Outline: An Introduction to Parliamentary Law

I. What rules are for

A. Democracy

1. Protect rights of

a. the majority

b. minorities

c. individual members

d. absentees

e. all of the above together

Note: the IWW Constitution prohibits one of the most important protections for minorities, the requirement of a 2/3 vote for certain measures. We should seriously consider an amendment to allow rules requiring a 2/3 vote where provided for in RONR (as well as those requiring unanimous consent and allowing less than a majority to require a roll-call vote).

2. Prevent manipulation through delay, disruption, threats, etc.

B. Efficiency

1. One item of business at a time, one speaker at a time.

2. Speeches in debate must address the pending question.

II. Formality

A. By members

1. Refrain from personal comments

2. Address remarks to chair, or to other members through chair–"Madam Chairman, is the Fellow Worker aware . . . "

3. Avoid use of names–"While I agree to some extent with the Delegate who just spoke, . . ."

B. By the presiding officer

1. Speaks in third person–"The chair recognizes Fellow Worker Fong."

2. Avoids use of names–"The Delegate's time is up." Uses titles and surnames when appropriate to call members by name.

3. Remains impartial in debate

III. How a meeting works

A. Opening

1. Card check

2. Call to order

3. Song or ceremony

B. Business

1. Reading of Minutes–amendment if needed, approval

2. Reading of Applications for Membership–action thereon, initiations

3. Reports of Committees, Standing and Special–questions, action on recommendations as to matters referred to committee (matters originating in committee are acted on under New Business)

4. Reports of Delegates and Officers–questions

5. Reading of Communications and Bills–action on same if routine

6. Monthly Report of Financial Secretary, including reading of receipts and expenses

7. Unfinished Business

8. New Business

9. Nominations, Elections, Installations

10. Good and Welfare

C. Closing

1. Motion to Adjourn–vote thereon

2. Announcements, notices, etc.

3. Song or other closing ceremony

4. Adjournment

IV. How a motion is handled

A. Member rises when no other business is before the body and is granted the floor.

B. Member gives name and, in a convention, constituency. "I move that . . ." If the motion is long or complicated, the member should write it out in advance and hand it up to the chair. Member resumes seat.

C. Another member, without rising, says "I second the motion," or "Second."

D. Chair states the motion: "It is moved and seconded that . . . . Are you ready for the question?" If you are ready, do not shout "Question!" Just sit tight. If nobody rises to speak, the chair proceeds to take the vote.

E. Once the chair has stated the question, the motion belongs to the assembly and cannot be amended or withdrawn without the consent of the assembly.

F. If there is debate,

1. the maker of the motion may speak first, if she or he promptly rises and claims the floor.

2. Debate then continues, alternating between the negative and the affirmative.

3. Each member has a right to speak twice on any question on any single day. There is no "stacking" as in consensus meetings. The first member to stand and address the chair, when no other member has the floor, gets to speak, subject to a few exceptions, such as those already mentioned (maker speaks first, debate alternates between negative and affirmative). Stand and say, "Madam/Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the motion;" or "Mr/Madam President, I rise in support of the motion."

4. The chair recognizes the speaker and the speaker has the floor for the allotted time (usually ten minutes).

G. The Subsidiary motions may be applied to the main motion. The Privileged and Incidental motions may be made during debate if appropriate.

H. Debate can be closed only by order of the assembly (2/3 vote in most organizations) or by the chair if nobody else rises to request the floor. Simply "calling the question" does not close debate: that would allow a single person to cut off debate. Unless there is nobody who still wants to speak, only a vote of the assembly, sustaining a motion for the previous question, can close debate.

I. The chair asks, "Are you ready for the question?" If nobody rises to speak, the chair puts the question: "The question is on the motion to . . . . As many as are in favor, say 'Aye.' (Pauses for response.) Those opposed, say 'No.' (Pauses for response.) The [ayes/noes] have it, and the motion [passes/fails, or is carried/is lost]."

V. Thirteen ranking motions

Key to Symbols: S = Requires a Second; D = Debatable; A = Amendable; M = Requires a Majority to pass; 2/3 = requires a 2/3 majority to pass (Not applicable in the I. W. W.); R = May be Reconsidered

A. Privileged motions

1. Set a time to which to adjourn S, A, M, R

2. Adjourn S, M

3. Recess S, A, M

4. Raise a question of privilege (chair grants)

5. Call for the orders of the day (on demand)

B. Subsidiary motions

1. Lay on the table S, M

–put the pending motion aside (with any pending amendments) until taken up again by majority vote.

2. Previous question S, 2/3 (M in IWW), R

–close debate immediately and vote on pending question

3. Limit or extend debate S, A, 2/3 (M in IWW), R

4. Postpone to a certain time S, D, A, M, R

5. Refer to a committee (commit) S, D, A, M, R (only if committee has not begun its work)

6. Amend S, D (if main motion debatable), A, M, R

7. Postpone indefinitely S, D, A, M, R (only if passed)

–kill the pending motion (but it can be brought back at any subsequent session)

C. Main motion S, D, A, M, R


Demeter, George, Demeter's Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1967) Available from the American Institute of Parliamentarians, http://www.parliamentaryprocedure.org/bookstore.htm or 550M Ritchie Highway #271, Severna Park, MD  21146, tel. 888-664-0428, fax 410-544-4640.

Industrial Workers of the World, Preamble and Constitution (2004)

Robert, Henry M., et. al., Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (Cambridge, Ma.: Perseus, 2000).