Agent Issues ASTA board will include megas, consortiums By Michael Milligan / June 04, 2003 Share 1 -- ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- ASTA members overwhelmingly approved a controversial referendum to change the Society's bylaws, adding two at-large voting members to the board of directors from ASTA's Corporate Advisory Council (CAC). The referendum passed by a vote of 1,120 to 666 (63% to 37%), with at least 31% of ASTA members voting.ASTA president Richard Copland, who supported the referendum, called the results both a "vote of confidence to ASTA's leadership" and "a monumental decision not just for ASTA and for travel agents, [but] I believe for the whole industry."Discussing the results during a press conference, Copland declared that adding CAC members -- mostly large agencies and consortiums -- to its board enables "ASTA to become a unified voice of the travel agent industry."Copland said that fragmentation among different retailer entities, from mega-agencies to consortia to mom-and-pop agencies, has undermined agents' ability to make progress on certain legislative and business issues."For too long, travel agents have been punching bags," Copland said. "That day is over. Travel agents can now stand united."ASTA director Linda Rawlings, a member of a coalition of past and present ASTA leaders that vigorously opposed the referendum, was conciliatory."We understand that the majority of voting members made this decision, [which] we don't necessarily agree with," said Rawlings in a separate interview. "But that's what democracy is all about. We strongly believe that the grass-roots members should control ASTA and determine its course of action [by voting], and the members have done that. And for that, we feel very good."During the press conference, Copland said ASTA's board would meet on July 15 and 16 to determine a mechanism for selecting which members from the CAC will be nominated for consideration as board members.Under the referendum, the at-large directors will be elected by majority vote of the board and will serve one-year terms, with a maximum of two terms. One of the two at-large members also will serve on ASTA's executive committee.The referendum's passing closes a tumultuous chapter at ASTA that saw the Society's leadership at odds with the coalition that mounted a grassroots effort to defeat it.The coalition prevailed in March when ASTA members rejected the proposal during a referendum that included other matters related to restructuring the chapters.ASTA's leadership declared the result inconclusive and called for a second referendum, confined to the issue of CAC representation on the board."One of the wonders of democracy is the process. We've gone through the [voting] process twice," Copland said. "I always believed everyone has the right to dissent. Certainly that has been shown over the past several months. But it's over. It is now time to move on. There are much more important things out there than ASTA's governance."Meanwhile, Rawlings said that while the coalition would "continue to be the watchdog for our members," it is also eager to work with ASTA's leadership to "do everything possible to move forward in a positive way."