What Could be Wrong about Boys and Girls Learning to Work Together?

Boy & Girl Scouts in Vietnam

Little Rock   There aren’t enough big issues in the world to fight about it seems, so just to give us something else to think about, the scouts thought it was important to get back in the news. Clearly it has become boring to learn camp craft, come to grips with nature, and learn to work together towards a goal, so taking a page from the front page controversy ignited by the recent flame throwing by President Trump at the Boy Scouts National Jamboree, the Girl Scouts didn’t feel they were getting enough press so they tossed a burst of napalm out there on their own.

Seems the head of the Girl Scouts went after her counterpart with both barrels. According to the Times,

…in a blistering letter this week, the president of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. accused Boy Scouts of America of trying to undercut the organization through a “covert campaign to recruit girls.” The letter became public…, laying bare an exceptional and surprising fissure in what had been an amicable relationship between two ubiquitous organizations. “I formally request that your organization stay focused on serving the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts,” Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, the president of the Girl Scouts, wrote to her counterpart, Randall Stephenson of the Boy Scouts. Ms. Hopinkah Hannan added, “It is therefore unsettling that B.S.A. would seek to upend a paradigm that has served both boys and girls so well through the years.”

Both of them are big corporate whoops, the boy scout is the head of AT&T and the girl scout is a managing partner at the big auditing firm KPMG, so the incident as quickly became about their companies as about scouting, so that everyone would know what was really important about all of this.

So the girl scout apologized after the boy scout tattled to her boss at KPMG, and the boy scouts swear they are just talking, not poaching, but who cares, you might ask? Both have about a million members and both are losing membership over recent years. The Boy Scouts already allow girls in their older teens program called Venturing, and I’ll bet there are more chaperons than venturers at some of those events.

My brother-in-law told me a story about his son’s Boy Scout Troop where he had been an assistant scoutmaster. The sister of one of the troop came to all of the meetings, camp outs, and participated in all of the events with her brother and the rest of the boys. When her brother became 18 and mustered out, receiving his last award, their troop gave his sister a special award as well, since she had been an unofficial member and one of their scouts too in everything but uniform.

What’s the harm, one way or another? Might be a better thing for everyone in the country if boys and girls learned how to do things collectively, especially in the great outdoors. The only clear takeaway recently is that we need to keep President Trump away from the Scouts, and maybe Wall Street and big businesses ought to avoid the Scouts as well, until all of them learn to behave, and let the boys and girls and their parents work it out themselves for the good of everyone involved.

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Please enjoy the Foo Fighters – The Sky is a Neighborhood.

Thanks to KABF.

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Girl Scouts, Many Non-Profits, and Maybe Unions are Franchises

girl scouts

New Orleans  Here’s one the lawyers did not catch for some of the fast and furious in the non-profit world who believe there is an escape hatch in a federation model or licensing that lets them have all of the power over their affiliates with none of the liabilities or responsibilities for them:  no matter what you call yourself, Dunkin Donuts are you!

            Ok, remember the Girl Scouts?  Well, they may be having different troubles than the Boy Scouts, but they are having big troubles nonetheless.  In the 10 years since 2003, they have dropped 600,000 members, falling from 2.8 million to 2.2 million.   Donations have dropped from $148 million in 2007 to $104 million in 2011.  They brought in a new leader to shake-and-bake the organization so they collapsed 312 local councils to a consolidated and gerrymandered 112, cut staff, and now have a $347 million pension deficit.  This was the kind of gun-to-the-head amalgamation that unions like the Carpenters, Service Employees and others have specialized in or at least dreamed about. 

            Funny, thing happened though to Girl Scouts USA.  The Manitou Council in Sheboygan, Wisconsin took them to court under the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law (WFDL) claiming that the local’s relationship to the parent body was the same as that of a franchise holder in commercial enterprises and therefore there were requirements for “cause” in the cancellation or termination of the agreement, for disclosure of a broad level of information, and the beat goes on.  The GSUSA was horrified.  They thought as a nonprofit they were exempt to any kind of fair play and could just cut and cull their herd anyway they wanted.   In two different opinions by the United States 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, they have been told conclusively that their locals deserved the same protections as a for-profit franchise operator and their relationship was “no different than that of a Dunkin Donuts.”

            The same laws as Wisconsin exist in 20 other states and on the federal level in the Fair Trade Commission’s (FTC) Franchise Rule.  All of these laws and regulations require annual reporting, registration and filing by any nonprofits using a licensing or federation model, though they may not realize it.  The 7th Circuit was crystal clear that there were no exemptions specified for nonprofits and in some cases, like California they were indirectly referenced or part of the overall definitions of “persons” under the law.  The FTC language is also specific in including unincorporated associations, which is the category most commonly held by unions and their local affiliates, which may mean that they are under the same requirements and protections as other franchise holders.

            The facts that drive all of these cases lies in the “community of interest” between the parties, which is also a familiar term for union brothers and sisters. The parent organization has an agreement or charter with the affiliate allowing them to use the name (or brand, as too many like to call it!), symbols, etc, while they are required to perform by certain standards, pay dues and fees to the parent, and so forth.  The affiliates or in these cases the local councils or local unions or whatever are autonomous in terms of their ability to hold property, manage and take responsibility for their own finances and affairs, even while tethered to the mother ship, once again the same as one can find in the relationships to national unions or other federations. 

The court reminded all of the parties of the obvious which so many in this work fail to understand.   The only thing that separates nonprofits from for profits is the fact that nonprofits cannot distribute surplus revenues to shareholders or themselves.   Period.

I’m not a lawyer, but I have to wonder how many nonprofits are riding roughshod over this situation without taking notice of the new world that the Manitou Girl Scouts have now brought to any organization with a federation or licensing model of operations or even, possibly to unions and their locals and the willy-nilly mergers and trusteeships that have been as common as colds in recent years in the labor movement. 

Thanks to an AP story by David Carey on the Girl Scouts for tipping me off about this decision and to an excellent law journal piece by Gary Leydig and Angela Gordon in the Franchise Law Journal, Volume 31 Number 4, Spring 2012.

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