This is the third in a series of articles on the recent dues increase which will impact Odd Fellows and Rebekahs. It won’t be the last.
Since Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL) voted to raise dues for all Odd Fellows and all Rebekahs, my mailbox has been filling with messages of consternation and concern. Members believe that those SGL representatives who voted in favor of the dues increase have failed to hear their members. Many have written to me indicating that raising dues in a time of declining membership is simply the wrong message to send, particularly as it relates to the next generation of potential members. For example, here is what one Odd Fellow recently wrote to me in an e-mail: “Our younger generation cannot afford to pay dues as it is. My children are all members and i pay their dues. Their friends want to join but are deterred by the dues, so I pay theirs, too . . . . . We have had people apply for membership but withdraw because of the dues.”
The dues increase subject will not go away. Members have asked what they can do. There are several things you can do. First, you should ask the SGL representatives from your state or province how THEY voted and ask them to explain why they voted that way. Second, you can write a personal letter (or ask your Lodge to write a letter on behalf of the Lodge) directed to the Sovereign Grand Master and the Sovereign Grand Secretary, indicating your concerns about the dues increase. Third, and most importantly, you can ask your SGL reps to introduce legislation in 2018 – specifically, an urgency bill – to repeal the dues increase.
Below is an article just written by California Deputy Grand Master Mel Astrahan, who highlights yet another problem with the dues increase legislation that just passed at SGL. Mel highlights the fact that the legislation creates a logistical nightmare because of its in-artfully drafted wording. I commend his article to you.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Sovereign Grand Lodge threatens dues increase unless membership increases.
At the recent Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL) meeting in St. Louis, a holdover bill from 2016 was enacted which threatens to raise the dues of Odd Fellows and Rebekahs by $5 per year for the next two years. This increase will apply only to Odd Fellow and Rebekah lodges, not to the other branches of the Order. The text of the bill is appended at the end of this article.
Others have recently opined about the wisdom of, and the actual need for a dues increase at the Sovereign level. Whether it is needed or not, in this report I will be dealing only with how the bill might be implemented.
So, just how can this bill be implemented? In practice, we are supposed to file our annual lodge per capita reports no later than March, with the reported data being retroactive to the prior calendar year. Therefore, according to the analysis in the last paragraph of the bill, the 1st opportunity for SGL to actually increase dues (by $5) will occur in payments due April 1st of 2019 when the reports for the calendar year ending December 31st, 2018 are submitted.
Of particular note in this bill, is an escape clause which states “The yearly increase shall not be assessed when in any year the dues paying membership from all branches of the Order shows a net gain from the previous year.” Of particular interest here is that this dues increase applies only to Odd Fellow and Rebekah lodge members, while the census count referred to in the escape clause applies across all branches of the Order. Thus, for example, even if Odd Fellow lodges were to show a net gain, that gain could be nullified, in regards to the dues increase, by net losses in the other branches. I don’t support a dues increase at the Sovereign level, but, in my opinion, if the intent of this escape clause was to encourage lodges to increase membership, it would have been fairer if the clause were applied to each branch individually. If Odd Fellow lodges gain membership then Odd Fellow dues should not be raised and if Rebekah lodges gain membership then Rebekah dues should not be raised, and the membership of the smaller branches should not be factored in because they are not subject to the potential dues increase.
Regardless of the intent of the threatened dues increase, this escape clause remains confusing. Just what does “in any year” actually mean? I submit that “in any year” could be interpreted literally such that if there has ever been any year in which membership has ever increased that all yearly increases are voided… but what I think what the makers intended was “when in either of the next 2 years the ….”
So, what could trigger the escape clause? Well, all that has to happen is for there to be a year-to-year net gain of just 1 dues paying member in the total membership census. Theoretically, that could be accomplished in many, many ways. For example, however improbably, if the current membership across all branches were to simply remain constant except for just one current Encampment member joining a Canton and paying PM dues, then there would be a net gain of dues paying members. Is it likely that the escape clause will be triggered? Based on recent history, probably not, but it is not impossible.
Since this bill takes effect Jan 1st 2018, I suspect the makers were thinking that the escape clause would apply to the net 2018 vs 2017 calendar year membership numbers, but the 2018 membership wont be known until after April 1st 2019 when the 2018 reports are submitted. Therefore, the SGL can’t know with certainty what to charge for 2018 dues until some time after the 2018 reports are submitted in 2019, and should they speculate in advance that 2018 membership will decrease compared to 2017, and then membership actually increases, the SGL might have to refund $5 per member back to the jurisdictional grand lodges, who, in turn, would probably be expected to pass those refunds back to the local lodges, who would refund the $5 back to their members. What a reverse logistical nightmare!
The way the escape clause is written means that we won’t know with certainty what our dues to Sovereign will be until after we are scheduled to pay them, which in turn makes calculating our upcoming jurisdictional and local lodge dues and budgets very difficult. It will be interesting to see just how the SGL ultimately interprets and implements this bill.
A matter that has been voted on can be brought back again through a motion to amend or even to repeal the adopted language. We should urge our Sovereign Grand Lodge representatives to fix the problem by simply repealing the bill. To take this action at the 2018 SGL session is not too late.
Melvin Astrahan, 2017-18 DGM of CA
Bill No. 15 – 2016 – Lay Over to 2017
Reps. Harris of District of Columbia, Lynch of Delaware, and Miller of Connecticut from the Committees on Finance, Legislation and State of the Order, and the Executive Committee presented the following Bill.
Title: A Bill to amend Chapter XXIV, Section 1 A (3), restating annual per capita dues to The Sovereign Grand Lodge.
Be it enacted by The Sovereign Grand Lodge, I.O.O.F.:
That Chapter XXIV, Section 1 A (3) be amended as follows:
Sec. 1. General.
(3) 04Dues. Each Odd Fellow and Rebekah currently shall pays to The Sovereign Grand Lodge annual dues of eighteen and fifty one hundredths ($18.50) twenty-foureight and fifty one-hundredths United States dollars (U.S. $24.00 $8.50).
Each Patriarch, Chevalier, L.E.A. and L.A.P.M. member currently shall pays to The Sovereign Grand Lodge annual dues of sixteen six United States dollars (U.S. $16.00$6.00).
05Each of the dues amounts for Odd Fellow and Rebekah members shall be increased by five ($5.00) six ($6.00) two United States dollars (US $2.00) for each year, for two (2) five (5) years beginning at the close of the 2017 2005 session of The Sovereign Grand Lodge. The yearly increase shall not be assessed when in any year the dues paying membership from all branches of the Order shows a net gain from the previous year.
Each Grand Body shall collect the dues as of December 31 annually and pay to The Sovereign Grand Lodge with their Annual Report due April 1. Non-contributing and Associate members are exempt from these dues. Any proposal to increase these dues shall be laid over for one (1) year and the Sovereign Grand Secretary shall inform the Grand Bodies of the intent, amount and reason for raising said dues.
(As Bills do not become effective until January 1st, and no one came forward to move that this bill become effective at the close of the session – it therefor becomes effective January 1, 2018; and the dues will increase with the reports of 31 December 2018, which was agreed to on Thursday 24th August 2017 notwithstanding the year stated in the Bill.)