An introduction to bylaws

WSNA's bylaws are the essential guidelines governing our organization.
  • Merriam-Webster defines a bylaw as “A rule adopted by an organization for the government of its members and for the regulation of its affairs.” So, bylaws are internal rules set up by an organization for the purpose of self-regulation.
  • Bylaws set out the rights and responsibilities of members; the names, purposes, and functions of elected leadership bodies (such as the Board of Directors and the Cabinet on E&GW), and elected and appointed officials.
  • WSNA’s bylaws need to be consistent with Washington’s nonprofit corporation law and, because WSNA is both a labor union and a professional association, with federal labor-law requirements. In addition, WSNA bylaws need to be consistent with the rules of its two national affiliates, the American Nurses Association and the American Federation of Teachers.
  • Bylaws are legal documents, but they are also working documents—they should be written as clearly as possible so that leaders and members can read, easily understand, and use them. Bylaws are also living documents—they should be revised periodically to respond to the evolving needs of the organization, address issues about the organization’s functioning, and add clarity where needed.
  • Bylaws are organized into articles and sections. The articles are like chapters in a book, and the sections are like book pages. The name of each article describes a category, and the sections contain the specific rules that fall within that category.
  • Bylaws set out the rules, but many of the specific operational details are left to the elected leadership bodies to address in policies, using the bylaws as guidelines in setting those policies.
  • The bylaws also set out rules for amending (revising) the bylaws. In WSNA, the Bylaws Committee reviews the current bylaws, receives recommendations for amendments, and sends its proposals to the Board of Directors to review and approve. Those proposals are sent to WSNA members. The General Assemblydiscusses those proposals and can make further changes. The bylaws state that amendments can then be approved by a two-thirds majority vote of the General Assembly or by a vote of two-thirds of WSNA members voting.
  • Traditionally, although the General Assembly can vote to approve bylaws amendments, it has voted to recommend the amendments to the full membership, which then votes on them at the same time as they vote in the elections for candidates for WSNA office following the General Assembly.

This year (2023), WSNA plans to hold the elections by electronic (online) ballot. The bylaws allow this, but they need to be amended to allow an electronic vote on bylaws amendments. So, the General Assembly will be voting this year on whether to approve voting on bylaws amendments by electronic ballot. If the General Assembly approves that change, the rest of the proposed amendments will be voted on by WSNA members in conjunction with their vote on WSNA candidates.