leave legislation;
  • Pass Equal Rights Amendment legislation in Minnesota and put the vote before the people;
  • Revise the language in the MN Human Rights statute to be more inclusive and provide greater protections, in particular for LGBTQIA and people of color;
  • Support passage of a $15 Minimum Wage;
  • Ensure adequate funding for prevention of sexual assault and human trafficking.

I wish that I could be optimistic about achieving these goals, but given the make-up of this new legislature, it is more realistic that we will provide the best possible defense to those who would roll back our hard-fought rights in our six core issues: Constitutional Equality, Racial Justice, Reproductive Rights, LGBTQIA Rights, Economic Justice, and Freedom from Violence.

Do not think that this means we have become timid. We will continue to push the envelope and fight not just for what is easy, but for what is right. We will continue to build our coalitions and recruit more activists to join our feminist horde.

In solidarity,

Beth Johnson, President of Minnesota NOW                                                                   Organize-best defense is a good offense